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Hyperdimension Neptunia review

Mediocre
AT A GLANCE
  • Occasionally clever humor
  • Nicely drawn character designs
  • Copious fanservice
  • Groan-inducing references
  • Slow-paced, boring exploration and combat
  • Wondering if these girls are even legal

Hyperdimension Neptunia is a prime example of an interesting game concept that fumbles in its execution. It’s a Japanese RPG that’s essentially a combination parody/metaphor for the videogame industry, replete with allegories to actual companies and events going on in the crazy battle for market supremacy we find ourselves ensconced in. While the gaming biz is absolutely ripe for a satirical spin, Neptunia is the one thing a parody shouldn’t be – boring.


In the fantasy land of Gamindustri, there are four ruling goddesses fighting for supremacy in the Console War. As much as they all loathe each other, they decide killing each other would be easier if they teamed up to eliminate the weakest link – the goddess Purple Heart. She’s cast down to the human world with the name of Neptune and no memory of her formerly divine existence, but receives a prophecy from a disembodied voice that she holds the key to saving the world from evil. Along the way, she meets several companions (all of whom are also sickeningly cute anime girls of dubious age) and helps the natives of the various territories fight evil forces like a massive robot-controlled company bent on undermining and destroying all of the smaller, human-controlled tech firms. Behind it all lurks a being by the name of Airfoire bent on destroying everything – can Neptune end the Console War and save all that Gamindustri holds dear?

But perhaps a more appropriate question is, “do we really care?” For all it invests in its characters and setting, Neptunia does a lousy job of holding your interest beyond a few throwaway gags. The primary character designs come from the school of modern moe, and the writers make sure to pander to the fringe interests of the presumed otaku audience often (hope you like jokes about boob size, because there are plenty of those). Beyond the hackneyed anime humor tropes, some of the subtle game business allegories are genuinely amusing, but more often than not the game simply resorts to lazy Family Guy-style humor: it makes a reference to a game or company, and that’s it, that’s the whole joke. Most annoyingly, the story presents little reason for us to care about this world beyond its metaphorical game-industry connection: any characters beyond the main cast are just presented as generic blank silhouettes, and much like the recent Final Fantasy XIII, there are no actual cities to explore, just event sequences and dungeons.

That the humor is so hit-or-miss (usually miss) is made worse by the fact that the gameplay itself is no great shakes. You can’t actually explore the exciting scenery of this interesting game world, and thus Neptunia flows as follows: watch story scenes, go into short, dull dungeons to trigger another story scene, slog through sidequest dungeons to grind for items, money, and experience, then watch more story scenes and go to another dungeon that looks like the one you were just in three dungeons ago, repeat. Combat involves an interesting button-based, combo-building system that, while interestingly designed, moves so slowly that even beating down easy enemies seems to take an eternity. (Don’t expect to run much, either - you need items for that and they are expensive!)

The item and healing system is also cumbersome: you can’t directly control when your characters use healing and status-curing items, instead assigning points to skills to help increase the odds of skills being used if a certain factor comes into play (e.g. a character’s HP dips below 50%, or they get hit with a status ailment). This unreliability brings a lot of battles down to sheer luck - imagine if the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII only kicked in a fraction of the time, and that’s what you’ll see here in Neptunia. Combine that with graphics that look akin to a 720p Wii game, weak character animations, and a wholly unmemorable soundtrack and you’ve got a game that, for all its commentary on the current console wars, feels behind the technology curve.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is far from the worst game you could play, but it doesn’t really give a good reason to pay it any attention. Its slow-paced combat and exploration, weak visuals, and plodding plot leave a lot to be desired. The game-industry parody angle is novel, but its execution leaves much to be desired – and the moe-heavy presentation is likely to leave some players very skeeved out. It’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot of potential in a concept like this. Hopefully sometime down the line a better satire on the industry’s failings will come into play – until then, Neptunia can only be recommended to players with a lot of patience and a high tolerance for anime clichés.

Feb 24, 2011

More Info

Release date: Feb 15 2011 - PS3 (US)
Mar 04 2011 - PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: NIS America
Developed by: IDEA FACTORY
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
PEGI Rating:
12+

20 comments

  • thagama - January 12, 2014 4:31 p.m.

    "Wondering if these girls are even legal"Lol.What an republican consevative shithead.
  • JPorFavor - March 2, 2011 2:39 a.m.

    Yes, delicious fanservice, to danbooru!
  • DeathbyFira - March 1, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    i give it a rent i am a huge JRPG guy and the trailer looks cool
  • SkyDragonc5 - February 28, 2011 4:01 p.m.

    "Copious fanservice" Sold!
  • l_eden_l - February 27, 2011 7:07 a.m.

