If you’re a fan of Idea Factory and Compile Heart, then you’re probably a fan of their Neptunia series. And if you’re a Neptunia fan, then you know that there’s one thing that it excels at above all else. What? No, no, I’m not talking about fan service. I’m talking about the other thing that the series excels at. …Anyone? That’s right, parody! Regardless of which game you’re looking at in the series, there’s a 100% chance that it’s making fun of something within video game culture. Just take a look at Gamindustri — the world in which the series takes place. Or even the four Goddesses ruling Gamindustri. It doesn’t matter what a Neptunia game is about — parody is always going to be at its forefront. Parody, and a plot filled with fourth-wall breakage, clever referencing, and a bunch of perverted jokes. But I digress.
Naturally, the question isn’t whether or not Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online — the latest game to grace the series — will be parodying something, but rather what it’s going to be parodying. Given the name, though, it should be obvious this time around; MMORPGs! With the ever-growing popularity of shows such as Sword Art Online (and its resulting games), and a re-release of the .Hack//G.U. trilogy just around the corner, there’s never been a better time for the Neptunia series to venture into the world of fake MMOs — and I’m happy to say that it’s done so quite wonderfully.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is all about… well, nerds playing video games if I’m being completely honest (kinda meta, huh?). The game’s story follows Neptune who, along with her Goddess gal pals, get invited to test out Gamindustri’s latest and greatest upcoming MMORPG — 4 Goddesses Online (which I’ll refer to as “4GO” from now on in order to avoid confusion). Upon logging into 4GO they find themselves in the magical world of Alsgard, where they are immediately greeted by a magical, fairy-like being. Introducing herself as Boquet, she states that she is looking for a chosen group of heroes to help her defeat the impending threat of the Demon King. And, since this is an MMO, Nep & co. fit that bill perfectly. Unfortunately, the girls’ fun and games don’t stay fun and games forever. …Actually, I guess they kind of do. They just have stakes on them after a while.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone by now, but Cyberdimension Neptunia never takes itself that seriously. Even when the fate of the (digital) world is at stake, the game always finds time to keep the entertainment going with one gag after another. That’s what makes this game so enjoyable, though. RPGs with large doses of silliness like this aren’t all too common. As much as I love serious plots, games with whimsical, self-deprecating, and “in-the-moment” storytelling can be really enjoyable. And, when you throw in the fact that their plethora of gaming culture jokes are deceptively self-aware and always spot-on, you’ve got a winning narrative combination. Oh, and the whole moe vibe isn’t bad either. You know, if you’re into stuff like that or whatever.
Equally as impressive are Cyberdimension Neptunia‘s new characters; specifically two of them. Throughout their adventures, Neptune and the gang butt heads with a particular pair of players; Kiria and… *sigh*… †Black Cat Princess†. Kiria’s copycatting of SAO‘s Kirito is obvious, but her parody goes beyond that, as she’s so committed to being a “valiant knight” that she’s constantly in full-blown role-play mode. It would be fine in the real world, but it’s deliciously cringey when you think about the fact that this game takes place within an MMO.
Cyberdimension Neptunia‘s other notable newbie is †Black Cat Princess†. Those of you who have played any MMO at any length are probably on guard just from seeing a name like that. To put it simply, †Black Cat Princess† is that one player who thinks that they’re a cut above the rest — but only because of their personality. The kind of player who has no qualms about getting others to do things for them. Although a fully capable of doing things herself, †Black Cat Princess†’s heavy insistence on using flamboyant, cutesy, and superficial charm to get others to essentially play the game for her makes her a great antagonistic foil. And, possibly, a sociopath.
