This unique RPG takes place in the hyperdimensional world of Gamindustri, where monsters run ammock, summoned by the evil Arfoire. Goddesses, who are personified video game companies and consoles, are fighting to protect this precious land. Follow Neptune, with her friends Compa and IF, in her quest to save the mysterious Histoire!
The Review! Graphics:
The graphics in Hyperdimension Neptunia (Referred to as Neptunia for the rest of the review) are for the most part solid and well defined but some loading issues come into play later in the game in certain dungeons. To begin with Neptunia goes with an animation style approach rather than a more realistic one that can be seen in other games like Halo. During cut scenes the characters are displayed in a visual novel type 2D “flat” method with no real movement save the mouth and a CG wave look that makes it seem as if the characters are breathing-or possible just used to make people look at certain characters chests heaving (I wish this could be turned off myself as it is distracting and makes for a little sense of motion sickness).
Most of the visuals are done in an animation style with backgrounds, levels and the screen character in exploration mode having a very well developed 3D look to them. For both exploration and battle the characters are shown with whatever noticeable equipment changes (be it in clothing or accessories such as glasses or cat ears). The palate of colors used is also vast and impressive leading to an old abandoned look for some factories in a heavily industrialized land, a desolate cave in another and even the lush look to a fantasy world for one of the lands. There was a high level of attention paid to creating a feel for each land that exist in the game which pays off as it help sets a tone even if just to unconsciously remind the player which land they are in. Neptunia also introduces the ability to edit in your own images for certain spells (though the clarity of this varies and other spells look to use a more 16 bit approach for some of the visuals-which works considering their visuals are based off older games) and for the image on the main character’s lower back which can create a sense of customization for those elements of the game.
For the majority of the game the visuals are fairly well done with a good deal of detail to them (like when little clouds of steam drift in front of the camera) though a real close look on a largish sized HD TV at 1080P reveals not all of the lines are as smooth as they appear from a distance. Early in the game the dungeons seem to load a bit better with farther down the path being a bit foggier but as the game progresses one will find times when the images at the far end actually have a black wall like look until close approach and there are a few dungeons where details on the walls (example-crystal rocks that jut out from it) don’t appear until the character is nearly on top of them. This seems to be a case where something either went astray in the developing process or maybe the tools weren’t being used by the same person as it does stand out from the beginning of the game. Also at points when examining equipment in the menu screen the image change to show the new weapon can slow to a very noticeable pause which seems like it would be normal on a PS2 era game but not so much on the PS3 era.
The game includes both the original Japanese voice acting for the game and the English language version that NISA created for English speaking markets. The down side is that both are only available in stereo which makes the game feel a little old even when it isn’t. For the purposes of this review the Japanese language track was used during the play through and it is a decent but not spectacular track. For some reason the Japanese actors can drop their voices to a point where they can barely be heard but most of the dialogue comes out clear. This is a bit frustrating when it happens and I really wish they had chosen some different method for showing certain emotions then making them almost inaudible. The game does let you customize the sound in different respects so you can boost or lower dialogue, effects and background music which is some consolation. The voice actors themselves include some with quite a bit of voice acting experience so when the sound doesn’t drop they play their characters to near perfection. The opening and closing music tracks are really phenomenal with most of the music in game being a bit on the generic side so while not terribly memorable nothing that will be a major sore spot over the hours the game will take to complete.
Being an RPG the precise nature of the controls isn’t as important as in a fighting game which is reflected a bit in that in dungeons movement is controlled with the R3 button and it isn’t the most precisely aligned. It is adequate for this game and its style but if used in a fighting game or platformer its slight imprecise nature would likely cause a few headaches. Neptunia then uses some different control feature in combat. For battle the Triangle, Circle and X buttons are used for attack skills. Neptunia uses them in a fighting game style with Triangle being the weakest but most accurate while the X button is the strongest yet lowest accuracy.
Neptunia then takes this a step farther and introduces a combo system allowing for chain hits and also allows for substantial customization of attacks. On the menu screen is an option allowing the player to assign the attacks they wish to a specific button-which also changes depending on the proceeding buttons in the attack combination and can change the AP (Activity Points) each string use up for a given turn. This can be a blessing for those who want a wide range of varied attacks while those wanting something simpler can set up a few patterns that they can come to rely on. The square button can be used to end a combo or to initiate defense thus ending the characters current turn. On a front that may turn out to be an annoyance to some is that item control is taken out of the players hands and placed into a system where points can be added to cause a skill to activate more or less often when certain conditions are met if the materials to do so are present but do not use up any character’s AP but are out of the players control as to which skill is used. The R1 and L1 buttons are used to cycle through different elemental bonuses that can be equipped to an attack once learned and the L2 button can skip attack animation. Players will also notice that unlike most other RPGs there is no ability to sell off old and now less useful equipment after upgrading.
