Inside Pulse 12

Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia PP (Sony PlayStation Vita)

Hyperdimension Neptunia PP
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart
Genre: Rhythm/Pop Idol Producer Simulator
Release Date: 06/03/2014

Did you play through the Hyperdimension Neptunia series of games and think to yourself “I really wish I could make these characters into pop stars and subsequently manage them”? Well, Compile Heart thinks that you did, and set about making a game where that is possible. My initial impressions were that the game was going to be a Project Diva F clone with those characters substituted with Neptune and friends. Turns out there’s very little rhythm in this rhythm game, though this means that the game is far more unique than it otherwise would have been.

Hyperdimension Neptunia PP (short for Producing Perfection) casts you in the role of, well, you. Neptune and the other CPU’s are losing shares to a new pop sensation known as MOB48 and begin losing their powers. They surmise that the best course of action is to become pop idols themselves and compete on equal footing to win all of their shares back. Using what little power they have left, they summon you (the player) into Gamindustri to become their producer and help build up their empire of fame.

When you begin the main game (or Producer Mode as it’s called), you’re asked to name your protagonist and choose which of the four main CPU’s that you want to support. Your end goal is the same regardless of who you pick, but the dialogue and character interactions will vary based on who you ultimately choose to back. The majority of this mode is fashioned as part simulation and part visual novel, as regardless of what you decide to pass your days doing, there are story bits interjected into places, and doing certain activities can trip scenes between characters.

The primary objective in Producer Mode is to not only take on the majority of the shares in your region, but also shoot one of your songs to the number one spot on the charts. Each in-game day gives you several options of how to spend your time. Choosing Work presents you with activities designed to increase the number of fans your chosen idol has. Most of these generally have a cooldown period based on how effective they are, though you can also negotiate a deal with one of the other CPU’s to form a group. The Lesson option grants an opportunity to improve one of your many stats, such as vocals, rhythm, knowledge, and so on. These, in turn, influence your ability to put on a successful concert and win over fans. Any of these options add to your idol’s stress level, and if you let it hit 100%, it’s an automatic game over. There’s where the Relax option comes in. This is designed to lower stress, though you can choose to instead get to know the other CPU’s for group forming purposes or become intimate with your own CPU idol. Rounding out the options is the ability to move to another nation to build shares there, or put on the concert, which is the bread and butter of the gameplay.

When deciding to do a concert, the preparation is nearly as important as the concert itself. You must pick a venue in which to hold it, a song to play, and what stage effects you want to be able to utilize during the show. Next, you must choose an outfit and where to position your character(s) on stage. Once this is all finalized, then the show is ready to begin. Now to reiterate, you have no control over what your idol does on stage. You don’t have to push buttons to the beat of the music or match movements or anything. They have their own routine that they do, and your job is to make sure you properly highlight what’s going on. Your analog sticks act as camera controls, and capturing the right moves at the right angles can improve your stage score. The directional buttons can change to some preset angles on the fly, such as zooming in on their face, looking down from above, or from either side. The other face buttons will have the various stage effects mapped to them, so you can have spotlights shine down, stage lights pan back and forth, or summon confetti. Solo characters that sing their designated song can transform into CPU Mode with the back touchpad to enhance their stage presence even more. Depending on how well you combine these elements together, you will be awarded a score for the performance and will (hopefully) earn yourself more fans and shares in the process.

This is about all there is to the gameplay. Even the other mode that the game has at its disposal (Unlimited Concert) is just putting on concerts without all of the simulation/visual novel stuff involved. This isn’t to say there isn’t replayability. Certainly the localization is done well enough that you will get some kicks out of all of the dialogue and character interactions to be found within the game. It’s just a shame that it’s buried within an experience that doesn’t take long for repetition to set in.

At least the game is well presented. It looks fantastic on the Vita, as the system really makes the colorful cast of Gameindustri come alive. Most interactions will be of the still portrait and text variety, though the characters do move around as if they are speaking. The concert sequences use cel-shaded 3D models to perform all of the dance moves, and you always play to a sold out stadium of characters used as enemies in the RPG titles. There’s even a Viewer mode that blows character models up to screen size, so you can get a better idea of how they look in a particular outfit. If you feel the need to, um, poke them, the touchscreen gives you the liberty of doing that from this menu too.

The same English voice cast from the prior games is utilized in HNPP as well, though you can opt for the Japanese track if you prefer (the songs themselves are in Japanese though, of course). As always, they do a great job of delivering their lines in a humorous way, with Neptune coming away with some of the funniest dialogue I’ve heard all year. Then there’s the soundtrack. The game would fall kind of flat right away if the tunes weren’t at least catchy, which they fortunately are. More variety would’ve gone a long way to increasing longevity, as the track list is alarmingly limited (five tracks, unless I somehow missed unlocking some somehow).

Hyperdimension Neptunia PP, despite providing a unique experience, is almost too hands off and limited in scope. It’s also a niche style of game, providing fan service to a niche fanbase. For all of the things it does right, it will have a very difficult time finding an audience. That said, it does for Hyperdimension Neptunia fans the same thing that Disgaea Infinite did for Disgaea fans; it gives them an outlet to explore their favorite characters further in a humorous environment without being held back by a serious centralized plot. It’s not a bad game, just one without lasting appeal.

Short Attention Span Summary
Be prepared to put your favorite characters through the paces of being a famous pop idol with Hyperdimension Neptunia PP. The game gives you the opportunity to become an acting producer for the CPU’s of Gamindustri as they climb the ranks of stardom. The localization is great, with dialogue that is sure to illicit laughs for fans of the RPG series. It also takes a unique approach to music games in that, rather than directly controlling how your idol performs, you are instead responsible for placement, costumes, camera work, and stage effects. It’s certainly a lot of fun the first several hours you do it, though repetition sets in fast, exacerbated by the lack of songs. Fans of the series will definitely get a kick out of it. Everyone else may be better served with a rental.

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  • Ben Dover

    Thank you, this is exactly how a review for this game should be. You put it in the best possible words for describing it. HDN PP was never designed to be an amazing game, it was made really for the small niche audience that had played the first 3 games and liked them. That small niche audience will probably be the only group to actually find interest in the game and buy it. So a review for the game should explain to that group whether they would like it or not. IGN’s review was like a person who hates flying reviewing a helicopter ride. They don’t understand that a review is meant for the primary audience, the people who were on the edge of buying it in the first place, and should highlight the qualities that would interest them or give a reason why they wouldn’t like it. Which is exactly what you have accomplished in your review. Thank you for a wonderful read, you have inspired me that video game journalism isn’t just on a grade by pay basis.

  • Ryumoau

    i loved Neptunia MK2 and V but i’ll be skipping this game. I don’t really have any interest in these idol pop song games.

  • Dustin

    Fantastic review! It told me exactly what I needed to know and was worded perfectly. I’ve been interested in the Neptunia games for quite some time and I’m going to be getting re;birth1 when it comes out. I was wondering if I should bother with this in the meantime but I’m going to hold off until I’ve played re;birth. (I was mostly just looking to see if it had the option for original Japanese voices but it was good to know it’s only really worth it if your a fan that wants more of the characters.) Thanks for the amazing reveiw!