    Meh. Looks like another mediocre NIS title. I still think the art style and character designs are gorgeous, though.
  • Eliath - February 26, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    I think the review is fair for what the game offers. Personally, I am thoroughly enjoying the game, and my wife and I are constantly laughing at most of the jokes. I'm maybe 6-8 hours into the game, and I'm getting more and more interested in it so far. The dungeon system is kind of bland visually, but there are rankings for how quickly you complete each quest, so there is a little motivation to go back and try to increase your score. Furthermore, you can press L2 on pretty much everything and skip the animation. This can make easier battles take less time to complete than they take to load, and the load times aren't that bad. The artwork is great, but the animation is fairly poor. However, there are some neat things thrown in such as the ability to customize the logo on Neptune's outfit and to add your own images to your R/W Disc skills. If you're just looking for a silly, shallow romp through a JRPG and consider yourself an anime buff, then the game is worth a spin. If you're tired of the overly dramatic RPG fares that have been coming out or tired of the same FPS game over and over, then I would definitely recommend giving this game a shot.
  • Larinah - February 25, 2011 7:11 p.m.

    A lot of patience: check! High tolerance for anime cliches: check! More than likely I'll be renting this. I've been wanting a new game to play and I don't feel like shelling out 60$ for Killzone 3.
  • pinoklin - February 25, 2011 3:47 p.m.

    you know, i love almost every single JRPG i have ever played, i'd kill to play this but i don't have a ps3, oh and if you say it's like FFXIII, then damn!!...XIII is my fav FF after X and VIII.
  • ichigoame - February 25, 2011 2:44 p.m.

    i hate dungeon games,i thought because it was set on such a techno-style planet it would be that,colorful and maybe futuristic,but if drab boring dungeons are plaguing this game then i won't be buying it. i had this game on my amazon wishlist but have removed it,i really-fucking-hate dungeon games.
  • soranamineforever - February 25, 2011 7:28 a.m.

    From what I've actually watched, the combat system looks anything but boring. It actually looks smiliar to games along the lines of Eternal Sonata, which I rather enjoyed. Dull and repetitive dungeons? Let me put it this way: After slogging through FFXIII, I'm pretty sure I can handle it. And to me, a game like this doesn't really need an amazing story. Just a basic premise, and let the gaming humor flow. Basically, the game is can be surmised like this: what you see is what you get. If you don't like moe, gaming referneces, a turn-based battle system, or JRPGs in general, this game won't change you're mind. If you do like said material, however, I'd say go for it. I haven't actually PLAYED the game, though, so I wouldn't take my word for it just yet.
  • tifanity - February 25, 2011 6:21 a.m.

    This game isn't bad, it just starts out slow. Once you get further the game picks up.
  • werewolfninja - February 25, 2011 5:35 a.m.

    You know, this kinda reminds me of a game Sega made that never made it to the U.S. called SEGAGAGA. Although I think I would have prefer them to had ported that game, instead of releasing this one.
  • g4m3rk1dd - February 25, 2011 5:31 a.m.

    aww man...and i wanted to play this too...ill prob still buy and play for the eye candy...
  • SSSGuy - February 25, 2011 3:45 a.m.

    Well, I picked up a copy online. I'm going to play it, y'know, see how it is for myself. I was looking forward to this one, but it seems like one of those games that would be multiple times funnier if you have a few friends making jokes about it, like how you did the commentary on the Preview.
  • FauxFurry - February 25, 2011 3:13 a.m.

    Aw,dood, that was one of the few new PlayStation 3 exclusives that I was remotely interested in playing this year! The fact that this game won't even help push those on the fence about assembling the Trinity of game systems or avoiding such console holy war blasphemy even a little is enough to make a person lose all faith in the Goddesses of Gameindustri! Thinking of blasphemy,Family Guy humor, despite what the writing staff themselves seem to believe, isn't too far removed from most anime humor in the first place and would probably make a better fit than the place-holder for hilarity that sits in HDN now. Maybe those ridiculous things that I suggested in the comments for the FAP on this game would have helped this game become something more interesting than it is now. Whether it would be better or worse is irrelevant, just that it could be laughed with or laughed at, not stared at in silent disbelief and disappointment.
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - February 25, 2011 2:45 a.m.

    Another bland JRPG. NEXT.
  • SolarPoweredShitMachine - February 25, 2011 2:43 a.m.

    "watch story scenes, go into short, dull dungeons to trigger another story scene, slog through sidequest dungeons to grind for items, money, and experience, then watch more story scenes and go to another dungeon that looks like the one you were just in three dungeons ago" So... basically every RPG ever made? If it wasn't for the battle system I'd probably get this game. I'll just wait for Disgaea 4...
  • Jonamon23 - February 25, 2011 2:08 a.m.

    FFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
  • Jonamon23 - February 25, 2011 2:07 a.m.

    First! Doesn't seem like a worthwhile game to play being an Otaku and all...
  • Cyberninja - February 25, 2011 2:06 a.m.

    i know this isnt the best game but a 5 not a 6 is very uncommon and i seem to play every game with a 5 rating....

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