This game takes place after the events of second Neptunia game, where Neptune was warped to an unknown dimension of Gamindustri. She needs to find her way to get back to her own dimension, while making new friends such as Plutia.
This is my first Hyperdimension Neptunia game, and I felt that the series premise of having consoles war is pretty interesting, with each different CPU represents a different game console, such as Noire representing PlayStation, Blanc representing Wii, and etc. I find that the story is pretty good and wacky, but with some typical twists. The story won't surprise you much, but it is good on its own with humourous dialogues. The characters are pretty interesting and well-developed, where both villains and heroes are getting adequate action. My favourite characters in the game would be Neptune, Noire, Blanc, Plutia, Pirachu, and Anonydeath. However, other characters are pretty great as well.
1) Progression and Exploration Section
This game plays like most Japanese RPG games, with levels and stuff. To progress in the game, you need to do certain priority Quests, view certain main Events, and defeat bosses. All of the Quests' objective is either to obtain certain items with certain amount, or defeat specific enemies. There are other side Quests for you to do, and you can use it to your advantage to get more Shares and items. After completing the main Quests, you need to go to certain dungeons to activate the next main Event to progress in the game. You may also find items while exploring the dungeons.
A unique feature in this game is the Scout system, where you can send scouts to scour dungeons for items by paying a certain amount of fee. Occasionally, they may find new dungeons or a dungeon bonus effect, such as increased EXP gain. However, there is a catch when you are getting these rumours by the scouts as it could be true or false. If you choose to believe it, there is a chance for the dungeon effect to be activated positively or negatively. Depending on each dungeon, you will find different items or new dungeons at different places.
As you complete a Chapter, you will be graded accordingly to how many Quests you completed, how many Shares you obtained, how many enemies you have defeated, and how frequent your Scout usage. If you score perfectly, you will get a rare item. If not, you will get nothing.
2) Customisation and Upgrading Section
You can customise your party members' appearances, or even their equipment to give them advantage in battles. You can buy new items, weapons, and others from the store, or even develop new and powerful items by mixing several materials together in Item Development.
You may also want to create new Discs by doing Disc Development. To create a Disc, you need to find a blank Disc and embed it with Chips. There are variety of Chips, as they can give you different bonuses such as increased physical defense. If you create a disc with certain combinations of Chips, you will get a Godly Game disc, where it has an even more powerful effect to be used in battles.
You can also customise your Combos in the menu. By spending a certain amount of CP, you can set different combo moves in a different movesets for Rush Combo, Power Combo, or Guard Break Combo. If you do not have enough CP to use a powerful combo move, you need to use a weaker version and wait until you get more CP by leveling up.
Like other RPG games, you can level up by getting enough EXP in battles. By leveling up, you will get increase in stats, and occasionally learn new moves.
3) Combat Section
The combat plays like other turn based RPGs. On each turn, you can move your characters around the battlefield and do actions like attacking using Combos, defending, use items, and etc. As your turn is over, the next turn will be given to the next fastest character or enemy. As you all are aware, you need to deplete all enemies' HP to win a battle. Most of the battles are pretty easy, but some might require you to grind some levels before beating it. Depleting enemies Guard gauge will lower their defenses considerably, but they restore partial of the gauge itself once their turn arrives.
Generally, there are several types of monsters in this game, with four main categories, which are Normal, Dangerous, Risky and Tough. Tough and Risky monsters are more powerful than usual monsters, and require high levels as well as strategies to beat them. Bosses in this game are no pushover either, and can easily defeat you if you are unprepared.
Each girl has her own unique sets of skills and stats, and experimenting with them all in battle with give you better feeling in which member is suitable in certain battles. There are three types of skills, such as SP Skills, Combo Skills, and EXE Drive Skills. In order to use SP Skills, they need to spend a certain amount of SP. There is a variety of SP Skills, such as healing, offensive skills, and buffing skills. Combo Skills are generally the normal attack in this game, where you can attack enemies with same or different combination attacks. EXE Drive Skills are the girls' ultimate attacks, which can deal massive damage on enemies if used properly. To use EXE Drive Skills, they need to spend a certain amount of EXE Drive Gauge, which can be filled by attacking enemies.
