While normal combat is pretty easy to figure out, the weaknesses of enemies is difficult to track, and you might not always have easy access to a spell or attack that will help you out. The same could be said for item usage. There is no item menu in the game, rather there is a system that is similar to the gambits of Final Fantasy XII, where under certain conditions an item will be used. As you level up you'll be given points that will increase the percentage chance of using an item in the required situation. The problem here lies in the fact that overlapping scenarios don't trigger multiple items for use. Let's say I wanted to restore my parties hit points but also needed to revive someone. In most cases the revival would take place instead of healing my party, so rather than have two capable party members, I am instead left with three weak party members. Of course you've also got to make sure you have the necessary synthesis items on hand in order to make use of items in battle. I think I like this system more than the typical synthesis that Gust titles normally have, since it doesn't require me to go on wild goose chases for items, since they are simply dropped after every battle.
The story is definitely one of the most interesting aspects of this game. As Neptune, an exiled goddess with a serious case of amnesia, you'll run around the four worlds of Gamindustri (yes that's an intentional pun, which you can say about all future puns as well) hunting for key fragments to unlock and save the tome that makes up the whole world of Gamindustri. You'll traverse across Planeptune, Leanbox, Lastation, and Lowee and meet the representative goddesses along the way who are definitely confused by this turn of events. You'll progress through the story by exploring each of the worlds, and selecting from a list of events, which is a rather inefficient way of doing it, rather than just give you the pertinent information you're instead forced to examine each possible story piece which can by a silly little side story, a new dungeon, or actual storyline material. The story is typically delivered using the nice high resolution character sprites with plenty of voice acting, though curiously the English dub track is missing dialog for some characters, like the side story radio DJ who likes to detail your exploits with fan letters. I think this is one time where I might have preferred the English language track just because the Japanese track takes some of their acting a little over the top. Though English attempts at “moe” styled dialog typically fall flat and this case is no exception. It really comes down to personal preference, and I actually found myself switching between English and Japanese throughout the journey.
While the story is definitely unique and interesting it also has really awkward pacing thanks to the four different worlds, I found myself sticking to one at a time, not sure when it was safe to branch out. I then hit a wall where enemies were simply too strong for me, and as a result I finally moved to a different world, only to find I was ridiculous over-powered. Had the dungeons actually scaled to my level I think I would have experienced a bit smoother transition between worlds. Instead I am forced to experience a fragmented story since I have to constantly be moving between worlds. This also had me spending a lot of time wondering where the hell the rest of my party was. I spent over twenty hours in the game learning skills that were useful for switching out characters in the midst of battle, but didn't have anyone to use the skills with.
I really appreciate NIS taking a chance on Hyperdimension Neptunia, since I honestly could not see any other company trying to release it in America. It's a shame that the collaboration with Idea Factory and Compile Heart has so many technical flaws that were present in past games that keep rearing their ugly heads here. The less than impressive graphics, the horrendous framerate, and the story that starts to fragment once the game gets rolling, it all adds up to an experience that is close to being good, but just falls short ever so slightly. I wanted to like Neptunia, and for a while I was enjoying myself, but once the story started to get fragmented I started to lose interest, which really seems like a shame, since you can tell a lot of love went in to the characters and the world they inhabit. But even then I was compelled to get through this game just to see where the story would go. Part of me loved Neptunia, and part of me loathes it, here's to hoping that if NIS teams up with these companies again they're able to get around all of their technical shortcomings to deliver something truly spectacular.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
NIS has done some phenomenal translation work with Hyperdimension Neptunia, and it's too bad all their great writing and jokes are wasted on this technical mess. I really recommend checking this game out though. Despite all the flaws, you might fall in love the same way I did.
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