The Hyperdimension Neptunia series has gone through a fair number of changes over the years. What started as a grind-heavy RPG has gone on to get spin-offs in the form of tactical RPGs, real time co-op action games, and even an idol simulation game. As the series goes on, it feels like they’re constantly looking for new ways to reinvent the charming, fourth-wall-breaking multi-media franchise wheel. Now, they’ve decided to enlist some help from overseas to put a new spin on the franchise.
Co-developed by Canadian game studio Artisan Studios, Super Neptunia RPG aims to capture the magic of old school 2D RPGs with a new side-scrolling RPG style. It’s an interesting shift, but ultimately ends up lacking in a few key areas.
As soon as I booted up Super Neptunia RPG, I felt like something was off. The title screen art appeared, but it was accompanied by an awkward silence until the logo finally slammed into place and the music started. Then, as I navigated to start a new game and pick my gameplay options, there were multi-second delays after each menu selection. It was mildly concerning to start, but quickly evolved into major concern when the prologue battle began. Super Neptunia RPG goes for a combat system similar to Valkyria Profile or Indivisible, where you have four party members each assigned to a face button. They stand on the right of the screen, while your enemy is on the left, and you each need to wait to generate action points in order to perform attacks.
As soon as I started performing attacks, I thought I was going to be sick. My characters lurched in and out of their attack animations with inconsistent speeds and overblown motion blur. As I continued to fight and sent all four characters to attack at once, I witnessed what could best be described as a slideshow slathered in Vaseline. The combat chugged along poorly, and could barely render the simple hand-drawn action that was happening on-screen.
As you get into the heart of the game and are reduced to one party member fighting one or two enemies, combat didn’t slow down nearly as much, but still had sudden starts and stops to the animations of your characters. By the end of the game though, with a full party facing off massive threats, I was back to that sluggish and miserable slideshow I had seen at the beginning of the game. To top it off, accessing any of your menus throughout the rest of the game was met with the same frustrating seconds of delay as you try to navigate them.
These performance issues are mind-boggling to me, because this isn’t some massive 3D open world experience. The entire game is a cute and simple 2D side-scrolling adventure. The art of both your characters and the environments is really gorgeous, but it’s hard to appreciate any of it due to the poor technical issues and sometimes wonky platforming controls. Jumping sometimes has a punishing delay to it, and as you come across forks in the road during your travels, you’ll often have to meticulously manoeuvre your left stick up or down and combine it with a jump just to walk along the higher path.
For many, the appeal of a Neptunia game is likely in the characters and story. Unfortunately, this aspect of Super Neptunia RPG has its own share of flaws. The game opens with your plucky and quirky protagonist Neptunia once again suffering a case of RPG amnesia. As she explores a strange new world controlled by a game-collecting group called the Bombyx Mori, she runs across her other game-console themed friends from the land of Gamindustri. Unfortunately, all of them are experiencing amnesia as well. Having each character stripped of their history and familiarity leads to some fun exchanges and clever dialogue as they awkwardly fumble through re-forming their friendships, and it’s actually surprising that this game manages to feature the most charming character interactions in a Neptunia game
Unfortunately, these fun highlights are sprinkled through an unsurprisingly generic story that seems to take pleasure in delivering mind-numbingly long exposition scenes. Countless cutscenes can go on for what feels like forever while saying very little of importance. All of the silly jokes and wild fourth-wall shenanigans in Gamindustri couldn’t save this slog of a narrative.