Game Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia U – Action Unleashed
11/06/2015 1 Comment
It’s only been four years since the original Hyperdimension Neptunia title arrived onto the PS3 within Europe; but here we are with its second spin-off title in the franchise, Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed. It’s a pretty bold title; but it has to be, as it is the first game in the franchise to deviate from RPG-gameplay and focus on musou-styled hack and slash action.
Developed by Tamsoft, the studio behind the infamous Seanran Kagura franchise, and published by Compile Heart/Idea Factory International Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed once again sees players thrust into the world of Gamindustri, a world which sees iconic videogame consoles being represented as female lead characters. If you’ve played past Hyperdimension Neptunia games then you’ll be familiar of who (and what) these characters are; but in this world the characters are all representations of popular consoles trying to boost their popularity with the people. For instance the CPU known as Noire is a representation of the PS3 while her younger sister and CPU Candidate, Uni, is a representation of the PSP. Ironically even if you didn’t know this these characters are self-independent with their own personalities, backstories and desires; which is what makes playing Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed such fun to play.
You could say I came for the action but I stayed for the banter and character development; as there are plenty of classic ‘comedy golden moments’ between characters throughout the game; including some which directly poke fun at the developers and the people playing the game itself. Confused? Well let’s rewind slightly. The story within Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed revolves around two new characters, Dengekiko and Famitsu, both of which are representations of actual Japanese Gaming magazines, who are journalists doing reports on the CPU’s and CPU Candidates. At first each journalist attempts to compete for the best article but over time they begin to work together and alongside the CPU and CPU Candidates. Amusingly this is only one-half of the story; as the CPU Candidates, which are made up of Nepgear, Uni, Rom and Ram, are hoping to impress their older counterparts, the CPU’s, by any means necessary; whether by defeating the most enemies or by becoming more popular in the magazine articles. It seems popularity is key within this world; but at the end of the day everyone are friends and help each other out.
Disappointingly this is pretty much the story in a nut shell; and in order for those articles to be made Degekiko and Famitsu request that the CPU and CPU Candidates enter various dungeons across the world of Gamindustri; and this is where the game starts to become repetitive. Dungeons, or quests as they are known, are accessed from the main menu and over-time new quests will become available; but the ultimate goal is the same – destroy everything in sight and defeat the boss that appears. It’s pretty much your standard musou game; a limited story with loveable characters and simple attacks. From here the process of ‘rinse and repeat’ is used; as while each dungeon, and it’s enemies, may be different the variation and attack patterns are the same – and even a few cameo references don’t help spice up the action especially when the dungeons themselves look rather bland and unengaging; if not at least a little bit colourful.
In retrospect if you’ve played any of the Senran Kagura titles, with the exception of Bon Appetit, then you’ll already be familiar with how the game plays whereby each character has a light and strong attack that can be chained together for destructive combo attacks while evading and blocking is key to survival. There is of course some differences; for starters players can choose any of the eight characters, including newcomers Dengekiko and Famitsu, to play in the dungeons and better yet players can form teams of two and swap-out at any given time; thus making the game more bearable during its difficult moments – which are more often than you might think. When it comes to gameplay however the similarities between Senran Kagura and Neptunia U are quite uncanny; for starters characters can transform into their HDD Variations by building up their HDD Gauge, which is similar to Senran Kagura’s Secret Technique transformation, and critical attacks can result in the clothes of our female characters to be ripped off. Luckily the sex appeal (which is one of the major complaints for the Senran Kagura franchise) has been toned down; so don’t expect any lewed poses and such. Ironically this ‘cloth shredding’ does yield some comical results as it seens the characters complaining to the game developers and thus ‘further’ breaking the fourth wall between reality and virtual reality.
While the gameplay itself has shifted its focus to ‘musou’ styled combat the main RPG elements which make up the Hyperdimension franchise are still here; for example the ability to level-up characters, customise weapon load-outs and adjust individual character stats are all included. That’s not all either as the visual novel styled dialogue sequences, all of which are available in both English and Japanese, are also included. It’s a bizarre mixture of combining fast-paced action gameplay with RPG elements but at the same time it allows fans of both genres to experience something potentially new but in a familiar gameplay environment.
Love them or loathe them these dialogue sequences are the main aspect of the game as when you aren’t accessing the main menu or doing battle with enemies these sequences will be played out. Majority of them contain audio but there are a few which are just text based; but whichever dialogue is being played out there are some wounderful fourth-wall breaking content. Be it the complaints against games journalists, issues regarding personal affairs or being stripped of their clothing there is something in every sequence that will make you smile; so kudos to the writers as it really keeps you paying attention for something funny. Dialogue sequences in games that aren’t visual-novels, such as the recent Steins Gate, usually become a chore; but Tamsoft have somehow found the perfect balance of informing the player of whats happening while providing humour in the process – but if you ever fancy any more of this content then you can do so via the city watch option; an option which takes a look into the lives of the CPU and CPU Candidates when you aren’t controlling them; which yet again leads to some comical moments. These of course are optionable; but as always you will be rewarded for watching them.
There is of course more to Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed than just the main campaign of entering dungeons, defeating monsters and creating some good publicity about yourself as over-time new gameplay modes will become unlocked; each of which will attempt to challenge your skills as a player. These two modes are non-other than Neptral Tower and the Gamindustri Gauntlet; both of which should be self-explanatory. The Neptral Tower will see you defeat onslaughts of opponents while climbing a tower, the Gamindustri Gauntlet will see you defeat other characters in a bid to be the strongest in the world. They are relatively simple additions to, what is a rather complex gaming world, but it further expands the game-time and adds more value to the title.
Having been familiar with the Hyperdimension Neptuia franchise, but never played it until now, I was quite surprised on what Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed offered; the world and its characters are extremely detailed, lovable and entertaining to watch and its easy to see that a lot of care and attention has been done; however the same can’t be said for the combat gameplay. The combat gameplay, as good and simple as it is, can feel sluggish, slow and unresponsive at times but it’s ultimately the way that the combat becomes repetitive rather quickly – even with the dialogue sequences breaking it apart. Sure the characters and their fight-styles add variety but constantly playing the game, especially the dungeons, can lead to it feeling repetitive; but never-the-less this is an issue that happens to all musou games; especially if you are not too familiar with them.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is a superb game and a great way to get introduced to the world of Hyperdimension Neptunia for those who are scared of the RPG Games. It brings everything you know and love about the franchise and mixes it with the basic musou combat mechanics for a fun-filled title that won’t disappoint – and as its less sexual then Senran Kagura its pretty safe to play in public areas as well.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is now available within the UK and Europe exclusively for the PS Vita. It is available as both a physical cartridge and as a digital download from the Playstation Network Store.