Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart Review

Gaming

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Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
Developers: Sting, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: February 27, 2015
Price: $39.99- Available Here

Overview
The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise has been going strong for Compile Heart and Idea Factory ever since they released the first game back in 2010. By combining light-hearted humor, often parodying the game industry, and enjoyable gameplay with a memorable cast, we’ve seen numerous core titles and spin-offs ranging from idol games to action titles be released under the franchise’s banner, not to mention manga spin-offs and even an anime adaptation. Now with a game focused more on fan favorite Noire and offering an SRPG experience, is Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart worth picking up for fans?

Story
In the land of Gamarket, the four goddesses continue to battle one another for control of the land. Players will see at the beginning that Noire has managed to obtain near complete rule with her large share percentage. Because of this, she is capable of taking on Neptune, Blanc, and Vert without much help despite having a number of generals willing to assist her.

Despite her overwhelming advantage, Noire doesn’t wish to battle against the other goddesses in order to bring peace to the land and it is here that an unknown woman (that players will recognize if they have played other Hyperdimenison Neptunia games) suggests that she wishes her hardest on the Sharicite to unite the world without the need for violence. Believing this is the answer to her struggle, she does so but something goes terribly wrong as she is left drained of nearly all of her power and her generals scatter to the winds.

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Left with no power and no allies, Noire quickly falls into despair even while monsters begin to invade Lastation. It is here that the male protagonist appears in the city and runs to Noire’s aid. Thanks to the him believing in her, Noire is capable of once again becoming Black Heart and defeating the monsters within Lastation. To help ensure things continue smoothly and to reward him, Noire makes the faceless protagonist her secretary and soon vows that with the help of Neptune, Vert, and Blanc that they will bring order back to the world.

Now, I will admit that it is rather odd that a faceless self-insert style protagonist was added to the game in order to help motivate Noire since he really only plays a comedic role and generally finds himself liked by everyone else in the group while Noire acts protective of him. It does change things up a bit which is nice but also feels like an artificial way to place the player in the story when fans already will find plenty going for them here.

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I say that because not only are the standard goddesses all back and acting just how fans love them but a whole bunch of new characters have also been added into the game. You see, Noire’s generals are all parody characters from other video game franchises or companies, including Resident Evil, Agarest War, Metal Gear, and more. Because of this they all have unique personalities and mannerisms to match their franchises and they all add some fresh new comedy to a game that is already full of great humor, making Hyperdevotion Noire‘s story one that fans will enjoy immensely, even though the actual plot line and the final boss is on the weaker side.

Gameplay
Unlike the other games in the core series, Hyperdevotion Noire is an SRPG and one that has removed dungeon exploration entirely. Instead players will find themselves based in Lastation and it is here where you can do various things such as Shop, go on missions to advance the story or side-missions to gain levels and items at the Mission HQ, use the Disc Development to create equipment that provides various buffs, make new items using obtained blueprints at the returning Item Development, view past scenes at the CPU Hotel as well as interact with other party members, and work as Noire’s secretary and also interact with her at the Basilicom which can unlock some new and fun scenes over time as you successfully give her advice on various requests and upgrade the Basilicom.

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Before selecting a mission at the Mission HQ, players will be able to equip their characters and it is interesting to note that a new element system has been added to the game. This means that players can choose to enter with a neutral element on their characters, they can now equip various elemental gems that will change the element type of that unit and the damage type they deal. This can be used to deal extra damage to enemies who are weak to that type but it is also a dangerous risk because this makes those units weak to other elemental attacks.

Once you do enter battle you’ll notice that Hyperdevotion Noire plays out like many other SRPGs with the battles taking place on a grid-based field where all of the player’s characters have a turn to move and attack before the enemies take their own turn. At the start of the match players will select what units they wish to enter into the battle, as players will quickly find that they will have plenty of spare units to choose from, though it is worth noting that most story missions require specific characters to take part in a fight and due to the way the story plays out, some characters may also be temporarily unavailable. This can sometimes lead to your stronger fighters being unavailable and having to use either weaker party members or unfamiliar ones that will need to be trained up a bit before taking on that mission.

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Actual combat plays out rather simply as players can move their characters a certain range and then attack enemies within their attack range. Attacking enemies from the side or the back deals extra damage while attacking from an elevated platform also deals extra damage. What makes the combat a bit more complicated however is the way that almost every stage has unique features such as puzzles, traps that deal damage, cause status effects that are unique but still detrimental, and sometimes players will need to do more than simply kill every enemy to complete the mission.

Another combat mechanic is the Lily system. Unlike the main games where players will partner characters up to raise the Lily rank, in Hyperdevotion Noire it is instead activated by being close to other characters in combat. For example, any time a player uses a skill, such as Noire’s starting skill Lace Ribbons, it will require a set amount of SP but if standing next to Neptune, the Lily system will activate and not only will the skill cost less SP to use but it will deal additional damage while providing Lily Points.

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These boosts, portrayed as light pecks on the cheek, are amplified by the amount of allies surrounding the character using the skill, with four being the max (though this depends on the skill’s target range) and providing a large boost. As for the Lily Points, they are required to activate not only the HDD transformations, which only last for three turns in Hyperdevotion Noire, but also are required to use a characters special attack. Since HDD transformations can be only used once per battle it is important to not carelessly waste a transformation as combat can be very difficult at times.

While the AI may not be the most intelligent early in the game, there are numerous moments throughout Hyperdevotion Noire that the difficulty will take an upswing and challenge the player even if they were breezing before previous battles. This is best countered through proper planning and completing various side-missions and replaying story missions for extra bonuses but make no mistake, while this is an easier than average SRPG it is still quite challenging so save often.

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It is worth noting that there is a New Game Plus mode that will allow you to carry over all of your levels, weapons, Lily Ranks, etc. into a new game that will allow you to either challenge a harder difficulty or have an easier time trying to obtain the True Ending for the title if you missed out on it the first time through.

Visuals & Audio
Like the rest of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, the story is presented in a visual novel style format where detailed character portraits are used to represent all of the characters. These scenes are as enjoyable as ever as the animated portraits do a satisfying job portraying each character’s emotions and I must say that the designs for many of the new characters are top notch as they parody the franchise they are derived from. There are also a number of gorgeous looking CGs, some of which are fan-service heavy of course, which is always a nice plus.

Outside of the story segments, the visuals change to a more chibi/nendoroid approach with all characters taking a cutesy minimalistic appearance with large heads on small bodies. This style works well and although a lot of re-skinned enemies make their way onto the battlefield, the battlefields are widely varied and there are some fun themed ones mixed in as well.

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As for the voice work, Hyperdevotion Noire comes with both the English and original Japanese voice tracks and all of the English voice actors have returned to voice their characters while the new characters fit in perfectly fine. Unfortunately, other than an enjoyable opening song and a few small themes, the rest of the background music sounds like recycled tunes from the original games, which is fine but it would have been nice to change things up a bit more.

Overall
Compile Heart took a bit of a risk taking and making a spin-off utilizing such different gameplay elements from the main series but that risk has paid off as Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart’s new mechanics make for an enjoyable gameplay experience to coincide with a fun, albeit lightly structured, storyline that fans will love as well as a bunch of great new characters. It might not be the hardest SRPG and the addition of the male secretary feels a bit tacked on, but Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black is an easy recommendation.

8-5-capsules-out-of-10
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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