Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2
Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Price: $49.99 – Available Here
Last year a game was released that looked at the fourth wall of videogaming and smashed it with an brightly colored hammer. It was in no way subtle about the satire that it was filled with, and turned out to be the most original title released in recent years. I’m speaking of course about Hyperdimension Neptunia. The developers of this title decided that one was not enough however and have released, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. NIS America has brought us this newly released game with all of its various improvements. Does it still contain all of the same charm we remember while expanding upon the game’s core features?
We enter the world of Gamindustri once again and this time around things have not gone for the Console Patron Units (CPUs) against the nefarious Arfoire. All of them have been defeated in battle and have been imprisoned. With no one left to put an end to her efforts, the world has become a place full of people that care little for buying things, instead opting for free entertainment via piracy and other illegal means.
Three years have passed since the fall of the CPUs and two familiar characters, IF and Compa, return to try and rescue their friends in an effort to save the world and put an end to Arfoire. Unfortunately they are only able to save Neptune’s younger sister Nepgear before they must retreat before an unbeatable enemy. With all of the other CPUs held prisoner and the world caring little for companies who sell products anymore, Nepgear, IF, Compa must try to sway public opinion and save Neptune and the other CPUs.
As far as storylines go, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 isn’t too original, especially for an anime styled game. However this is saved due to the fact that all of the characters that players meet and join up with are full of life and a joy to talk with. However while the characters are stupendous in their own right, one of the biggest highlights of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is the vast amount of video game references all throughout the game.
For example, Arfoire is a blatant reference to the R4 card that is used to pirate games on the DS, while all of the CPU units are references to real life consoles. To make things even more interesting, all of the CPU candidates are references to their real life counterparts. Neptune’s sister is Nepgear, while Blanc has twin sisters in the form of Ram and Rom, and Noire’s younger sister Uni. Each of these characters represents a handheld version of a real life console. That is only the tip of the iceberg however, as the game does very little to mask its video game references, leaving them out in the open for the enjoyment of everyone, especially with the appearance of Keiji Inafune.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 retains its anime styled artwork which is a huge plus for the game as a whole. It also is full of plenty of bright colors ranging from all over the color spectrum, making it one of the most colorful games you will play for a long time. All of the environments you make your way through are great to look at with a decent amount of detail and plenty of charm. Monsters still remain a bit basic with their design and a few are recycled from the past game unfortunately.
Each of the characters have different designs and are expressive and animated, even during dialogue sections. As before most of the game’s story is told through Visual novel style with 3D character models and occasionally 2D portraits for less important scenes. These portraits and models are as charming as players may remember and all of the new characters have appealing designs that keep to the game’s aesthetic.
One of the new additions to the game is the ability to customize the appearance of the gear Nepgear wears when she goes into Hard Drive Divinity mode. This allows you to completely edit the colors of her equipment in any way you want, providing a nice bit of customization where there was none before.
Whenever a JRPG makes its way to North American shores there is always a question that will be asked by serious consumers. Will this game have the original Japanese dub included with release? Well there is good news for those people; Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 does indeed contain both the English and Japanese dubs. This option is easily switched back and forth, though for this game players may want to stick with the Japanese dub.
By no means is the English voice work provided by the voice actors bad, in fact they do a very good job with the voice actors fitting the characters perfectly, there just isn’t enough of it. There are a number of pieces of dialogue that aren’t given any English voicework, now while most of these non-voiced sections are mostly side-content, it is disappointing to hear that most of these sections are given a Japanese dub still, despite there being no English counterpart.
As far as the soundtrack for the game goes, it is just as enjoyable as the first titles background music. Players will be introduced to the game when they turn it on with an enjoyable theme song and given plenty of catchy background music throughout the rest of the game.
While the first Hyperdimension Neptunia was great in its own way, a large amount of changes have been made to various gameplay features to create a brand new experience for those who pick up Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. One of the first things players will notice is that they can now traverse a world map with a nifty 8-bit Nepgear and make their way to various dungeons and towns.
