Note: Review Copy provided by Idea Factory International.
This is going to be a historic review for the blog. What do I mean. As a long time Neptunia fan this will be the first spinoff game of the franchise I will be reviewing. There have been several spinoff titles such as Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed and Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls. Each one providing a different take on other non-JRPG games such as “Musou/Dynasty Warriors Style” and even idol management simulator to varying success. The following one grabbed my attention because it was the first spinoff game to be released on the Playstation 4. Me being primarily a console guy I had to check it out. Question is whether it was worth the hype of being the first PS4 Neptunia spinoff game. Let us find out as we take a look at Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.
Note: This is a review of the single player story. I have not really touched the online multiplayer but it is there for the interested.
Check out previous my Neptunia reviews HERE.
Developer: Tamsoft, Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platforms: PS4, PC (Steam)
Genres: JRPG, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Themes: MMORPG, Video Games, Parody, References, Anime
Length: 20-30 hours
A world that exists in a dimension separate from our own, where the Four Goddesses protect and rule over their respective nations.
The Goddesses Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert, who have saved the world from danger countless times, were selected to be beta testers for the new version of a certain online game…
[4 Goddesses Online]
It is a super-popular title that utilizes Gamindustri’s Goddesses as official models.
The stage of the story is set within a fantasy world, surrounded by verdant and gorgeous ocean, known as Alsgard.
Logging into the game world, the four CPUs meet with the Guardian Spirit, the guide to all adventurers, Bouquet. They discover that they are the Chosen Ones tasked with the mission of reviving the Goddesses of legend, and that Alsgard is under the looming threat of the villainous Demon King.
As far as the plot of the game within the game goes it is the classic “Chosen Ones destined to save the world by gathering MacGuffins and awakening a great power to combat an equally great evil” but because this is a Neptunia game expect much more than that. First of all players take control of characters playing a game within a game who are fully aware of this from the very first scene. This is a Neptunia game after all so expect fourth wall breaking and self-aware humor alongside extra twists that make the main plot a straightforward yet very enjoyable one, especially for longtime fans of the franchise. Speaking of longtime fans the game references the main entries, its side characters and even their avatars. It is safe to say that despite being a spinoff title it can still be considered a somewhat canon side-story to the main storyline sometime after the events of Megadimension Neptunia V-II/VIIR, aka Hyperdimension Neptunia 4. Also since it is Neptunia expect to learn a lot about our favorite CPUs, CPU Candidates and their friends, possibly a wee bit more than even Neptunia 4 from their activities on and offline, relationships outside of the main party and more about their personal hobbies and beliefs. Suffice to say each cutscene will give fans and newcomers more cool tidbits about our group of cute and sexy personifications of video game consoles and companies. Lastly, in case this is the very first Neptunia game the player has picked up it does a solid job introducing newcomers to the cast without spoiling much, giving the interested the incentive to possibly check out the main entries and even other spinoffs.
Next up is the presentation. Using the 4th iteration of the Unreal Engine the graphics can be best described as “extra crispy”. Like Neptunia 4’s move to the PS4 they have been upgraded from PS2 to PS3 graphics but thanks to the UE the characters and locale look sharper and more detailed. As the above image shows the character art and CGs continue to be excellent. The one minor downer is that the images do not breathe nor do their lips move, opting to instead go with traditional single expression per emotion found in visual and kinetic novels. The bright side is that, again, the art looks great and they make up for the lack of movement by adding lots of visual expressions alongside the facial ones such as excited sparkles, bummed spirals and lovey-dovey hearts among others. The soundtrack is also good with a decent mix of tunes from melodious fantasy to techno beats. Neptunia soundtracks certainly have come a long way from their not so humble beginnings in the original first game.
Next we go to the gameplay. Cyberdimension Neptunia at its core is a hack and slash JRPG with an MMORPG coat of paint meant to emulate playing one on a console, which it does well enough with its user interface and mechanics that will be explained. After the tutorial level the gang head to Wishuel, the main base of operations. There players can shop for supplies with new stores opening up as the story progresses, check out what NPCs have to say, take quests and go Online. Like most other Neptunia games players explore Wishuel with a mouse icon and interact with chibi forms of the NPCs and our heroines. To progress the story players are required to either complete quests or click on important orange icons as they appear above characters.
Speaking of quests there are four kinds:
- Find a number of ingredients.
- Defeat a set number of monsters.
- Defeat the boss.
- Head towards a marker on the map. (This one rarely pops up)
This may irk some people but all quests are mandatory to progress the plot, be it main story or side quests to rank up. The bright side is that there is no limit to how many quests players can take and most are not difficult to accomplish except the boss fights. One tip that will make “defeat monsters” quest easier: Pay attention to the dungeon in the quest description. For example: There are two areas where Dogoos roam and players are required to defeat a set number of Dogoo. If the player beats the required Dogoo in a dungeon not specified in the quest description then they will not count. Keep this in mind. Also when a quest is completed either pay attention to the message board or listen to the controlled character say something like “We completed the objective!”. While there is a “level up” jingle there is no “quest complete” jingle.
