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Q&A With Neptunia’s Naoko Mizuno

Megadimension Neptunia VII Interview (1)

Sporadically, role-playing games make fleeting, fourth-wall breaking references to the game industry. But 2010’s Hyperdimension Neptunia was the first franchise to construct an elaborate allegory for our precious pastime, imagining a realm where four goddess battle for market share- each representing a different console. Unsurprisingly, the plot proved popular with gamers on both sides of the Pacific, prompting a series of sequels and spin-offs. In anticipation of the release of Megadimension Neptunia VII, we had the chance to speak with creator and chief director, Naoko Mizuno, to talk about the Idea Factory/Compile Heart-developed franchise.

Tech-Gaming: While role-playing plotlines frequently use metaphor, Hyperdimension Neptunia was distinctive in creating a complete allegory for industry? What prompted the creation of the original game?

Naoko Mizuno: When we started creating the first Neptunia title, personification of consoles in video games was uncommon. Also, I found it interesting that there were very few games that were parodying the gaming industry itself. I thought it would be appealing to fans if I also included attractive female characters and transformation abilities on top of the parody element.

T-G: Where you surprised by the West’s fondness for Neptunia?

NM: Yes! I am pleasantly surprised by it! My impression of western gamers was always that they preferred more “realistic” games, but I was completely wrong. I’m extremely happy and touched that there are fans from all over the world who proudly say that they actually love the Neptunia series!

Megadimension Neptunia VII Interview (3)

T-G: Having had a hand in the Neptunia franchise for so long, are there any mechanical ambitions that are still unrealized?

NM: Yes, indeed, there are! I’d really like to improve the game’s 3D modeling, and I would also love to explore the possibility of a new battle system. I’m also hoping that someday I would be able to create an open-world Neptunia title!

T-G: Megadimension Neptunia VII is the series’ inaugural PlayStation 4 entry. Did the console’s capacities help push your ambitions in any way?

NM: I’d say the console’s capacities greatly improved Neptunia VII’s 3D-related areas, such as its background art and special effects. I believe you will be able to notice when you play the game that the environments are much more detailed and complex compared to past titles in the series. Also, you will see the special skill effects are definitely taken to the NEXT level!

Megadimension Neptunia VII

T-G: Tsunako-san’s artistry has likely played a large part in the series’ success, providing those distinctive HDD forms. What was the creative process behind the development of the NEXT forms like?

NM: I wanted to bring the HDD forms to the next level in Neptunia VII, emphasizing the improvement of the next-gen and the subsequent evolution of the 4 main goddesses.

The first character design we saw was NEXT Black. The first time we saw the draft design for that character, we all yelled, “This is it!” It was unanimous; we all felt this was the one. That said, this rough design of NEXT Black set the direction and tone for the following NEXT forms, NEXT White and NEXT Green. When we started the design process, we wanted to have the design of NEXT Purple finalized first, but it was actually the last one to be completed. I believe it took about 6 months in total.

T-G: Megadimension adopts a new approach to storytelling. Instead of the focus on Neptune’s journey, the game in broken down into three distinct chapters, each set in their own dimension. What was the impetus for this structure?

NM: In Neptunia VII, the game has been divided into three dimensions which are called the Zero Dimension, Hyper Dimension, and Heart Dimension. The game’s main story is also divided across these three dimensions accordingly. The dimensions all share a main theme, but the characters are different.

This may surprise you, but during the beginning of game development, Uzume Tennouboshi did not exist at all. The only new characters we had were Gold Third, Affimojas, and Steamax. In the middle of the Neptunia VII project, the development of Fairly Fencer F: Advent Dark Force had begun and we shifted focus for a little while. After FFF:ADF development was completed and we resumed development Neptunia VII, and we got a lot of feedback from the development team about the game. This ultimately led us to the decision to create a brand-new goddess, Uzume Tennouboshi. We also thought it’d be worthwhile to pursue individual stories that focus on each of the 4 goddesses in this new title. In the end, Neptunia VII was completed with the volume of 3 games because we packed it with everything we could think of, especially since it’s the first Playstation 4 title!

