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Hardware Hostilities- Hyperdimension Neptunia Review

After repeatedly confronting nefarious empires with a band of plucky rebels, vanquishing a countless world-threatening demons, and glimpsing into the tortured past of scores of amnesiacs, role-playing enthusiasts deserve a reprieve. With a plotline centered around the absorbing allegory of the seventh-generation console war, upcoming NIS title Hyperdimension Neptunia‘s backdrop initially seems far removed from the archetypical Tolkien-inspired fantasy expedition. Yet, as soon as players are ambushed by a group of randomized, dungeon-dwelling foes, prompting a protracted battle, players will realize that a flurry of game-industry references aren’t quite to save Neptunia from the toils of tedium.

Although a knowledge of the last twenty years of gaming lore isn’t listed as one of the requirement on the box, it probably should have been. Savvy players will be rewarded with a steady stream of coyly placed game, character, and marketing allusions- the type of smile-inducing inference only hinted at by Game Dev Story. Neptunia‘s opening sequence reveals the story of a quartet of bickering goddesses- each representing an industry heavyweight. There’s Black Heart/Noire, who’s hardworking demeanor and  competitive streak undeniably evoke Sony’s mindset, while Green Heart/Vert’s quiet disposition and ample cleavage clearly signify Microsoft’s otaku-oriented approach overseas. The depiction of White Heart/Blanc, who recalls Nintendo’s often enigmatic and creative attitude, is particularly amusing. Unlike the other voluptuous deities,  her boyish figure evokes the minimalism of her console inspiration. Cast out of the team is Purple Heart/Neptune, a obvious nod to Sega’s departure from the hardware market, who serves as the game’s protagonist. Assisting her in an endeavor to defeat the personification of an R4 card is an assembly of personalities who represent companies such as Compile Heart, Idea Factory, Nippon Ichi, and Gust. While the later two characters offer passive support for the gamer- regretfully, direct control over them will require a DLC purchase. 



Once in the depths of the game’s dungeons, both Neptune and her companions each have their own unique ability, from clearing obstructions, summoning monsters, beckoning bosses, to indicating the location of treasure. Trinity Universe veterans will likely recall the last ability, which depicted a shining beam directing players to the location of concealed loot. Regretfully, Neptunia‘s dungeon crawls feel woefully similar to the Demon Dog King’s lackluster (and strangely town-less) treks, as the game uses the same engine with a handful of mechanical changes.

During battle, gamers are presented with a graph indicating the respective turn order for both enemy and friendly units. When it’s time to assault, characters have a trio of strikes (weapon, melee, and magical/ranged), mapped to the triangle, circle and “x” buttons. The potency of each attack is reflected by the corresponding depletion of Action Points- yet, there’s always an opportunity to initiate powerful strings of attacks. Beyond the title’s robust collection of pre-set combos, there’s also the ability to place Neptune into goddess or CPU mode, to increase the amount of damage she inflicts. The game’s most interesting element allow players to supplement the power of their RW spells by linking the attack to a picture on their PS3 hard drive. Despite a few eccentric inclusions, skirmishes feel needlessly slow. Even with the ability to skip enemy attack animations (a post-release patch in the Japanese release), Hyperdimension Neptunia‘s conflicts tend to drag on. While the title offers leaderboard support for both its ranked and optional dungeons, the time trials are tarnished by the game’s random item drop and monster encounters. As such, a spot in the upper echelons is based just as much on luck as strategic savvy.

Unlike most role-playing titles , which require the vigilant quaffing of health replenishing potions, Neptunia takes a wildly dissimilar approach. A player’s defense capabilities are influenced by an adjustable slider; allowing players to set the likelihood of a restoration or revival. Although eliciting a heal by using a defensive approach against formidable  foes is intuitive, seeing one of your characters forgo a near-death HP boost can be frustrating. On the upside, you can reconfigure the likeliness  to use recovery items outside of every skirmish, once you progress far enough into the game.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is a visually solid game which succumbs to the occasional blemish. Although the game’s dungeons offer an unmistakable depth-of-field effect, occasionally blurring can obscure the distant foreground. Beyond the occasional low-resolution ground textures, the title’s foes are either well-rendered or are charmingly retro-influenced.  Between the addition of a several Sega luminaries and Vert’s ample bosom which expands as she breathes, the title is certain to garner a faithful following among collectors. The titles voice-over work was consistently pleasing, whether players listen to dialog in English or Japanese.

