Yup, we’re back here yet again. It’s Neptunia time! That magical, anthropomorphic world where videogames take the form of buxom, usually spandex-clad vixens with cute personalities to match. They never stop making these! And by “they” I mean Western developer Artisan, assisting our friends at Idea Factory this time around. Super Neptunia RPG is a Hyperdimension Neptunia game from Canada, of all places. What we’ve got here is a new take on the classic formula from a new developer…but does it work out?
Plotwise, well, it’s Neptunia all the way. You control Neptune! She’s got amnesia, but fortunately these nice folks called Bombyx Mori are more than happy to help her out. Naturally, it turns out that Bombyx Mori are a bunch of bad guys and it ends up being Nep’s job to team up with the usual cast of goddesses (and a few newbies) to stop their vile deeds.
The long and short of it is that Super Neptunia RPG is a battle between old-school 2D and newer 3D games, and you may have noticed that you’re playing a 2D game this time around. Super Neptunia RPG owes most of its gameplay to the classic PSX RPG Valkyrie Profile. You run around on a 2D map engaging in light platforming before getting into combat, which plays out as a hybrid of turn-based and real-time battle.
The issue is that neither of these is especially engaging. Platforming feels a little loose and janky, like a Flash game that didn’t spend quite enough time in the oven. Everything certainly looks nice, but when the controller’s in your hand it’s clear that there could have been a lot more polish baked into this one, especially when it comes to figuring out what’s a solid platform and what’s a background object. As the game progresses and Neptune obtains more movement abilities things improve somewhat, but the early game is definitely rough.
Combat, meanwhile, is chaotic and complex, two great tastes that don’t necessarily taste great together. Characters are assigned to each of the face buttons and perform attacks that spend a certain amount of action points, which recharge over time. That’s not a terrible concept, but you usually end up feeling like you’re simultaneously waiting for your action points to charge up in order to unleash attacks and dealing with an endless tide of damage from your opponents.
That’s made even more difficult to comprehend thanks to SNRPG’s Formation system, where your characters can be rotated around…which ends up meaning that you have to memorize four sets of four moves each, including which position a character has to be in if you want them to execute a particular attack. Collecting new skills is great, but remembering them all is another story. There’s a whole lot going on and SNRPG doesn’t do much to help you figure it out.
Again, over time you can get the hang of it and things become somewhat enjoyable, but the early game is a rough mess of waiting for your small party’s set of piddling attacks to recharge. Later, it becomes clear that since healing abilities don’t cost much other than AP, having enough healing power on your team means you’ll win most battles by attrition alone. It’s not too great, and the ability to fast-forward through boring parts of combat suggests that the developers were aware of this.
It’s clear, then, that the majority of effort in Super Neptunia RPG went to its presentation. What we’ve got here is an artistic take on 2D adventuring, and don’t get me wrong: those still images look absolutely amazing! Generally speaking, animations look pretty good as well. On the other hand, SNRPG is plagued with Tiny Font Syndrome of the likes we haven’t seen since Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I hope you’ve got a magnifying glass or a chair that’s easy to move. Sound-wise, well, it’s Neptunia. Enjoy her voice clips nearly every time you jump. Come on, you knew it was coming.
I know I probably sound like I’m being hard on this one, and maybe I am. Super Neptunia RPG is a great idea that doesn’t really deliver on what it promises. With another Valkyrie Profile-like, Indivisible, on the horizon this was Idea Factory’s big chance to get in early and make some waves. Hyperdimension Neptunia fans, of course, will be all over this, regardless what any critic has to say (or will ever say). As it stands, however, this is one personalized gaming world you may want to think twice before plugging into.