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Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed review

Hyperdimension Neptunia U AU

On console, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has provided a consistently engaging experience, blending amusing allegory, comical banter, and engaging play mechanics that are rooted in role-playing convention. But far more remarkable are the Console Patron Units’s portable offerings, which placed Neptune, Noire, Vert and Blanc in idol simulations, strategy role-playing titles, and with the release of Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, a spin-off that draws inspiration from Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors franchise.

Developed by Tamsoft the studio behind fan-service drenched titles such as Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, sees the goddesses undertaking missions which have them hacking, slashing, and shooting their way through swaths of foes. While the gameplay might feel derivative to musou veterans, a handful of appealing variations, a pleasingly level of polish, and a healthy dose of moé make this an easy recommendation for Neptunia aficionados.

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Initially, the game’s plotline shirks the expected doomsday scenario that persistently puts the fate of the goddesses in peril. Instead, Gamindustri’s resident reporters, Dengekiko and Famitsu find themselves embedded with the sisters, writing regular articles on their daily exploits. Unsurprisingly, when foes start appearing in large quantities, Action Unleashed finds itself in familiar territory, with an enigmatic enemy scheming to put an end to the Goddesses reign.

For some, Neptunia’s tendency for loquaciousness will be a small issue. While the game is teeming with oft-comical allusions to the actual game industry and self-referential humor, the visual novel-like sequences can be long-winded.  When there are payoffs (with Unleashed referencing everything from the Kinect to Famitsu’s propensity for high review scores) the extended conversations are excusable, but when it’s just simple exposition, players might be tempted to fast-forward their way to the next mission. While Idea Factory’s localization is commendable, franchise fans will notice that Tamsoft’s writing is a slight step down from Compile Heart’s typical output.

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Once players accept a quest, conversation gives way to heated combat, with each girl equipped with a normal and strong attack that can be used to initiate a variety of creature-crushing combos, as well as the ability to jump and evade enemies. Predominantly, missions revolve around pulverizing opponents and beating bosses, although there’s the occasional item hunt and assignment which say, tasks players with uniting two remote foes, before slaughtering both in a single combo. Masterfully, each protagonist’s arsenal feels distinctive and is reasonably balanced, helping to bolster a sense of variety in combat.

Often, players will be able to choose two combatants from their roster of big and little sisters, as well as anthropomorphized versions of Dengekiko and Famitsu. By pressing down on the directional pad, players can instantly switch characters, allowing the tagged-out character to regenerate their health while they wait off-screen. In the interest of variety, Action Unleashed will occasionally produce a constraint, obliging characters to take a specific protagonist or limiting the party to a single brawler.  Rarer is the sporadic quest which doesn’t announce its winning conditions, forcing players to try different techniques in order to conquer the mission.

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Nuance comes in a few forms. Demolish enough opponents or produce enough combos and you’ll fill your EXE Drive Gauge. Once this meter passes the half-way point, characters can transform into their HDD forms, raising their stats and delivering devastating strikes than can overwhelm a cluster of opponents. Flanking the EXE Drive Gauge is a costume icon, which when it flashes red, warning players that their girl’s clothing is about to shred, revealing a bit of midriff, as well as bras and panties. Strangely, the Goddesses display a hint of modesty, as losing their attire might drop their defense stats, but their embarrassment allows for easy criticals and a quick fill of EXE Drive. More prudish players can shirk these short-term advantages by finding God Robe-like clothing that’s immune to ripping.

The sole flaw in combat stems from enemy AI routines. Habitually, Action Unleashed’s foes shamble after the player, only becoming a threat when their character’s damage output can’t keep pace with the number of newly spawned foes. While Dynasty Warrior’s opponents aren’t exactly battlefield virtuosos, Action Unleashed’s combat boils down to the protagonist’s experience level. Tackling higher level foes only alters the amount of health each enemy strike incurs, rather that requiring players to master new techniques. As such, gamers can grind their way through the main campaign, as well as the game’s too beefy bonus post-game components.

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While Tamsoft’s output can be a bit inconsistent, Action Unleashed exhibits nothing short of aesthetic sumptuousness. Character models are surprisingly detailed and well-animated, while enemies pay homage to gaming’s rich history, with Space Invaders, Dragon Quest-like Slimes, and Tetris’ tetrominos. Backdrops recall many of Hyperdimension Neptunia’s more notable milieus while the soundtracks offers remixed songs from the franchise. But most impressive is the game’s performance, with a stable sixty-frame per second delivery on PS Vita screens.

Like many musou-based games, tedium can be tougher to overcome than any boss character. Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed tries to confront this menace with a unique movesets, a tag-team play mechanic, and gauges that provoke players into slicing through thousands of antagonists. It largely works, if only because Action Unleashed runs so seamlessly on Sony’s portable device.

