Many people don’t know this, but I once dabbled in writing a tongue-in-cheek story about a fantasy world that mimicked the world of gaming. I actually wrote a lot, but it never really went beyond the eyes of close friends. This was long before I heard about the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, but this ongoing RPG for PlayStation has taken that concept and run with it.
Super Neptunia RPG is a spin-off from the main series that turns the perspective into a 2D side-scrolling RPG with platforming elements. It’s also the first time the game has been developed by a western studio. Does this combination make for a good entry point into the series, or is this a casualty of the console wars? Let’s find out.
Humor for Gamers, RPG Gameplay For All
Set in the world of Gamindustri, Super Neptunia RPG takes place in a world where people are divided into kingdoms based on the CPU they choose to align themselves with. There’s Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, and Leanbox, which represent a canceled Sega Neptune console, PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox accordingly.
In past titles, the focus was on a console war, but Super Neptunia RPG takes things in a different direction. You play as series regular Neptune, but she’s awoken in a strange place without her memories (a classic RPG trope they poke fun at).
Trapped in a 2D realm, Neptune (otherwise known as Nep) sets out to uncover the truth behind her situation and stop a villain from destroying 3D titles. People in this part of the world are forced to pay taxes in the form of bland video games printed on cartridges of all things.
The entire tone and span of the story is about making meta gaming jokes. As a lifelong gamer, I really enjoyed this sense of humor, and it honestly made me want to check out some of the main titles when I find the time.
Story is delivered via voiced dialogue, visual novel style scenes, and text boxes with NPCs in towns or dungeons. It’s the kind of story you’re not meant to read too much into, but the way it weaves gaming industry tropes and jokes into the narrative is something gamers will most certainly enjoy.
Gameplay is 2D this time around, and combines combat with platforming. I’ll start with the latter, which is how you’ll explore dungeons. The layout and feel of the game’s areas are easy to understand, but offer multiple paths to find hidden areas or treasure. The map you can access in dungeons does a great job of conveying the various paths forward and where you current stand.
While the platforming is never taxing, I will say that the controls were a mixed bag for me. Nep moves quickly enough to get through each area in a reasonable amount of time, but the jumping feels less responsive than it should be. When I did inevitably fail a jump, it took a few button presses before I could reliably try the jump again, almost as if there’s a delay on your jumping after your respawn.
This led to moments of frustration when a simple jump turned into a fight with the controls. A double jump later on fixes the issue almost entirely, but those first several hours tested by patience in the platforming department.
NPCs in both the town and dungeons offer a wide range of side quests, but unfortunately they mostly boil down to collecting items and bringing them back. They weren’t compelling enough to make them anything more than a checklist in my eyes. I always prefer side quests that add to the world or at least feel like they have variety. There’s very little of that in Super Neptunia RPG’s side quests.
In terms of equipment, Super Neptunia RPG has slick menus that allow you to quickly equip your characters with weapons and items. Like many other RPGs, certain pieces of equipment will have skills associated with them. Keeping them equipped until you permanently learn the skill lets you swap out the item without losing the ability, but if you unequip it too early, you lose the skill.
It’s a tried and true mechanic that adds weight to your equipment and lets you weigh your options before switching to something new. You also get the opportunity to arrange your party members in a formation, with different abilities available to you based on the positioning of your teammates.
You can make swaps during combat to the formation as well. When you get into battles with enemies that appear while exploring the dungeon, the real fun begins. Each of your party members are assigned to a face button, and a climbing action point gauge lets you deploy abilities or strikes in real-time.
This creates an engaging and action-packed battle system that constantly keeps you on your toes. Special abilities also unlock with a break attack meter, further enhancing your strategy. As I mentioned earlier, the placement of your team also dictates which attack or ability they will use, so it’s never just about mashing buttons.
Things can get chaotic as you progress, but once you settle into the feel of combat, you’ll find that it always provides a thrill. I also love when Nep hums the Final Fantasy victory theme after fights.
While I had some small qualms with the exploration and platforming, the overall package here is very solid. It’s not spectacular, as the side quests could have been more engaging, but it provides a fun meta RPG for gamers to explore.
Superb Visuals, Mixed Animation
The actual art, from characters to environments, is stellar in Super Neptunia RPG. English voice acting is fine, if a little repetitive. Nep likes to say something almost every time you jump, for example, which can get annoying if you’re having issues with the platforming controls.
Dungeons have lavish and colorful art that brings to mind artistic masterpieces like Odin Sphere and Valkyrie Profile, so Super Neptunia RPG is certainly a treat for the eyes. Animations range from smooth and detailed, to somewhat choppy during exploration.
While I have little experience with the main series (something I hope to remedy), Super Neptunia RPG is a great little spin-off that combines excellent combat with mostly solid story and exploration. If you are looking for a lighter, more casual RPG experience that taps into gamer humor, this one’s sure to be a good fit.
Final Score: 7.0/10
A copy of Super Neptunia RPG was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 6/24/19