Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution Review – A New Low

The Neptunia franchise is one I have a love-hate relationship with. The series is plagued with issues, but I still enjoy the meta humour and memes from time to time. Having skipped some of the previous side games, I was interested to see how the series was now with this latest entry. And, if Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is any indication, Compile Heart has basically given up.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution features few 3D cutscenes. Probably for the best.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution sees Older Neptune return for the first time in a while. On her dimension hopping, bug hunting adventures, she accidentally drops her notebook. Said notebook is how she travels between dimensions, while also acting as a prison for sort-of antagonist Croire.

On the search for her notebook, she stumbles upon a strange game, which frees three new characters — all personifications of failed consoles — and inadvertently leads Older Nep into running a gaming business. She must take these three failed consoles and resurrect their game company, beating back competition along the way.

See, the dimension she’s found herself in all revolves around game makers. The more popular your games and higher your sales are, the more power you have in the world. While not really lingered on for too long, the general idea is that Older Nep will have an easier time finding her notebook if the company expands its influence.

As with other Neptunia side games, the plot barely matters. It’s really just an excuse to cram in a bunch of references to other companies (such as From Software personification F-Sha) and games. It’s okay, though not particularly compelling — honestly you could skip most cutscenes, and still barely miss out on any important story details.

Even Enoch wouldn’t be able to say that everything’s fine.

Between cutscenes, the meat of Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is split into two main parts. You have the game making side, and the more traditional RPG exploration.

Game making is super simple. You have access to buildings that each represent different genres, from RPGs to action games. By upgrading these buildings and hiring new workers, you can craft better and better game Discs. These Discs function as both games that make you profit, and items that you can equip to the party.

It’s very basic, with the only real goal most of the time to make numbers go up. I don’t think it’s possible to actually lose money on games, as long as you assign workers that generally mesh with the type of game you selected. Sometimes you’re tasked with making a specific game, but there’s no thought required.

At the very least, it’s an inoffensive idle game where you start crafting timers and forget it for a few minutes. The main problem is the RPG side of things.

One of the nicer looking areas, and it still looks like it’s from a random Steam asset flip.

Now, I know the Neptunia franchise isn’t exactly known for being the most mechanically impressive game, or for having amazing visuals. But Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is awful to both play and look at.

I played through the PS5 version for this review, and frankly it’s unacceptable. For a game that actively manages to look worse than the later mainline Neptunia games (outside of the nice character art), it somehow runs at a stuttery sub-30 FPS. I have no idea what happened to make the game perform this badly, but just running around actively gave me a headache.

Speaking of headaches, one of the new mechanics in Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is the addition of a bike that you can ride around dungeons. Except, basically none of the dungeons are designed around this. The bike constantly gets stuck on level geometry, and the boost is pointless when it just causes you to ram into walls.

The speed also combines with the horrid framerate to make this one of the most unpleasant visual experiences I’ve had in a game for a while. I almost wonder what the Switch version of Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is like, considering just how bad the PS5 version runs.

Just mash until it’s over.

Putting performance aside for a second, the actual dungeon gameplay is pretty poor too. Dungeons have nothing interesting going on, with most optional ones being bland copy-pasted fields and caves. You’ll occasionally run into quest NPCs, but they just ask you to do something boring like “Kill X amount of enemies” or “Find this other character.”

And don’t get me started on combat. Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution uses a real time battle system, with characters having access to two customisable combos, special attacks, and a transformation.

Frankly, combat is bad. Very bad. Attacks have no impact, there are barely any enemy types (expect to run into recolours and resized enemies constantly), and you’re just doing the same thing from start to finish.

Literally, all you do in battle is a single combo, switch to another character to get an additional attack, and repeat. That’s it, for the entire game. Some of the discs you craft can unlock new things like animation cancelling into blocks or dodges, but you just don’t need this — you could also argue that this should be available at all times anyway.

Nothing about the general gameplay loop is fun. The game making side is too simple, but it’s at least not actively painful like the rest of the game. And the few times variety is attempted to be introduced, it usually takes the form of an unbearably tedious puzzle — they’re not hard, just far too slow due to animations and backtracking.

Wish I could say the same thing about Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution…

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution Review | Final Impressions

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution’s poor framerate, terrible gameplay, and story with no stakes combine together to make for a thoroughly unpleasant RPG. While the game’s entire goal is to make better and better games, the actual Neptunia series seems to have instead gone on a steep downward decline.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution was reviewed on PS5 using a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

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Isaac Todd
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