I couldn't write a stranger story than Hyperdimension Neptunia, a world known as Gamindustri that parallels our own, ruled over by four goddesses who are constantly at odds with each other. Banishing one of their own, the fallen goddess recovers as an amnesiac who's just ditzy enough to go out on a crazy 'save the world' type of adventure while she attempts to regain her memory. Along the way she'll cross paths with the goddesses she once fought, each modeled after the current generation of video game consoles. With plenty of tongue-in-cheek references to the world of video games as a whole, including an enemy who's name is a direct reference to a certain Nintendo DS piracy device, it's safe to say that when NIS gets together with developers, Gust, Compile Heart, and Idea Factory, they'll come up with some of the most off the wall scenarios in gaming. But is an abstract humorous story enough to cover the technical flaws within? I think this might be one of those games that you have to look beyond the superficial to find the real beauty.
I don't want to come off harsh on the developers, but it's kind of hard not to these days. This is their third foray into making a PS3 game together, and while the game is solid in that there are no game breaking glitches or serious bugs, there are still a ton of technical issues that really hold this game back from being an overall success. The graphics are definitely a step up from Trinity Universe, but the framerate is terrible. The controls are at times less than responsive, which I wonder how that would occur in an RPG. The presentation of missions and story is clunky and confusing, and the gameplay is at best acceptable but also can be boring. Yet in spite of all of this I found myself enjoying Neptunia quite a bit. I don't know what it is about this game, but it charmed me quite a bit, then it lost me, then I was back on board.
Graphically this game is unimpressive, with locales that look less than inspired, full of repeated scenery and weak texture work. This would be a bit less offensive if you weren't running along the same locations constantly. I can only take looking at the same cave and ruins so many times before it gets old. The characters themselves aren't too much to be impressed by, except for the goddess characters in their battle form, who look pretty good. The animation is rough in most places with stiff movements and recycled actions for all but the flashiest of attacks. The worst offense out of all of this though is how the game runs. The framerate is inconsistent at best, and really holds this game back from being passable from a graphical standpoint, and it actually feels like it has an effect on the controls of the game, causing them to respond slowly when the action dragged the framerate down. It is actually somewhat mind boggling that a game that looks so basic runs so poorly. Outside of combat though, the development team has put together some fantastic looking characters that seem even better than what Trinity Universe had to offer. The characters have this weight and movement to them, seeing them breathe, get flustered, watching their hair move as they idle about, it looks impressive and you can't really appreciate it until you see it moving in front of you. Those who have seen Odin Sphere
will have a rough idea of what I am talking about.
Gameplay is your standard RPG fare, and comes with all the bad and good of that distinction. Random battles will haunt you wherever you go, though if you summon and fight a few groups of enemies all at once you can halt the random battles for a set period of time which is a nice addition, and great for trudging through dungeons where you just want to search for items. The battle system is where the most depth lies with combat that closely resembles Trinity Universe, using the face buttons of the PS3 controller to determine attacks. Initially you'll have four moves available, both physical and ranged that can be strung together for combos, and as you progress you'll unlock moves that will serve to extend these combos and unleash devastating attacks, which is not much of an overstatement, some of these moves that you'll learn as early as level twenty can absolutely demolish a group of enemies in just one turn. To create combos takes quite a bit of planning and a little bit of memorization on what attacks you lined up, since you only have so many action points in a turn you need to pay attention to which attacks you want to use.
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