Sometimes we hardcore gamers think that some video games are not exactly bad and that, whether we like a game or not is determined by personal tastes. Some of us like shooters while others enjoy a competitive environment in a fighter; but in general, we tend to conclude gaming is just a matter of tastes. But sometimes, some things just go bad and a title results in a disaster. This is the case with Compile Heart’s and Idea Factory’s Hyperdimension Neptunia, a Japanese RPG I was looking forward to very much that ended up disappointing me deeply.
Hyperdimension Neptunia is a rather obscure JRPG with a fantastic premise that works like a parody of the video game industry. In fact, the game’s world is called Gameindustri and on it exist four floating landmasses with a Goddess governing each who represent the current-generation consoles: Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 with a fourth Goddess called Neptune (the main protagonist of the game) representing a never-released Sega console of the same name.
HyperNep, as I’ll be referring to the game from now on, tells the story of a never-ending war between those four Goddesses that ends up with Neptune being exiled down to the world of humans and losing her memory. Suffering from amnesia, Neptune meets two companions: Compa (developer Compile Heart) and IF (Idea Factory) and the three will try to save the world from an invasion of monsters while solving several problems for other… characters.
This game is more like a humorous parody rather than an epic RPG. It tries to be funny at all times, it is completely full of jokes mocking consoles, gaming clichés and famous franchises like Mario, Final Fantasy and even Resident Evil; all while having a rather nice art style that features anime girls being cute, with some of them being a little over-sexualized to ecchi points. In all honesty, the game’s humor and gaming jokes is most likely the only thing that kept me from abandoning the game after each mission because pretty much everything outside that is a complete mess.
Graphically, the game is extremely weak. Bland textures, lifeless monsters, poor use of colors and repetitive environments are what make up the visuals in the game. The narrative is done similar to Japanese visual novels where you see a still image of the characters talking while you listen and read what they say. These ones look nice when the present characters are important but the majority of them are literally a black silhouette. Yes, a black shadow.
Besides the visual novel styled narrative, the game takes place inside dozens of dungeons that are actually just passageways with different forms and textures for the walls, floor and ceiling to give them different themes like a factory, cave, pirate ship or a snowy forest. The thing is that exploring them is just boring, there’s nothing to do on them besides the main objective and there’s simply no incentive to walk around them. Besides, as I mentioned, they look really bad. Trust me when I say I’ve played a LOT of PS2 games that looked much, much better than HyperNep does graphically; and I’m not talking about strong titles like Final Fantasy XII or Metal Gear Solid 3. HyperNep is that bad.
The music is an important problem too. In general, the game’s soundtrack is very annoying and repetitive. I think there are only about twenty songs. Some of them are reused a whole lot and they will get on anyone’s nerves quickly. You’ll probably find them catchy but it’s not because they’re good. The sound effects are really bad too. On the other hand, the voice-acting is actually quite nice, especially the English one which was a rather pleasant surprise. Nep-Nep (Neptune) has a fantastic voice just like Compa and in general, the English voiceovers are very strong. There’s an option to play in Japanese too if you want and fortunately, those are very good too.
We could probably endure bad graphics and a weak storyline in a game. In fact, Call of Duty players do that all the time and that’s the most successful gaming franchise in history. The thing is that HyperNep’s problems go way beyond what is normally recognized as a bad game. Besides the early-PS2 era graphics and lame general plot, the main issues of the game are in the gameplay mechanics. Hyperdimension Neptunia uses a menu-based world map, dungeon exploration, visual novel narrative and an EXTREMELY slow-paced turn-based battle system that only a handful of players will be able to tolerate, if any; where attack animations mostly take more than twenty seconds and are very repetitive, so you’ll find yourself skipping most of them all the time.
