Graphics:
6.6
Gameplay:
7.0
Sound:
6.9
Control:
6.4
Replay Value:
7.0
Overall Rating:
6.8
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Compile Heart
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
RPG


JRPGs are few and far between these days. Bigger companies like Square-Enix have gone off in different directions and fans of the sub-genre have turned elsewhere for their JRPG fix. Great studios like Gust, Idea Factory, and Compile Heart can usually be counted on to deliver that which is lacking, and that’s why we were excited to try NIS America’s latest, Hyperdimension Neptunia . Unfortunately, while the hardcore will likely get some enjoyment out of it, we still find ourselves pining for the days of the traditional role-playing setup; it’s something that appears to heave disappeared entirely. Neptunia ’s format reminds me most of Trinity Universe but with a slightly tweaked combat mechanic that doesn’t quite work and a set of personalities that are hit or miss, the game tends to wear on you. I enjoy particular elements of it but the end result isn’t quite what I wanted.

As you might expect, we get some nicely drawn anime characters for the cut-scenes, which benefit from a slick high-definition presentation. However, there’s also a less-than-impressive gameplay palette that actually appears somewhat fuzzy and out-of-focus. Wandering around most of the dungeons isn’t all that intriguing; there’s a lot of blandness and a decided lack of detail, and even the special effects don’t really stand out. There are a few instances – especially when Neptune has been transformed – where the game perks up from a graphical standpoint, but anything outside of that remains underwhelming. There’s always a decent amount of quality artistry in such productions, but because we spend so much time exploring the lackluster dungeons and any “exploration” is limited to menu-searching, the visuals fall a little short. In short, the game’s graphical appeal is moderate but erratic.

The sound is highly subjective; it’s really going to hinge on whether or not you like the voices. Obviously, they’re a touch over-the-top as one might anticipate, and the personalities are greatly exaggerated for the sake of comic relief. I like that just fine, but I thought Neptune’s valley girl type persona chafed, and most other characters could be just plain irritating. Furthermore, the writing is suspect and certain words and phrases that are designed to be hilarious – “thunder tits,” for instance – can be downright painful. The music, on the other hand, is an intriguing mix of old-school ditties and solid original compositions, and the effects make the combat bolder and more satisfying. Some of the tracks could get tiresome if you stayed in the same dungeon for too long, but that’s a minor issue. The variety of the music and the significance of the effects really does help a great deal…I just can’t deal with some of the voices.

If you want a gameplay and structure comparison, think of Trinity Universe . You “explore” via menus on a world map, where you just move a cursor about and select a dungeon, a store, or some other location. There’s plenty of side-quests – which is a good thing – and the coloring and design of the worlds (from a bird’s-eye view) is quite pleasant. You play as Neptune, one of four goddesses who have been tossed down to earth in order to stop an endless feud between said goddesses. When she was immortal, Neptune was a strong, confident person, but something happened when she was demoted; she became a cocky, occasionally obnoxious chick with a bit of an attitude. She can be likeable in an adolescent charming sort of way, and she’s good for a few laughs. But in my eyes, she has the type of personality that wears thin fast, and I actually liked a few of the minor characters better. Just a matter of preference, that’s all.

The gameplay is turn-based, which definitely sounds like an appreciated blast from the past; it’s one of the features that old-school RPG followers should enjoy. And I enjoyed it, too, but only to a certain extent. Like I said before, think of Trinity Universe : characters can continue to attack provided they have enough AP, and attacks and skills are mapped to the Triangle, Circle and X buttons. Triangle uses the equipped weapon, Circle is a physical attack of some kind, and X is a magic-based assault. Stronger attacks require more AP and the key to success is the interesting Combo system. This is different than what you’ve seen before, because you manually arrange the skills utilized in any given combo. So this way, you can create all sorts of singular combinations, and these are essential to your success. Most of the game’s depth – and fun factor – resides in this mechanic, and fans can take advantage.

The cool part is that you can finish off a particular combo with a certain skill that extends your turn, or transform Neptune into her CPU or goddess mode. She’s much stronger in this form, and the moves can get all sorts of flashy. You can also finish a combo with the Switch command, which brings in another party member to elongate the turn. It all sounds very cool, and a lot of it is, but things really get a little muddled and awkward once you dive into the system. Firstly, I never quite understood Neptune’s CPU stats; there’s Memory, Clock, and Heat but for the life of me, I never quite figured out what sort of impact these had. Secondly, unless you have one hell of a memory, you’ll have to continually consult your character menu during battle to execute the more complicated combos. I lost count of how many times I had to interrupt battle to check the combo menu. Thirdly and lastly, I really don’t know what the developers were thinking when it comes to items.

