“Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart” Review

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Not sure what’s up with me on the last couple of reviews, waiting weeks on end after finishing before I bother to write them up. Not only have I finished this one, but I’ve also finished Nep U and spent weeks playing Omega Quintet. Nep U review coming after this (but I’ll have to get the pic later).

Gameplay: 8/10 – Battle in this game is pretty straightforward, as strategy RPGs go. You have a grid-based movement system where you move your character from one square to another and execute an attack. There are some unique traits in this game, however, like the lily system from previous games. In this game, it increases simply by activating it. You can activate it by performing a skill next to any other friendly unit or group of friendly units. When used, you get a scene of the surrounding units pecking the skill user on the cheek, which gives a boost to the effect of the skill. It also gives you Lily Points (LP) to a community point bar shared across all of your characters. Both of these effects increase exponentially with more surrounding units. The LP bar allows you to use the series’ signature EXE Drive attacks, super powerful skills that vary by character. Some do damage, some heal, some have boosting effects. The damage boost gained from the lily system increases as you continue to build lily ranks with the paired characters and getting a better relationship. However, one of the pain points of this game, should you be aiming for the platinum trophy, is that there’s no way to really boost this without becoming a huge, boring time-sink. As far as the plot for the game goes, it’s not particularly interesting or unpredictable in any way, so it’s a little boring in that regard, but there are plenty of characters you’ll encounter and get to join your party. The chapters progress with these characters in some fun ways, at least. One of the major complaints about this game, at least prior to the English release, was that people were under the impression that the Secretary self-insert character was the main character and the story was more about him than it was Noire. Since the English release, this has really died down because, as I can confirm, the story really isn’t about him. He’s basically a walking plot device. He has very little personality and mostly serves to move the story along. The game is still very much about Noire and her never-ending quest to gain friends. Oh, and to save Gamarket. I think that happened somewhere in the plot. The one thing that really bothered me with the game… Well, let me preface this by saying I won’t take points off for it because I can’t really hold the original script responsible for it, but the localized script is a disaster. It’s the most liberally “translated” script the series has seen and it was enough to spark quite a bit of controversy about the way the series was being treated after Re;Birth1, which received a lot of praise for the first accurately translated script in the series in some time, specifically after the scripts for Victory and PP, and to a lesser extend mk2. It’s also created a bit of retroactive backlash against Re;Birth2, and some pre-emptive backlash against Nep U (before it was out) and Re;Birth3 (which isn’t yet out as of the time of writing) due to some more critical observation of the scripts. It’s a great example of how to butcher a localization by rewriting characters and making plot changes to character intentions. It works enough as a standalone product, though you can tell that the dialogue doesn’t always match up to character expressions or fit in context. It also doesn’t line up well if you’re using the JP voice track. However, as mentioned, this is a “localization”-exclusive issue, so I won’t dock points for it.

Graphics: 9/10 – The graphics are pretty good for this game. You’ll see a lot of old textures and environments repurposed into new maps for this game, but it looks new and fresh. Character models are well done and quite cute. Animations are as good for skills in this game as they are in the main games, especially the EXE Drive skills. There are plenty of CGs by Tsunako, several of which are quite racy. The textures tend not always look super great, so I can’t give it a perfect score on the visuals, but they’re quite nice all around.

Sound: 9/10 – As with most of these side games, you’re looking at a lot of re-used music tracks here, but they’re good tracks, so I can’t really fault it. While it may make sense to some people to reduce a score for reused content, it doesn’t mean anything to someone who hasn’t played any other games in the series. And for some reason, this game ended up being the first Nep game of a lot of people. I guess because of the genre. But I digress. The voicework is good here, too. The game is either completely dubbed or almost completely dubbed, and the dub work is mostly very good. Erin Fitzgerald, voice actress of the main character Noire, has her best performance in the series up to this point. The rest of the cast is also pretty good. A few older voices return to the series as new characters, while some join the cast as new voices that will return in future games (though the new characters haven’t so far). I will have to take a point of for numerous instances (like, all of them) of the dub CPUs using their regular voices instead of their CPU voices. Purple Heart talking as Neptune is really jarring and awful and inconsistent with the change in the way she talks.

Overall: 8.7/10 – Hyperdevotion Noire ended up being a fairly solid game. It receives what I feel is a lot of undue negative criticism. Having played a lot of SRPGs, them being arguably my favorite genre, I was pretty impressed. Not really the best Sting game by any margin, but solid enough with a lot of content and a chance for Noire to shine as the main character.

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