Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is the first strategy RPG in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. As may be apparent, Black Heart is a Japanese game that although faithfully localised, is almost impossible for a western audience to understand. The explosive heavy opening wouldn’t be so difficult to understand if the plot line was at all comprehensible, but with its complete lack of anything graspable, you’ll just be staring in dizzying wonder.
Unlike previous games, Black Heart is not set within the world of Gamindustri, but instead within a similar but separate world known as Gamarket. The goddesses of each of the four nations battle against one another for hegemony over the world day by day, however just as the main character Noire is one step away from complete domination, the goddesses’ powers are robbed by an unknown force. In order to save the world from destruction, the four goddesses cooperate with one another with the aim of unifying Gamarket.
Each Goddess has two outfits, ‘causal’ dress and ‘battle’ dress and both are equally skimpy and it’s up to you to get your army of 26 characters through every isometric grid of battle, dropping enemies with Lily Boost-enhanced skills and avoiding the traps on the maps. The art style is really crisp, with bright, vibrant colours and very clean lines that contrast and focus the gaze well. But when the game attempts to have you staring at pixelated, cartoon cleavage, it’s all a little uncomfortable. This overt voyeurism wouldn’t be so obvious if the game didn’t start with over twenty minutes of conversations before you finally get your first battle.
I was surprised by the fully voiced, English-speaking cast, as I assumed such a niche title wouldn’t take out such an expensive treatment. Though you’ll find yourself laughing out loud at the outrageous dialogue which fills out each overly long conversation. In fact, you’d better find it funny, because you’ll be dealing with a lot of it. Between every battle is a lot of laboured, melodramatic dialogue, and after a while you’ll be skipping through it at a cheetahs pace to try to get to the actual gameplay, however semi invested your were.
It’s a shame the B-movie dialogue isn’t enough to hold your attention as the battles, however few and far between they are, are entertaining but nothing special. It’s clever change to reduce the anime characters to chibi forms in combat, though the overall cuteness could put off some. Its turn based, which lets the player add some level of tactics to an otherwise monstrously nonsensical world. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for the tactics to have any meaning on the battlefield, as wading into the thick of it is just as effective as manoeuvring around the perimeter. Though once you’ve collected a few skills and friends to fight alongside, the battles can feel epic in scale. It’s a strange feeling when confronting the adorable miniatures on-screen as you celebrate a well deserved and somewhat cerebral victory.
It’s a tragedy that the game couldn’t have brought this level of intelligent and thoughtful combat to the fray before the drawn out, poorly focused story, which is the anchor that drags this game down. It’s hard to push through the initial few hours of the game to start grasping at a system that is as enjoyable as some of the other most tactical games out there for Vita, and honestly I was even close to packing it in.
With nearly a dozen allies on the battlefield you’ll be balancing passive buffs and offensives strikes, all while juggling a shifting frontline, enemy weakness and healing your team. With its turn based focus you’ll have all the time in the world to get your plan sorted out, but the tedium can lead to recklessness if you’re not in the mood to configure every move to the greater plan.
Hyper Devotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a is a not great game. It’s the game you can put down after one attempt and never pick it up again. It a game that flaunts a strange and unwarranted ‘sexiness’ to the player for no known reason. It’s a game with almost no plot that refuses to the drop the act in any manner. It’s a game that takes hours to get off the ground. Despite its impressive visuals and decent late game combat, Black Heart is difficult to recommend. Its one shining example of greatness to weighed down and drowned in a sea of mediocre and waffle.
If you’re a fan of Japanese games there are hosts of better ones available on the vita that outmatch Black Heart in nearly every manner. If you’re a fan of tactical games there are ones that have much more gameplay and replayability; and if you’re after a beautiful game there’s ones with a lot more depth than this buffet of girls in skimpy outfits.
The tragedy with Hyper Devotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart isn’t that the world is in peril, it isn’t even the ridiculous name; it’s the sad fact that for all the effort that went into making it, there’s no sense of why it was made at all.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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