It’s amusing to me that one of the most recent reviews on the site is of a Senren Kagura game, because today’s game is basically a discount version of that. After the success of their ports of the Vita remakes, Idea Factory has brought the first action game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series over to Steam: Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed. Having played all three Steam ports, read the manga, watched the anime, and repeatedly loathed my lack of a PS4 (I wanna play Megadimension so bad) I am a registered Nep nerd, proud to be. That said, is this game worth the time? I refer you to the first sentence.
It’s another day in the land of Gamindustri, and the CPUs and CPU Candidates are doing a whole lot of nothing. The CPUs and Candidates are approached by two Gamindustri journalists, Dengekiko and Famitsu (based on real life magazines Dengeki Bunko and Famitsu), who each want to write an article about the goddesses and how they complete quests for the people. After the articles are published, Dengekiko and Famitsu’s boss requests a follow-up piece and, after providing them with some knock-off HDD transformation parts, tells them to join the CPUs on their questing. That’s about as much plot as we get, unfortunately. Neptune and company are a silly bunch by nature, and the game has no shortage of dialogue (all English dubbed, by the way, if you’re one of the rare few who actually like the English dub like me), but their antics only really work when they happen in tandem with the plot. Without an actual consistent storyline, the humor comes only from whatever the characters happen to be talking about at the time. It can still be funny, but it’s below-average writing compared to the Re;Birth games.
Nep U is essentially just a watered down Senren Kagura with Neptunia characters. Gameplay is exclusively combat based, with conflicts happening inside designated arenas, some of which are copied wholesale from the Re;Birth games. From the main menu, you pick a quest, which is usually along the lines of “kill all the things”, go to the place, kill all the things, and that’s it. Occasionally there will be an “irregular” quest with a hidden objective and a cryptic hint in the description, but nine times out of ten it’s just “kill all the things, but slightly differently”. Now, I wouldn’t actually mind this if it was, y’know, fun to kill all the things. The moment I got into combat for the first time, I could feel the Vita-ness. The movement is incredibly stiff, with characters completely shifting directions with a slight change in tilt, and the potential for different combos is limited at best. You’ve got special moves from the Re;Birth games like Neptune’s 32-bit Mega Blade or Vert’s Sylhet Spear, which are nice looking and take out lots of enemies, but once you’ve exhausted your SP it’s back to bland button mashing. You can fill up your EXE gauge to transform into HDD goddess forms, which helps a bit since their floating ability allows you to move and attack at the same time, but it still doesn’t help the microscopic command list.
A carryover mechanic from Senren Kagura is clothing health. If you take too much damage or use too many heavy attacks, your character’s clothes break down to their undies, which lowers defense, but boosts critical and gives free access to HDD. It’s kind of a dumb mechanic, since when your clothes break seems to be completely random, but I guess that’s really more Senren Kagura’s fault than Nep U’s.
I think one of my biggest gripes with this game comes from its sound design; namely, there isn’t any. Most physical attacks make the same whap noise, and if you’re playing as a ranged or spellcaster character like Uni, Rom, or Ram, your attacks make no noise at all. Imagine big chunks of ice falling from the sky, but everything’s silent as a graveyard. Sound design is important to these kinds of action games because every hit needs to feel heavy and satisfying to encourage continued play. When your attacks are dead silent, it’s boring and I don’t want to keep doing it.
I’m probably going to finish this game myself because I’m starved for Nep content, but if you’re looking for a good standalone action game or a good place to get into Hyperdimension Neptunia, look elsewhere. It is a remarkably lazy action game with only the antics of the CPUs providing any incentive to keep playing.