Upskirts And The Death Of Gamindustri
Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is a game that tries really hard. It wants to be one of those old-school-feeling JRPGs that fans appreciate for both the nostalgic take on the franchise and for its take on current events. The Disgaea series has been able to fill this niche, but as the JRPG genre has been a bit barren lately, I suppose the makers of Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 also wanted to see if they could get in on the action. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well for them.
I won’t pretend that I played the first game in the series, as this follow-up was actually the first time I had ever heard of Hyperdimension Neptunia. However, despite being extremely text-and-dialogue-heavy, the story gave me the feeling that I didn’t really need to know too much about the lore of this world to jump right in. Apparently, there are three CPU characters that were captured at the end of the last game, and they have been imprisoned in a junk heap filled with old video game parts. It’s a weird scene, but once you start getting some actual storyline, it starts making sense.
The events of Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 take place in a magical place called Gamindustri. However, this place has fallen to ruin thanks to the evil Arfoire (say it out loud) and the group ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime). Once-vibrant towns like Lastation, Lowee, and Lastbox have become shells of their former selves, and everything is pretty depressing. Well except for our hero Nepgear and her companions, who are all surprisingly upbeat, despite the chaos in their realm.
The story does have some intrinsic satirical value, but any valid criticism it tries to give the gaming industry is throttled by mountains of useless dialog and constant suggestive visuals. I understand nearly all JRPGs have some fan service built into their model, but the amount in Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is over the top, bordering on ridiculousness. It’s hard to take the game’s anti-piracy message seriously when you are dealing with constant upskirts and peek-a-boo moments, especially when they are presented in a completely serious, non-funny way.
But even if you can deal with the ridiculous story and constant fan service, the game still doesn’t offer much. The battle system is extremely simplistic and involves a turn-based system where allies can roam around a predetermined “range,” and then land hits and use a certain amount of skill moves based on AP.
The only aspect of the battle system that feels even the slightest bit unique is a partner system that is based on the relationship-building element of the game. As new characters are introduced, you can participate in voluntary conversations with them and build trust with them. This begins by monitoring a social network known as “Chatter” (can you guess what it’s modeled after?) and if you see something interesting, you can select it and launch into a small three-to-five-minute vignette where characters discuss their problems, goals, etc. This would actually be a pretty cool feature if the partners feature wasn’t so useless in battle and the dialogue scenes weren’t so boring. If you’ve ever been in a lengthy conversation with someone and had no clue what they were talking about afterward, then you know what sitting through these dialogue scenes is like.
As you explore more of the world of Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, you’ll have the opportunity to explore higher-level dungeons filled with monsters and bad guys. These extra-narrative quests are actually the only part of the game that is somewhat enjoyable, and if you can get past the ultra-basic battle system and try your best to ignore the main characters, you might actually enjoy the dungeon crawling aspect of the game. But really, one satisfactory component doesn’t pull this game into decent territory. Not by a long shot.
Unfortunately, production values aren’t exactly great either. The game features stoic visuals, and while some cutscenes are animated nicely, the vast majority of the time you will be staring at stock artwork on the screen. When you are on a mission or dungeon crawling, the visuals are a bit better, and character animations are nice and crisp. But just as soon as you get used to nice visuals, you return to the game’s overhead map view and you’re plunged back into bad visual territory.
Audio is also a mixed bag. While I appreciate that the game was given a fairly extensive English voiceover during the localization process, the actual voices come off as grating and annoying. Still, I don’t know very many localized JRPGs that don’t have at least one annoying-sounding character, and after you play for awhile you do get used to the super-squeaky voices of the game’s heroes.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, and it certainly isn’t broken. However, it’s far from good, and pretty much any other JRPG you can pick up for the PlayStation 3 is better than this. The game tries to be clever with its self-referential plot, but it comes off as looking like a cheap Disgaea clone instead. The game also attempts to lure in players with promises of plenty of fan service, but the presentation is just too over-the-top and ends up garish and annoying. Even the battle system, in its attempts to be “old school,” just comes off as simplistic and outdated. There wasn’t much that I enjoyed about this game, and, even at its budget price, I would just keep away from this dimension, hyper or not.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
Visuals are very inconsistent; they look great one moment and awful the next. 3.4 Control
Controls are easy to use, and button-based commands are easy to execute. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voices are annoying and music is basic. /div> 3.0 Play Value
There may be plenty of “hours” of gameplay, but when that time is stuffed with pointless dialogue and boring game design, it can’t be counted as time well spent. 2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best