Not to be confused with the anime series of the same name, which we’ll review shortly, or the other games in the Neptunia franchise mk2 and Victory which I’ve heard about but not played first-hand. This review is only about Hyperdimension Neptunia.
The idea behind this is kind of an awesome and out there and insane premise: all the videogame companies are moe girls. Neptune (named for the console that Sega was supposed to follow the Dreamcast with) represents Sega, Noire represents the typically black-colored Sony consoles, Blanc represents the Wii’s white color-scheme and Vert, from Verde which is the Microsoft green logo design for the Xbox. Beyond that the main cast includes CompileHeart and Idea Factory (Compa and IF), two middling Japanese game developers that worked with NIS on this project; Gust the developer of the Atelier series that this blog has a longstanding love affair with; and Nisa, or NIS America, the NA branch of the game’s publisher. Other companies and titles personified include Tekken, CyberConnect2 (.hack///’s maker), Capcom, Rei Ryghts (Atari), Cave (Mobile game developer) and the R4 Piracy Device.
See, and you thought this was gonna get weird.
At the start of things there are the four consoles: Sega Neptune, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii. Each console has a country (Planeptune, Leanbox, Lastation, and Lawii), and each also has a Goddess (Purple Heart, Green Heart, Black Heart and White Heart), and each Goddess is what’s known as the ‘Hard Disk Drive form’ of a little girl who leads the powerful game corporation country (Neptune, Vert, Noire and Blanc). The future games complicate the living hell out of this by adding some more ‘defunct’ Goddesses and consoles, and adding handhelds (like Nepgear, or the DS twins Rom and Ram).
The main focus of the game is ostensibly to save Gameindustri from the evil Arfoire (R4), but the real purpose of the game is to crawl through dungeons and enjoy moments of delightful spoofing of the genre and of video games as a whole. Honestly, there’s probably more humorous spoofing and fun had with personified game consoles than there is plot. Good ‘for instance’: given the Xbox 360′s trend of overheating, Green Heart is the most scantily clad of the Goddesses. You know, to prevent overheating. And from what I’ve seen of the anime it likely holds true in the rest of the Neptunia media as well. I mean, look at this clip from Victory. However, the clip right after it that talks about the bust size of the breasts of the Sega Genesis’ goddess shows clearly that ecchi and fanservice are the other main focuses of the series, with plot coming in a remarkably distant fourth and gameplay barely on the scale. If satire was the Sun, Earth and Mars were fanservice and ecchi, and Neptune (appropriately) was plot. the gameplay considerations of the series are Voyager I.
I actually do like the humor in Hyperdimension Neptunia enough that I’m watching the anime, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. The fanserivce can be so over the top as to be painful, though it never quite hots Najica levels. And I have to admit, the non-fanservacy costume design in this series is beyond remarkable. IF and Gust are beautiful representations of their companies, and Nisa resembles Lahrl from their famous Disgaea series. So, there are some solid strengths to the visual design other than ‘bewbs’. The comedic merits of the series are also pretty worthwhile, and not even the threat of impending doom prevents cuteness, but there are sine problems with this particular title that make it hard to slog through.
One of them is your party. You have, as your playable characters, the four Goddesses and four companies, Idea Factory, CompileHeart, NIS and Gust. Except you don’t. Party members sold separately, in a vain attempt on Idea Factory’s part to out-EA EA. Rather than making certain party members DLC, they ACTUALLY ADD THEM TO YOUR PARTY and only let you use them if you buy the DLC. Nice one, IF. The other problem is the largely forgettable gameplay. It’s lackluster and feels more like an annoying interruption to the amusing premise than actually attempting to achieve something. I’d almost prefer a visual novel.
Then again, I can’t be too mad at Idea Factory, IFfy’s a badass.
I really am conflicted about how much I enjoy this series. Some things, particularly the comedy, are fantastic. Character designs are beautiful. The premise, the homages it makes to other franchises and media, it’s all really, really impressive, but the way Idea Factory developed this game, and the growing fanservice of the Neptunia titles bothers me a little. If you don’t mind getting screwed around with by a developer and like ecchi, though, this literally is a Goddesssend for you.
There are so few men in this title, though, that at least the yuri is nice and in the open. Compan seems to have a crush on her Nep-Nep, the Nepgear has a little something-something with the PSP, and I think Square is cheating on Sony with Xbox. I feel such little need to justify this stuff to you guys that I feel like I can just demand your trust and loyalty, but no, I am sure naysayers will exist. The world of Gameindustri doesn’t quite meet ‘world without men’ status, but it comes damn close to ‘plot without men’. And the cutsie relationships which likely are elements of the fanserciveiousness of the whole thing actually are present enough for me to call these girl-girl romantic leanings apparent. The lesbianism is no longer covert, particularly between Nepgear in ‘Uni’, the PSP.
So here’s the verdict: Good, but is it good enough? Probably not. It’s a long, dark, dull cavern of meaninglessness between brilliant satirical scenes and that cavern is populated with ecchi. If you like ecchi caverns…
… I’m probably trying Mangaden’s patience enough with one article, I’ll leave that joke unfinished.