Clever dialog, cute goddesses, snappy visuals – what more could you want from Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2? A peppy battle system and less plodding story, that’s what. Well, at least that’s what I personally wanted after playing the first Neptunia game last year. I will admit, I was a bit worried going into this second title that some things may not have improved as much as I would have liked. I love nothing more than to give a new franchise – and a JRPG at that – some great marks.
Did this sequel to last year’s rather original title live up to my expectation and fix the wrongs committed previously? Follow along and see.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk-2 (mark 2, for those who didn’t put that together) picks up three years after the end of the previous title. Gamindustri’s villain, Arfoire, has been defeated, but a force that grew up after those events still follow in her wake – ASIC, or the Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime. The original CPUs (Console Patron Units) and Neptune’s sister, Nepgear, travel to the Gamindustri Graveyard to combat ASIC and hopefully rid the world of their influence once and for all. Unfortunately, the goddesses are overpowered and captured. Compa and IF, two of the main party members from the previous game, come to rescue them. Unfortunately, the only person they are able to free is Nepgear.
Barely escaping the area with their lives, the three vow to combat ASIC and save the world of Gamindustri once again. In those past three years ASIC has spread and they are actually in control of the majority of the world’s shares. The goal is to take back those shares by performing good deeds (quests) while, at the same time, searching for clues as to how to save the original CPUs.
Yes, to someone who hasn’t played the first game, I’m very aware that the last two paragraphs have been nothing but nonsense. Unfortunately, the game itself doesn’t do a stellar job of recapping the previous story and how things relate to this new one. Thankfully, however, once you get into this story, it progresses at a much better clip than the previous game.
I absolutely love the concept of this story, putting the real-world game industry and piracy into a setting where various companies, products and movements are represented by characters. I loved it before and I still love it. It’s one of the most unique ideas for a game story I’ve seen in a very long time, and that’s a breath of fresh air among all the rehashed and predictable narratives of some of the more popular titles. The bonus is that the pacing is very well done this time around and it never feels like you’re standing still in the story, even when you take breaks from it to work on some side questing.
All the characters we know and love from the first game are back, including my favorite, IF (or Iffy). There’s also Compa, Nisa, Gust and, of course, our heroine, Nepgear. Many of the relationships are already established, especially between Compa and IF, which leads to some of the game’s best dialog. Nepgear, like her sister before her, may seem innocent, but the dialog she presents throughout the game shows an oddly wise and intellectual individual, possibly attempting to set aside the stereotype that most moe-themed anime girls tend to have in these forms of media.
While the story is, in a way, fairly convoluted, there’s something about it that makes me smile the whole way through. The characters and dialog combine to make a unique, yet somewhat lacking, story into something that is actually fun to play, if only to see what the characters will do or say next.
While the English voice acting and music may not be anything outstanding, the audio does fit with the overall visual representation of the game industry and the fun, upbeat way in which things are displayed and played out on-screen. The voice acting in particular is a bit wonky at times. Some characters, such as Nepgear and IF, are actually pretty good, while others like Compa and Nisa are either way too grating or a bit over the top. However, regardless of the quality of the acting itself, each character’s voice represents them very well, and the way they’re portrayed in the game’s story.
Note also that the game offers the easy transition between English and Japanese voice acting, but, again, the use of the voice acting itself is rather random. Some important story segments have it, some don’t, and no optional dialog events include voice acting, unfortunately. I realize this is a time and money saver for the localization team, however it is a rather annoying issue that I really wish would be corrected with these niche titles.
Just like the first game, the highlight of the entire experience is the dialog. There are so many video game parodies, references and nuances in the dialog that it is an absolute joy to listen to, even though the voice acting might at times be a bit off.
Throughout the game, your characters move around to different locations on a world map of sorts. As the story progresses, various new areas are unlocked. Not all areas are required for story progression; there are some merely there as an area to complete side quests.
What disappointed me a bit was that, while there are major towns, when you visit all they consist of is a grid with little nendoroid-type characters displayed, which I assume are the town’s citizens. Then you’re given a list of services you can hit up while you’re there.
You have your typical shopping and sythesizing (which actually works very similar to crafting in the Atelier titles). But you also have Chirper, which is the game’s play on Twitter, where you can check out what the city folk are talking about. Sometimes, if you read enough of their chatter, you’ll get special event sequences that pop up.
While I found this an interesting feature, those event sequences showed up too sparsely to justify me going there each time a major story event happened just to see if something new was available. It actually became quite tedious. However, if you take part in these, your affection with various party members may increase, depending on who’s involved in the little dialog sequence.
Finally, the last service available in town is the guild, and this is the location you’ll probably be using the most on your adventures. It’s where you acquire all the quests you need to take back shares from ASIC and move them toward the region’s inhabitants. These quests come in two rather cliche varieties – kill quests and gathering quests.
While you can repeat the same quests over and over many times, this does get tiresome as there is very little variety. It also bothers me that, at times, more difficult quests pop up that you have no hope of completing at the time they can be accepted, so they sit in your log for hours and hours of play time, taunting you like the bully who stole your lunch money in junior high.