The game uses a combo system where you can manage which attacks each girl will execute. All three of them have dozens of different combinations using the four face buttons and this might look really promising, varied and well-designed. But it’s just a lie, during the entire game; you’ll only be pressing the same buttons over and over spamming the most powerful attacks each girl has to win battles. As you level them up, each lady will gain access to new, more powerful attacks so the old ones will feel obsolete immediately. Besides, there are a lot of stats that don’t seem to do anything useful, especially for Neptune when she takes on her Goddess form (which is extremely overpowered and is able to kill most enemies in the game in a single turn).
Combos sometimes allow for useful things like the ability to extend them, transform Neptune to her Goddess self or switch to party members in the back row… The thing is… no one is ever on the back row. The entire game is played with only Nep-Nep, Compa and IF. I read you can make the other three Goddesses join but only for the final battle and the two DLC characters have to be purchased (and they join almost at the end anyway) so the entire back-row thing will always be empty, no matter what. This is just ridiculous.
The difficulty, enemy levels and experience gained seem to be completely disorganized too. HyperNep is not exactly linear as you can choose which story missions to do first and so on but in general, the entire game is way too easy; a walk in the park. If you add Nep-Nep’s ability to transform and kill everything in a turn then battles will just take a few seconds and Compa and IF won’t even do anything. This is true even for hard difficulty. It’s normal to encounter early-game monsters in the final dungeons and level grinding seems to be impossible as the only mobs that give decent experience are the bosses.
HyperNep also uses a very strange and unreliable healing system where you don’t have spells or items to cure the girls. Rather, there’s a probability system that makes them use some potions when conditions are met ONLY in battle. It’s very inconsistent and sometimes the girls just won’t heal unless you have a specific skill maxed at 100% to be guaranteed when the conditions occur. This will end up in you losing battles that should have easily been won just because the random-number generator decided the character would not cure. It’s very annoying.
You might thing that inconsistent difficulty and experience imparted is because the game isn’t linear; but other games like Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Atelier Ayesha aren’t linear either and they manage to distribute experience and difficulty in a consistent and very solid way. Things during the development of HyperNep just went wrong. A lot of things went very wrong when they made and published this game. There’s a store in the world map that sometimes allows you to buy items but most of them are completely useless as the game doesn’t seem to have a working elemental system to take advantage of the defensive items and on top of that, you can’t sell your old equipment so once you replace it… you simply have to pull up with it being in your inventory for the rest of the game.
It’s very sad when something like this happens to a game, especially when it has so much potential as HyperNep does. I feel like the entire gaming parody, while funny, was not used as it should have been. It could have been much, much better but they wasted a golden opportunity. Still, I don’t hate the game at all, I just feel… sorry for it. Why did I play it? Because it’s part of a trilogy where the sequels seem to be very good and I just could not jump straight into the second game. Besides, HyperNep is not very long, you should be done with it in about 20-30 hours and even if it’s really bad, I honestly don’t think it’s a torture to play it.
I like Japanese RPGs a lot. In fact, I could say it’s probably my favorite gaming genre. I also like anime so when the two things mix in a single game I get very excited about it and have to try it out. I usually defend the genre and its games a whole lot but sadly, with HyperNep, there’s not much to defend other than a solid voice-acting and some very funny gaming parodies in the dialogs. Other than that, the game looks really bad, it has a lame soundtrack, plot and the gameplay is terrible, boring and simply not well-designed. My advice if you’re interested in the series? Read the plot on the web and jump straight to the sequel: Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2.
- Great voice-acting, especially the English one.
- Funny gaming jokes and parodies.
- Horrible graphics.
- Weak and annoying music.
- Bad and uninteresting main storyline.
- Boring and repetitive dungeon models.
- Extremely slow-paced battles.
- Inconsistent difficulty is just too easy.
- Experience gained, damage and enemy levels are much disorganized.
- Useless combo system.
- Selling old items is impossible.
- Very unreliable and strange healing system.
- Graphics and Visuals…..……..2
- Music and Sound Effects…......5
- Replay Value……………..…..3
- Overall Score……………….. 3 / 10