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Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (Vita) artwork

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (Vita) review

"Hyperdevotion Noire may very well be my favorite game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise, but more importantly, it reignited an interest in a genre I wrote off as too difficult years ago."

As I started up Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart around a week ago, I didnít expect to like it much. There were several reasons for me to be skeptical, but I mostly feared the genre shift from traditional turn-based JRPG to SRPG. As it turns out, though, Hyperdevotion Noire may just be my favorite game in the franchise thus far.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a spin-off from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series that casts Lastationís CPU, Noire, as the main character. The setting has also been changed from Gamindustri to Gamarket - a world where the CPUs and their generals are actually at war with each other.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (Vita) image

The above two facts alone had me worried. For starters, Noire isnít exactly the most interesting character in the Neptunia franchise. Of course, she obviously has her fans, or this game wouldnít have been made. My concern was that the writers would run with the tired old joke of Noire not having friends and do nothing else with it. Noire doesn't only break out of this one-dimensional joke, though; she actually gets more character development than at any other time in her history.

As for Gamarket, the move to a world populated by characters inspired by franchises/genres instead of developers led me to think that the jokes wouldnít be quite as on point. Wrong I was again as I found that the focus on broad characters led to even better comedy and interactions between the CPUs and the generals of Gamarket. For example, Estelle and Ein Al represent Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, respectively, and their rivalry offers some of the best written parts in the game.

Speaking of the writing, Idea Factory International has knocked it out of the park with this installment. While Re;Birth 1 and its successor had to follow the conventions established by NIS Americaís handling of the series thus far, the creators were obviously freed up to be a little more liberal with Noire. Coincidentally, some of the best lines comes from Neptune, as our former protagonist is quite upset over being delegated to a support character this time around and lets her dissatisfaction be known quite often.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (Vita) image

It was never a big deal to me, but some players will also be pleased to know the animated portraits during cutscenes have also been improved. Each characterís motion is far more fluid than before and the mouth movements are finally synced with the excellent English dub.

Like I said, though, my primary concern going in was the move to the SRPG genre. Sting, the developer of this title, is renowned for making hardcore SRPGs like Riviera: The Promised Land and Yggdra Union. Their pedigree, combined with the fact that I am terrible at SRPGs, had me concerned over whether or not Iíd even be able to get past the first few missions. Thankfully, I found Hyperdevotion Noireís gameplay to be equally challenging and forgiving.

For those familiar with the genre, Hyperdevotion Noireís basic gameplay is nothing new. Battles unfold on the same grid board thatís long been a staple of the genre, and the player takes turns between attacking and defending. Generally, missions involve defeating all enemies on the field, but other missions will task you with protecting someone or collecting a number of items.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (Vita) image

Where Noire gets interesting is its use of environmental hazards. Almost every main mission introduces a new gimmick that forces the player to approach battles with caution. For example, some missions will feature tiles that burn the player upon stepping on them, while others feature teleportation squares that must be navigated to reach the end of the stage.

For relative newcomers such as myself, Noire offers a number of options that makes it a welcoming introduction to the genre. Aside from an easy difficulty setting that allows magic to disregard height, the game is rather forgiving when it comes to XP rewards and death. Each mission rewards a set amount of XP upon completion, and every character benefits even if they didnít partake in battle. As for death, dying in battle has no real negative consequence as that character will still level up with post-battle XP and can be immediately be used in the next battle.

Hyperdevotion Noire may very well be my favorite game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise, but more importantly, it reignited an interest in a genre I wrote off as too difficult years ago. In fact, I find myself wanting to play more SRPGs now that Iíve played Hyperdevotion Noire, and I feel that those who had been turned off by the genre as I had may feel the same way after conquering the land of Gamarket with the tsundere queen and her harem of cute girls.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (February 27, 2015)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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