The manual is a bit better than the in game tutorial as it actually explains some of the features in a little more depth. It is a bit dry as other than the cover which features the same artwork at the Premium box the manual is in black and white. This causes it to be a bit more of a chore reading than it probably should be as some splashes of color would break up things nicely. The manual runs through all the various menus that are encountered in the game as well as detailing what the functions of the numbers on the screen are and gives a small profile of the major characters found in the game though an explanation of the games “share menu” is conspicuously missing. The manual then reprints its information and pictures in French for those who speak that language (or speak it better) and wish to have the game accessible to them.
For the purpose of this review the Premium Edition release of Neptunia was used. The Premium Edition arrives packaged in a larger than game case sized box with a special inlay for the game and a 36 page hardcover book beneath the game. The front of the box contains a striking image of the four CPU characters with Purple Heart being the largest character and occupying the right side of the box with Green Heart, White Heart and Black Heart to her left while the title appears in orange and purple at the top left. All four side panels feature the PS3 logo and the title written in orange and purple like on the front cover. The back features an image of the four CPUs in their more human world/everyday personas as well as six game scene shots showing off some CGI, battle scenes, cut scenes and menu from the game as well as the four non-CPU supporting characters plus a shot of the box, game and book covers. The bottom quarter of the box displays the different logos of the companies involved, technical specifications and assorted other info that appears on game packaging. The book itself uses the same image as the front of the box and contains character sketches, images of the characters as well as close ups some of the areas and weapons illustrated in the game. Also included were a set of 54 standard playing cards (52 suits + 2 Jokers) that were a NISA store exclusive which have an image of the four CPUs on the back, an image of one of the CPUs on each of the four suits Jack, Queen and King and the Jokers are two characters important to the game story.
The game case cover itself features a different image of the four CPUs with Purple Heart on the left while the three other CPUs are stacked in a line on the right side of the case. The back of the case features the same images as the box with the exception of not having the box, game case and book image present. The game disc features the image of Purple Heart from the front of the box against a purple stylized “N” that is her logo in the game. If possible I recommend obtaining the Premium Version of the game and feel it is worth a full 1/3 of a grade when rating the final product.
The text is kind of a plus and slightly minus for the release. While the text itself is in a format that is easy to read and is free of spelling errors (at least none noticed) it doesn’t always flow smoothly and there are times where the text is either longer or shorter than the spoken Japanese leading to a feeling some alterations were made (well that and I don’t know that Japan has a word for “lameburgers” and one character’s name is clearly not what is written on the screen). It doesn’t seem to be an issue that changes the game substantially from the bits of Japanese I can make out but it may be an issue for others who dislike such changes and are more sensitive to them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Welcome to the world of Gamindustri where the four major landmasses of Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox and Lowee’s citizens are each protected by a persona known as a Console Patron Unit (CPU) goddess protects their land’s worshipers from monsters and tries to promote a stable society for their people from their home high in Celestia. The thing is that each of the CPUs is very human in their actions and they have been at war with each other to become the one true goddess and be the one to protect all of Gamindustri. After generations of fighting one of the goddesses stumbles on an idea-if they eliminate one of the other goddesses it may help serve as catalyst to change their longstanding stalemate. Purple Heart finds herself on the outside of a circle of grudges as she is surrounded, defeated and cast out of Celestia into the world below.
As she is falling Purple Heart is transformed into her alternate, younger form (Neptune) and experiences a vision where she hears a voice that referrers to itself as Historie and is tasked with trying to undo the mistake Historie made when she created the four CPU goddesses. As Neptune is getting her task she is awoken by a beeping alarm and discovers that she is in the room of a young student nurse named Compa who discovered her sticking head first in the ground after seeing her fall from the sky like a shooting star and brought Neptune home to treat her. Compa explains that she is currently at home as school has been cancelled since the land is experiencing severe monster attacks. Compa discovers in talking to Neptune that she has amnesia and remembers little beyond her name and nothing of Gamindustri and its four major floating landmasses. What Neptune does remember is a voice asking her for help and decides that she must have been tasked with beating the boss monster and proceeds to convince Compa to join her in forming a party (as opposed to getting Neptunia serious help for a head injury and now hearing voices).
The two discover that each world has an item known as a key that will be needed to save Historie but that the item is also guarded by strong monsters. The two quickly overpower the monster in the tutorial dungeon and get the key but rather than leave right away they look to help the people of Planeptune by beating some monsters. As they enter the second dungeon they encounter a young woman in a long coat with a belt full of multi colored cell phone cases. She introduces herself as IF and decides that it will be easier to get through the cave as a party since she is also there to defeat a monster. It is explained that on Planeptune it is holy law that once you form a party you stay as a party so the three core members of the player’s team are now assembled.
