Hyperdimension Neptunia

Hyperdimension Neptunia

Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Release Date: March 2011

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A Little Two-Dimensional

I picked up Hyperdimension Neptunia when it first came out back in August. Then, fate conspired to part me from my PS3 for about two and a half months. Just this week I had a chance to pop the disc back into the console and boot it up. I'm surprised by how ambivalent I am about this. In fact, it's hard for me to get excited about this game at all after almost three months without. I suppose that says something about the game.

Not that it's a bad game, per se. It has quite a bit going for it. Combat is bright and flashy, with lots of spell items that can be set into attack patterns, allowing me to summon raging octopi, sly ninjas, and odd little catgirls to batter my foes. The game's video camera function allows the player to fix their own pictures to rewritable disc attacks. I haven't done much with that yet, but I'm tempted to just make every attack possible to feature kittens. Tornado attack? Use a tabby. Frigid Icicle Death? Sounds like a calico. Flaming Heat Torture? Siamese! Also, watching a vapid nursing student in a knit sweater wallop monsters with a giant syringe is surprisingly entertaining.

And certainly, it's not a hard game on the eyes. If Compile Heart gets anything right, it's usually in the character designs. The major characters (the only ones not to appear in silhouette) are perfect exemplars of that brand of cuteness that only the Japanese can do. If only the voicework wasn't as over-the-top cutesy as the art. I can only take the high and squeaky for so long. I hope for you all's sake that Nippon Ichi does a decent job on the voices, as you'll be hearing a lot of it throughout the game. On the other hand, the music has lots of variety, with at least five battle themes that I can recall offhand.

"If Compile Heart gets anything right, it's usually in the character designs."

Still, it lacks a certain hook to get me interested again, and that's where the story comes in. It's been heavily mission-centric so far, and the text size isn't helping. Between myopia and a lack of HD screen, all non-dialogue text is enough to induce eye strain after a few moments. All major events are in larger dialogue fonts, so the major plot points aren't hard to miss, but I'm still not sure how it links together. The flow in this game is a bit off right now, and I'm not sure how I'm getting from point A to point B at times, just that I need to get through more quests to do so.

What's really annoyed me throughout is the use of "talking head" dialogue. I know it's the standard model for pretty much all NIS, Compile Heart, and Gust titles, but there have been several times so far where the game's own battle system could have been used to great effect as a means of displaying action. And yet, more talking heads.

I'm sorry if this has turned into a bit of a rant. I have been enjoying this game, really, but in short bursts. Often with something else running in the background. Is Neptunia a great game? Not by any means. Is it a bad game? Nope, that's not quite it either. Is it an incredibly niche-y title with an awkward interface that will gain a hard nucleus of fans, a loose electron field of less enthusiastic gamers, and a dark matter cloud of naysayers? Yeah, that sounds about right.

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