Game Review: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (PC)
18/07/2016 Leave a comment
Publisher Idea Factory International continues to pump out a steady stream of Hyperdimension titles for fans as following on from the previous Steam release of Hyperdimension Neptunia Action Unleashed U (or Megadimension Neptunia VII by the time you are reading this) the publishing house now bring us another re-mastered PS Vita classic; and it’s non-other-than the other spin-off title Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart.
The Hyerdimension franchise all began in 2010 when the first JPRPG title made its debut onto the PS3 via Compile Heart however it wasn’t until Felistella remade the main game for the PS Vita that it started to get more attention from the western anime community. Fast forward a few years on and Compile Heart, along with publishers Idea Factory International, created a spin-off of the franchise for the PS Vita known as Hyperdevotion Noire; and now after one short year this iconic spin-off has made its way to the PC.
Unlike previous instalments into the Hyperdimension franchise Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a tactical role-playing-game, or strategy game if you prefer, as opposed to the traditional JPRG experience seen within past games of the franchise; additionally the CPU of Lastation, otherwise known as Noire, is the games protagonist as opposed to Neptune; a difference which is often quoted within the game itself. It’s not just the gameplay style or protagonist that’s different either; as while the game may share the same characters and locations it is a completely different kind of ‘Hyperdimension’ experience; unfortunately however it’s not one that I find to be suited to the PC.
Of course let’s step back for a moment; Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is set within the fictional world of Gamarket whereby the four goddesses, otherwise known as CPU’s, of each nation fight each other for control of the market shares. As with past ‘Hyperdimension’ titles these CPU’s consist of Neptune, the goddess of Planetune, Noire, the goddess of Lastation, Blanc, the goddess of Lowee, and Vert the goddess of Leanbox. As mentioned in this particular game Noire is the protagonist and as such she is the one who manages to fend off the other three goddesses in hopes of making her ‘ideal world’ a reality; however shortly before being able to put her plan of world peace into motion a mysterious woman named Eno arrives on the scene and offers her an interesting proposition. The idea is that this ‘Eno’ character knows of a power source (known as the Sharacite) that will end the war and create peace among the world; however when activated by Noire it actually does the opposite and brings the world into complete despair.
This is where the story of Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart begins; as with the sharacite crystal disabled and share energy depleted Eno reveals her true identity as Arfoire and begins her quest for complete world domination. Powerless to do anything Noire must now team up with Neptune, Blanc and Vert in order to find a new power source and find a way to stop the disaster from happening. A simple start to rather complex and excessively narrative driven game is what’s on offer here and while the upgraded High Definition visuals do look great on a large screen it’s not exactly a game I enjoy playing on the PC; Why exactly? Because it feels more suited to the compact screen of the PS Vita and it’s portable nature.
I’m not saying this PC port of Hyperdevotion Noire is a bad game, although I did have my fair share of troubles trying to actually play the game on Windows 10 operating systems as it kept crashing upon start up, it’s just that majority of the game acts as a visual novel which I find more enjoyable playing on the go rather than sat confined to a desk. Of course this is just my personal choice and I am fully aware that a lot of visual novel styled games are available for the PC but it must be said unlike Hyperdevotion Noire they do require more manual input… that is until you get to the actual gameplay side of this game. As mentioned previously Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a tactal-role-plaing-game, or a simplistic strategy game if you prefer, as unlike past titles in the franchise players control chibi versions of characters on a square grid surface and must navigate and defeat opponents in turns. It’s very straight forward and easy to pick up, especially if you are a newcomer such as myself, but while it may be easy to play there doesn’t seem to be enough of it; especially during the early stages of the game.
For instance during the first two chapters, and including a long prologue opening sequence, you only manage to take part in actual combat a handful of times and even then they are brief. Naturally as you progress through the game more battles will appear and the battles will become harder, with some battles even using an extensive amount of the map, but as someone who wants to dive in and explore the turn-based-combat straight away then their was a lot of waiting to be had. Basically you will be here for the long haul; so make sure you get yourself comfy.
So how exactly does Hyperdevotion Norie play out? Well for the most part it plays like a traditional visual novel as the story progresses forward by watching the dialogue appear and disappear on screen while the characters bicker and banter amongst themselves; however when a battle cannot be won by words that is when the turn-based-combat comes into play with the objective of defeating your opponent taking top priority. With the opponent defeated the game will move swiftly back into visual novel mode in order to progress the story forward.
Unfortunately unlike Hyperdimension titles players are not able to free-roam around a dungeon and as such the only form of player movement seen within the game is during the actual turn-based-gameplay. Some could say it’s restrictive; but in my eyes it focuses you onto the two main selling points of the franchise; its complex narrative driven storyline and the hectic gameplay battles. As mentioned the Combat is different to any previous game in the franchise but it is easy to pick and play as all players need to do is navigate to their opponent and attack when nearby. To make combat that ‘slightly more challenging’ attacks will only have a certain distance and as such you may see enemy characters moving away and out of your reach. A cat and mouse game if you will; but in these types of combat scenarios it can sometimes be better to plan ahead.
Of course alongside this ‘two-pronged-approach’ to gameplay a world map is available and players will find themselves automatically moving to their next point of interest; furthermore Just like in regular Hyperdimension titles players can visit the four great nations of Gamarket and each time they do players will be able to buy items, change equipment, interact with other characters and accept missions. For the most part these ‘missions’ will progress the story forward and expand into the next chapter but occasionally odd side missions will appear all of which will appear at the Basilicom for players to take part in and these particular missions can be repeated once completed.
One interesting aspect of Hyperdevotion Noire that differs from other Hyperdimension games is the ‘Sim Noire’ aspect of the game; an area which allows you (as Noire) to listen to concerns of citizens and attempt to solve the issue through choice options or combat. If the objective at hand is met then the citizens will present you with sim points as a reward; the ‘interesting’ aspect of this however is that these sim points can then be exchanged for items, such as posters and TVs, to decorate Noire’s room within the Basilicom facility of Lastation. It’s unclear if making her room ‘comfy’ will yield any gameplay benefits but it does offer a different collecting avenue if you so desire.
On the outside Hyperdevotion Noire may look like a simple spin-off of the Hyperdimension franchise with Noire as the lead character but in actuality what we have here is a game that stands firmly on it’s own. The Characters, the personalities and their abilities may all be the same as seen in previous Hyperdimension titles; but the story, the type of gameplay and how it is presented to the player are completely independent and stand alone from any other title in the franchise which is why I suggest that fans of the franchise should be willing to give this a go. Sure enough it’s a different gameplay style; but the core mechanics we all know and love are here – which is what’s important – but just be prepared to play in long bursts as playing the game in short bursts, like you could on the PS Vita, is near impossible.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is now available for the PC (via Steam). The game is also available for the PS Vita as both a retail cartridge and digital download.