As a Vita owner, I’d always seen the Hyperdimension Neptunia series rated as one of the better RPG series on the console. While, I’d never gotten into them myself, I was always curious. So, when the opportunity arose to review Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed on PC (from Tamsoft and Idea Factory), I jumped at it.
Rather than a turn-based JRPG, like most of the series, Action Unleashed is a Dynasty Warriors-style Hack’nSlash game. It follows the same basic premise of the Dynasty Warriors games surprisingly closely, and because of this, runs into many of the same pitfalls those games do. Unlike those games, though, Hyperdimension has no deep move combination mechanics to keep combat as engaging. The move sets that each character has is limited to one light combo, one heavy combo, and an enraged mode that changes them for a short time. And while there are quite a few characters to play with, as you’d guess, this gets old quick. Killing hordes of enemies can still be quite enjoyable and empowering, but it gets repetitive way too quickly to be so for long. After a couple of hours, I was already longing for the experience to end, because I felt like I had experienced all the game had to offer.
The story premise here is a play on the game industry. Every character is a play on a magazine like Famitsu, or company like Nintendo. The main characters are journalists who want to write about the other characters exploits during quests. I’ve managed to explain the story and characters in 2 sentences, however, the game takes much, much longer to do the job. There is so much dialogue to say so little, that I quickly found myself skipping it entirely. The game industry jokes and puns quickly got more on my nerves than made me laugh, and this was all the more true when it would comment on issues that the game itself was forcing me to do. The game is broken up into generic quests. These serve a purpose in the story and the characters love to talk about doing these quests, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they are still boring and repetitive. So, instead of the writing breaking the 4th wall effectively or the game play being mindlessly fun, this combination makes both less enjoyable.
The game’s cast is also nearly entirely made up of teen girls, and this is quickly taken advantage of. During fights, they can become scantily clad. And there are many situations throughout the story that are similar. To fans of the series, this may be enjoyable, but I found it to be nothing more than annoying. It makes an already long script even longer, and makes the story even less worth caring about.
The graphics here are nothing to write home about, and are generally pretty generic. It’s a port of a Vita game, and you can tell. This extends to the controls and sound as well. The default key bindings didn’t make much sense, but there were enough options to fix it that I wasn’t bothered much after the initial setup. There are also sound options to disable voice overs that you’d rather not here. This is great, because these quickly become annoying, especially during combat. There might be 2 or 3 total combat lines that are said per player, and these are repeated nearly every successful combo. This quickly becomes a test of the player’s patience. So, it’s nice to see there’s an option to turn these off. Beyond voice acting, the sound and music is generic, too. There isn’t any catchy composing or atmosphere being set here. Sound effects aren’t especially satisfying or helping to create immersion. They are both just kind of there.
All in all, Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is an okay spin-off port of a niche JRPG series. The game is mildly fun for a few hours, but quickly loses any appeal it had due to lack of depth and poor, overdone dialogue. There is appeal here for fans of the series, but there isn’t for someone looking to try it for the first time. If you are a fan of Dynasty Warriors games, play one of those instead. If you’re a fan of JRPGs, there are better games out there.
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