Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection PS Vita Review

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The Hyperdimension Neptunia series has certainly gained a cult following over the years. I didn’t find the first game a good RPG, but I’m not discrediting Compile Heart, the developer of the franchise, because the series has gotten better with each game in the spoof take on the mascots of the gaming industry, and that’s why it has its fans. The games have got to the point where Compile Heart feels they have enough fans to warrant a spinoff, and so here is Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, a game that is completely different to the mainline series. Producing Perfection is not an RPG, so anyone who enjoyed the series for its typical gameplay might be bummed about that. This feels more like a visual novel based on the heroines of Hyperdimension Neptunia turning into pop idols, so you have this blend of story and pop idol management that makes up Producing Perfection.

Just because Producing Perfection isn’t an RPG that does not mean it doesn’t capture the essence that makes the other games fun – the eccentric characters and bizarre but creative plot. Producing Perfection lets the player be the manager, as you take over a young person who is summoned to Gamindustri to solve a crisis of utter importance, stopping the dominance that has come from the popular idol group MOB48 – a parody of Japan’s popular girl group AKB48 – and their taking of the majority of shares from the four Console Patron Units (CPU) goddess’ of Gamindustri. To counteract this, Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert want you to help manage them into pop idol superstars and get back those shares before the deadline of 180 days comes to pass. Oh, and for you hardcore fans of the series, the introduction states that this game is non-canon, so there goes your hopes of ever been teleported away to the land of gaming.

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Producer mode is the main bulk of the game. It’s where the story lies, but it’s also the place where you unlock features for the 3D model viewer and unlimited concert mode, a free mode of the gameplay from the Producer mode that allows you to set up a concert with your favourite idols, background settings, effects, costumes and songs. This mode is where the visual novel elements show their presence, because there isn’t all that much to do but plenty of reading and bits of minuscule gameplay. Once the introduction is over and you have picked your favourite CPU goddess (out of the four mentioned previously) and the days begin to tick, you will be constantly seeing a familiar menu that includes a few commands that make managing your newly goddess pop idol much easier.

As the producer, it’s your role to pick which activities to perform to increase various stats. Work is where the goddess and you do various tasks to gain more fans, such as running an ad campaign or putting on a publicity stunt that gets people noticing you. Work can also increase the goddess’ trust and guts, making her perform better. Lesson is for increasing the performance of the idol, such as getting the goddess to train her vocals, improve her dancing, practice a routine, or study to give a bonus to all stats.

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A few events need to recharge over a predetermined amount of days, so you need to balance out the work and lesson load with some rest and recreation that allows the goddess to lower her stress and perform better during the lessons and work load. The gameplay for all these various stat buff activities is non-existent, as each one leads to either a small event scene or simply lets you know that the goddess did the activity without any problems. Gameplay in this area revolves around watching numbers change and balancing the various stat increases while keeping an eye out on the stress levels.

This concept is reminiscent of the visual novel genre, but unlike the brilliant Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, which features puzzles and exploration merged with a visual novel to make for one gripping and well produced package, Producing Perfection does not do any of that, and it suffers because of the lack of compelling gameplay. I liked seeing my numbers increase and seeing that my idol performed better, but when the dialogue has all been exhausted and you’re left with generic text showing the progression, then there is nothing compelling me to keep at it – I just grew bored of the repetitive nature. Producing Perfection needed some interactive gameplay, mini games for example, during these events to make it more interesting to participate in. And if people didn’t like doing these mini games, then they could use the automatic route to give them less stat buffs, similar to how training was done in EA Sports’ Fight Night games.

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Once your idol’s guts have hit their maximum rating, the concert option will open up that allows the idol to host a show for all her fans. This mode had so much potential when I heard about it, and since I hadn’t seen much about the title before I decided to review it, I didn’t know how it played, but when I heard of pop idol management with concerts, I was hoping for some rhythm music gameplay thrown into the mix. The Japanese always seem to come up with catchy gameplay concepts for their music games, sadly, this is totally not the case here.

In fact, the gameplay for the concert mode is incredibly restrictive. Before going on stage, you can set the costume, song and special effects you would like to use. When the concert begins, you move into the role of a director and transfer the camera around various angles while activating one of three equipped special effects that get the crowd going. There doesn’t seem to be much going on for the scoring, which is shown after the concert is finished, as randomly throwing out the effects and moving the camera around seemed to make the percentage increase easily enough that I received a decent rating. The outcome of a good rating means that you are rewarded with shares, taking them away from MOB48 and other idols. If you perform a concert that isn’t in the hometown of your idol, then you take big shares from the owners of the city, promoting your idol through other towns until she becomes the goddess of shares across all four locations. An amusing scheme to do, but there’s no reward for doing it, as the main task is to get the total majority of shares and then the game ends, which took me just under 100 days of the 180 I was given.

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That’s an issue for people who want something a bit more involving – Producing Perfection requires no effort to play and finish. I was rarely trying to finish it on the first playthrough, as I was experimenting with the different work and lesson features, but then soon enough I found myself dominating the shares and finishing the game. Producing Perfection seems to be designed on letting the player easily get through the content, so that they can then replay the game with a different idol and see all the new scenes that comes with that. There is a stat that keeps track of all the scenes you have unlocked under various criteria, which will take a while to accomplish, but thankfully the developers have put in a skip option that will skip past all the text you have already read once.

Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is one for the hardcore fans of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series who want to see more of their favourite characters break off into another type of game. The characters are genuinely funny, the voice over work and art remains great, but when it comes to involving the player the gameplay is too close to non-existent or basic. Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection had potential to be a great idol management and music rhythm game with a cast of amusing characters, but instead turned into a purely fan service product with minimal gameplay that wouldn’t be able to use its charming characters to get a YES vote from Simon Cowell.

4/10

by

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Version tested: Vita

Developer: Compile Heart

Publisher: NIS America

Genre: Idol Simulator