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Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 (PlayStation 3) review

"Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 progresses in a simple pattern: you travel to a new land, witness events in its main town, then outlying areas appear and you explore them. Typically, you’ll slay a monster in a new area, go back to town and witness another event, then return to the same area again so that you can slay a second monster. Every so often, a new area unlocks and the process repeats as you gradually work through the game’s plot."

The first thing I noticed when I booted up Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 was that there are a lot of logos. I sat through around six or seven of them before I ever reached the intro video, which depicts a number of uber-cute girls posing in skimpy attire before more substantive scenes follow. Then when I started playing the actual game, it began with a brief video of a developer telling me not to sit too close to the screen and to play in a well-lit room. I’ve played a lot of RPGs, but I’d never before encountered that precise combination of odd.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 asset

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is the follow-up to another recent title, Hyperdimension Neptunia. At least in-game, the “mk2” is a reference to a powered up version of a heroine. That might lead you to suppose that this is basically last year’s game with only a few tweaks to make a “deluxe” edition, but that’s not the case. I didn’t play the previous release, but from what I can tell, it revolves around the characters Compra, IF and Neptune as they wander the world and try to help Neptune recover her memory. Bad things happen, yadda yadda yadda.

The new game begins with Compra and IF sneaking into the Gameindustri Graveyard, where the powerful heroines from the previous game--Neptune included--have been imprisoned and left to slumber after a failed attempt to vanquish evil. As those opening moments conclude, Compra and IF just barely escape along with Nepgear, a CPU candidate and the younger sister of Neptune. Together, they’ll have to restore their world’s faith in the three imprisoned CPUs by going up against the wicked menace of Arfoire (pronounced like “R4,” the memory cards that here in the real world make DS piracy so convenient). In short, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a fantasy story about battling piracy. That’s actually kind of cool.

One complaint I’ve heard about the previous game is that for the most part, you only get to control three characters. That’s no longer the case. Compra, IF and Neptunia will quickly meet up with a variety of new characters, including Uni (a gun-toting CPU candidate who is battling to save Lastation), Rom and Ram (twin girls who protect Lowee), a traveling songstress who promotes Leanbox, and even characters such as Nisa, a heroic adventurer who attacks with a gun that fires prinnies (the bird mascot from the Disgaea series). They’ll also meet Gust, a shy alchemist who really feels out of her element in this world. Each character can eventually be controlled and equipped with various weaponry, accessories and costumes. You can only bring four characters to a given fight, but everyone gains levels at the same time and you can “partner” your main players with members of the support team to grant them stat boosts and experience bonuses.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 asset

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 progresses in a simple pattern: you travel to a new land, witness events in its main town, then outlying areas appear and you explore them. Typically, you’ll slay a monster in a new area, go back to town and witness another event, then return to the same area again so that you can slay a second monster. Every so often, a new area unlocks and the process repeats as you gradually work through the game’s plot. That plot unfolds by way of dialog, much of it voiced by chipper female voice actresses. There are almost no male characters in the game at all, aside from some of the villains and a guard who stands around outside Lastation. Quirky dialog is welcome but doesn’t do much to hide the fact that the overall structure is abnormally redundant. You’ll spend most of the game chasing Underling, a wicked girl who works to corrupt as much of the world as possible with the teachings of Arfoire. The writers poke fun at how formulaic everything is and routinely break through the fourth wall, but they don’t actually bother to fix the problem.

If all you had to do in the game was complete the story, the game would end pretty quickly. However, there’s a lot of content that pads the adventure. A single trip through the game takes an easy 25 hours if you want to see everything, perhaps more if you’re looking for the “true” ending. Each dungeon features its own monsters (though often a monster in one area differs from a similar monster in another area only because they have different names and are colored differently), and typically you can head back to any town’s guild to receive missions that offer rewards if you kill enough of a particular breed of beast (or if you find enough of a specific item). As you complete those missions, shares are affected. Ideally, you want to drive up shares of your favored regions to around 15 or 20 percent while taking influence away from Arfoire. Doing so will make your characters more powerful, both because the people now have faith in them and because you’ll quickly gain levels.

Level grinding plays a significant role in the game. As your characters gain levels, they also receive SP (skill points), which is more important than you might suppose. In a battle, characters have a set number of AP (action points) available to them at the start of each turn. As they battle enemies or take damage, their SP meters will fill and they can use powerful special moves that more quickly obliterate the enemy forces. The higher your characters’ levels, the more combat skills they have available. It’s critical that you assign skills that make the most use of your available points. Otherwise, enemies will knock you around with brutal efficiency. As you gain levels and points, you must constantly monitor your configuration in order to produce a deadly warrior. Otherwise, all of the HP in the world won’t save you from some of the late-game bosses. I found myself struggling at several points throughout the game, and I always fixed the problem by tweaking my combos.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 asset

As far as the dungeons go, they’re all quite bland. The feeling I got was that someone sat down and mapped out a few simple floor plans on graph paper, and then someone else pasted background textures around them and called it good. Dungeons contain only a floor or two. There aren’t a lot of rooms or corridors on a given floor, nor are there all that many enemies. You can clear them out and save your progress at conveniently-placed save stations as you advance. This actually works out quite nicely and means that the game is easy to play in small spurts, but the efficient setup does little to hide the fact that the whole experience is ultimately quite basic, combat mechanics aside.

If you’re willing to forgive its repetitive nature, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a reasonably enjoyable game. While it seems to me that a project that was in some manner supported by nearly every worthwhile indie JRPG developer in Japan should have had more substance, the game manages to provide a generally inoffensive trip through the play mechanics that allow such games to attract and maintain their loyal following. Nothing available here will make you love the genre if you don’t already, but it’s a worthy addition to your collection if you’re an enthusiast.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 05, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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