Since the decline of the Japanese RPGs, various Japanese companies have been trying to produce a new hit. This generation is able to appreciate the collaboration of NIS, Idea Factor, Gust, and Compile Hearts. With this partnership, two games were made: Cross Edge and Trinity Universe. Neither game has met with much success, but with the upcoming third title in this series, Hyperdimension Neptunia, will it break the mold?
As with any other RPG game, the story is the most important part, as Neptunia lacks the cross overs the other had, it is able to have its own story. Neptunia follows the former goddess Neptune and her quest to assemble a key from the various fragments, to release a seal. Moving past the core outline, the back-story is very simple; talking about the four goddesses fighting and how Neptune was exiled for her own beliefs. Upon descending, you’re met with the “Histoire”, who you find out it was the creator of the four goddesses and how you need to break the seal to save the world. Shortly after you’ve met with Comp (Short for Compile Hearts.) who is a sort of ditzy girl, she bandages you up and explains a bit of the world to you. The game starts once you get her on board in helping you clean up the world.
As the game begins, you will find yourself in a training dungeon. Right off the bat, if you played Trinity Universe you will notice many similarities. In all honesty, look at Neptunia as less of its own game and more of a redo of Trinity, as the game improves many errors that were present in Trinity. The dungeon systems are generally small buildings with limited things to do. You can freely look around in hopes of finding a chest or in the off chance a “Secret” chest. As you wonder around, you will face various different challenges or need for different skills. As you can freely chance your model, each character has her own skills. Neptune can clear paths, Comp can summon monsters in exchange for the immunity of being attacks for a bit and IF can point and later on summon “Secret” treasure.
Once you encounter a monster you have the typical RPG sizing-up the characters; you can see the order people go at the top right and it’s very standard for these games. The AP system used in Cross Edge and Trinity Universe makes yet another appearance. The game also uses a very basic chain system. Expanding on the core idea that was only present in Trinity Universe, you have the power to go a step further. As Trinity Universe had set combos that led to special skills, Neptunia allows you to add in certain attacks or a magical attack. As you can mix and match, you get a level of depth which is quite nice as you can control all the aspects. As you level, you will gain other magical skills and attacks. In addition to allowing changes in the combos, you can get side effects like transforming, combo extender, and summons.
The summon system is quite nice to more hardcore gamers. Most summons are seemingly random or pointless sounding items like “Octomania”. However, you would be wrong. A lot of the summons are in fact, games the various companies had a part in. Octomania was a puzzle game that Compile Hearts and IF did. By summoning, you will see some sort of reference to the game, like in Octomania’s case various color octopus’s which appear around the enemy doing damage.
As far as the core system, it got another revamp which was quite surprising. In the previous titles, once you started a combo, you were forced to keep it going as the clock ticked, but Neptunia does not punish you. You can take your time to decide what will work best in this exact situation, as the skill tree advances the commands change dynamically. You can see summons, transform skills, and everything else as you go on. This updated system will appeal to RPG fans looking for more depth than memorizing combos. Not only does this system work better, you’re given the constant offer to skip attack animations PER move. This allows you to skip moves but look at your latest skills, or watch something exactly. Best of all, the game features the barrier system again. For newer gamers, it was a shielding which offered additional defense. Your goal is to break the barrier ,which will give you all your AP back, and allow for insanely high damage numbers.
The final combat change is to items. Many gamers will think of times when they just want to heal but forget to do so. In Neptunia, based off the amount of points you put in the skill, you will gain back HP based off the conditions of the skill. In some cases, you will need a certain amount of life and defending. In other cases, you will just need a certain amount of life. Sadly, this system is the only way to heal and leveling up will not affect your current HP standing.
The final element of the dungeon system is the Dungeon Boss, who waits for you at the end. Thankfully, lurkers, who were insanely over powered bosses, have been done away with in Neptunia. Each boss will be a set monster and will have slightly above average stats.
As you make it out of the first dungeon, you’re given a very basic menu which allows you to do everything. The shop offers you everything you can think of and will gain items by how far you progress of DLC you get. There appears to be no system to sell items or alchemy to make your own items. In an effort to advance depth you can buy “HDD’s” which are series of discs that get used during transformation. Each one changes how you look, and the stats given to you, some are huge and others are small things like cat ears.
Past the main story you’re given “challenge missions”, which are very basic tasks like, get a certain drop X number of times, kill a monster X times, or defeat the boss. You’re given a clock which, I have to admit is very harsh, since the clock counts just about everything from attack animations (magic/summon/transformation excluded), monster death animations, to even the black screen you see before the level loads. These can get very stressful as you get a grade based off your performance and get a spot on the leaderboard. A lot of them will come down to luck and there’s no quick way to really pull them off or at least early on.
Currently, Neptunia is set to impress, moving past some key problems in Trinity.It has the chance to become something really great! The updated combat system really gets gamers interested as it adds endless possibilities, in addition to a fun dungeon system. There is way more to discover as you progress and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Come back in about a week for the full review!Hyperdimension Neptunia Hands-On,