Megadimension Neptunia VII

T-G: Can you describe the process of bringing Uzume Tennouboshi to life? How exactly does the team anthropomorphize a console?

NM: We wanted to bring more depth and complexity to this story and create a more impactful experience for players in Neptunia VII, and we decided to create this new character to allow room for some of these departures from our regular type of narrative. That is ultimately why Uzume Tennouboshi, another personification of a fictional console, was born.

T-G: Uzume means “whirling”, correct? It’s a very fitting name, considering the swirling Dreamcast logo. Will she have a sidekick to represent the VMU (the Visual Memory Unit that fit into the top of the controller)?

NM: To be honest, we could not decide on the Kanji characters for Uzume Tennouboshi until the deadline of a magazine article that was going to feature her. Until that deadline, her name was actually in Katakana. We are so happy that we came up with the perfect Kanji for her name at the last minute, and we are very satisfied with our decision.  She has a partner and sidekick, named Umio. Umio is very rational, gentlemanly, and a fantastic supporter of Uzume!

Megadimension Neptunia VII

T-G: Spin-offs have seen the goddesses chasing their pop-idol dreams and even battling beasts with Musou-flair. Is there any other genre you’d like to see the girls conquer?

NM: I fully believe that there are a lot more genres we can explore with Neptunia characters! I’d love to see Nep-Nep with a retro Neptunia game, an online Neptunia game, a rogue-like Neptunia game, and even a VR Neptunia game!

Tech-Gaming would like to thank Mizuno-san, as well as Idea Factory International’s Nao Miyazawa-Pellicone, Arianne Advincula and David Alonzo for their participation. 

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

51 comments

  1. I’m kind of ashamed with myself for not knowing the Neptunia games were created by a female. Good interview. Now we just need that MegaDimension review!!!

  2. Wow, great interview. Nep Nep in VR might be the thing that would make me break down and get an Oculus.

  3. “In the end, Neptunia VII was completed with the volume of 3 games because we packed it with everything we could think of”

    I really want to know if this is true. A 120 hour campaign would be epic.

  4. Uzume is the goddess of dawn, mirth and revelry.

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto

  5. You should show pics of the NEXT form when its discussed. Otherwise, good write-up. I think Porygone would rather slice off their fingers than run an interview like this.

  6. What cameos are going to be in Megadimension? I think that was my favorite part about the series. I mean beyond the HDD transforms….

  7. Who knew the creator of the Neptunia games would be cuter than Nep Nep?

  8. Great interview, Robert. Now, why wasn’t there one with the Disgaea team?!?!

    So great to know that Nep Nep’s creator is female. Even better are her ambitions. I probably wouldn’t play the MMO but Gameindusti in VR sounds so cool.

  9. Kind of easy questions.

    Where’s the tough stuff? Ask her thoughts on #Gamergate, American publisher censoring, etc.

  10. I really wish you asked about the sexualization of the characters, I mean, they’re always completly naked taking bathes together in the first hours of the games, groping themselves in innapropriate ways

    I’d like to know her thoughts on those type of scenes

    • @Rafael Monteiro: Japan has a very different way to perceive sexuality than Americans. Which is why most developers tend to be open-minded when making fanservice titles. Some are bothered, others like them like us. But they know that there’s a market for this sort of game and they still make money of those games. Modern feminism pushed us to shame sexuality, which is odd since we’re sexual living beings.

      • People in the US are more prudish about nudity and sex and many other parts of the world. In Europe, nudity isn’t that big of a deal, women are topless and no one really care. Americans have always been more permissive about violence.

        So asking that question might get a puzzled response. It would be like asking Tarantino about excessive violence.

    • I really don’t think these scenes are sexualized, they’re played for laughs.

      But in other games, I think Japan does rely a bit too heavy of fan-service these days. At the cost of gameplay. But I like Neptunia’s combat and battles.

