I finally mustered up the courage, time, and probable damage to my mental well-being by completing – and through this review reliving – Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, the PlayStation 3 Japanese Role Playing Game (jRPG) whose predecessor was panned by most reviewers out there, and which I personally couldn’t recommend it for everyone either.
So how much has the 2nd title in the series improved? Would it now be a worthy rival to other jRPGs in the market? Read on to find out.
I’ll be a little more strict with the review this time round, considering several players have commented on the improvements made in mk2, and have encouraged me to give it a go to restore my faith in the series.
After this point: Spoiler alert.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is more a spiritual successor than a direct sequel to the first game, so while certain characters are identical, they merely reprise their roles and personalities, but are in no way tied to the plot of the first.
The story goes that the 4 console goddesses, Neptune, Noire, Vert and Blanc (corresponding to Sega Neptune, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii), and one sister, Nepgear are confined to the gamindustri graveyard by the minions of Arfoire, the personification of the R4 cart who was the previous antagonist, now worshiped as a goddess and supposedly sealed – which basically tells you that the villains aim to break the seal to revive her.
Two returning protagonists IF and Compa head down to save them, but succeeds in only freeing Nepgear, who must then gather the other console sisters and party members to save the goddesses (again), then go on to defeat 4 bosses multiple times with the power of friendship. …Basically the plot in a nutshell. XD
1. Character Variety
The first improvement to the series is that there are plenty more characters in mk2, and you are (thankfully) not required to purchase them as DLC like in the first. Nepgear is also an infinitely more likable main character than the whiny Neptune. Voiced by Yui Horie (ToraDora‘s Kushieda Minori, Dog Days‘s Millhiore Biscotti), she delivers believable lines as the troubled Nepgear, who struggles to fill her sister Neptune’s shoes. Since they are so many characters now, you’re more likely able to find someone you could like, and even if you didn’t, each character would have much less lines to speak anyway.
2. Battle Overhaul
If you had seen how silly it was to do something as simple as heal yourself in the original game, you’ll be happy with how much the battle system has been improved. Characters now have a movement circle that allows them to move around the battleground, and consume AP to pull off attacks, skills and items, which then builds SP for special attacks, or (in the case of the CPU sisters) to transform into their stronger “HDD ON” versions. Gone was the annoying “click click” of the predecessor.
Suffice to say fights would be more enjoyable compared to a purely turn-based system of the first game, and you’ll feel right at home if you’re used to similar battle systems such as from that of Eternal Sonata or the Arc the Lad series.
3. Better Dungeon Crawling Experience
Gone are the random encounters (hurray!), instead replaced with monsters you can see on the mini-map (like the Atelier series). This allows you to avoid unwanted fights almost 100% of the time if you are careful enough. Gone are the special abilities such as monster call, instead replaced by items that can respawn enemies, transport you out of the dungeons etc.
You can also hit a button to have your character strike an enemy, successful hits granting you initiative in battle. Here’s an oddity: That same strike, when performed on a monster weaker than your character will instantly destroy it, but you gain nothing from doing so. Considering you could simply avoid the monsters entirely, there’s no reason why you’d want to go out of your way to hit them. In fact, it’s almost seen as a handicap-of-sorts, because that means you can no longer enjoy the benefits of initiative (although at that point you probably don’t need to) if you wish to “farm” lower-leveled monsters for materials.
1. Heavy reuse of content
The soundtrack of the original was pretty dismal, but you’ll hear much of the same tunes, interspersed with a few new ones in this sequel. They are still equally forgettable, and the heavy electronic opening is a step back for the series as well (heck, Hatsune Miku could do much better).
While I mentioned that dungeons are better than the first, it’s not by much. Though there may be nice additions such as brighter sea-side type dungeons and colorful tetris-like areas, you’ll still see identical dungeons differentiated only by their names recycled throughout the game. The enemies within the dungeons are also just color-swapped variants of one another, and considering some are simplistic and downright ugly, you grow tired of them rather quickly.
2. Dull Quest System
The game has quests, accessed through a guild menu in the towns. All towns have guilds, which have the same set of quests, so there’s no difference where you accept or turn in your quests. Apart from the first few and 3 other quests that you are required to perform to obtain 3 key items, they have little to do with the plot, and are displayed in what has to be one of the worst fonts I’ve seen go on a TV. It bothered me to the extent I skipped reading the quest comments.
3. Guide Essential
I never understood the shares thing until I read a guide, and I still didn’t until after repeated experiments. Essentially, those cities that pop up for the fun of it (you cannot interact with them) “sponsor” quests, which changes the share ratio of the sponsor city, and your goal is to largely eliminate Arfoire shares in favor of the rest. The share ratio controls the endings you will get, so you’re bound to need a guide and repeatedly play through to see all the endings, which means many rounds of doing (the same) quests.
- Story: 3/10
- Audio: 2/10
- Gameplay: 7/10
- Replay Value: 5/10
- Overall (not an average): 6.5/10
The localization team tries too hard. From someone who’d played through listening to the Japanese audio, at times while reading the accompanying English text I find myself shaking my head at how much they changed the script just to make an exchange sound more suggestive or to inject some 4th wall humor (which falls flat more often than not). It’s much tamer than they make it out to be.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case, with other games like Agarest of War also falling prey to an overly enthusiastic localization team, and for that reason (among others) you’ll see words like “sexualized” continue to be used in reviews with games such as these.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 has seen visible improvement over its first game, but a bland story (even considering the multiple endings), many reused elements and a visual novel-styled interaction with characters still keeps this from being a game I could recommend to anyone outside of its niche community. It is still the better Neptunia game to own, but Neptunia V on the horizon and an anime series planned, you might want to hold on your purchase.