Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Idea Factory
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
With SOPA, PIPA and other anti-piracy measures grabbing headlines worldwide, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 finds itself in a rather interesting place. While the original Hyperdimension Neptunia touched on the idea of software piracy, the follow-up takes the problem on at full throttle. However, don't expect a hard-hitting look at the issue; as was the case with the first game, the approach is more comical than serious with an anime-inspired JRPG bit of gameplay.

The original game looked okay, but when it came to presentation, it was the character designs that really stood out - but for all the wrong reasons. When it comes to JRPGs, the idea of scantily clad anime girls is something you just expect. Hyperdimension Neptunia took this concept and blew it up. I think I actually described the feeling as "icky," which did a good job of summing up the game's reliance on innuendo and suggestive themes.

To its credit, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 rarely gets too "icky," though it does toss up an interesting mix of visuals - such as still animations where nothing moves but the character's chest. However, these smaller details are actually a good thing. What the game lacks in big visual presentation it absolutely nails in the smaller details. Whether its equipment showing up on character models, the tiny character touches in animations, or numerous game/ geek-related references embedded in the game's world, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 does it right.

Audio isn't much different than any other JRPG. If you've heard one cheery, synth'd out song, you've heard them all. Yet, that issue isn't a major point for most fans. For them, the choice between English and Japanese voice tracks is usually all that matters. Both are available and are okay for what they are. I tended to skip through a lot of the spoken parts (I read faster than some characters talk), but got a heavy dose of dialogue during fights. Voices seem to fit, though the endless "helium-filled" battle cries can get annoying if you're not a major anime viewer.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2's premise is just as entertaining as the first game. While the original focused on the "Console Wars" between the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and a fictional Dreamcast follow-up called the Neptune, the second game shines a light on the issue of piracy, a major theme from the first game.

The game opens with the original console "Goddesses" locked in battle with a follower of Arfoire, a character based on the DS piracy device, the R4 card. The Goddesses were able to destroy Arfoire at the end of the first game, but her death left the door open for a cult of followers. With the Goddesses out of commission, people flock to the cults, lured by the idea of free software. When the cults set out to resurrect Arfoire, it falls on a group of CPU Candidates (based on handhelds, rather than consoles) to win back people's faith and keep the world of Gameindustri safe.

Compared to the original, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is much smarter about including references to game culture. You'll see enemies based on Mario's iconic pipes, Pac-Man's ghosts and other "classic" gaming icons. It would have been really easy for the developers to go wild with references, but they did a great job of including enough to entertain players without overdoing it.

While the references and story concept might appeal to a number of players, the gameplay will likely shut out all but the most ardent of RPG fanatics. Similar to the first game, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a hardcore JRPG. While story missions are a big part of the game, most of your time is spent completing the same series of quests. On one hand, you'll come to love the quests since they offer some direction while grinding through levels, but it gets tiresome when you see a quest return to the Active list once you've completed it. On the plus side, dungeons are usually short, though multiple exits would have been great and cut down on the amount of backtracking required.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 fixes several of the first game's problems. It isn't an easy game by any stretch, but many of the smaller annoyances have been worked out of the system, though sometimes not for the best. For one, the XP gap between levels is slightly smaller. You'll still have to grind your way through most of the game, though it's slightly more manageable this time around. Money is also abundant, probably too abundant. I can't remember ever trying to scrounge around for money and was always able to buy the best gear and still keep my bank account healthy.

My biggest gripe involved the combat interface. Each command is tied to a face button. It's an okay setup, except the Item tab is hidden on the second "tier" of the command bar. The second tier is only a shoulder-button press away, but it seems like a bit of a hassle considering how often you use it during battles. By comparison, the CPU transformation button is always on top, which is odd considering only a handful of characters can use it. It is incredibly easy to forget about the Item tab during combat, which in turn makes battles seem harder than they really are.

Game Mechanics:
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 offers a near complete revamp over the first game. You can now move around the battlefield, offering new strategic options. This works particularly well with the new attack system. Each character has three main attacks - "Quick", "Powerful" or "Guard Break" - you can link together during your attack phase. Attack points limit you, but if you're particularly good about your strategy, you can sometimes inflict damage on multiple enemies at a time.

As your character levels, you'll unlock EX attacks. During an attack, an "EX" appears near an attack command. Hitting the correct attacks unleashes a special bonus attack at the end of your attack string. Although the system seems to encourage button-mashing, you'll want to take your time selecting attacks since it is easy to blow past the "EX" markers. The extra damage is important, especially against bosses or large mobs of enemies.

You also have access to character-specific attacks, which are tied to an Ability/ Skill Point system. Knowing when you can use your moves is a bit tricky at first, especially since some attacks aren't available at certain times. Even after going through the tutorial, I'm still a bit in the dark as to the specifics, but I can say the skills you need the most (healing, for instance) are always available when you need them, so even if you, like me, can't figure out the specifics, it is still a workable system.

Certain characters can access a special CPU mode during combat. In the previous game, you transformed during certain attacks, though now you have to activate the mode. Once activated, CPU mode continuously drains Skill Points, though you'll dole out lots of damage while in the mode. Unfortunately, getting enough SP is a bit of a slog, at least in the early going.

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 will appeal to the same slice of the gaming community that went for the original - hardcore JRPG fans. Casual RPG fans may find something to like, though the emphasis on level grinding and general anime feel may be a turn off.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.