You don’t just collect recovery and healing items and use them in battle. Instead, you have to use something like the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII or the command mechanic in Dragon Age: Origins . Basically, you have to define a situation when the character will use a healing item; you have to pick a character, say when and how, and hope you have the requisite materials. See, you even need specific raw materials to create a healing item and if you don’t have those materials, the character will never be able to use anything, regardless of command. So in other words, for a certain Reflex cost, you can partially heal yourself when your character drops below 50% (just as an example). The problem is, because you have a limited amount of skill points, the character won’t always be able to use that item; these skill points determine the chances of indicated recovery. It’s just plain overcomplicated and takes too much control away from the player during battle. I really hate when that happens.

In dungeons, you can use a few abilities that spice things up, like a hammer that breaks through walls and a bell that calls a bunch of enemies to you. It’s so you can beat on a bunch of foes in a row, because that walloping will cause the enemies to run away after you finish the combat marathon. This lets you explore the area in peace (for a little while) and gets you a bunch of experience quickly. It can be tricky in certain situations, though… But the lackluster nature of those dungeons, the often boring and trivial side-quests, and the combat that suffers from pacing and mechanical issues turns much of the game into a chore. However, all this being said, I have to say I still liked the depth and customization possibilities, and the variety of the locales does change frequently. Plus, if you can really get into the artistry and setting, you’ll probably appreciate more of the theme.

Hyperdimension Neptunia is indeed a JRPG through and through. It has an interesting cast of characters, a lot of solid diversity in the environment, that patented and crisp anime artistry, and plenty of immersive depth. But on the downside, the combat feels awkward because you have to keep checking your combos, the item system is just plain ridiculous, the story is silly to the max, and despite that aforementioned variety, none of the locales really stand out. It’s true that the guys at Compile Heart continue to carry the JRPG flag high and proud, but I’m just not sure why everybody has abandoned the traditional approach to Japanese role-playing. I can’t understand why we’d rather sift through menus rather than actually run around a regular world, with towns and forests and what have you. And I don’t necessarily have an issue with the core battle structure but there is a limit in terms of depth…when you cross the line, things just feel overdone.

I would recommend it to the hardcore JRPG aficionados who fully understand what they’re getting. But even then, they may face some irritating problems they didn’t quite expect.

The Good: Pretty and sharp anime detail. Decent variety in both music and locales. Plenty of side-quests will keep you occupied. Great combat depth and customization.

The Bad: Lackluster in-game graphics and dungeon design. Overcomplicated item system. Awkward pacing due to the combos. Story isn’t all that interesting.

The Ugly: “Neptune, you just have to shut up now. Please."

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Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

So I guess the final verdict of this website is "not great, but decent". I can't say that I'm happy about that but I will respect your opinion Ben.

Even so, I will definitely be picking up this game regardless so that I may experience it and form my own opinion. And besides I consider myself to be one of those hardcore JRPG aficionados you mention. And I'm not sure if you mean "silly to the max" in a good or a bad way but in either case I would personally consider that a plus. I dare say that I actually have a soft spot for that kind of thing. I'm also pretty sure that no one who is familiar with the game has ever been under the illusion that this is the kind of game that takes itself all that seriously anyway.

However, I'm not so sure if I would go so far as to say that the traditional role-playing setup appears to have disappeared entirely. I think it would be prudent to at least wait for at least a few more JRPGs before one may even think of making such a call.

Oh, and by the way I find "thunder tits" to be somewhat amusing myself.


Last edited by Looking Glass on 2/5/2011 8:14:30 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

We've been waiting for years. The traditional turn-based RPG setup only exists on portables; it'll never again be seen on consoles, I don't think.

The last standard turn-based RPG on consoles was Lost Odyssey.

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

We'll see.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Looking Glass, don't forget that if you'd like to reach out to other fans of a similar persuasion, be sure to post your own review under User Reviews after you play.

Eld
Eld
11 years ago

I'm not sure what's worse: turn based combat vanishing or what turn based combat system is replaced with.

Apparently there is this belief among decision making people that turn based combat "had to be used" only because of hardware limitations. Similar thing happened to PCs. As hardware improved turn based games vanished. Pretty much the only one left is Civilization.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Eld,

Indeed! Even if the reason for turn based systems was originally hardware, it's a game mechanic that a lot of people enjoy, and therefore should not simply be abandoned.

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

With some people claiming turn based to be archaic and the game mechanic being the way it was because of hardware limitation, the NGP could mark the end for turn based on portables as well.

