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Hyperdimension Neptunia Review

KevinS By:
DEVELOPER Idea Factory 
T Contains Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes

What do these ratings mean?

Slowest. Hyper. Ever.

There are some times that I pick up a game for review and find myself thinking "Wow, I get to play something awesome nobody knows about… maybe even the next Katamari Damacy!" It's my favorite thing about this job, to be honest. But with every "this is gonna be awesome" title I might find, there comes a batch of "nobody should be playing this" that comes my way. So while I might be the lucky one to get the Disgaea-esque awesomeness, I also sometimes get stick with… well, Hyperdimension Neptunia.

click to enlargeBut what's this? It's a turn-based RPG developed by GUST and released in the States by NIS America? What can be wrong with that? In a nutshell, a lot. To start with, I thought I was supposed to be playing on a PS3, and I kept thinking that visually, this isn't any more notable than a Dreamcast title with some hand-drawn anime figures to move awkwardly and talk during cutscenes. Also, while I do appreciate a little "breaking of the fourth wall" and glimpses that characters might know just what their role is in the world they're in, HDN goes to the point of outright obnoxiousness. It's one thing to make a comment here and there, but there is so much here that it's less a calling card and more like that kid who tries too hard to be cool.

Playing as the fallen Goddess Neptunia (that's when she's in full-on Goddess mode; otherwise, she's just Neptune or "Nep-Nep" for short), the goal is to find and unite the four key pieces that will help free a captured "all-powerful" goddess. Beyond that, like every JRPG I know, the story spirals into a convoluted batch of "save them" missions and quests to defeat X number of enemies. That part isn't inherently bad, but it's the execution in which it fails… and how slow/boring it is to achieve each goal. If the objective is to defeat five of a certain baddie, it forces you to wander the small dungeon spaces hoping to catch the right battles randomly. If you have to find someone, reach the specific point on the map and that's it, complete with "dynamic" fight when you get there. It's all the standard formula.

click to enlargeThat brings me to the awfulness that is the battle system. It's as stripped to the bare essentials as I've ever seen in a classic turn-based system, even in strategy; there are no battle items to use (antidotes, potions, elixirs, all out the window entirely) and are replaced by percentages of when your character might use the items picked up to heal themselves. There are only three fighting options: attack with a weapon, attack without a weapon, and shoot 'em (where the guns come from I have no idea). There are different elemental bullets to use, but other than choosing the right one for the right enemy, the whole battle becomes simply a button mash. I just jammed through the battles hoping for a cool boss, or a new item, but all that came was a constant stream of anticlimactic moments, similar to the episodes of Dragonball Z where guys just charge up for the battle.

Combine the fact the game just isn't engaging with the same four or five environments for battles, the constant flow of graphical glitches and the bland dialog between characters, and I have no idea why anyone thought this would be a good game. NIS has put out some of the funniest, deepest, and interesting games I've played, and this wasn't even phoning it in… it left everything to someone with a talented pen for individual anime shots of girls (mostly of oddly-shaped bouncing breasts and panty shots) and someone who wanted an "easier" RPG to play with. If you're a glutton for fan service, then you're already planning to buy this. If you're looking for an interesting play-through, this just isn't gonna do it for you.
D Revolution report card
  • Some nice anime images
  • Panty shots (if you like that)
  • Game references (of better games)
  • Terribly basic battle system
  • Obnoxiously self-aware
  • Little customization
  • Every place looks the same

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