The towns themselves have been modified slightly, with the ability to create your own items via synthesis which is an enjoyable mechanic that rewards players for gathering ingredients with stronger and more useful items. Also added into towns is a social media network called the Chirper (hint hint). Chirper is the in-game social network that provides various video game references on its own but also allows players to start certain events with their party members and deepen their relationship with them. Besides these new additions, Towns still feature an item shop where you can purchase and sell gear and a place to take and turn in various quests.
Now one of the issues inherent with a JRPG is the amount of grinding that one would have to do to advance the story. Thankfully Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 avoids this mostly, as players will not have to do too much level grinding of their own. That is usually due to the fact that a lot of the quests you will be receiving can be extremely repetitive and limiting. These quests can be done as many times as you like, however they can be very limiting. Nearly every quest that you are sent off to do will involve Neptune, the other CPU candidates and friends to kill off a certain amount of monsters, collect a certain amount of items from the field or gather items from killing monsters. The repetitiveness of the quests is a drawback; however this drawback is alleviated slightly due to the new and improved battle system.
As you make your way through a dungeon, you will no longer just randomly encounter enemies as you roam around a linear dungeon. Instead enemies will be free roaming around said dungeons which are also now more open and a bit more expansive, providing a bit more freedom of movement compared to the first title.
When players wish to enter combat with a monster, they simply need to bump into the monster as it walks around the field, or let the monster come at them. Players can also preemptively attack monsters, allowing them to either gain the advantage in combat or even kill an enemy instantly if the player is a stronger level. This latter addition is a great improvement to the system, as it makes dungeon crawling much faster in lower leveled areas by ending battles instantly rather than forcing players to encounter low leveled creatures and enter zero challenge battles.
As players enter battle they will be treated to the same type of turn based combat they are used to, including a combo-system. However a number of changes have been made to this system, with the biggest change allowing players to move characters freely around a battlefield within a certain range. This range shrinks as you use attacks, items or skills. As you fight you will use up AP to perform attacks and use both AP and SP to perform various skills. SP is gained from performing attacks and carries over between battles in the same dungeon. All of the CPUs and CPU Candidates like Nepgear can still perform the Hard Drive Divinity mode which boosts their stats and allows them to perform stronger attacks. This mode also consumes SP but is very advantageous for a fight.
Stringing together combos is also much easier than before, as all of the combo attacks are now centered onto three categories; these categories being Rush, Heavy and Break attacks. Players can still customize their combos and will be able to do so much easier than in the past game. Rush attacks increase the players hit count by performing more than one attack at a time, Heavy attacks deal more damage at the sacrifice of AP and Break attacks dwindle the enemy’s Guard Gauge faster. The Guard Gauge returns as well, but with no adjustments as it still allows enemies to be weakened and easily defeated.
Fighting and performing well with other characters not only helps you level up and complete various quests, it also works towards improving another essential mechanic as well. The Lily Rank system allows you to tell how your various party members are feeling towards Nepgear. The Lily Ranking can be improved from combat, talking to them via Chirper events and by using them as a Partner in battle via the Partnering system. The partner system allows players to partner with other characters, giving the fighting character stat boosts and even the ability to use certain skills.
Now those who look at the game’s box art may notice an M rating while the last game was only given a T rating. Now while Hyperdimension Neptunia contained plenty of suggestive themes… well a lot of suggestive themes to be honest, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 has plenty more which are taken a little bit further than originally, especially with some of the CG artwork. Nothing too offensive is included and most people will simply enjoy these themes for what they are and have a good time with the game.
Those who simply pass up this title thanks to its higher rating would be missing out on quite a game. One that stands upon the shoulders of the original and reaches new heights. Plenty of modifications and additions to Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2’s formula have made for satisfying and enjoying combat with an enjoyable cast of characters and plenty of video game humor. Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is an engrossing JRPG that doesn’t hold anything back, surpassing the original in nearly every way.