And now for combat and exploration. After selecting a dungeon in the world map players quickly enter the dungeon to run and jump, beat up monsters, open chests, collect ingredients and beat the boss. The game is a simple hack and slash/beat em up. Each CPU and CPU Candidate has their own play style, special moves and magic abilities. Some amusing fanservice (not the sexy kind) has some of our heroines switch fighting styles, like Vert and Noire change weapons with the former using a rapier and the latter a spear when usually it is the other way around. That goes for the other heroines who also have different fighting styles. The bestiary includes familiar foes such as the aforementioned Dogoos and new baddies, mostly fantasy hooligans like skeletons and goblins. Back to combat, besides slashing and shooting away at baddies there are also 4 kinds of elemental attacks with each enemy being weak to one or multiple elements. Characters have two sets of four slots, meaning they can equip 8 special moves. Some enemies and all bosses have no weaknesses, instead having to break their armor in order to heavily damage them. Status ailments and buffs are also present and accounted for. Players take control of one of four heroines on the field with the others on backup once they join the party. The combat is simple but still enjoyable despite not being super deep.
Back to Wishuel for a bit there is an impressive amount of character customization. Besides weapon and armor upgrades courtesy of Tamsoft the Blacksmith there are a lot of accessories to change our heroines’ already lovely appearances. There are also different ways to change them such as their size, where they are placed in the girls’ bodies and other options. There are bonus costumes that gradually become available for purchase.
Before getting to the main event let us go over some negatives that are not deal breakers but worth keeping in mind:
1: Loading takes around 3 minutes give or take. Nothing can be skipped until the OP theme. I imagine this is there as both part of the MMORPG emulation and the online multiplayer.
2: While the combat is smooth for the most part, the AI is as competent as in other JRPGs…meaning not that much. This is worth keeping in mind as revival items are very rare. Still, they get the job done but despite there being strategies to change how the partners fight it can only do so much.
3: The usual Neptunia asset recycling. Expect palette and color swapped enemies and fighting the same boss with boosted stats every now and then. The dungeons are less recycled at least. Some look like familiar areas but think of them more as “Act 2s” of a themed dungeon like the lava dungeons.
4: Manual character change. Changing the player controlled character has to be done manually in the menu and not on the fly. This is especially irksome because rather than the usual “retreat to base” when all heroines are KO’ed, if the player character gets KO’ed then it is an automatic retreat. Then again I imagine it being this way in other MMORPGs or specifically to be like the online multiplayer.
5: There is no event viewer. This one is more of a personal gripe. Especially in this game it is a shame that the feature is not included. I mean, a bard, aka the music test, eventually arrives in Wishuel so why not a mystic who can use her crystal ball to view past events or something like that?
6: Despite running on the 4th Unreal Engine the game is not consistently at 60FPS. It sometimes goes there but more often than not it is a 30FPS game. Also just in case, make sure to save often at Wishuel as there have been some reports of the game freezing.
7: This last one is less an issue and more “it is what it is”. There are 12 playable characters. The first eight are the CPUs and the CPU Candidates. Longtime fans of the franchise can guess the remaining 4 characters. Other fan favorites from past games, such as IF and Plutia also drop by…as NPC shopkeepers.
Again none of these are major issues against the game, more like things to keep in mind should readers be interested in getting this game.
Believe it or not, this is quite possibly the most Yurrific of all the Neptunia games BY FAR (Or at the very least one of the most Yurrific)! Not only do familiar pairings get their time in the spotlight (and awareness by the cast) but some of the newcomers embrace the yuri, including the best newcomer of the bunch Bouquet. Let me put it this way. Spinoff characters, as far as I know, do not appear in any of the main games. I REALLY HOPE Bouquet will somehow sneak her way into Neptunia 5. I loved her THAT MUCH and her interactions with Vert were best parts of the game for me. As a Vert fan I had been a long time for this day to come for the goddess of Leanbox and BOY DID SHE EVER REVEL IN THE OPPORTUNITY! Besides those two, as I said, there are plenty more yuri moments to be found in this game.
Overall Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a good game. It is not the deepest MMORPG out there but as a Neptunia game it is arguably the best spinoff title to date. The combat has its flaws but is still enjoyable. The characters, veterans and newcomers alike are all excellent. The main plot is a simple but the Neptunia-ness of it all gives it that extra spice to change something simple to something GLORIOUS! Highly recommended to fellow Nepsters out there. Newcomers to the franchise may also want to give it a try.
PS: For the time being, this is considered the closest thing to a Neptunia spinoff game starring Vert. There are several reasons why.
1: She has the strongest scenes and moments in the game.
2: Her favorite game series is 4 Goddesses Online as she mentioned or was seen playing it many times throughout the series.
3: She deserves a game to star in already!