Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 PS3 review

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Developer(s): Idea Factory, Compile Heart
Publisher(s): NIS America, Compile Heart
Distributor(s): SEGA
Platform(s): Playstation 3
Release Date: August 2, 2012

If I was tasked with coming up with the most bizarre concept for a video game, I don’t think I could ever have imagined anything like Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2.  Imagine the video game industry personified by quirky Anime characters that battle piracy.  Imagine your favorite handhelds, like the Sega Game Gear, Sony’s PSP, and the Nintendo DS portrayed as scantily clad, underage Anime girls.  And if that isn’t crazy enough, imagine being greeted by Meijin Takahashi (the first true gamer geek of the 80’s) advising you to sit at a safe distance from your TV when gaming.  Neptunia Mk2 is best described as an allegory and parody of the Japanese gaming industry, with the plot literally taking place in a world called the Gameindustri.  If you’ve grown up with a D-pad in your hands, you’ll absolutely love Neptunia’s homage to the world of gaming and I have to applaud the developers for not holding back on creativity.

The Good
- Very old school, fun combat
- The more you know about video game history, the more you’ll love it
- It’s deliciously bizarre

The Bad
- Newcomers to the series might feel lost at first
- And newcomers to JRPGs might be lost entirely
- Graphics could use more polish

Playing Hyperdimension Neptuinia Mk2 reminds me of watching Family Guy - the more you’re familiar with the source material, the more you get out of it.  This game is similar in that it truly excels when you recognize the intended jokes and references.  A sense of nostalgia creeps up on you with each new discovery, such as the red exclamation points above enemies’ heads referring to Metal Gear Solid, or the Mega Man creator, Keiji Inafune, making a hilarious cameo appearance.  The creativity behind the title is praiseworthy.  In a sense, the game is an encyclopedia of video game greatness, picking iconic elements from different gaming eras and tossing them into a blender.


If you haven’t played the original Neptunia game, it might take a while before you can put everything together.  The game does a good job of introducing you to the universe, but if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into it’s a bit confusing to follow at first.  A crime syndicate, called the ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime), tries to resurrect the previously defeated Arfoire, the antagonist of the original game, by selling bootleg cartridges to citizens of Gameindustri in hopes of stopping their belief in the power of CPUs. Did you get that so far?  The plot follows lead protagonists Neptune, Noire, and Blanc on their quest to save their older CPU sisters, who’ve been previously defeated and captured by Arfoire.  Originally, the older sisters were personifications of beloved consoles, such as the Playstation and Xbox, while their younger sisters are allusions to popular handhelds.  In a nutshell, the moral of the narrative is that piracy is a no-no, but it does show perspectives from both sides.  Phew!

The first few minutes feel like a sugar rush that suddenly knocks you over. You’re greeted with an intro that explodes with colors, floating images and J-pop, making you feel like you’re watching a re-imagining of the 90’s Sailor Moon cartoon.  You’re expected to have a basic grasp of the franchise’s premise before playing, so it’s important to carefully decipher the introductory dialogue in order to understand where the game is going.  Once you enter your first battlefield, however, you should feel right at home. 


The gameplay is reminiscent of the latest Star Ocean installment in that it’s a semi, turn-based battle system that allows you to move around the environment.  Gone are the random encounters of the original Neptunia and you can clearly see your opponents patrolling the dungeons.  You can even gain advantage to battles by timing your preemptive strike as you approach an enemy.  The combat starts out easy enough; you have a glowing circle around each character that allows you to move within its radius, pressing “X” initiates the attack command which can be followed up with powerful strikes, energy depleting attacks, and complex chain combos later on. The” triangle” button will bring up your skills, which are then performed in exciting, over-the-top cut scenes, while the “circle” button is used for your inventory menu.  One of your characters is a healer, so it’s wise to keep her away from direct enemy attacks. 


With more foes filling the battlefield, the game becomes significantly more strategic.  It doesn’t require precise planning like the recent Rainbow Moon, but knowing where to position your characters is key to a successful attack.  You can partner two characters together when you are outside of battle, which introduces unique advantages during fights.  Certain characters are immune to status effects and have increased magic resistance; so combining them accordingly gives you an upper hand to particularly challenging enemies.  You’re basically choosing who’ll take the front line and who’ll provide supportive abilities.  Combining partners that are affectionate towards each other results in additional special moves, but those can only be unlocked with specific character combinations.

The world set up is stylishly old school, similar to the classic Super Mario Brothers games. You’re presented with a hand drawn map overview as you navigate a pixelated sprite between cities and dungeons.  The cities are displayed as futuristic looking chessboards, where you can access shops, quests and an in-game social network – which is a parody of Twitter. 


You can craft items, change costumes, upgrade weapons, chat with the townsfolk, all the traditional RPG stuff, but everything is done through menus.  Dungeons are the only place where you take full control of your character and it’s a real shame that you don’t feel more involved.  Luckily, the dialogue between the characters is emanating with charm and humor.  Unlike the original Neptunia game that had strictly hand-drawn illustrations during conversations, Mk2 introduces fully rendered 3-d models, which makes the overall look of the game more cohesive.
The characters look fantastic and you’re still treated to the occasional traditional illustration during special events.  Sadly, the background environments in dungeons can’t compete with the character models.  They look bland and repetitive, taking away from the otherwise fantastic style.  It’s also surprising that the frame rate is not as smooth considering the simplicity of the graphics engine.


The music and sound in Neptunia are a mixed bag.  While the English voices are serviceable, the original Japanese dialogue is considerably better.  Even so, the characters repeat their battle one-liners way too often and the background music lacks variety.  Thankfully, it’s the conversations that bring these girls to life and the voice actors do a great job throughout.  Now if we could just have more music similar to the intro song, the score would go up several notches.  

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is a difficult game to describe and even harder to categorize.  It’s a title that’s clearly geared towards JRPG fans, but the concept is intriguing enough that anyone with a love for video games should take notice.  The game is similar to the Olympic game highlights, showcasing moments of brilliance and significance, but without experiencing the big picture, you can easily miss the best parts.  The game is about twenty hours long, so you’re definitely getting a ton of value, but make sure you go into this one with a very open mind.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Final Score “A bizarre gem for JRPG fans” 8.0
Graphics
Great character models and fantastic overall style. Unfortunately, the dungeon backgrounds are plain and uninspired compared to everything else.
7.5
Gameplay
Very traditional, old school gameplay mechanics that are fun and addictive, but bring nothing new to the genre.
8.5
Value
Very confusing if you’re a newcomer to the franchise, but extremely enjoyable if you’re familiar with the source material.
8.0
Sound
The intro song and the Japanese audio are great, but the English voice acting and repetitive music leave a lot to be desired.
7.0

What are your thoughts?  Have you guys played the original Neptunia game and how does this one compare?  If not, does the premise sound intriguing enough to give the sequel a try?  Leave your comments below!

3 comments :

  1. This looks awesome! Nice to see these type of titles coming overseas.

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  2. Pretty interesting. These guys should make a Sailor Moon game. :)

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  3. Mio makka (psn/xbox live)November 4, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    This game is perfect for those pepol who love the game industry and I found that every part of playing this game entertaining its good with the English cast but i found using the japanease cast much more entertaining not saying English is not good but the voice acting is much better in my opinion :) .

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