Kevadu
Kevadu
11 years ago

Atlus is still making turn-based RPGs and they're some of the best turn-based RPGs ever. They just haven't made anything for the current gen of consoles yet. Just wait, though. Catherine will be out in Japan soon (not an RPG but certainly an interesting looking game) and I suspect that not long after that we will start hearing about their next project for HD consoles. It will likely be a SMT game of some sort and a Persona 5 doesn't seem unlikely.

As far as what's already out on the PS3 goes, Atelier Rorona isn't bad. Then there are SRPGs like Disgaea 3. But yeah, pickings are slim.

The the PSP, though, there are tons of traditional JRPGs. Ones more worth your time than Neptunia, for sure.

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

@Kevadu

I already told you, that's not good enough. PS3 gamers need love too.

Fortunately we PS3 gamers have more stuff coming in addition to Neptunia, turn-based and otherwise. Stuff like Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel, Disgaea 4, Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll, Ni no Kuni, White Knight Chronicles 2, and Tales of Graces F. And even though it hasn't been officially been announced yet I would say that a localized version of Atelier Totori is a very strong possibility since Atelier Rorona sold well in the west. I also suppose Yakuza 4 counts as a Japanese action RPG.

And the existence of Persona 5 actually has indeed been officially verified.

Hopefully we'll also be getting localized versions of Tales of Xillia and Chevalier Saga Tactics.

Catastrophe
Catastrophe
11 years ago

hhmmmmm…. well wasnt expecting this… still a buy in my book.
question, english and jp voices? tried both?

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Damn, Trinity Universe totally chafed my sensibilities. If it's anything like that then I have to pass. I'll just continue to hold out great hope for Ar Tonelico 3.

Thanks for reviewing this Ben so I didn't buy it and get upset.

FM23
FM23
11 years ago

I have a question. Whats the deal with anime? Like why does it look like that and why is everything so 'in your face'? I know this sounds stupid, but I just don't understand the purpose of animes art direction. The closest I got to anime was Pokemon I'm guess which I thought was interesting back in 6th grade, but I just don't get the appeal of anime. Thus I never played JRPG's as back in the day…I was a casual gamer and this was something that never appealed to me…even til this day. Again, not knocking anime.

This may sound rude, but everyone I knew from middleschool to now (23yrs old) that watched anime we're weird or not socially normal. I'm not saying everyone who watches anime is weird, but if I had to go by experience…well I would say they're weird. Just sayin.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

One could write entire volumes on the history and psychology surrounding anime. If you really want to know it all you can google it. Long story short, it's all an extension of Japanese culture in one way or another.

I kinda figured you needed to like anime and JRPGs both to some extent, but Ben proved me wrong, he is a classic JRPG aficionado but hates anime. All of it. Dude can't stand it.

I like anime and am frequently purposely weird. Can't stand the mundane mediocrity of fitting in. So maybe you are right about the fans, but I don't see that as all bad.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Gee, well I guess you've labeled me then…

Eld
Eld
11 years ago

Well FM23, you're right… it is rude.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Eh, it's easy to fall prey to stereotypes. I think we all recall that not so long ago anybody who played video games was suspected of being socially inept, and if we are to tell the truth I think a lot of us have to recognize that back in the day, youngsters absent athletic talent and better at mental tasks than social ones did in fact gravitate toward games. However, it didn't make it true of all gamers then or now.

The appreciation of Anime isn't much different in that it is an expression of a fantasy realm within a form of entertainment. And people have being trying for centuries to pin people down and put labels on them based on the things they like, however hit and miss that process is.


Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 2/5/2011 11:44:03 PM

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

In all honesty, I was enjoying jrpg's before I even knew what anime was, or had even heard the word. So while I could see how in some cases you would need to be a fan of both, not all jrpgs are like that.

As for the anime itself. I like some of it and hate some of it. I'm completely weird and am thankful every day that I'm not normal.

I can say that personally, genres seem to matter little to me as far as movies and television go. Anime, american cartoon, american live action, foreign live action, matters little, all that matters is the quality of the product as a whole.

Oxvial
Oxvial
11 years ago

Not all anime/manga art direction is the same, look at Lost Odyssey. Takehiko Inoue did a great job like he did in my fave anime Slam Dunk and manga Vagabond.

Yes watching anime labels you like a loser because some people change radically the ways of express themselves I know some girl that says nyaah like a frigging cat just because some character on a anime does it, or others that start sitting like monkeys because the guy of Death Note L does that.

so when someone know that you are into anime like them they think you are the same.


