Hyperdimension Neptunia Hypercollection PS3 Review
The release of Hyperdimension Neptunia Hypercollection is a bit of a strange one to process. A lot has changed since the release of the original trilogy – NIS America were initially in charge of the series, but later down the line Idea Factory branched into an international company with the rights to publish its games across the world. This is where things become very interesting, because the publisher/developer began to remake the three games and release them on Vita, rather than PS3. These remakes, dubbed Re;Birth, are also coming to the PC, with the first one already available to purchase on Steam, the second one coming out at the end of May and the third one to follow at the end of the year. Because of this, the collection of Hyperdimension Neptunia, Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 and Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory as a bundle seems weird – I’m not sure exactly who the target for this collection is, and you will see why I think that over the course of this Hypercollection review.
It’s best to start covering each game from release order. First up is Hyperdimension Neptunia, which released in Europe back in March of 2011. The game is a Japanese RPG that features plenty of still screens and text for its story, which, to be honest, wouldn’t feel out of place in something like a visual novel. The setup for the first game is that in the world of Gamindustri, four goddesses, known as Console Patron Units (CPU), have been struggling in battle for supremacy of the world in a fight known as the Console Wars. The war has been going on for so long that their jobs as guardians of their respective countries – Planeptune (Sega’s cancelled Neptune device), Lastation (PlayStation 3), Lowee (Wii) and Leanbox (Xbox 360) – has been forgotten, and now the lands are flooded with evil monsters lead by an unknown assailant. Neptune, the goddess of Planeptune, is struggling in the fight after getting teamed up on, and is defeated and thrown off the floating island until she crash lands outside Compa’s house without any information about what just happened. Using the tried and tested plot formula of the genre, Neptune has amnesia, but at least the game loves to take the mickey out of the plot for it.
The first game’s story was forgettable, but from its initial release, the series has always employed a heavy focus on various references and jokes, which begin with this release. It’s a forgettable plot, but when it’s on fire it can be funny, and overall, is certainly entertaining when the long, drawn-out dialogue scenes have a light-hearted focus behind them.
There are nods to all corners of video games, with jokes, acknowledgements or even enemy designs from games like Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Space Invaders, Final Fantasy, and The Legend of Zelda thrown in. The game even goes as far as to having the main antagonist named after the R4 Nintendo DS cart that allowed people to play copied games on their handheld system. It doesn’t stop at physical items, as hints to developers, such as the creator of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, are sneakily referenced through the game’s NPC characters. Hyperdimension Neptunia becomes a game in itself to try figure out exactly what the developers are referencing to with a lot of their designs and names, and I’m sure even the most hardcore of players will miss some.
While the dialogue and plot are dumb fun, what isn’t fun is the actual game. The combat is typical turn-based JRPG standard mixed with the ability to spend points to mix up the combos, but there’s usually a straightforward “best” attack that you will always default to that throws the whole system out of the window. The original game’s combat was unfortunately stuck behind a mess of menus and incredibly slow and choppy animations, the frame rate was atrocious and the repeated travelling sections to reach main areas of the game was a bore, plus the enemy encounter was ridiculously high. A lot of these issues were sorted in the remake, making this version mainly for people who want to experience how awful the first game in the series was before the developers learnt what was wrong and fixed it in the sequels and remakes.
Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 followed a year later and was an improvement over what was simply a bad game. The sequel switched up the battle system and streamlined itself. If there is one thing that can be said about Compile Heart and Idea Factory, it’s that they are committed to this franchise, pumping out these titles in a flash – since the series started there has been 9 games, with no signs of them stopping.
MK2 sets the story three years after the first game and is still set in the world of Gamindusti. This time around, however, the story shifts to the younger sisters of the original game’s characters. Taking on the role of Nepgear, the game begins with the heroes from the first title captured by an organisation known as Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime (ASIC). Only Nepgear escapes from the depths of the Gamindusti graveyard after two friends release her with the power of the Sharicite, a crystal made from the hopes of the people. Needing help, they go off on an adventure to find all the other sisters so that they can assist in having enough power to save the captive CPUs.
