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[Review] Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2


[Review] Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2

Idea Factory is a company known for making games with good ideas.  Unfortunately, those good ideas are placed in some fairly mediocre titles.  Somehow though, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has come out to shocking success for the company. It’s because the ideas behind the game are so darn interesting that Neptunia stands heads above their other titles.

Not all good ideas however translate into good games, so with the game’s re-release on PSN, I figured it was about time to check out what this series has to offer.  Fortunately for me, the game doesn’t rely too much on the first title for it’s story.

Let’s get this out of the way first.  The concept behind Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is fabulous.  If you are a gamer that enjoys analyzing this hobby, this game is like sweet sweet candy.  Let’s just pretend you don’t know what this game is about a bit and sum it up.

A fictional world known as “Gamindustri” is split into four separate kingdoms that are protected by their own goddesses.  Lowee rules the North, Laystation the East, Leanbox to the South, and Planeptune to the West. If you can’t tell with these names, these are thinly veiled representations of the current console market.  Planeptune obviously being the fictitious region a Sega console would have taken up.

The four goddesses of each region have been captured by the villainous Arfoire crime syndicate (named after the piracy device) and the game tasks the goddess candidates (representing the handheld consoles) to stand up and free their friends.  The concept is weird to type out, but ultimately it’s brilliant.

What we are presented with is a moe commentary on the surge of the handheld market in Japan.  It’s fascinating in that it works really well as a story.  The more you know about this industry, the more interesting the subtle critiques get.  It works because the goal is to make light of the console war and it does it so well through the plot.

The goal in Mk2 is to gather the support of each territories mascot in an attempt to gather enough power for Planeptune’s goddess candidate to break her friends out.  So when Nepgear goes to Nintendo’s territory, the oracle of the country is always hostile to receiving support from 3rd parties.  Since Xbox doesn’t even have a handheld, the country is in shambles as there market share is reduced to nothing.  The only people willing to halt this lawlessness are the representatives from Cave and 5pb.  When asked to help out their quest, 5pb is more than willing to jump on board and help other companies while Cave is still sticking to their guns.

It is only the developers initially that want to help save the game industry. The NISA’s, Gust’s, and Falcom’s of Gamindustri.  The representatives of the game’s companies are too busy worrying about their own issues.

As a fan of Japanese games, these little jabs are just funny to me.  The game is consistently made up of them and that makes it such a unique and refreshing experience.

The battle system is actually pretty good in Mk2.  Turn based battles that works off a fairly simple dual gauge system.  You build both blue and green gauges and use them to execute your standard and special attacks.  Blue gauge  works for attacks, while both gauges work for specials moves.  There is freedom of movement within a set circle but nothing overly complicated here. However, there is enough to keep you interested.

Where the game really tends to shine is that it has a wealth of customizable options for the characters on top of weapon and defense upgrades.  This could be a hat or accessory, but the items for the most part only remove an equal statistical amount from your character. A red ribbon vs a green ribbon will remove five points from a stat like vitality and put it in luck.  With such an insignificant change, it makes a wardrobe change mostly cosmetic.  If you want Nepgear to be more magically inclined, you can offset her to do that.  It’s not a real necessity as you can just plow through the game with only upgrading the basic weapons and armor, but there is an optional illusion of depth if you want to choose that route.

Likewise, you have a good deal of customization in battle.  Party switching, transformations, and customizable combos breath a little more life into the battles.  This is important because the only thing you really have in this game are dungeons and dialog scenes.

Unfortunately, the game does have it’s share of issues in presentation. The game often requires you to dungeon dive multiple times in the same area.  More problematic is that there are plenty of dungeons across the world that are just recycled.  That would be fine if the dungeons were more than just paths with enemies tucked into isolated rooms.  There are some interesting designs done for these areas, but they are just simple pathways to finding an event.

The enemies likewise are also recycled. When you go from area A with giant dog, to area B with a giant ice dog, to area C with a giant fire dog, you can start to see some really big shortcuts forming. Even the bosses show up over and over again.  With a cast that grows to be a bit too big on the player’s side, it really would have been nice to see some more from Afoire’s big bads. It’s this repetition that tends to bog what should be a fun RPG down.  The gameplay is solid, but simply not interesting enough to carry it.  The plot is good, but it doesn’t build enough drama between chapters to make that grind satisfying.

Also, something has to be said about the fan service.  In case the images aren’t enough to showcase, this game is all about servicing fans through the crossover appeal, moe girls, and scanty outfits. You can’t make a game about a group of cute girls like this without throwing some sexy scenarios into it.  It never comes off well unfortunately as the themes of friendship and bonding seem to be the better route to go.  A better route than throwing slimes on to them to hear them shout “eeeek” at least.  I have nothing against fan service, but the setup fails because you force the player into the event.  Walk into a dungeon, cue scene, move on through the dungeon.  This setup is supposed to feel like a reward, and it ultimately doesn’t.

That might also be because of the infatuation with regarding the girls as “lolis.”  Mk2 got it’s M rating this go round for it’s sexual themes and suggestive dialog, and it does deliver.

The only real reward I felt is the Coliseum.  Here you have a chance to do battle without consequence against higher leveled creatures and opponents.  It’s a nice unlockable as eventually simply grinding through dungeons can get a bit unbalanced if you are too dedicated. You’ll quickly find yourself overpowered, so this works out better for a challenge.

With all that being said, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is a fun game to burn through.  You might not be wowed by the gameplay, but the care that they’ve taken in crafting this world makes for a great dive.  The cast of characters are all mostly likable and NISA did a good job of localizing the title and have even offered quite a few of the dlc items up for free.  While I would normally never recommend buying a money boosting pack, in this case I fully support it.  Buy some cute clothes for the girls, otherwise you are just grinding to grind.

What we’re left with is a decent RPG with a great theme that gets a bit padded out in the gameplay department.  For those looking for a lot of variety in their purchase, the cast is almost too large and the multiple endings and new game+ sure gives you enough to play through again.

Unfortunately for Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, it knows the market that is going to buy this game.  There isn’t much crossover with the Call of Duty crowd. However, if you have been looking at this game from the sidelines curious if it’s any good, it’s worth a shot.  You aren’t going to find a much more interesting concept than this and despite it’s issues, there is a lot of interesting and fun things to take from this game.

Final Breakdown:

[+Great Setting] [+Solid Voicework] [+Interesting Characters] [+Good Customization] [+Multiple Endings] [+Lots of Free DLC] [-Repetitious] [Needs More Bosses] [-Awkwardly Oversexualized]

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