“Hyperdimension Neptunia PP” Review

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Okay, so I went like two months without posting this thing after I said I would. No, it did not take me that long to play through the game. Yes, I completely forgot.

So this is the second time that I’ve cleared the game. Once in Japanese and again in English after it was surprisingly announced for localization. (More idol games, please. Somebody. Anybody.) I think I’ve spent enough time with this game to have some valid opinions on it, so let’s get rolling on how it turned out.

Gameplay: 7/10 – So there are some problems here. I’m not going to be one of those people who sit here and complain about “Oh, there’s nothing to do, it’s just reading” or “Man, this sucks, there’s only 5 songs and no rhythm gameplay” or whatever other dumb comments people who don’t understand the genre have. This game is, first and foremost, an idol sim. It was never billed any differently. However, that’s where the problems are. It’s an idol sim, and it has all of the usual elements that encompass that (training, working, concerts, aiming for the #1 spot, settings up shows with costumes and positioning, etc.), but they’re all very watered down and simple. Everything is basically a VN-style cutscene in this game, often with some sort of stat boost (or sometimes drop) attached, with the sole exception of the concerts. So if you want to train your idol in singing, you would select a vocal lesson from the menu. Enjoy your text boxes and stat boosts. Want to go hang out with the other goddesses to reduce stress and build friendship? Have some text boxes and stat boosts. Time to go put on a radio show to build your fanbase? Text boxes and stat boosts. Now granted, the scenes here are extremely well done, and NISA’s translation is mostly faithful to the original. There are plenty of jokes to go around and a lot of fun to be had, but it’s just not very engaging. More importantly, if you’re aiming for the true ending, getting all events can be a pain as there are hidden stat requirements for many scenes, and not just key scenes. Certain scenes only trigger for doing certain types of work, and these also have hidden stat requirements. You usually won’t even have the stats for them until you’re on your second time through the game. Even if you got all of the events, the ending itself has a hidden stat requirement. I never once managed a true ending on my first time through a route, after two full playthroughs. Then we turn to the one thing that’s different: The concerts. The concerts are interesting enough. You have (only) five songs in the game. The fifth one is only available during the ending performance in the main story (but available in unlimited play whenever after it’s unlocked). The mechanics come in at a few key places. Song choice: Your picked song determines whether or not your goddess can transform. They can only transform playing their own song, even if you are allowed to pick another song. This limits your scoring, as you score higher while transformed. Stage effects: You can also choose your stage effects to have on standby during a performance. These are best activated while the crowd is chanting your goddess’ name, as the boost becomes significantly larger. In fact, it’s almost worthless to do them at any other time. The problem is that most stage effects are terrible. They have absolutely awful ratios of boost to recharge time. I found myself only ever using three of them with a 66-80% (IIRC) efficiency. The rest were all far worse. I suppose it wouldn’t matter in unlimited, but for the story, where your score determines you fan count, you don’t want to use anything that isn’t the best. The last one is the camera: You can earn points by simply moving the camera around during a performance, controlled by both analog sticks. Unfortunately, this means that the camera just looks stupid if you’re trying to score higher because it will move in completely unattractive ways as you wiggle back and forth and zoom in and out. And unfortunately, that’s all you’ll be doing between stage effects. Now for all of the flaws the game has, it’s very playable. It’s an idol sim and it does exactly what it set out to do. I can fault it for execution, but the overall package works. (Also, there’s a secret ending after you’ve beaten the game with everybody. Hint hint.)

Graphics: 8/10 – Everything looks mostly great. The sprites look incredible on the Vita’s screen, and the candidates have been boosted up to full-size sprites (the ones from the Victory DLC scenarios) from their position as little face boxes in Victory’s main game. There are plenty of expressions and smooth animation. Switching over to the concerts, which again are the only thing here that’s different, everything looks great. The models look wonderful with plenty of costumes to change into for each character, and even a few free DLC costumes. The stage backgrounds all look good. Tamsoft has even seen fit to implement some fantastic jiggle physics for us. The dance choreography is awesome. Unfortunately, some things are just fairly bland. The stage effects range from impressive to neat to boring. The audience is literally a bunch of generic characters or monsters repeated endlessly with one repetitive animation. There really isn’t as much customization as you’d like there to be on the costumes. (It’s basically head, outfit, microphone.) There are a ton of decorations in the unlimited mode, but most of them are so unimpressive as to go largely unused by the playerbase. But like I said, most everything looks great here. I just have some gripes with the details.

Sound: 7/10 – The biggest strike against this category is the fact that the game only has five songs. It is what it is, though. Setting that fact aside, the songs are all excellent and can be sung by any goddess (or a combination of up to three). There’s some special fun to be had with the final song, as two girls sing it one way and two sing it another way, leading to some interesting duets or trios. The main game is fully dubbed in both languages, with one minor exception: There are two scenes in Neptune’s route with no voice acting. One features Compa calling in to a radio show Nep is doing and the other features IF. Since that’s basically each one’s only line in the game, NISA chose not to dub those scenes in English. However, they are voiced in Japanese. Each one is very short, however, so the game is essentially 99.9% dubbed in English. This is the fullest dub NISA has done in quite some time and I have been very impressed for once. Neptunia usually gets the short straw when it comes to localization budget, despite it being NISA’s second biggest cash cow behind Disgaea. But the sound quality here is excellent. There’s no awful compression in place to get both vocal tracks on the cart. The big drawback to the dubbing is that pretty much everything that isn’t the main game mode isn’t dubbed. There’s a mode where you can dress up characters, poke them to have them say things (inappropriately poking them or otherwise), and even set an alarm clock to have them wake you up. NISA basically didn’t dub this at all. If you’re lucky, one out of every several pokes will give some sort of gasp sound or something, but it seems like there’s only one line. Most of the time, the characters are completely silent, even if their mouths are moving. The Japanese track, of course, is fully voiced, even for IF and Compa. I honestly feel like NISA shouldn’t have dubbed the many, many, many versions of characters saying things like “Hyperdimension Neptunia, Producing Perfection!,” “Yes!”, “No”, “Let’s Nep-Nep!”, and “Now loading!” Pretty much every character has their own version of these lines. I honestly think it would have been a better decision to have those lines come in silent (because they all get kind of annoying after a while anyway) and have the other mode get that many voiced lines per character instead. Seems like that would have been a better use of the dubbing budget.

Overall: 7.3/10 – So not terrible overall. It looks like an above average score. Like I said, for what the game is, it works. It’s an idol sim, it plays like an idol sim, and it’s not the worst one ever made. It falls short in a few areas, but overall it’s a well put-together package that fans of both idol sims and the Neptunia series can derive some enjoyment from. And hey, it has the distinction of being the first idol sim ever localized for the west, so that’s got to count for something, right?

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