Out of the gate, you should know that I’m a pretty big Neptunia fan. I have been since I first played Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth1 on the Vita. I’ve been following the development of Super Neptunia RPG for months, and the time has finally come for me to play it and review it for you guys. So, was it worth the long, long wait?
Yes! But perhaps not for everyone.
I think the biggest issue with the game is pacing during those crucial first couple of hours: it’s slow in terms of plot, there’s tons of reading to do, and the combat system doesn’t advance much because you only have 1 character in your party (more on this later). After you get to play with more characters, and the story progresses at a quicker pace, Super Neptunia RPG is a love song to both gaming and the franchise that spawned this game. And I love it, flaws and all.
You play as Neptune, the goddess that, once again, has lost her memory and must regain it with help of the other goddesses (all of which represent one big player in the gaming industry – Nintendo, Playstation, etc) and save Gamindustri from staying in the 2D world… FOREVER! The story might sound cliché, but it’s not really that much about the story but rather about its delivery. Bombyx Mori are a formidable, fun and funny buch of foes, and Neptunia has always been a franchise known for poking fun at the gaming industry; Super Neptunia RPG brings all the self-referential goodness you can expect from a Nep Nep game. There must be said, though, that this entry into the franchise is much, much less charged with fan-service, something that will please some while anger others. I personally don’t mind that it’s a bit more… approachable.
For the first time in Neptunia history (or should I say, Histoire? No? Ok), you play a in a 2D world, where there’s some light platforming and dungeon crawling, while you battle enemies and complete quests. It’s really a set of serviceable underpinnings with a lot of customization, but it’s really easy to make yourself overpowered and just plow through battles. Gone are the 3D dungeons from the main series, now replaced by a sprawling, and rather beautiful, hand-drawn 2D world. Super Neptunia RPG looks amazing in the screenshots, and it mostly translates to a beautiful gaming experience. The only thing holding the presentation back are the framedrops, which occur mostly during battles when there are a lot of characters on the screen. There are also control issues, where what should be some really easy platforming becomes infuriating. Thankfully, there’s no penalty to falling to your death by missing a ledge due to the controls, as you’ll just spawn back into place immediately.
The core of the game’s battle mechanics focus on a gauge system that, at the start, makes no sense at all, because you only have yourself (as Neptune) in your party. Once you get more members, though, it’s a really interesting take on the semi-real-time, semi-turn-based formula we’ve seen before, and I’m surprised that the developers have been able to give their own spin to 2D battles, much like they sort of reinvigorated 3D battles in the mainline games. To battle, you fill up a gauge that will allow you to use moves from your party members, and the choice lies between whether you wait for the gauge to fill up and use a more powerful attack, or spam weaker attacks and hope the battle ends quickly?
It’s actually more layered than that, as there are elemental weaknesses and resistances (think Pokémon) for each character and enemy, and the formation you choose for battle (which can be changed on the spot) will also alter the character’s moveset, depending on whether they are in an attack or support role. Transformation attacks are making a return, though, and the characters look beautiful in Goddess mode.
Overall, the combat system is a really strong combination of familiarity and innovation, of depth and approachability, that is only let down by the fact that it takes you at least two hours to get to enjoy it properly. Thankfully, there’s A LOT of content in this game, so in the grand scheme of things, a couple of hours is not unheard of for a big RPG to get going.
As usual with Neptunia games, the voice acting (which you can have in English or Japanese) is top notch. The humor is great and got me to chuckle a fair few times. There are tougher battles as the game progresses, but again, it’s quite easy to grind and become too powerful for your foes.
Pacing and performance issues aside, I think Super Neptunia RPG lived up to the very, very high hopes that I had for it while watching the development. I think it’s the Neptunia game with the most general audience appeal, too, which I’m sure will help tons with sales. Once again, a Unity game is not the best optimized on the Switch, but everything else that Compile Heart and Artisan Studios have been able to accomplish make for a compelling package that will appeal to both fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. Personally? I adore it.