Hack, Slash, Nep
The core Neptunia games may be all about turn-based combat, this game proudly strays from that path. Featuring gameplay akin more to something along the lines of MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies (which makes sense, since Tamsoft developed both games), Cyberdimension Neptunia is all about free-flowing hack-and-slash combat. Technically speaking, this game isn’t too demanding. If you have any prior experience with hack-and-slash RPGs, then it won’t take long for you to get comfy here. I will say that this game seems to emphasize guarding, though. You can negate pretty much every attack in the game with perfect guarding. And, since most enemy attacks are easy to read, becoming proficient isn’t much of a problem. While it’s nice to be able to deflect things so easily, things do get a little easy side once you’ve got it down pat.
Character choice is also a tad more important in Cyberdimension Neptunia. Since the game takes place in real time, it’s important to make sure that your 4-man (4-Nep?) party is diverse. Even with the ability to use items, having someone who can heal and support you is important. A balanced party formation is also important because only active characters gain EXP. Sure, you could get around this by constantly switching up your party. But I didn’t want to do that. I doubt most of you will, either. It doesn’t take long to have a handful of level 50+ characters surrounded by a bunch of level 10s. Because of that, it’s paramount to pick a balanced party straight away. Even if (pardon my blasphemy) it doesn’t include all of your favorite waifus.
A lot of the Neptunia series is nothing but one big, self-aware joke. But, do you know what isn’t a joke? How fluid combat is. Simple though it may be, Cyberdimension Neptunia features some of the most satisfying hack-and-slash action that I’ve experienced in quite some time. I can’t say that I was expecting it to come from a Neptunia game, either. I don’t mean that as in insult, though. Just that this entire series is so goofy, that sometimes you expect everything to follow that trend. The fact that this game oozes quality despite not taking anything seriously shows serious dedication to its player base.
For all of the good things that Cyberdimension Neptunia has going for it, it still isn’t perfect. That’s mainly because this game is way too short. You can easily finish the main campaign in under 20 hours, even if you aren’t trying to. I know that Cyberdimension Neptunia is a parody game, so I’m not expecting something the length of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. I also know that hack-and-slash RPGs have a tendency to run short. With that being said, however, it wouldn’t have hurt to have padded the game out a little more. The game’s explorable areas are small in number and in size. They’re fun to poke around in, but the fact that there isn’t much in the first place doesn’t give players much room to veer off-course. And veering off-course is half the fun in an RPG!
Time for a Screencap!
Cyberdimension Neptunia might have fast, fluid combat, and entertaining characters, but it’s still a Neptunia game. It knows the audience that it draws in, and caters to it the best it can. One way it accomplishes this is by letting players dress up their characters. While most games within this series feature a customization option, Cyberdimension Neptunia kicks things up a notch. Along with the ability to swap outfits, players are now able to add and customize a generous number of accessories. Players have impressive amount of control over accessory customization — rivaling Senran Kagura levels of detail — and can not only freely place accessories, but can adjust things like size and angle. Accessories can even be set to move in patterns separate from the character herself. It’s always great when games let you be picky with outfits, wouldn’t you agree? Of course you would!
There are also, to no one’s surprise, a handful of risque CGs for the player to find. But this game makes you work for them! Instead of handing things out as you progress, all of this game’s CGs are hidden within sub-events. That’s right; if you’re dying to see all of those upskirt shots, you’re going to have to go find them. You probably won’t have to look too hard, though. Most of the sub-events actually take place within the main city… So now that I think about it, I suppose that it isn’t that different from handing them out during the main story.
Idea Factory and Compile Heart have done an excellent job infusing wit and charm into the Neptunia series thus far, and this game is by far one of the best examples of that yet (thanks in large part to Tamsoft, this time around!). While this might not be exactly what you’re looking for if you want something lengthy or overly challenging, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online still stacks up as a great hack-and-slash RPG, and is definitely worth picking up. After all, where else can you play a video game about goddesses playing video games about goddesses? Nowhere! …Probably!
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4(Reviewed) ; Publisher: Idea Factory, Compile Heart ; Developer: Tamsoft ; Players: 1 (Offline), 1 – 4 (Online) ; Released: October 10, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher