This might shock you, but sometimes I read gaming sites other than Popzara! One of my favorite adorable quirks about other sites is when they talk about trying to avoid journalism clichés like saying that a game is a good choice for fans of its series. That’s nonsense, of course – there’s plenty of games that are made precisely to appeal to series diehards and there’s no value in restricting oneself from saying so. I’m not sure I could talk about every single Hyperdimension Neptunia game if I couldn’t do that, actually!
For instance, here’s another one: Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, a new action-RPG addition to the long-running series that’s…wait for it…a great choice for fans of the Neptunia series.
Okay, try and wrap your head around this one: 4 Goddesses Online is an game (that’s sometimes online, but not always) about game characters playing an online game. The Nep cast has joined together to play the titular MMORPG; everyone’s chosen their own class and specialization and now it’s time to get to grinding. The plot of that MMORPG revolves around an evil demon king that was sealed away by the power of a magic tree of life; the heroines are tasked with finding sacred treasures left behind by the titular goddeses to revive the divines and stop the return of the demon king.
Neptunia’s not about plot, in any case. It’s about gameplay! There I go again, using no-no words like “gameplay.” Anyway, Neptunia’s probably actually about fanservice (and there’s plenty of that here), but we’re going to pretend it’s about gameplay! 4 Goddesses Online represents a third take on the Nep formula; your mainline games tend to be turn-based RPGs, your spinoff games tend to be light action-RPGs (along with the odd rhythm game or SRPG) and now we’ve got an action-RPG that’s slightly more heavy on the RPG side of things.
Don’t come in expecting a lot of depth, as the real-time combat here is still all about mashing the attack button to take out a bunch of monsters, but there’s some degree of strategy what with attacking enemy weak points and assembling a balanced party.
Each character has their own class, as mentioned, which means they have their own unique gameplay style and abilities so you’ll want to try them all; I was especially fond of Rom’s take on the Samurai class, which reminded me of playing a similar character in Phantasy Star Online 2.
This is related to the big selling point of the game as well: yes, this is an online Neptunia game! Well, sort of. Rather than an actual MMORPG, 4 Goddesses Online uses a format somewhat similar to games like White Knight Chronicles or Xenoblade Chronicles X. You’re creating lobbies and going on specific missions with friends rather than existing in a world together. It’s not a bad implementation of this idea, per se, but it certainly lacks the living, breathing world feel of a real MMORPG. Instead, multiplayer comes off as a cute additional feature rather than an integral aspect of the Four Goddesses Online experience – buy this one for the single-player and consider the multplayer a bonus, in other words.
The same complaints I usually have about the initial releases of Neptunia games apply here: while from a stationary perspective everything looks fine, resulting in some impressive screenshots and promo material, Nep tends to slow to a crawl in motion. This is a nice-looking game, don’t get me wrong, but nice-looking only goes so far when the framerate just isn’t up to snuff. I’m not even sure how this keeps happening; the Vita’s framerate woes are one thing, but my PS4 Pro should be chewing this game up and spitting it out. There’s also a hilariously long loading period whenever you start the game up, presumably to minimize in-game loading times, so consider using that time to grab your snacks or whatever.
Anyway, that’s Nep, if you’ve been sticking with the series you’re either used to it by now or you’re waiting for the inevitable PC release. You’re probably also used to quality voice acting and sound design, both of which are present and accounted for here as ever. Oh, and the vaunted online play works just fine for what it is, though that aspect of the game makes that PC version even more appealing than usual.
Just to be a contrarian I’m going to break the supposed rules of games journalism once again: Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a great purchase for hardcore Neptunia fans. Slightly less hardcore Neptunia fans who can afford to be patient will likely be better served with the almost-certainly-incoming PC release; much like every other game in the series, if this one ends up on PC (it will) then that’s going to be a superior experience on the whole. Meanwhile, RPG fans who haven’t yet gotten Nep’d are, as always, best served with the Re;Birth 1 and 2 games on PC as their introduction to the series.