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Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed was played on the PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Tamsoft
Publisher: Idea Factory
Release date: May 19th, 2015
Price: $39.99 via retail or PlayStation Store
On console, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has provided a consistently engaging experience, blending amusing allegory, comical banter, and engaging play mechanics that are rooted in role-playing convention. But far more remarkable are the Console Patron Units’s portable offerings, which placed Neptune, Noire, Vert and Blanc in idol simulations, strategy role-playing titles, and with the release of Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, a spin-off that draws inspiration from Omega Force’s Dynasty Warriors franchise. Developed by Tamsoft the studio behind fan-service drenched titles such as Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, sees the goddesses undertaking missions which have them…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 75%
Control - 80%
Aesthetics - 85%
Content - 80%
Accessibility - 80%

80%

GOOD

Summary : Lu Bu, you had better watch out, there’s a new contender on the battlefield and she looks a lot better in shimapan. Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed delivers the musou tenets, which a fan-indulging amount of moé.

User Rating: 4.02 ( 7 votes)

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. Back in the day, lolitas used to always get a 85% here. What has happened?

  2. Lara Crofts Left Boob

    “Lu Bu, you had better watch out, there’s a new contender on the battlefield and she looks a lot better in shimapan.”

    Writing like that has earned you a lifelong fan. Why can’t reviewers have a little fun anymore? Everyone is so serious about games and representation now.

  3. That “U” in the title makes me think it’s a Wii U game every time I look at it. I have to tell myself “Vita, it’s for Vita”….

  4. Will this work with PSTV? I just bought one for $50 and I’d like to break it in with a new game.

  5. Good review. Looking for a deal on a PSN card right now. Anyone know of one?

  6. Score is a little higher than the metacritic, but I expect that from this site.

  7. Rom and Ram are annoying. Never liked them.

  8. Neptune is my official waifu. I’m committed to her games. Skipped Noir’s game, that little skank.

  9. There’s something truly wrong with you if you find enjoyment seeing little anime girls in bras and panties.

    • You sure read the review carefully enough to suss that out.

    • yeah, thinking the female body is attractive. Shame on me. To stop these urges you dont want why not just castirate yourself now and do us all a favor?

  10. PSTVs are $40 at Gamestop right now. Time to finally get one.

  11. Good review, much better than this shit:

    http://www.ztgd.com/hyperdimension-neptunia-u-action-unleashed/review/

    “It’s like if I were Konami or something and I decided to let some random western developers take a shot at my coveted Silent Hill series.

    That’d be stupid.

    Real stupid.

    (Konami sucks)

    Anyway, Tamsoft is known mostly for its eagerness to rely on fan service over actual depth and substance so I had a decent idea on what I might be in for before even loading up the game.”

    This is what qualifies for a review these days? Tech-Gaming needs to get their asses on Metacritic.

    • I read another (I think it also was on Metacritic) that asked why they didn’t add gaming sites like Polygon as characters in the game.

      Maybe this person doesn’t understand logistics, but adding content like that is almost impossible. Then there’s the whole issue of adding a site which doesn’t seem to like Japanese games and culture into a Japanese game.

      Basically reviewers seems like 12 year olds, wanting this and than, with no idea how much work that takes.

    • Just read that. How haard is it for revieewers to keep their personal opinions to tmselves. I mean I’m no fan of Koanmi, but it has no place in a review for a IF game.

      • Aren’t reviews subjective opinions anyway? I know what you’re saying, attacking Konami was kind of strange and felt really out of place. But arguing that reviews should keep opinions to themselves doesn’t really make sense.

    • Well, Konami does suck these days. It’s been a long, hard fall from the days of Gradius and Contra.

      • I doubt the people who worked on those games are still part of Konami. To this day I still hope Contra: Hardcorps receives a TRUE sequel some day. The PS3 prequel was okay, but nowhere near as awesome as the original.

        • Princess Sakura

          Someone should do a “where are they now” follow-up. That would be awesome. Why are there so few interviews with the creators of the these games?

          • Part of it has to do with the fact we don’t know who they are. Back then Japanese gaming companies required developers to create pseudonyms when adding the credit sequence to a game. These internal policies were created so as to avoid having competitors poaching your team.

            A good example of this are the end credits for the first Castlevania game where all names were changed to famous horror actors, directors and characters.

          • I didn’t know that. So no one’s tried to crack this mystery? Seems as if someone should do some real journalism isn’t of writing crappy articles shaming Atlus.

          • I know there have been several attempts. I’m not sure how successful they’ve been. I’ve heard in some cases even studios themselves don’t remember who worked on what, but I’m not too sure about this one.

  12. I wish this was on PS3 or even PS4. I have a Vita but I prefer playing action games with a full controller on a big screen.

  13. Shame about history being lost. It would be great if people case forward so that isn’t lost forever.

  14. Im having such an amazingly hard time finding a retail copy in a store. What retail chains carry this game?