Ok, so I decided to spend a few hours (less than 6) with Hyperdimension Neptunia (enough to warrant a “first impression”). Seeing how certain critics have given the game terrible ratings, I did want to see for myself whether they’re truly one-dimensional (pun intended).
Edit: I’ve since re-written a better review and a mini-guide for Hyperdimension Neptunia after completing the game, so check it out over here!
Ahh, playing this game makes you feel like a lolicon. Like hundreds of others out there currently saturating the market today. XD
Some mini-spoilers are expected even in a first impression, but they all revealed at the beginning of the game (or else I wouldn’t know it now would I):
Histoire, a book that governs the world, created 4 goddesses (representing the PS3, Wii, Xbox and Neptune) to watch over the world in its stead. This turned out to be a bad decision, as the goddesses were unhappy with each other and started a war to vile for the right to rule.
After eons of fighting to a draw, they decided to end the stalemate by teaming up to take out one of the 4 goddesses – Neptune. Rather than destroy her, they banished her from Celestia (the realm of the goddesses) onto the land below (the human realm).
Monsters have been increasing in activity on the lower world, and Neptune, now without memory of being a goddess, hears the voice of Histoire, who asks for her help in unsealing it by collecting 4 keys from the 4 different locations to end the monster invasion. So begins Neptune’s quest…
*click* *click* *click* *click* *click*
To put it in a simple manner, it’s a Visual Novel with RPG elements. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, here’s where the game shines. The story plays out during character conversations that take place with visually-pleasing dynamic 2D character portraits that move as they speak. You are given the ability to re-visit any storyline scene via a ‘tomes’ option, (so it literally becomes a visual novel, seeing there’s no more battles). Funny thing is you cannot back out of a replay once you start it, which boggles me.
You navigate the world using menus, there’s neither world map nor towns for you to roam in. The game sees you exploring dungeons and taking on the inhabitants within. A turn-based system governs the combat, with characters given a set number of moves per turn based on the amount of AP they’ve got, that’ll allow them to string together combos. Combat animation can be skipped manually by pressing L2, but there is no option to turn it off permanently.
And you will love that L2 button. Why so? Each optional dungeon (usually a fetch or destroy-the-monster quest) is timed and you’re graded on how fast you can complete a dungeon – and the time doesn’t pause when the attack animation is being played, so you’ll just be skipping all that animation.
Essentially, each battle will go “*click**click**click**click*” and you’ll see numbers floating to show the damage. Although there’s a monster health bar, so you’ll mostly look at that instead – unless you’re trying to determine whether the attack is effective. 😀
I do like visual novels, and being the purist I am, I greatly appreciate the dual-audio (since I prefer playing with the original Japanese audio), but there are times when the game gets plain grating and downright confusing.
Compa (the Compile Heart mascot) hurts my ears. While Kanako Sakai did a pretty good job at voicing Shurelia of the Ar Tonelico series, she came across as a Suiseiseki/Mikuru hybrid on steroids as Compa. Seeing as Compa’s one of the main female heroines, it can get pretty distracting after a while.
The tutorials are also of ‘huh?’ material at times. Particularly at the beginning, you’ll always see a “let’s take a more in-depth look at x” or similar, and then followed by just a single line of explanation following it (with the tutorial image unchanging). If that’s the case, don’t even bother putting it in. x_x Much of the beginning you’ll need to get used to self-learning, as the tutorials often only provide you with the bare essentials.
The item synthesis system can be a hit-or-miss. You spend skill points on item abilities to boost the chance that they’re used when the conditions are met. The conditions the item can be used is not customizable. It’s kinda silly that the game forces you to do something as elementary as healing using such convoluted mechanics, but at least the ingredients are not difficult to find (they’re always dropped after the battle ends).
The last thing would probably be that the shop does not have a sell option. So what do you do with your old equipment you’re unlikely to ever touch again? No idea. You can’t discard them either.
What I DID enjoy:
The designs are gorgeous. There’s plenty of detail in the character expressions, and many of the references and jabs are spot-on, so there’s plenty to like – provided you’re on the same frequency. 🙂 Most of the voices are also pretty well done. Never gets old hearing the voices of Rin (FSN) as IF and Suigintou (Rozen Maiden) as the bubbly/serious Neptune and their little exchanges. 🙂
It’s unlikely that Neptunia will change your mind about this style of presenting an RPG if you had disliked the other Compile Heart releases (like Trinity Universe and Record of Agarest War), as it doesn’t take that formula to any fantastic new heights. The good news is, it’s not a cross-over, so the entry level is (somewhat) lower. If you don’t mind a visual novel-like experience though, this is one of the better titles out there. 🙂