If concept were king, then Hyperdimension Neptunia might be queen, but no matter how much glitter you put on a mess, it’s still just a mess, albeit a shiny one. I started Neptunia with the hopes that its breakdown of the console wars would create a compelling story or, if anything, a comedic comparison at the very least. What I received instead, was a wordy JRPG that made me feel like a perv. This overwhelming feeling wasn’t ever aided by entertaining gameplay in the slightest. I’m sorry to break the news to those who haven’t heard, but Hyperdimension Neptunia just isn’t the outlandish depiction of the console wars you were hoping for and there’s most certainly a reason that Sega wasn’t compelled to publish the game in the States.
Odds are, if you are reading this, you know the score of Neptunia’s plot. The general concept is that a couple of goddesses are fighting for control of GameIndustri. Each one represents a current console (except for Neptune, who is the goddess of a failed Dreamcast successor). I’m not even slightly an otaku, but the general concept surrounding Neptunia sucked me in. Unfortunately, once I had my hands on the game my outlook was crushed under the pointless dialogue and backstory, of which neither were aided by the jiggling breasts that constantly assaulted my senses. It’s a damn shame, because Neptunia’s barrage of real-world gaming references had captured my interest from the get go, but the end product quickly sent me in the opposite direction.
I fully realize that plenty of RPGs have created great deals of enjoyment even without a sensible plot, but Neptunia’s gameplay is far too archaic to find comfort let alone enjoyment. Most of the time, I find myself picking out what is wrong with gameplay in an RPG, but with Neptunia, I had a hard time finding what was “right” with the combat. I was initially turned off by the unbelievable depth that Neptunia “seemed” to display on the surface. Fortunately, beneath all the completed settings, Neptunia has some fairly simple combat that can be played out quickly. So Garrett, if combat is so simple, where’s the “but?” The “but” is a fairly large one, involving automatically executed character actions, such as healing. You say “Oh that’s great! The goddesses heal themselves,” and I say “butttttt..” The but is a fairly big one in this case. You are incapable of carrying out actions such as healing. As you level up your crew, they gain an increase of the odds of healing themselves or carrying out similar tasks, but you never have any direct control over these commands outside of attacking. Yep, you can’t ever heal your party, they have to choose to heal themselves. With mechanics such as this plaguing Neptunia, I don’t think “archaic” can even slightly sum it up, but the experience overall experience is diminished by hoping a character will heal herself before being sent to oblivion. Neptunia just isn’t ever any fun. Combat is carried out using “AP” which a character can use until it is depleted enough to the point where another action cannot be carried out. Trinity Universe, anyone? It doesn’t help that the combat can be extremely repetitious, often dragging as you crawl through lackluster dungeon after lackluster dungeon.
The one component that I desperately wanted Neptunia to deliver on, was the visuals, including the throwback Sega summons. While those deliver, and the sprites are animated almost too well, the world they populate is bland. The voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, as with most JRPGs, but the music is easy enough on the ears to keep you from stabbing your ear drums. If you’re looking for the best possible experience, playing Neptunia with the Japanese voiceovers is the most ideal setup.
I went into Hyperdimension Neptunia with a completely open mind. Every time I picked it up, I left feeling robbed. The only components that deliver are the sprites and even then, their oft sexually-charged encounters made the game a bigger turnoff. I quickly grew tired of underage-looking women in S&M type scenarios, which were a drawback to a concept that had so much promise. While you may think that throwbacks to old school Sega games may be a plus, it never is. Not matter how much I wanted to love Hyperdimension Neptunia, I was always shut down by some off-putting component.
While the news of Neptunia’s poor quality may be saddening, keep an eye out for my upcoming preview and review of Ar Tonelico Qoga, also published by NIS, is a game that does pervy “right.”