Another unique feature in this game is the Lily Rank system. It allows you to pair off the main party members in combat with backrow members. By doing so, it allows them to use certain new passive skills and offensive abilities. In order to use certain skills, they need to have the required affection level with the backrow member. The higher the affection level, the more skills can the front row party member to use.
Each girl in this game can access their ultimate forms in battles called HDD Forms. In HDD Forms, each of them have better stats, as well as more powerful versions of their special attacks. To activate HDD Form, you need to spend a certain percentage of SP to activate it. It is recommended to use HDD Forms to fight tough enemies in dungeons and bosses.
4) Gameplay Conclusion
I find that the gameplay for this game is average. Poor variety of quests, repetitious progression nature, poor dungeon design, and poor enemy designs. I felt that the main gameplay is not good or fairly unique compared to other RPG games. However, it has some nice features like fun combat, Scouts system and Lily Rank, but I do not think they are enough to make the game from being a good enough RPG game. I hereby conclude that the game's gameplay is not certainly aimed towards casual players, but rather only certain types of RPG players.
I can't say much about the graphics, other than that the graphics is pretty mediocre and not outstanding. Although the cel-shaded graphics emulate the Japanese animation's visual style greatly, the graphics is still outdated by this year's standards of other good looking RPG games, such as Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk and Tales of Xillia. The in-game engine cutscenes are also pretty outdated as well, as well as some of 3D character models.
However, the art design during text-based cutscenes are pretty unique and great, where characters portraits are shown in the screen with varying facial emotions, such as being happy, sad, and etc. Some people might find it creepy due to the fact the character portraits are somehow 'breathing', but I find it to be innovative.
The new music pieces in this game are composed by Earthbound Papas and Kenji Ito, with some reused tracks from the previous two games. I find that the soundtrack is pretty fitting with the game's style and universe, with good character themes such as Plutia's Theme, Nepgear's Theme ver. V, and others.
This game also features two voice languages, which are Japanese and English. Surprisingly, I find myself preferring the English voice acting compared to the Japanese voice acting. I feel that the English voice acting is more fitting on each character's personality, such as Neptune, Plutia, Noire and even the villains. Not only that, the main character's HDD forms voices are pretty good, and I will be extremely surprised if I am able to ascertain that Plutia's voice actor actually voices Iris Heart (Plutia's HDD form) as well. The Japanese voice acting is too.. girly in a sense that can annoy casual Japanese listeners, and can be too high pitched as well.
This game has good replay value, where you can try to complete all Quests, Colosseum Quests, and getting all three Endings. Provided if you like this type of JRPG, you will find that this game has a good playing value for RPG fans.
I can't say for sure if RPG fans will like this game, since it is extremely repetitive in nature as well as having other problematic factors like moderate graphics. The major issue with this game is the poor gameplay design, which I can guess that casual or hardcore RPG fans will have a hard time in liking this game. I like this game for being what it is, and not over promising any great features to attract more players to play it. I consider this game as niche, as it has certain unusual game designs that will not attract casual players to purchase it. I find that the interesting premise and universe, as well as humourous dialogue and story are the good reasons for me to buy and play this game.
Final Score: 7.5/10 or 30/40
Pros and Cons
- Humourous storyline.
- Well developed characters.
- Funny dialogue.
- Crazy fourth wall breaking lines.
- Fun combat.
- Good music.
- Dual audio.
- Good replay value.
- Cool attack animations.
- Mediocre graphics.
- Repetitious gameplay progression.
- Poor dungeon designs.
- Lazy enemy designs.
- Some inappropriate innuendos for underaged players.
- Not so smooth framerate performance while exploring dungeons.