The theme behind MK2 is that of piracy, with Arfoire (R4, like the R4 cards) taking over the world with the help of CFW (PSP custom firmware). It’s a silly, goofy take on the problem the industry faces, done in a tongue in cheek and charming way. It does have the tendency to drag on a bit, making sections of the story generally boring. There seems to be less emphasis on the gaming related jokes than the first game too. The hidden message of the story in MK2 is that we must fight against piracy, a serious topic for any entertainment medium today.
Combat is much improved in this sequel. Gone are the stupidly high encounter rates; it’s now replaced with visible enemies that you can get pre-emptive attacks if you get behind them without a Metal Gear Solid style exclamation mark appearing above their head. Battles themselves have received quite an overhaul and are much faster and fluid in the sequel. The focus is still on turn-based battles, but now you can move your characters around. When it’s the character’s turn, a ring will appear below it on the ground showing how far they can move. This opens up a more strategic elements over the first game, as you have to be careful where you place your heroes, since enemies can employ the same tactics to deal big damage on your squad.
Extra depth was added by using support roles that allows the four party members to have a character supporting them. They never appear in battle; instead, the supporting character will buff the attacking character with stat increases or bonus experience points. Every team member has a specific buff, and with over 12 characters, you have plenty of options available.
Things have changed for the better outside of battle. The only movement you ever do is in dungeons, and everything else is done through menus. The world map is now one big picture with dungeons and towns highlighted, which can be visited with a click of a button. None of the pointless location island swapping that plagued the first game is here. In towns, you can accept side quests from the guild, buy new items, create new items and weapons by crafting materials and speak to people who live there. Quests are limited to killing or collecting things, nothing spectacular or exciting. Later in the game, I ended up ignoring them to get more enjoyment out of the story.
Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 is easily a better game than its predecessor – faster gameplay, more polish, a much better battle system and more features means MK2 is better and more enjoyable. It’s still not quite a great game, but at least it knew what was wrong with the last game to improve the franchise and steer it in the right direction.
Coming to the last game in the collection, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, which is the title that closes off the trilogy and remains very similar to MK2. Victory continues the story from the last game, but while the game is set a few years later, the setting ends up being an alternative world based on the year 1989, where everything is different than the era she comes from. No one seems to remember Neptune, as her position as CPU of Planeptune now belongs to someone else. The setting is supposed to be based around the time the PSX was around and Microsoft was setting up to come invade the world with their console.
Victory’s strongest asset is its translation and story, since the game itself is the same style and progression as the second game. There are a lot of hilarious jokes and references that include a wide range of serious and not so serious coverage from the world of video games, such as having an area named Jet Set Ranch (Sega fans will catch on to the reference here), a fake version of the Sony mascot, Toro, a giant X shaped building, two characters named M and L who need homing missiles to aim at some green reptile (poor Yoshi) and even going as far to include the Chinese threat of suicide in the production factories as a story, or bringing in seven legendary game designs from Japan as special skills, such as Keiji Inafune shaped missiles blowing up enemies. It’s the craziest plot from any of the series and that means it also one of the funniest too.
The main concern with Victory is not that the battle system was streamlined more from MK2, removing its AP system and settling for something called CP that gives a fixed amount of action points, rather than scaling up or down to extend combos, such as the more reward battle system in the last game, but the quest system, which feels added solely to pad out the game with generic fetch quests that are shallow and unchallenging, but worst of all, aren’t always optional, meaning they block your story progression. It’s an area that hurt this last entry in the trilogy and one of the reasons why, apart from the story; prefer the second game in this collection.
With remakes for every single game in this collection, it makes it hard to fully recommend buying Hyperdimension Neptunia Hypercollection, simply because there are better versions of the games out there (Re;Birth 3, the remake of Victory, is due this year). All I can see this appealing to is the fans of the genre who missed out on this before, so are looking for a bargain rather than paying more for the remakes – you are getting two decent RPGs and one awful game for the cash of one new game. The collection might also appeal for fans who joined in the series during the Re;Birth release and want to see how awful the original was or see the differences between the original games and the Re;Birth titles, plus it makes it easier to pick them up, since the original games are not available to pick up physically in many places. Existing fans won’t find anything new here, as this is literally a disc with the three games to boot from the PS3 UI screen. Whatever your interest in this collection is, just know that a lot of fun and hysterical moments are to be had with this bundle, but you’ll be in some pain if you plan to play it from the beginning.