Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed PC Review
Another month, another Neptunia game; if Compile Heart isn’t churning over yet another new installment of the short-running yet bi-annual Neptunia franchise, they’re most likely re-releasing one of the previous games on either consoles, handhelds, or PC. This time, it’s the PC’s turn to receive a handheld port with the re-release of Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed. What does the U stand for? An in-joke about how the series has never found its way onto the Wii U, a joke that undoubtedly only Compile Heart finds hilarious.
Originally released on the Playstation Vita, Neptunia U is a spinoff title developed by Tamsoft, because if any developer knows about milking a franchise, it’s the folks behind Senran Kagura. This non-canonical story (yes, they actually do preface this) involves the CPUs and CPU Candidates of the Neptunia series being gathered together by Famitsu and Dengekiko, two journalists unsubtly based on two of Japan’s biggest gaming magazines. The two journalists have been tasked with following the daily lives of Neptune and friends, from their all-night gaming sessions to their eventual field work of slaying monsters to keep the peace in their respective districts. Being a mission-based action title, most tasks are brief single-goal missions, while lengthy event cutscenes progress the story….eventually. Most people will notice the stark contrast between the fast-paced missions, which tend to last no more than five minutes, and the endless droning of the characters as they engage in pointless banter that feels lengthier than a Metal Gear cutscene.
The gameplay portion borrows much from Senran Kagura, which in itself owes much inspiration from Musou titles like Dynasty Warriors; most missions simply require players to mash buttons in order to take out waves of enemies, most of which are trivial cannon fodder until the slightly more aggressive boss appears. One element that is borrowed entirely from Senran Kagura is the ability to have the all-female cast have their clothing destroyed during battle, which is either going to horrify or excite players (or both) depending where they fall in the fanservice spectrum. Fortunately, once enough energy is gathered, the characters can transform into their HDD counterparts, regaining a modicum of modesty back while also dealing out double the punishment.
In a nutshell, Neptunia U’s combat is just as mindless as the majority of Musou titles, but lacks the same vindication in slaughtering thousands of enemies per map; the number of foes filling up the stages feels paltry, and dishing out screen-filling combos does not feel nearly as satisfactory. What’s worse, the PC version doesn’t quite meet the technical standards of previous Neptunia ports; while the game does benefit from a 60 fps improvement as well as quicker loading times, just as previous Neptunia games did, the visual quality is noticeably muddier. The PC version also suffers in the sound department, with many sound effects either missing or almost silent, which further takes away from the satisfaction of the Anime-inspired combo attacks.
On the other hand, the cutscenes remain entirely intact, though it’s hard to imagine even the most diehard Nep-Nep fans tolerating the ridiculous amounts of pointless banter found in this game. In addition to the main storyline, there are bonus conversations that consist of the characters engaging in their usual quirks, from Neptune’s laziness to Vert’s obsession with videogames. These slice of life moments could have been amusing moments of fanservice, were they not so dull and unending; you could cut the length of each cutscene by one-third and not miss anything important. At least the character models are the best they’ve ever been animated thanks to Tamsoft’s impressive animation techniques, which also means that every single character has infinite jiggle physics no matter the chest size or garment.
All in all, Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed was a decent distraction on handhelds, but a harder sell on PC when compared to the number of alternatives available, both from its own franchise and the Musou genre in general. Diehard fans will undoubtedly waste countless hours getting top ranks and unlocking all of the extras, which requires no skill at all but plenty of soul-crushing grinding to achieve. Anyone else would be better off sticking to the few earnest recommendations of this series as well as Compile Heart games in general (which would be Fairy Fencer F, Neptunia VII and Hyperdevotion Noire, which will undoubtedly be ported next).