Last edited by Oxvial on 2/6/2011 12:39:15 PM

spiderboi
spiderboi
11 years ago

FM, I've liked Anime all my life (not really love, coz those I liked were only specific Anime's such as Full Metal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, Death Note, Gundam series). Anime's are a break from the common shows. Some may see it as just cartoons, but in fact these are very good efforts at story-telling not-so-common topics. And mind you, these haev a wide range, from the singular moral issues of Death Note (is it right to kill a criminal?) or to the full blown realities of war (Gundam)

If you have some free time and free mind do give these a try. They can open up your mind.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Hmmm… Ah well, not a great review for this one. I already have it pre-ordered, but I'm OK with that, I liked Cross Edge too, and it wasn't entirely wonderful in the least. It did have it's moments though.

Ar Tonelico is up next I'd guess, it releases soon too, and is currently available for pre-order. Not sure if I should bother with a pre-order for that one as well.

User review in due course…of course.

I'm hoping for a slew of 'in jokes' about the game industry, will I be disappointed?


Last edited by TheHighlander on 2/5/2011 10:45:29 PM

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

I pre ordered ar tonelico as well as hyperdimension to get the pre order goodies! Hah. I usually buy all NISA games regardless of scores from reviewers. There is always something about the games they bring over that I love. I heard great things about ar tonelico from my japanese buddies^^

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

That's good to hear, I will probably drop a pre-order on Ar Tonelico too.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

I think there are a few "in" jokes in there.

SayWord
SayWord
11 years ago

Nice review, looks like you covered almost everything. I didn't really expect to get high scores but that's cool I know I will still enjoy it! I can't wait for my copy and the deck of playing cards to go with it! ^^

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

I pre-ordered this from NIS's website already. I said I was going to wait for a review, but I've been passing on just about everything that comes along, so I decided to start buying some of them to see if I end up with one of those 'guilty pleasure' games.

I ordered Eternal Sonata and I'm thinking about getting Enchanted Arms and Star Ocean: The Last Hope International. Hopefully I'll end up with something I like.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Eternal Sonata is an absolute must for classic JRPG fans. The story is fun but has many very serious undertones presented in a truly unique way. The battles would have been better in a fully turn based style, but the hybrid system works fairly well and continues to grow during the game so that it isn't as stale as some other attempts. You will be smashing buttons, but you get to use your brain too.

Star Ocean TLH is also a must play in my eyes, it has all the stuff one would want from a JRPG but I caution you when choosing your difficulty level. The real time battle system is sort of unbalanced and sometimes kind of cheap. I put it on easy and still found the game rather difficult in these situations. But if you like to grind (And I'm not that keen on it any more) and want to put in tons of time becoming a God then you might want a harder difficulty. Great stories in both. For visuals Eternal Sonata is absolutely beautiful whereas Star Ocean is kind of hit and miss.

I rented Enchanted Arms and it was so horrible I couldn't play it more than twice.


Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 2/5/2011 11:54:26 PM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

In contrast with Worlds, I didn;t think Enchanted Arms was that bad, but I would definitely look for a low price. Star Ocean wore a little as it was simply semi-random monster battles upon semi-random monster battles.

I never got Eternal Sonata, so I can't really comment, but the demo I did play just didn't do it for me.

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

Thanks for the information guys. Any other recommendations you may have would be very much appreciated.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Don't play the Eternal Sonata demo, just… don't. It has almost no bearing on the game.

Highlander is correct in that there is a measure of monotony in Star Ocean, but I found it broken up decently by the addition of new characters to play around with.


Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 2/6/2011 12:14:02 AM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
11 years ago

Eternal Sonata was good.

https://temp.psxextreme.com/ps3-reviews/199.html


Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 2/6/2011 12:33:51 AM

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

I usually steer clear of any demos after I order a game. The storyline in Eternal Sonata is what made me decide to pick it first over the other two games I mentioned. Thanks for the warning though World.

Thanks Ben. I didn't forget you're reviews though. I had them open in tabs while trying to decide which one to get.


Last edited by tes37 on 2/6/2011 12:50:12 AM

tes37
tes37
11 years ago

Ooops, I meant your reviews.

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

I recently purchased eternal sonata, had been wanting to play it for a long time. I have to say I was horribly disappointed.

At the beginning I loved it, but as I got further into it, I liked it less and less. The game starts out with very tactical combat, but the further you get, the faster you have to play. Became more button masher than anything else.

Some places in the game had horrendous camera angles that you couldn't change and the story was half history lesson. It's not that I don't like history, but that's not what I'm looking for in my jrpgs.

