Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart - Review  

Feeling the Sting
by Michael "Wheels" Apps

Click here for game
20-40 Hours
+ Quality battle system
+ Large cast of playable characters
+ Fun references in battle and story
- Disappointing story
- Unnecessary and out of place fanservice
- Occasionally annoying battle requirements
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   Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a spin-off of Idea Factory's now long running Neptunia series. Developed with Sting, Noire brings strategy combat to the series along with a new take on Neptunia's parody of the video game industry. Instead of featuring a cast of anime girls based on various video game companies, Noire features a cast based on various video game series. This fits the solid SRPG combat perfectly, providing a diverse cast for players to use in battles. The story can't quite do as much with the concept however. Still, Sting's quality development work ultimately provides an entertaining experience.

   There's nothing particularly new about how Hyperdevotion Noire goes about strategic combat. It feels similar to Sting's last SRPG, Tears to Tiara II where players select a number of characters to deploy at the start of battle, with each side taking the actions of all of their characters before the other's turn. Characters automatically learn new skills as they level so there isn't a whole lot of customization outside of equipment. When characters use a skill next to their teammates, points get added to a pool that any character can pull from to use super powerful attacks. These are often vital to victory in tougher battles, so turns that a player may normally spend just moving now become more strategic. Players will need to move characters together and use buffs on these turns to fill up that pool so a super attack will be ready to go when in range of enemies. As an additional nice touch, when targeting enemies with skills and super attacks, it gives the player an idea of how much damage will be dealt, preventing wasted turns and using ineffective attacks.

   In addition to the basic movement and usage of skills, players will have to strategize around the environments battles take place in as well. Often featuring varying height, traps, teleporters or other obstacles, Hyperdevotion Noire often finds new wrinkles to throw at the player. This also includes objectives like finishing within a certain number of turns, protecting certain characters, or even not killing certain enemies. Most of these are fun, but a few can provide unneeded frustration. One particular chapter takes away the vast majority of the player's party except for a few characters, who may be underleveled depending on how they were used previously. There's also some battles that require building staircases out of boxes scattered around the battlefield, which gets quite tedious. Other hazards include various status ailments, such as skill lock and poison, to wacky ones like changing characters into tofu. Player characters can inflict these as well, so they become an additional strategic element in combat, and make having a healer or stock of ailment relieving items a necessity.

Noire apparently is so good
                                        her team doesnt even need a
                                        goalie. Noire apparently is so good her team doesn't even need a goalie.

   Enemies seem to be pulled mostly from other games in the Neptunia series, but this works out alright as they are all generally video game themed and fit in with the setting. Bosses are often future party members, meaning they can also use powerful super attacks and can prove to be quite challenging foes. Thankfully, the game provides a difficulty adjustment feature to help players from bashing their head against a wall. In addition to the base difficulty selection at the start of the game, when hitting the game over screen in any battle an "easier please" option becomes available to reduce the power of enemies in that battle. The effect stacks as well, so it can be used multiple times if players continue to struggle. A "retreat" option is also available to go straight to the game over screen if the player is in an unwinnable state or simply wants to reduce the difficulty quicker.

   The look and feel of the game does a good job fitting into the whole theme of characters being parodies of game series. Characters in battle have chibi style models that are quite detailed and animate well. Most characters have pretty overt references to various series such as Resident Evil and Monster Hunter, with entertaining special attacks to match them. Some are subtle, but this is more likely because they represent game series not well known outside of Japan. Cut scenes use the typical 2D, slightly animated portraits that have been used in many recent RPGs. These work fine for the most part, but they don't feel like a perfect match for the style of the battles.

Not subtle at all but still
                                        funny. Not subtle at all but still funny.

   The biggest problem with the story scenes, however, is the tale being told feels like a missed opportunity. The game focuses on recruiting the generals of the four goddesses, who represent the consoles of Nintendo, Sega, Microsoft, and Sony. Each general represents a game series, which allows for some goofy jokes and occasional fun such as the Legend of Heroes character's constant references to legendary things. Outside of these occasional jokes and references however, the story never does much with the concept. It mostly feels like a series of generic anime shenanigans, especially considering the antagonist rarely shows, and doesn't even drive the story when she does. To top it all, the game throws fan service at the player for each general that feels completely out of place and unnecessary. Even the jokes start to wear as the game goes on, such as when the writers could find nothing better to do with the Ms. Pac Man character than make jokes about her age. The story is just an awful disappointment.

    A strategy RPG seems like a perfect fit for the Neptunia series, and this largely ends up being true. A fun battle system combined with a large and diverse set of characters to choose from makes for a good deal of fun. The story, frankly, nearly sucks the life out of the entire endeavour. Thankfully, the majority of time with the game is spent in battle, and story scenes can be skipped. Sting has produced many quality RPGs in the past, and its experience really shines through in Hyperdevotion Noire. It may not bring anything new to SRPGs, but it still proves to be a solid and entertaining strategy experience.

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