When Hyperdimension Neptunia released last year, it drew comparisons to SegaGaGa for its parodying of the game industry (particularly pirating). It had its issues, and some of the jokes sailed well over some players’ heads, but it was enough of a hit that a reprint was done and the sequel was localized as well. Let’s see how it measures to the original.
The game is set in an alternate universe, so the first game’s events don’t come into play for the ones in this game. The four CPUs, along with Neptune’s sister and CPU Candidate Nepgear, go to the Gamindustri Graveyard to face off against ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime), whose activities have been adversely affecting the residents of Gameindustri. They are defeated and trapped there. Three years later, Compa and IF venture into the graveyard to rescue them, but are only able to save Nepgear. They have to recruit the other CPU Candidates and rescue the CPUs and destroy ASIC. Every character from the first game except for Red returns in this game, so if you were hoping to have them in your party again, you can.
The plot focuses on an actual story than cramming in fourth wall breaking comments and tributes and references. The referential humor relies more on visual gags with enemies and places than in-game text. Examples include Horsebirds, which are horses with wings faintly reminescent of Chocobos, enemies with names starting with Kupo and feline features, and the Tokimeki enemy, which is a flat rectangle resembling a screenshot of a visual novel that attacks with a dialogue box, as well as a character named Saturn Shiro. Kenji Inafune even makes an appearance as a character in a Chirper in Planeptune and as a summon for Nepgear. While there is an attempt at more of a serious plot, there’s still some parody with systems represented as anthropomorphic scantily clad girls, and spoofs piracy and use of flash carts to that end. Much of the plot is character driven, and character interactions help carry the story.
The graphics are colorful and detailed, though the 2D portions of the game look more polished than the 3D parts. Dungeons are reasonably varied, though there are still some repetitions in backgrounds and layouts. The character portraits are rendered in 3D, though in some scenes 2D portraits like those in the first game and Trinity Universe are used. The 3D ones mostly look alright and serve their purpose, though I prefer the look of the 2D ones. Battle animations generally aren’t that long or drag things out, but you can hold down L2 to speed them up if you’re tired of watching them. With Creative Canvas, you can customize Nepgear’s appearance while she’s in HDD mode with images saved in the image folder of the PS3. A template and sample costume are are available on the official page, and there’s others in a thread on the NISA forums. The music leans towards the peppy and lighthearted, though it does also get faster paced and more intense for battles. The voice acting suits the over-the-top wacky nature of the game. You can switch between Japanese and English voices, though I left the English on most of the time after switching to the Japanese for a time for comparison’s sake.
In towns you can accept quests, buy items and equipment, synthesize items, and view the Chirper. The Chirper allows you to see what the denizens of the nation you’re in are thinking. You can also trigger events, which can raise your Lily Rank with your party members depending on the event. Lily Rank indicates the amount of affection Nepgear, and it can also be raised by having the character in in your party. In addition to events, it also opens up certain items for synthesis and affects the ending you get. Doing quests transfers shares from one nation to another, both worldwide and within that nation. Boosting a given nation’s shares high enough boosts the corresponding CPU’s stats. One minor complaint I have is that you can’t compare stats of processor units unless you buy them, which is inconsistent with the fact that you can compare other equipment before purchasing them.
In dungeons, enemies are visible, so you can elect to try and avoid them or hit them. Hitting them results in a Symbol Attack, which grants you more AP and lets you attack first. Sometimes it can defeat the enemy outright if you’re at a high enough level compared to them. You don’t get any rewards for the latter occurrence, but it does make going through earlier dungeons faster. You can also activate Treasure Search by pressing O, which reveals any hidden treasure nearby. The location of hidden treasure changes every time you enter the dungeon. Sharicite Shards trigger events, and there are also save point and gathering points (which contain items for syntesizing) scattered around the dungeon.