I haven't even finished it, it just got worse and worse until I didn't want to play it anymore. The characters never stop shouting the name of the attack you're using and sometimes you have to mash that attack several times in a row, in every battle. Very annoying.

I had high hopes and felt horrendously let down by it. The thought of playing it now makes me feel just disappointed.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

Kraygen, if Eternal Sonata bothered you then I strongly suggest staying away from anything that sits firmly in the niche categories like Cross Edge, Trinity Universe, Atelier Rorona and probably this game. You'd probably want to kill NIS within a half hour of any of them 🙂

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

In truth I have never played one of their games and well, it doesn't look like I will. I love all the rpg elements, as far as leveling, weapons, armor, long epic stories, crafting, all that, but yeah, the NIS doesn't seem like my style.

___________
___________
11 years ago

thats unusual, a RPG with a lackluster story.
without the story what else is there!?
the story is what makes PRGs so good, yea they have different gameplay, and character development like no other genre offers but there really not as important or impactful as a good story.
guess was destined to happen, a american studio making a JRPG.
can only wield one result!

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

Without the story there are the characters.

I learned a while ago that even if the story isn't anything particularly special it can still be good if it has good characters with good interaction and development. For example the story of Mass Effect 2 may not be as good as that of it's predecessor but on the other hand Mass Effect 2 is a much more character driven game.

And just what exactly is this "American studio" that you're referring to? Because I've never heard of any American studio making a JRPG.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

How does an American studio developing a JRPG *WEILD* a result?

Incidentally NISA is the American element of NIS – Nippon Ichi Software, and Hyperdimension Neptunia was developed in Japan, for Japan. NISA only does the localization for the western market. So, I'm not entirely sure which American developer you think is developing JRPGs.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
11 years ago

lol @ "wield"

Kevadu
Kevadu
11 years ago

"Great studios like Gust, Idea Factory, and Compile Heart can usually be counted on to deliver that which is lacking."

Er, Compile Heart is a division of Idea Factory.

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

True, but Idea Factory and Compile Heart are still generally considered to be separate entities with their own styles and identities.

shadowscorpio
shadowscorpio
11 years ago

Thanks for the review Ben. It would seem that, based on the review, Hyperdimensio Neptunia is pretty close to what Trinity Universe is. Its not to say that these type of JRPGs can't be enjoyed but I don't think that they are quite what JRPG veterans are looking for.

I still might pick this one up but right now I'm looking forward to Ar Tonelico 3, Tales of Graces F and Final Fantasy Versus 13.

I've been reading up on FFvs13 and even though its an action JRPG I think alot of fans are going to be happy. For one exploration is going to be vast. Thats coming from Tetsuya himelf.

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Well, Trinity Universe was apparently better than Cross Edge, and Cross Edge was average to nearly good. So, by that measure, trinity universe had to be in the nearly good range, and 6.8 from Ben and equivalence to Trinity Universe suggest that this falls into the same range. Since I like these kinds of more niche JRPGs, I won;t be disappointed, I think.

shadowscorpio
shadowscorpio
11 years ago

I wasn't necessarily disappointed with TU, it's just that it didn't have the amount of depth in story that I appreciate in JRPGs like Xenogears/Xenosaga, Final Fantasy, Tales of Series, etc.

WIth NIS games like Trinity Universe and Neptunia I'm sure, it could get to the point where you feel like you're doing nothing but wandering dungeons and really not going anywhere in terms of the storyline. Again, this is just minor for me and I'll probably still pick it up. I'm actually more dissapointed in how FF13 turned out more than how Neptunia turned out.


Last edited by shadowscorpio on 2/6/2011 5:29:20 PM

TheHighlander
TheHighlander
11 years ago

Yep, it can get that way. When I played Cross Edge, I gave up on the Story (such as it was) and simply viewed it as a toy the let's me play turn based combat when I'm in the mood.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
11 years ago

Hmmmm, that's kinda sad, was hoping this would be good.

I'll still try to give it a go myself though. The characters look interesting.

kraygen
kraygen
11 years ago

I really appreciate the review on this one. Was on the fence about trying this out, but it sounds like one of those jrpgs I don't like.

I prefer the serious and dark stories with great characters. The silly, in your face, over the top stuff just isn't my thing. So looks like I'll keep waiting for something more my style.

The Doom
The Doom
11 years ago

I knew this game was gonna suck 😛

Looking Glass
Looking Glass
11 years ago

No one ever said anything about the game sucking. All that this means is that Ben simply found it to be not quite what he wanted.

So piss off troll.


Last edited by Looking Glass on 2/7/2011 9:34:21 AM

The Doom
The Doom
11 years ago

It earned a 6.8. It sucks.