I must admit that the fictional tongue-in-cheek, semi-satirical humor and themes based on the goings-on of the game industry and console wars which are prevalent in each of the Hyperdimension Neptunia games stories still manages to elude me. As is typical in these games, four hero characters loosely representing each of the popular gaming consoles (PlayStation, XBOX, Wii and Sega?) are either fighting each other for popularity or dominance over a territory called “Gamindustri”–pun intended, or else teaming up to fight a common enemy like game software piracy in order to save the world, as was the case in one of the Neptunia titles. Art imitates ‘gaming’ life.
While the narrative and humor continues to fail to hit its mark with me, I still enjoy the games at face value for their vividly colorful visual flair, art design and gameplay—basically, they are very Japanime infused games, which I’m a big fan of and making it all bite-sized and portable makes it all the better. As much as these games like to push the humor and narrative to the forefront, sometimes burying the story in the background and just letting you get right to the action does these games a greater service. This was the case with the last portable Neptunia game I played on PSVita called Hyperdevotion Noire, which was a slow, turn-based tactical role-playing game similar to Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics that actually turned out pretty well considering the departure from the more action oriented formula which mostly succeeded because the game was distilled down to basic combat system and interesting maps and level designs instead of narrative. You could take or leave the story and still enjoy a good game. The game featured a supporting cast of characters representing different gaming genres like horror, RPGs sports, etc as added fanfare instead of focusing on the typical four heroes representing the “console wars” and their personal problems, although this has become a staple as well. Now, in the newest portable game by Compile Heart, Neptunia and friends join together to save Gamindustri once again but this time in the form of a pure button mashing, horde fighting action game heavily influence by Dynasty Warriors called Hyperdemension Neptunia U Action Unleashed– and it is also really great!
This time around the story is very simple and befitting of the game’s straight-to-the-action approach. The theme of this game revolves around video game journalism and two characters representing games journalists, named Famitsu and Dengekiko task the CPUs (or the veteran heroines of the series– Neptune, Noir, Blanc, Vert) and their sibling (CPU candidates– Nepgear, Uni, Rom and Ram) with completing mission quests around Gamindustri in order to report and write articles about them, which bring them fame and gratitude from the people. The game features 10 playable characters total, including Famitsu and Dengekiko, who all specialize in unique weapons and skills that they show off with dazzling flair as they hack and slash, spin, dash and unleash super moves sending waves of enemies into the air through a number of colorful dungeons representing the different regions of Gamindustri.
The game doesn’t offer any form of crafting options whatsoever but instead features a more streamlined character progression system. Character experience leveling, equipment and weapons upgrades are all tied to farming or grinding and reaching milestones after eliminating a certain number of enemies which rewards your characters with stat upgrades like higher HP and defense which are distributed evenly across the board among all characters once unlocked, however character EXP is only earned individually, so you will be required to grind with other characters to get them to catch up if you find yourself neglecting them for too long, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the game provides constant waves of enemies to battle through and missions are repayable so you’ll be leveling in no time. All of the characters are pretty well balanced and I didn’t have issue playing with any one of them and they all have the ability to use super attacks and transformations if they might seem weak to play with at first, so even the seemingly weakest character has a fighting chance. Plus, enemies are constantly dropping recovery items on the field to keep your health up, and if you find yourself in a bind with low health you can always tag your partner in from standby to keep the fight alive.
I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that the opportunity to address an issue in real “games journalism” today, sexism, or the issue of women in the industry as a whole or their portrayal in video games to be more specific, was completely wasted here for a game that’s supposedly themed around games journalism—or was it? One of the features that the game flaunts in your face is clothes tearing. When any of your characters takes too much damage their clothes tear to shreds and you are treated to a slow-motion close-up of the playable character attempting to cover up their semi-nude bodies in embarrassment. Of course, you can equip clothing that makes it harder to tear clothing as you progress through the game but it’s unavoidable. It almost feels as if this game was offered up as bait for internet trolls, like game art imitating game life?
“Social justice warrior”, “sexism” and wasted opportunities aside, in all seriousness, I still find the game at its core to be really quite fun, addictive and perfect for the PSVITA. Its colors pop on the glorious PSVITA screen, feels upbeat and happy with its mix of electro JPOP beats and metal tracks, featuring streamlined button mashing action and dungeons that are varied in design– bite-sized for replay and just big enough to contain all of the action. It’s a light Dynastry Warriors-like and it’s good.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation VITA version of Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed produced by Compile Heart and developed by Tamsoft.
- 10 Weapon Classes
- Horde Action
- Weak Narrative
- Lacks Customization Features