Battles are turned based, with movement range being represented by a blue circle and the character being able to move freely within that circle. A hitbox also appears in front of the character, and if enemies are close enough and the hitbox positioned right, you can hit more than one enemy with attacks. You press the corresponding button to select menu options and attacks. Normal attacks consume AP (Action Points), and there are three types. Rush attacks add more to the total hit counter, Heavy Hits deal more damage, and Break drains more GP (Guard Points). When an enemy’s GP is depleted, they take more damage. EX Finishes can be performed by inputting a specific pattern of attacks that consume a set amount of AP. When an EX Finish can be triggered, an EX will appear next to the attacks required. SP (Skill Points) are used for, as the name suggests, skills and to trigger HDD (Hard Drive Divinity) for CPUs and CPU Candidates. Turning HDD on costs 100 SP, and remaining in HDD consumes SP every turn, and the character will revert once SP runs low enough. Skills and items cost AP and SP to use, and once a skill is used, the turn ends regardless of how much AP remains. Only 100 SP is conserved after battle, so there’s a limit as to how much you can accumulate and carry over from battle to battle. Every party member gains experience even if they’re not in battle, which makes it easier to pick the party you want without having to worry about keeping everyone up to speed.
Some snags in the gameplay in the first game have been smoothed over in this game. For example, you can heal whenever you like, and it takes effect immediately. The same applies for other items, so no more investing points into a ability and relying on chance that it’ll activate, something that should be a welcome change for people who have played the first game. You also don’t have to go through a dungeon to go from one place to another. Instead of random encounters, enemies are also now visible on the field. You can also use up to four characters in battle instead of the three in the first game.
There are a total of eight endings. When you start a New Game+, everything carries over except for completed quests, item creations, event-related skills, and world and local shares. This makes subsequent playthroughs faster. In addition, all the DLC that came out in Japan will also be made available here (minus three items that were from magazines in Japan), so there will be bonus dungeons to explore as well as skill and item packs. Two characters, Cave and Falcom, appear in-game, but are only playable as DLC.
Initially, there are times when accuracy is an issue, especially if there’s a level gap between the party and the enemies. However, this is mitigated by the party gaining levels, equipment that boosts accuracy (the tech stat). IF also learns a buff at Level 12 that raises accuracy. Money can also seem a bit scarce at the beginning. As you progress and keep doing quests, though, you’ll be practically swimming in money and able to buy the maximum amount of healing items from shops. At that point, item synthesis becomes less useful other than to unlock items in the shops, as materials for synthing particular items can be hard to come by, making it easier to just purchase them. Quests get a bit repetitive, as they mostly consist of variations of, “kill this number of this enemy” or, “collect this many of this item.” The latter can depend on luck if it’s an enemy item drop or something obtained from a gathering point. Still, I did end up enjoying my time with the game, seeing how many references I could pick up as I progressed through the story and dungeons.
Using the word “quirky” to describe this game would be an understatement. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends in your tastes. Some may like that the humor lies more in visual cues and enemy names than in the dialogue. Others may feel that the humor present in the original was toned down in this game. The appeal of this game hinges heavily on being able to pick up the references scattered liberally throughout, and since they run the gamut and are more subtle this time around, that’s another thing that can limit this game’s audience. The cheesecake fanservice may also not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, much of the gameplay flaws in Hyperdimension Neptunia were fixed here, so those put off by the issues there will find this more playable.
There are four DLC items up on the PSN store as of this writing. Two of them are free: 100,000 credits and a Beginner Item Set. The Beginner Item Set consists of various healing items and Eject Buttons (which let you exist the dungeon). Both of these are only usable once, so you can’t keep downloading and stacking them. Still, they’re free and they’re useful when you’re starting out, so there’s not much reason not to grab them. The other two, Sight Eye and Dowsing Rod, cost $.99 each. Sight Eye displays enemies’ lines of sight on the minimap. Dowsing Rod does likewise for treasure chests, though you still need to use Treasure Search for hidden chests to show up on the field. Of the two, I felt the Dowsing Rod was a bit more useful. While these are nice bonuses, they’re neither game breaking nor required, and you won’t be hugely worse off if you decide not to buy the two paid items.
Control and Gameplay: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps of being a rather niche and eccentric game. The tweaks made to the gameplay addresses much of the complaints the first game got, making for a smoother experience mechanics wise. There’s more of an attempt at an actual cohesive story, with the dialogue being less laden in references, but the wacky humor and in-jokes are still there. It still will likely appeal to only a minority of gamers who can pick up on a lot of the references, but it does serve as good followup to its predecessor.