Awesome Strategy RPG gameplay for those of us that suck at them
Of all of the Playstation Vita Neptunia games to be released to Sony’s handheld in 2015, my very favorite of them all has to have been the one that doesn’t have Neptunia in its name. Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart was the series’ first foray into Strategy RPGs and it did so with a difficulty curve anyone could get into. Disgaea was the last SRPG campaign I’ve beat, and that was so long ago I can’t even remember what the details of the story are… I really do suck at strategy and tactics games. Thankfully Hyperdevotion Noire is a game that even people like me can see to the end. Breaking out from its vita confines, Hyperdevotion Noire has finally made it to steam to join the rest of the series proper.
As the title implies, the story in Hyperdevotion noire revolves around the Lastation Console Patron Unit Noire, the Goddess Black Heart. Things have taken a terrible turn in Gamarket, a sort of metaworld to the game’s typical Gamindustri setting. The CPU’s power, known as “shares” have suddenly disappeared and it’s up to Noire to unite Gamarket so as to avert the collapse of everything our lovable cast knows and loves.
As far as mechanics go, Hyperdevotion Noire is very solid. Game progression is smooth and easy to navigate, so there’s no real way to get lost like in a typical RPG if you’ve put the game down for a while. There’s all kinds of Visual Novel type exposition that tells the story from the player’\s viewpoint, as they play the role of Noire’s secretary (and, by extension, tactician.) Using a mission based structure much like Neptunia proper, players progress the story through story missions and increse their levels and stats through extra hunting missions. Treasure and materials are often obtained in decent numbers through these quests as well.
There are quite a few characters that join up with Noire fairly early in the game. Picking and choosing will become difficult as players may want to build character up evenly while still having overwhelming power on the battlefield, but that ‘s all part of the fun. In battle, the combat uses the series trademark Lily rank system to boost players commands Disgaea-style; surrounding players with a high enough lily rank will give the commanded character a quick kiss to boost them, up to four at a time. Typical Compile Heart stuff. You know what I’m saying. There are various conditions for success or defeat, usually revolving around total enemy destruction. Some missions require you to kill more enemies than some characters or diffuse bombs and defeating a specific enemy within so many turns and so forth. As per usual, buffs and status ailments will enhance or hinder your progress. There are also some pretty neat status effects, too: “8-Bit” is one of my favorites, which is great for speed and distance traveled, but horrible for defense.
With Lastation itself acting as a hub to everything going in Gamarket, this is where players will develop new items with plans, enhance their characters with new game discs, outfit everyone with new weapons and build Lady Noire’s reputation up through requests in Sim-Noire. Points that are accumulated can be used to buy new pieces of furniture for Noire’s room, often with some pretty funny dialogue coming from seemingly inanimate objects. There’s also a CPU Hotel to interact with other characters, and many more denizens can be interacted with as well… and some like Saturn Shiro are pretty hilarious throwbacks to other game characters, anime and more. It’s all pretty interesting stuff.
The Steam version in particular has overhauled the in-game engine as well. With a new cel-shaded graphics presentaion, Everything has an easy-to-see hard outline to it, making all of the characters, enemies and elements stand out so nothing is easily missed. Meanwhile, all of the textures here are sharp and look pretty great on the whole. This bversion also has a ton of added content unlocked right from the get-go, including some sweet yellow Dengeki-style CPU parts for all CPUs, complete with extra defense bonuses. With yellow being my favorite color though, my taste might vary from yours.
Unlike the steam port of Hyperdimension U, which we took a look at fairly recently, the visuals here are a sharp 1080p, so everything looks particularly crisp. The Nendoroid-style chibi characters are super ‘dorbs, too, which is an interesting change from the typical normal proportions of Nepgames prior. It really almost literally pops off the screen. You know, because jiggle and stuff. It’s Compile Heart, you know what I’m saying. We’ve been over this. Most of the voice delivery is spot on and the music is everything you want out of a Neptunia game with nice remixes and reappearances of familiar tunes.
There are issues though. Curiously, unlike every other version and spinoff of Neptunia’s PSP releases released to PC so far, the framerate is capped at only 28 frames per second. Changing the graphics settings and resolution doesn’t change a thing; it’s always 28, even on a high spec rig. The framerate seems even lower in battle as well. Given the SPRG nature of Hyperdevotion Noire, this framerate cap is even more curious, since there isn’t a ton going on and the chibi nature of the character models are particularly low-poly. It sure is a head-scratcher, but who knows? Maybe Idea Factory will fix up these issues in the future. I would have loved to play at 60 FPS like all the other Steam Nepgames.
Some of the UI elements are very noticeably a lower resolution than others, too, especially when characters are “on call” with others; the corner portraits are noticeably pixelated with no smoothing, just directly scaled up, likely from 720p to 1080p.
Some of the English voice delivery, while still better than the Japanese VO as per usual and great on the whole, is noticeably disjointed and even, at times, quite bad as well. At the very least though, even with this said, the English VO doesn’t suffer from the kind of irritating, “super-kawaii-desu” sampling that the native voices sport; you know, the kind you’d expect from a hardcore “weeb.”
When it all comes down to it, the short of the long of it is that the Steam release of Hyperdevotion Noire is every bit as solid as the Vita release, even if the performance is less than stellar. Not quite as impressive as other steam releases, but every bit as good. If you like your Nepgames like I do and SRPGs are a thing you enjoy but might not even necessarily be good at, Hyperdevotion Noire is a game that you should be playing.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: Idea Factory international ; Developer: Idea Factory, Compile Heart, Sting ; Players: 1; Released: April 26, 2016; Genre: Strategy/RPG; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on Steam review code supplied by the game’s publisher.