The party will shortly gain the ability to travel the various landmasses that make up Gamindustri as they encounter the residents within. Conveniently all Non Playable Characters [NPCs] are seen just as silhouettes which saves some animation, makes for a running joke but also allows the party to run into familiar looking shapes with rather familiar stories that might have caused a copyright issue otherwise. As the woman travel they will encounter the basic set of the world where each land serves its own goddess and has both a church and political arm set up for that purpose. As they encounter people and other CPUs who have desended to the human world in less dramatic fashion than Neptune they will discover just what is at the heart of the four goddess’s war and perhaps the darker aspects of what happens to those who don’t follow the lands goddess or have turned in fear to worship of the god of monsters instead. With this set up now in place the party will travel the lands trying to protect people while the threads of conspiracy try to close around them. Will they find the strength to stand up to the powers that be, the moral clarity to field their way through numerous temptations and the tenacity to untangle the cat’s cradle of plots that surround them and trace them back to the source and protect Gamindustri?
Hyperdimension Neptunia is a game that both revels in some of the current anime trends (cute girls, loli-goth apparel for one, flat chest jokes) while also poking at some of them and some of the RPG conventions in a loving manner. NISA’s games generally do not go the “Watch us try to do the most visually impressive videogame of the year route” and tend to market their games toward fans by making some unique characters or situations. In this Neptunia really scores as its take on the videogame hardware wars is an interesting spin on a tale almost everyone who has ever played a console game has engaged in at one time or another. The attempt to broaden the story by putting cute faces on the systems and working in faith and politics is quite a novel approach. The game also contains an element allowing the ultra competitive to gain more rewards for speed through a dungeon and also register their times online to compete with other players. It also includes a New Game+ feature allowing one to start over with all levels, monies and items other than event specific ones intact allowing for additionsl exploration.
Sadly some of the games mechanics get in its own way as the stories can tend to blur from world to world as the distinctions get lost among a similar plot line-especially when there are only shadows and voices to put with names without any solid visual characteristics to catch the eye. This causes the attempt to create a bit of an open world-a certain number of events on each world are open though there are a few story locks to keep one from completing a whole world at a time-to sometimes lose story focus and steam. Plus one can do quite a bit on one world and be facing a lot of lower classed dungeons on another. Along this line the dungeons themselves all have a suggested level on them but this can vary wildly in the dungeon with monsters either being stronger or weaker than advertised or worse sometimes the balance between random encounters and boss characters in a level will seemingly have little relation. On the same front there is a lack of hiding the RPG conventions of the 3 types of dungeons missions available (fetch, boss or exit quests) and even some of the floor plans get recycled leading to a feeling of déjà vu.
One final note is that NISA tends to do quite a bit with add on downloads for their PS3 titles and Neptunia is no exception. As of this writing there are 24 option available-seven of which are free dungeons that contain items of various use to the player depending on how early in the game they attempt them as well as a good deal of stat boosters and some additional equipment on the pay side. Normally I hate paid download material and am reluctant to buy it but in this case the game also has a $1.99 (each) download available to allow the guest characters of Gust and NISA to participate in the party. I heartily recommend them as they bring skills that will be very helpful in completing the game and add some more variety to the attack patterns available as well as bringing their quips to the table.
English Dub Thoughts By Thomas Zoth:
The English dub is enjoyable as well. With the story so informal, and with characters referencing themselves being in a video game, voice acting really just needs to communicate a sense of fun to the player, which the English actresses accomplish very well. Special mention must be made of Melissa Fahn, voice of Radical Edward from Cowboy Bebop, and her endlessly enthusiastic Neptune. The main problem with the dub is a lack of variety in combat sound clips, so the player ends up having to listen to the same lines over and over again.
Hyperdimension Neptunia is a titlethat is more likely to appeal to the current trends in anime fan than most traditional gamers. It both adheres to and respectfully mocks many RPG stalwarts while at the same time bringing a new flavor to the videogame console wars. It isn’t a perfect game-in fact it is a fairly average game in respect to many of its mechanics but the humor and characters can take what on its own would be a less than memorable game and turn it into one where you want to collect all the cut scenes available not for the trophy reward (of which the game has no small number) but more to explore the world and the characters that inhabit it. The game is likely going to be one that those who love it really love it and most others will be somewhere between cool to hostile toward it. Personally I am in the first camp and want so much to see what else will become available either through downloads or perhaps a sequel so I can visit these characters some more-and that is taking into account the well over 100 hours of game play I have logged in two play throughs to write this review and a bit to try to find as many of its hidden corners as I could.
System: Playstation 3
Mania Grade: B Graphics: B Audio: B- Control: B- Manual: C+ Packaging: A+ Text: B- Publisher: NIS America Series: