There are plenty of people excited for the upcoming release of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory in March, but there are plenty still who have never played, or even heard of, the original. So, I figured I would delve into my archives and let people know where this great franchise came from. So here's my review of the original Hyperdimension Neptunia.
This game is essentially an extremely moe parody of the game industry as a whole. That being said, it's hard to take the game seriously, given that its entire purpose is to make fun of what many know as the "Console War". But is the game itself fun to play? Let's find out.
Storyline - 4/5
The game takes place in a world called Gamindustri (Literally pronounced "Game Industry"). The world is divided into 4 landmasses, each one representing a different console, and I'll leave it up to your imagination to figure out which console is represented: Lastation, governed by Black Heart, Leanbox, governed by Green Heart, Lowee, governed by White Heart, and Planeptune, governed by Neptune, or Purple Heart. Some may have trouble with that last one, so I'll shed some light. Neptune represents the Sega Neptune, Which was never released, and also represents a potential successor to the Dreamcast.
Hey, we can all dream, right?
Early on, the goddesses are locked in a battle to determine the rightful ruler of Gamindustri, and Neptune finds herself cast out of the realm of the goddesses and into the world of humans, where she takes the form of a young girl with amnesia. She soon finds her purpose in finding the fragments of a key to breaking the seal on Histoire, the creator of all existence, all the while fighting monsters summoned by the evil Arfoire (Yes, the R4. Google it.)
What follows is quite possibly the greatest collection of video game and anime references/in-jokes in the history of video games.Any gamer or anime buff will find something they find hilarious in Hyperdimension Neptunia.
Whether it's the vague references ("Justice Kick!") or the not-so-vague references ("In the name of the Basilicom, I will punish you!"), there's pretty much something for everyone here.
It's made apparent early and often that this game was made almost exclusively for satire's sake, so anyone who tries to take the storyline seriously is either an overobsessed purist who thinks they know what makes an RPG, or works for Fox News. (Hint: You don't want to be either one of them.)
All in all, the storyline is a cleverly written, lighthearded jab at the game industry as a whole, while trying to fit in as many cliches and fourth-wall breaches as humanly possible.
It's definitely original, while at the same time being recongnizable by many RPG enthusiasts.
Graphics - 3/5
The visuals in Hyperdimension Neptunia, much like the storyline, are difficult to take seriously, given the general theme of the game. That said, the game looks more like a fairly polished PS2 game than a PS3 exclusive title.
On one hand, the 3D character models look somewhat blocky, and animation can be described as less than smooth, while the dungeons seem like uninspired spinoffs of each other, with each one having just a few more turns and dead-ends than the previous one.
On the other hand, the anime-style art and animation is incredibly well-done, exactly how anime should look in high-definition. I can spend hours just looking at the artwork gallery and watching the opening movie.
Visual effects during combat is also fairly impressive, complete with over-the-top transformation and special attack effects, almost as if they were taken directly from an episode of Sailor Moon.
Audio - 4/5
The audio presentation is a fairly neat package. The music that plays during cutscenes and events is mostly upbeat and entertaining. The music that plays while exploring dungeons is fairly good, although listening to the track looping on itself over and over can get pretty dull after a short while.
Combat music is thrilling and uplifting, at times seeming like the game is trying to push your resolve to absolutely destroy your opposition, at the same time fitting into the general theme of each dungeon.
All the other music is also well-written, and fits nicely with the situation, whether it's the pleasant "Town" music, the foreboding "Hey! The villain is here!" music, or the always-interesting "What the @#$% just happened?!" music.
Sound effects are just like what you should expect in a parody-styled game. With all the bangs, booms, and ka-shings of battle right where they should be, and even where they shouldn't be, for comedic effect.
Considering the game is a giant parody, it's difficult to say whether the VA is genuinely bad, or if they are just overacting for satire's sake. Whether it's Neptune's "Valley Girl" voice, or Compa's ditzy blonde mannerisms, just about every line is spoken like an episode of the Power Rangers, always with either too little, or too much enthusiasm. Whether it's purposefully or genuinely bad, though, it's hard to take off points for it. Since either way, it's freaking hilarious, which is the entire point of the game in the first place.
Gameplay - 4/5
The gameplay is what just about anyone would expect from a JRPG. You have dungeon crawling, combat, cutscenes to summarize what you've done in the past 30 minutes, the works.
Exploring the world is simple enough, you just pick a location from the list, and there you are. There's enough side quests and extra dungeons to keep it from being too linear and boring.
The dungeon aspect is a fairly straightforward affair. Dungeons are pretty much cut and paste, each one only slightly more difficult than the one before it. Most of the time it's either "Defeat this", or "Get that item", with a few other objectives thrown in just to keep things fresh enough to keep you from getting bored. There's also a an online leaderboard so you can compare your dungeon exploring skills with other players around the world.
Combat is an interesting melting pot of simultaneous uniqueness and familiarity. Battles play out in a turn-based format, with each character getting a certain amount of AP, or action points, to spend in a single turn. Each action takes up a specific amount of AP, and you can continuously attack until your AP is depleted, with enough leeway to lend for interesting and devastating combinations.
Healing is handled in a fashion painfully similar to the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII. Each character can learn healing skills, however, you need to first set the probability that the skill will activate by using skill points. You must also have the necessary items needed for the skill to activate, on top of having the specific condition for the skill to activate to occur. Fortunately, most of these conditions are as simple as taking damage or defending yourself. Another good bit of news is that unlike most RPGs, healing doesn't take up a turn, nor does it use AP, so this leaves you free to focus on beating the bejeezus out of whatever happens to be in front of you at the time.
Well, that about wraps it up for the in-depth, let's look at the breakdown.
Storyline - 4/5 Cliché-riddled storyline that takes a lighthearted parodic jab at the game industry, and makes it into a fun tale full of humor.
Graphics - 3/5 Mediocre 3D character models and dull dungeon design paired with excellent anime-style artwork and special effects create a visual experience that isn't great, but isn't bad, either.
Audio - 4/5 Great music all around, with the audio only blemished by dungeon music that gets boring after a while. Bad, over-the-top VA ends up helping the parody more than hurting.
Gameplay - 4/5 Excellent JRPG experience, with excellent controls, friendly menu navigation, and everything easy to find. Combat is thrilling and fun, if somewhat frustrating sometimes. Only real downside is boring dungeon navigation.
Total - 15/20
All in all, Hyperdimension Neptunia is a breath of fresh air in a sorely lacking next-gen JRPG market, at the same time, poking fun at the genre, and the industry as a whole. The entire game is essentially one large practical joke, and it's hilarious. The best part is, the game is actually fun to play, as well. JRPG fans and anyone who enjoys a good laugh will enjoy this game for a good while. Like any other game, it has its shortcomings, but more than makes up for them.