With its steady stream of remakes and spin-offs, the Hyperdimension Neptunia brand is doing so well that the franchise seems to have no qualms into trying something completely different. Moving away from its action RPG roots, Hyperdevotion Noire drafts in developer Sting to create a strategy RPG which, as you might guess from the title, sees Noire replacing Neptune as the main character.
The Neptunia games have never tried very hard when it comes to plot, and in this game, the main story is largely forgettable, acting only as an excuse to recruit characters and battle monsters throughout your various missions. From your hub world, you have access to both story and optional missions, which can be played and replayed as many times as you like.
The basic gameplay follows the usual SRPG formula of moving characters around on a grid and targeting the enemy with melee, ranged and magical attacks with the specified aim of killing them before they kill you. Sting have clearly done their homework and attempted to throw in a bit of variety to keep you on your toes – levels can feature conveyor belts, electrified fences, turn limits, items to collect and NPCs to protect – but those who’ve cut their teeth on the likes of Disgaea won’t find the gameplay particularly complex and will likely breeze through most levels. Whilst there are a few stages where the unwary can get wiped out with ease, there’s no point in the game where it feels like major grinding is required to proceed. In fact, if anything, most of your in-game time will be spent waiting for the enemy to take their turn – whilst it is possible to skip each movement or attack once it starts, this requires repeated mashing of the X button and is only slightly less annoying than not being able to fast forward at all.
Those who have played the other Neptunia Vita titles will be well acquainted with the Remake system, which makes a return here under the name of “Item Development”. As you beat levels, you will be given recipes for creating weapons and items – collect the right materials from the various monsters and treasure chests you encounter, and you’ll be able to not only synthesise an item, but have it appear for sale in the shop. Some of the items you create can be quite pricey, but as the game isn’t stingy about awarding you credits, this isn’t too much of a worry.
Alongside the main game, Hyperdevotion Noire also comes with a “Sim Noire” mini-game that is bound to appeal to fans of the character. Basically, everything you do in the main game earns you ‘Sim Points’, which can be used to equip Noire’s room with furniture and accessories. At the same time, Noire is also sent requests from her subjects along the lines of “which food do you prefer” or “can you help me with my homework?”. You’re given a choice of answers with which to respond to each request, with only one being the ‘correct’ answer – there’s no real way of guessing which one will be correct, but if you feel particularly invested in getting them right, you can receive a trophy. It’s a somewhat pointless addition, but by working through the various aspects of Sim Noire, Noire fanboys and fangirls can enjoy a few extra scenes with her.
This time around, our heroines appear in battle in cute “chibi” forms, with oversized heads and tiny bodies. Apart from the four CPU goddesses, most of the cast from previous games has been replaced, with all the usual supporting characters set aside (or made DLC exclusive) in favour of a whole bunch of new faces, each meant to parody a different gaming franchise – everything from Metal Gear Solid to Final Fantasy. As you might imagine, they exhibit only the most shallow of personality traits, but each character does have different skills to bring to the battlefield. In contrast, pretty much all of the game’s music and sound effects have been brought over from the main Neptunia games – what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in familiarity.
Hyperdevotion Noire is an enjoyable enough title, but like its sister games in the Hyperdimension Neptunia, it isn’t particularly groundbreaking or original. Fans of the series and dedicated JRPG collectors will no doubt want to pick it up regardless, but for everyone else it’s one to save until you’ve exhausted the potential of other, better games.