(Note: PS4 Review Code provided by Idea Factory International)
- It has been a long time since I last reviewed anything Neptunia related. The following spinoff is interesting for a few reasons:
- It is the first Neptunia game to be released on a Nintendo console.
- It is the first Neptunia game developed by a Western company.
- This is said company’s first commercial game.
The question, as always, is whether this is another enjoyable entry in the franchise “Nepped” everyone up or is it destined to have its copies thrown away in the Gamindustri Graveyard. Let us find out as we join The All Mighty Nepster (BROTHER!) and her fellow CPUs on their first 2D adventure in Super Neptunia RPG, developed by the Canadian studio Artisan Studios.
Previous Neptunia game reviews can be found HERE (Includes link to other Nep-views).
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, PC/Steam.
Genres: JRPG, Sci-fi, Adventure
Themes: Video Games, Parody, References, Anime
Length: 20-25 hours. Pertains to the main story. Sidequests and other activities extend the length.
Plot Summary: There was once a primitive form of entertainment software that ruled the world: 2D games.
In one of infinite dimensions, the world of Gamindustri exists…
a world where 2D games reign supreme.
An organization fiercely devoted to these games rules over this vibrant world.
They are known as Bombyx Mori and their devotion comes with a heavy price.
Citizens of Gamindustri are forced to offer 2D games to Bombyx Mori as taxes.
Those who dare to use new technologies or create games that don’t meet
their standards risk being banished to the Trial Grounds.
It is in this Gamindustri, a dark world with no real future in sight, that a girl wakes from her sleep.
Her name is Neptune, and with a strange book in hand, she sets off on the journey of a Hero.
Let us begin with the story. As far as Neptunia spinoffs go it has a solid narrative alongside the likes of Cyberdimension and Mega Tagmension. The main mystery is figuring out why Bombyx Mori is going through the trouble of banning all software progression beyond 2D games. Then there is the mystery of the newcomer Chrome, why she is being so secretive and her relationship with the leader of Bombyx Mori. Basically whether Chrome is a friend or foe. Lastly why did not only Neptune (Like many other Neptunes across the Neptunia multi-verse) get hit with amnesia but her fellow CPUs as well? Like other spinoffs (except maybe Cyderdimension) the story takes place in an alternate universe, as the plot summary explained. However, this is one of those spinoffs (again like Cyberdimension), where events, relationships, jokes and references make more sense to longtime fans of the franchise. Having said that it does not mean newcomers will be left in the dust. It is simply another case of newcomers can follow the story just fine but there are references longtime fans will catch on to quicker.
This being a new game by a new company it makes sense that only the cast of the first game appear alongside the new allies and villains.
Apart from the above mentioned references to the characters and lore everything else is vintage Neptunia from the video game references/parodies (Even a certain video game website is subtly name dropped) along with some anime jokes and 4th wall breaking humor. Our favorite CPUs are still as lovable as ever though this becomes more noticeable as the story progresses. Neptune is the adorable protagonist who loves the spotlight but enjoys fighting for truth, justice and pudding just as much. Noire is still the proud and sexy tsundere. Blanc is the soft spoken bookworm with a short fuse and Vert is still best CPU. The new allies and foes are all neat too though please be patient with them, especially Chrome.
Next up is the presentation where the game’s more noticeable hiccups can be found. First the good. The presentation is excellent. The art style, the character graphics and soundtrack are all great. The locales our heroine explore are some of the most beautiful in the Neptunia franchise. The above is one of my favorites along with the dungeons that follow. The soundtrack is typical fantasy JRPG fare, fitting as this Gamindustri is not technologically advanced as others, but even so I love most of the tunes. It is one of my favorite soundtracks in the franchise. Put simply this is one of the best incarnations of Gamindustri I have explored.
Now for the aforementioned hiccups. It can be best summed up with the following sentence: Uneven load times and frame rates. See. Besides the 8-10 second load time when loading save files there are also points when pausing/going to the menu where it goes from 2 seconds to around 6-8. It is not often but it becomes more frequent when there are 4 or more party members. Then there is the uneven frame rate. Again this happens when there are 4 or more party members. Most battles, exploration and interactions run at 60 frames per second but it can drop to 30 or sometimes 20. Speaking of slowdown there are certain cities and dungeons where the screen feels “jittery” as Neptune moves across the area. Thankfully it did not get to the point of me feeling nauseous looking at the screen but like other hiccups it is noticeable. One last little hiccup is the music loop. Each time players load a save file, enter a town/dungeon or watch a cut scene the tunes clash into each other for a few seconds. Keep in mind this is a review of the PS4 version. I do not know if these issues are present on the PC and/or Switch versions.
Note that these issues can be easily patched, which Artisan Studios promised to do (and have been doing).
Time for the gameplay. In my experience with Neptunia spinoffs most of them are a “lite” version of an established. Hyperdevotion Noire is a “lite tactical RPG, Mega Tagmension is Senran Kagura “lite”, Cyberdimension is a “lite” Action MMO-ish RPG etc. At first glance I saw Super Neptunia RPG as Valkyrie Profile “lite” but their only similarities are the exploration.The rest of the game is kind of its own thing. As far as the exploration goes it is fun though sometimes in towns and certain dungeons the camera zooms out and it takes a few seconds to know where Neptune is. Then there is the issue in most towns where it takes a little bit to figure out what exactly Neptune can jump on. There were some roofs I could hop on whereas others were part of the background. Luckily dungeons were more straightforward and exploration is simple thanks to the maps available from the start. This is especially handy in dungeons with samey looking rooms/corridors. The platforming is simple apart from certain items that are initially difficult to get even with Neptune’s “Dash” ability. These items are there for when Neptune acquires abilities that improve her jumping. Like Valkyrie Profile (or other Neptunia RPGs really) battles begin when bumping into/attacking enemies (usually represented by Dogoos, except most bosses and Hunts). More on battles in a bit. A thankful addition are the save crystals also functioning as “fast travel” between other crystals and entrances to towns and dungeons already visited.
Besides town and dungeon exploration Neptune and fellow heroines take on quests that range from gathering items, killing enemies/accepting monster bounties, paying money and finding people.
Moving right along to combat. It is a turn-based Active Time Battle (ATB) system, meaning it is between turn based and real time. Here is how it works. On the lower left and right are numbers with a slowly increasing meter. A basic attack costs 2 Bars with stronger attacks 3 or more. The Break Attacks Meter refers to Super Moves. This is how turns are determined for each side. Should a character attack an enemy with their weakness, be it physical or elemental attacks, “Weak” will appear, giving players a meter boost and more attacks. In theory this would mean enemies cannot attack but later on it only boosts the meter as enemies tend to get a turn regardless of whether they are hit with their weakness or not. Be careful though. Besides enemy resistances there are also ones that absorb damage from attacks such as Slimes recovering HP from physical attacks.
To talk about the next part part of combat requires discussing Formations. Put simply, characters learn new attacks, skills, abilities and magic by mastering weapons. Yes. This is one of those JRPGs where moves and skills are tied to weapons. An example of this are certain games in the Tales series such as Tales of Vesperia. Once the character mastered a certain move, skill etc. they no longer need to wield the weapon to use it. What they do need is AP (Ability Points) which of course is acquired by leveling up. Now we get to the Formations. Based on where the characters are standing, as shown in the above screen shot, determines what kind of attack or skill they can use, meaning in the Skills menu players must know which attack or skill to assign depending on the Formation. Here is an example:
- Neptune: Normal Attack
- Noire: Fire
- Blanc: Cure
- Vert: Might
This is one Formation. Here is another:
- Blanc: Holy
- Neptune: Poison Edge
- Vert: Wall
- Noire: Ice
Put simply the character Formation (where they are standing) and the assigned skill or attack determines what they can do during battle besides using items. One more thing. Items that heal a single character automatically heal the one in front.
It sounds complicated but in execution is quite simple. Players simply need to memorize what skills and attacks were assigned to the character based on the Formation. Of course the Formation can be switched during battle.
As always I briefly mention the yuri in the game before concluding a game review. Some familiar ships get a moment or mention every now and then whereas one couple is the center of attention. I will not mention which one but it is made perfectly clear in-game.
Overall Super Neptunia RPG is a solid spinoff and one of the more enjoyable ones alongside Mega Tagmension and Cyberdimension. Not the best but not terrible. It is nowhere near as bad as Idol PP: Producing Perfection. The main cast are still their likable selves showing more of what makes them great as the story progresses. The main plot takes some time to really kick in but is otherwise solid. Uneven load times and other hiccups mentioned aside the presentation is one of my favorites in the franchise, beautiful scenery, art style and soundtrack. The gameplay takes a bit of getting used to but is quite simple. The game for the most part is not super difficult so the interested can enjoy it at their leisure. Newcomers can think of this game as a bit of a dose of why the Neptunia franchise is beloved. Obviously to get a better ides the interested can check out the Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth Trilogy followed by Megadimenion Neptunia V-II/V-II R, unless the players only owns a Nintendo Switch. Recommended to Neptunia fans in need of more Nep-Nep goodness. As for everyone else, depends on whether they found what I had to say intriguing.
PS: The PS4 version has some “altered” CGs while the PC and Switch versions were unaltered.