Idea Factory International opened preorders for the the physical release of new Neptunia game Neptunia Virtual Stars today — you can grab the super-sexy Limited Edition here or plump for the moderately sexy Day One Edition here.
For the unfamiliar, the Neptunia series is a franchise of satirical games that poke fun at the video game industry, featuring anthropomorphised versions of various video game-related brands. The main character Neptune is a personification of the cancelled Sega Mega Drive/32X hybrid that went by the same name, while the other leads personify the PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo brands.
It’s a gleefully silly series that has explored a variety of interesting gaming-related topics over the years, from piracy in the first games to the generational changeover in MegaDimension Neptunia VII. Neptunia Virtual Stars, as the name suggests, explores the VTuber phenomenon — and even features guest appearances from some real-life VTubers.
The Neptunia series has been around for a good few years at this point, so in celebration of the new editions becoming available for order, I thought it’d be nice to look back at some favourite installments in the series as a whole.
The fun thing about the Neptunia series is that it’s not just one thing; across all these different titles, you’ll see that it’s explored a variety of different genres over its lifetime — the cast as a whole has truly transcended its original context, and it’s a rare franchise that manages to pull that off successfully.
Hyperdimension Neptunia (PS3)
Yes, the original one for PlayStation 3. I will be the first to admit that this is, in many ways, an absolute clunky mess of a game — but dear God is it interesting. Combining a genuinely enjoyable plot with a strong but not overly evangelical anti-piracy message, some excellent characterisation and some creative mechanics, the original Hyperdimension Neptunia is worth a play. That is, if you can deal with its various issues — most notably its atrocious performance, some occasionally questionable game balance and a couple of bizarre design decisions.
Get past those, though, and there’s a great deal of fun to be had in this dungeon-crawling RPG. The incredibly in-depth combo system makes figuring out your party formation a mind-bending puzzle — and an immensely rewarding one to “solve”. The strange condition-based item use system can be a pain in the backside, but the “programming” aspect of it is thoroughly in keeping with the game’s digital-inspired setting — plus if you’re feeling charitable you can look on it as a deliberate attempt to troll the player.
It’s perhaps tough to go back to given how much the series has improved over the years — but it’s also fun to know your roots sometimes!
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth (Vita/PC)
The three Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth games are all remakes of the first three Hyperdimension Neptunia games that were originally released on PlayStation 3. The “remake” side of things gets less pronounced as the subseries progresses — all three of them are primarily based on the engine and mechanics of third game Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory — but the refinements to the formula and additional content in all three games makes them all a worthwhile playthrough, even if you’re deeply familiar with the PS3 originals.
The highlight of the Re;Birth games (and indeed Victory before them) is the combat system, which features tactical aspects of movement, positioning and skills with distinct areas of effect. They’re not strategy RPGs, however; battles are relatively small scale and are often over quite quickly. It’s also possible to pump your characters up to absolutely obscene levels of power well before you reach the end of the story, so if you enjoy making big numbers pop out of monsters, you’ll have a blast here.
Word of warning, though: only pursue the “Conquest” ending of Re;Birth 2 if you’re emotionally prepared. There’s a reason it’s the most fiddly to unlock!
Hyperdevotion Noire (Vita/PC)
I must confess I’m not generally a strategy RPG sort of guy. I have trouble thinking more than a move or two ahead, and consequently I tend to find myself making absolutely stupid decisions that inevitably result in the untimely destruction of my team against embarrassingly weak opponents.
However, something about the Neptunia strategy RPG Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart really “clicked” with me. It’s a game with a strong cast of characters — most of whom are inspired by popular game franchises such as Yakuza, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid and many more — and each character has their own distinct “usefulness” that quickly becomes clear when you first make use of them. Combine that with a solid, helpful interface that allows you to analyse your various options before committing to taking an action, and you have a game that is very friendly to even the most strategically challenged among us.
Technically the game is non-canonical — it unfolds in a parallel dimension known as “Gamarket” instead of the usual series setting of “Gamindustri” — but the Neptunia series has never particularly cared about continuity anyway; each title tends to stand mostly by itself. Plus you get to hang out with Noire. And it’s by far the gayest game in the series, with characters powering up by kissing each other in battle.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection (Vita)
The last Neptunia game to be released in the west by NIS America before Idea Factory International took over localisation and distribution of the series, Producing Perfection claims to be an “idol management” game, but is actually more of a dating sim. Picking one of the four core cast members Neptunie, Noire, Blanc or Vert, it’s your job to build up their stats and help them become successful idols.
Along the way, you’ll trigger various events and get to know the girls a bit better — this is one of a few Neptunia games from the period where you play “yourself” rather than as the girls themselves, so if you’ve ever wanted to spend some quality alone time with your favourite Nep girls (excluding the younger sisters, sadly — Nepgear is waifu for laifu) this is the game for you.
Don’t go into this expecting a deep RPG, a complex strategic affair or even a rhythm game; this is a dialogue-centric dating sim at heart, so expect a lot of chatting. If you’re cool with that, then this is a good time.
Megadimension Neptunia VII (PS4, Switch, PC)
After a range of spinoff titles, the series came back with a bang for its fourth (or seventh, depending on how you regard the Re;Birth series) mainline installment. The VII is pronounced “vee-two” and indicates that it’s a direct sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, if you were wondering.
Megadimension Neptunia VII introduces Uzume, the character based on the Sega Dreamcast, as well as a number of other new characters representing third-party brands such as Capcom, Konami and Bandai Namco. The story concerns the struggles both the console and software brands have any time there is a generational changeover, and the various creative ways they come up with to smooth the transition — or, indeed, how they deal with nefarious influences on their efforts!
Featuring a completely revamped battle system, a seriously awesome soundtrack and some of the best dialogue in the series, Megadimension Neptunia VII remains a real high point for Neptunia.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online (PS4, PC)
There have been several “action Neptunia” titles over the years, including Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed and Megatagmension Blanc+Neptune vs. Zombies, but this game represents the best refinement of the formula to date. Offering enjoyable hack-and-slash dungeon crawling gameplay combined with a story that pokes affectionate fun at online gamers and communities as well as the isekai anime boom, Cyberdimension Neptunia is a fun game that takes some intriguing twists and turns in its latter hours.
Despite the name, this is a primarily single-player experience that just simulates an action-style MMO — though there is a multiplayer mode where you can team up with friends to take down bosses, too. You’ll probably struggle to get a game with random strangers these days, but if you can get a friend or three together, the multiplayer encounters are challenging and worthwhile experiences.
With a large cast of playable characters, each of whom play very differently from one another, Cyberdimension Neptunia is absolutely the strongest implementation of the “action Neptunia” formula to date.
But will Neptunia Virtual Stars, which also falls into this category, manage to top it? We’ll have to find out when it comes out on March 5, 2021!
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