Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart Vita Review
Compile Heart must be seriously banking on the Hypderdimension Neptunia franchise with the amount of games they keep pumping out annually. Hardly a surprise, considering the relatively small budget that clearly prioritizes the moe character designs and scenarios that serve as the bread and butter for their niche fanbase. However, as a continued reviewer of the series, I will be the first to admit that the Neptunia games do feature a robust and easy-to-learn RPG system underneath its fanservice Anime aesthetic.
It’s only natural that Compile Heart would attempt to branch out further with the hardcore RPG crowd, this time by making a spinoff series with developer Sting to create a Strategy Role Playing Game centered around Noire, the Playstation-personified character in this console-turned-moe series. In Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, the story passes the lead over to Noire (much to the chagrin of regular series star Neptune), who begins the game as the current victor over the long-standing war between the CPUs over control of Gamarket. After several obvious analogues to the real-life console war, Noire ends up de-powered and several of her generals turning against her, forcing her to form an uneasy alliance with Neptune and the other CPUs.
If anyone is familiar with the previous Neptunia games, the videogame referential humor and moe-laden fanservice is as prevalent here as it is in previous games. However, Hyperdevotion Noire does add a new story-based element that may prove even more uncomfortable for people who could barely stomach the original games…a faceless, voiceless male protagonist. Tasked with being Noire’s “secretary”, this is a clear attempt to self-insert players as the personal attendant for Noire and the other female characters to rely on and grow increasingly embarrassed whenever they let down their guard (in more ways than one). It doesn’t help that the game also has an affinity system to strengthen the relationship between the secretary and Noire. While this decision isn’t entirely as creepy as it sounds, it also isn’t necessary given that the previous Neptunia games worked fine without it and adding this faceless Poochie only hinders the narrative rather than help it.
Fortunately, the rest of the game is devoted entirely to the actual stars of the series, the moe-fied console characters. In addition to Noire (Playstation), Neptune (PC), Blanc (Wii), and Vert (Xbox), the latest spinoff also introduces a few additional personifications including Lee-Fi (who shares a similar design to Chun-Li and frequently quotes iconic lines from the Street Fighter franchise), Lid (a scantily-clad version of Solid Snake complete with camouflage sensor and a cardboard box for sneak attacks) and several other parodied characters who join your party or fight against it. Some of the jokes and banter may be appreciated by knowledgeable fans, but nine times out of ten their concepts revolve around adding boobs and Anime expressions to a famous videogame property…which will probably still win over a good majority of gamers.
As for the gameplay, the SRPG elements are just as strong and content-filled as the previous games’ more traditional JRPG mechanics. Battles operate under familiar concepts: each character functions as a unit that is given one turn to move and act, the latter which can be as simple as attacking an enemy, using an item or performing other strategic actions. How a unit is placed and what action they take before giving up their turn can make all the difference in battle, since enemies take their turn immediately following yours. There are also mission-specific conditions that go beyond merely eliminating every enemy, such as diffusing a number of bombs within a certain number of turns, or being limited to a certain number of units. Few missions are alike, which means players must determine the best circumstances to achieve victory.
There are also advanced mechanics to look out for, such as lifting objects to scale previously unreachable heights or determining the move path of a unit to avoid stage obstacles that can damage or even rob them of their turn. One of the most crucial, mechanics, revolve around “Love Points”, which are collected by placing units together, resulting in a boost in a unit’s skill during their turn (naturally, these are represented by characters kissing one another….on the cheek). These points can then be accumulated to perform more powerful attacks, including the ability to temporarily unlock HDD forms for CPUs (once again, this series isn’t very subtle with its references). These Love Points also factor into an affinity system that unlocks further bonuses and even exclusive conversations with Noire and her bosom buddies (some more bosomy than others).
Another returning feature from the Neptunia games is the ability to create items. By using materials gained from battles, players can combine them to form new consumable items, weapons and accessories, which are then available in the shop upon their creation. There are also discs that can be burned to include custom parameters like extra HP, movement speed and so on that players can equip their units with. Beyond that, there are the usual extras like bonus missions, collectibles like images and music, and a personal room that can be outfitted with furnishings and other items that serve no gameplay purpose whatsoever but serve to increase the relationship between Noire and her faceless secretary (which again, is not as bad as it sounds but still unnecessary in concept).
In the end, Hyperdevotion Noire is a spinoff that breaks from the gameplay norms of its predecessors, but not its overall sentiment: if you can stomach (or even embrace) the pandering amounts of moe and shower scenes, you will be treated to a fun and addicting RPG that does service to several tried-and-true gameplay mechanics while poking fun at several well-known franchises.