  11. I like Neptunia more than Kanye like Amber’s pinky tickles.

    (That’s alot). Good interview. I’m glad you didn’t get all into the #GG stuff. Just the games. That’s what’s important.

  12. There’s another reviewer, Matt from digitallydownloaded.net thats writing a book and interviewing Japanese developers. You should do something similar. Both of you write great reviews are really “get” JRPGs.

  13. Gametrailers named this at one of the top franchises that needs to die:

    http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/view/gt-countdown/107450-Top-Ten-Franchises-that-Deserve-to-Die

    Anyone think Gametrailers as a website needs to die?

    • Neptunia and Tales need to die? Glad to know that GT is getting that sweet EA/ACTI money. Both those publishers need to kill half their lineup.

      • I haven’t visited GT in years. Sad to see that had to play up to SJW pandering these days.

        On a positive note, loved the interview. Keep them coming.

      • Well, truth be told, Neptunia does need to die… at least until I played the PS4 game. All the games feel the same. Same old jokes, too much focus on Planeptune and Lastation, sexualization of little girls, discrimination against any character that isn’t flat or looks like a little girl. I could go on and on. I thought the PS4 game was all right. Glad to see it’s finally trying to improve a little.

    • Gametrailers’ staff needs to die not just the website. Hopefully they add to the kill count of ISIS.

    • Is that Geoff Keighley’s site? I thought he’d better than that. Guess not…

    • GameTrailers has lot all credibility and relevance in today’s modern landscape, so they publish whatever crap they can to get clicks.

      • I thought they were OK when they actually ran trailers for upcoming games. But when they started running videos with fake personalities (Annoyed Gamer), I lost interest.

    • Not a thing about CoD, Halo or Battlefield? Must be big time Michal Bay fans over at GT.

  14. It seems like at least half of game sites craps on the Neptunia series. I don’t really understand why. Sure, the first one had some problems, but they’ve gotten better. So much so that they’re really a blast to play now. I really think it’s too many neckbeard-SJW types on the major blogs. IGN, Polygon, Kotaku, they’re offer the same outlook on JRPGs.

    • Yup. I peronaly stayed away from Neptunia for years because it never looked like something I was into. But I tried it one night out of extreme boredom and was hooked. The writing was hilarious and the game was just plain entertaining.

  15. Good interview. Played the games but know so little about the people behind them.

  16. Played 3 or 4 games of the HN games. To see they are just substandard JRPG mechanics with a bunch of fan-service and a few jokes.

  17. Not sure about an online Nep game, most online communities are shit and I’d assume this one would be as well. The rest sound interesting. Glad to finally hear from the creator of Hyperdimension Neptunia in the west. Hope we continue to get interesting titles out of the company, even if they’re not based on the HDN universe.

  18. Anita needs to read this and find out that Neptunia was made by a girl before she opens her big, over-lipsticked mouth and complains about the objectification (again).

  19. Great interview. I’d love to hear more from Japanese developers. We still don’t get many interviews int he West.

  20. When does the new game come out?

  21. I hope you make Game For PC for Neptunia Fan

  22. VR Nep Nep has me excited for the future.

  23. Who knew that the Neptunia creator was a women?

    Shocked!

    (°0°)

  24. I’d like to request more interviews with Jpanese developers. You do a good job and seem to care about the games.

  25. Great interview, it has piqued my interest regarding the series and it spin-offs.

  26. Great interview! Hope that VR can be implemented and open world style Neptunia, this would be a hit!
    And please do not bow down to SJW! They hate everything and they only create hate culture, they only know 2 sentence (“pedophile”,”sexualize women”), attack weak target (instead of women beheading terrorist) like content creator. All my respect for not to put any censoring in your game.

  27. Great interview! Great questions.

  28. This should silence some of the westerners that complain about the game being nothing more than “male fantasy”.

    Thank you for conducting this interview.

  29. Will we see more interviews with Japanese developers in the future?

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