The concept of viewing the hardware wars through the personification of Sega’s lost console is undeniably intriguing; it’s an idea that’s unadulterated fanboy fantasy. Unfortunately, Hyperdimension Neptunia doesn’t quite live up to this remarkable premise with an uninspired combat engine and a handful of enigmatic design decisions. Still, for fans who appreciated Idea Factory’s previous works, the title ranks among the studio’s better efforts; just don’t expect the polish which emanates from N1’s internally developed works.


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.

34 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I haven’t heard of this game, but the idea sounds very cool.

  2. You could have got any better screens? Those look like a 5 year old PS2 game.

  3. Interesting. How have I not heard a single thing about this game?

    So it’s all turn based, not action/timing at all?

  4. Wow, you giving a NIS game a C+ means this will get a 4.0’ed from IGN.

  5. Awesome crotch shot at 1:21 in the video.

  6. I didn’t like TU at all, so what the chance of me loving this? Almost zero?

    I have to admit the concept of fighting in the console wars sound VERY cool. How much dialog to fighting is there?

  7. If nothing else, at least Deagle has some new cosplay options 😉

  8. I wonder how much of a stat boost you get for dirty pics? See flying nudes could make this a must-get.

  9. Yeah, you sure won’t be seeing flying naughty bits in Dragon Age 2.

  10. One more week. C’mon!

  11. Fan service, for sure but preordered from NIS. Doesn’t sound like there’s too much for me to worry about.

  12. Pre-order bonuses might tempt me to get this. I wish it got higher than a c+ tho.

  13. Is this the one they said wasn’t that pervy on the podcast? Video says otherwise 😛

  14. Zeus and Jesus bless NIS, but I don’t like their not action rpgs.

  15. I’d bang the xbox chick.

  16. What the Gust character like? Does she talk about their game?

  17. Strangely enough- she’s into alchemy.

  18. If this was real life, Nintendo would kick everybodys ass in the console wars?

  19. If you can fight a Kinect or Move, I’m so there.

    Thanks for the timely review, Deagle.

  20. How are the load times? I remember hearing that Japanese version had some pretty bad waits in it.

    And what’s up currently for the DLC?

  21. A IF game with AP in it? WOW, SHOCKER!

    Do you have to manage in carefully in this game too?

  22. I bet he’s going as the Green Heart.

  23. So is this better or worse that a Man Khemia game?

  24. Deagle, by knocking this one, you’ve become just like the other big sites who don’t miss a change to knock a niche game.

    Bring back out old rpg-loving Desert.

  25. So you take the fanboy wars and replace the mouthbreathers with busty girls with costume barely covering their tatas and you get a C+?

    How is this even possible? This should be the world greatest game!

  26. I heard the dungeons have too many menus to sort through.

  27. Who is N1?

  28. C+ or not, I’m still gonna get it.

  29. Hmm, a C+ means a bit better than the average RPG right?

    I’m still in.

  30. I just rented TU- wow, I hope the game is better than that one. I kept falling asleep while playing it. Too much talk and not enough interesting action.

  31. A C+ seems kind considered what I’ve heard about the Japanese version.

  32. NIS is either hot or cold with you guys. You loved their PSP games, but seem not so excited by their PS3 stuff.

  33. Deagle, I trust your opinion about this one. You seemed like you really wanted to like it.

    The health thing sounds really weird. Can you at least use potions outside of battle?

  34. Now that’s a pretty long review. I liked it, but I also enjoy when you keep them shorter.