The History of Neptunia: Hyperdevotion Noire – Goddess Black Heart

The Re;Birth series of Neptunia games had been very well received, but they were still remakes — and Neptunia fans wanted something genuinely brand new to enjoy. And so it was that Compile Heart and Idea Factory set out to give fans exactly what they wanted: more Neptunia, in a variety of forms. We’d already seen the first of these attempts in the form of Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection, but Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, originally released between Neptunia Re;Birth 2 and 3, was a particular highlight for many.

As the name suggests, Hyperdevotion Noire (as we shall refer to it hereafter) focuses primarily on Lastation’s goddess Noire rather than Neptune — though Neptune and the rest of the company are still present and correct in the playable cast. Rather than being a canonical mainline game — as much as such a thing exists in a series that deliberately unfolds in multiple timelines and dimensions — Hyperdevotion Noire was a spinoff, setting things in a different world and adopting a radically different gameplay style to the mainline Neptunia games.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Compile Heart and Idea Factory also enlisted some help with development in the form of Sting, a Japanese developer best known for Dreamcast RPG Evolution, the Dept. Heaven series (consisting of Riviera, Yggdra Union, Knights in the Nightmare and Gungnir), Utawarerumono and Dungeon Travelers 2. This was enough to convince a fair portion of the audience that despite technically being a spinoff title to the series, Iffy and Compa were serious about making this a good game.

Sting’s games are known (among those in the know, anyway) for being mechanically interesting and solid games, and for them to be involved with a strategy RPG take on the Neptunia universe was very exciting indeed. It turned out that people were right to think this; Hyperdevotion Noire came out very well indeed.

Hyperdevotion Noire is one of a couple of Neptunia titles — the other being Producing Perfection — where you take on the role of a self-insert protagonist rather than one of the characters themselves. Drawn into the land of Gamarket, you are enlisted by Noire to assist with a variety of campaigns she is involved in. This is a narrative setup that feels like a bit of a nod to the Fire Emblem series placing the player in the role of “Strategist” in some installments — and, knowing the series, this resemblance was more than likely entirely deliberate.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

The self-insert protagonist rubbed a few players up the wrong way initially, but it made a certain amount of sense; the player-protagonist allowed Noire the option to “discuss” things with the player as the story progressed, as well as providing the player the opportunity to pamper her with gifts and upgrades to her room along the way. In many ways, Hyperdevotion Noire can be looked on as a Neptunia “fandisc” focusing specifically on Noire; as the resident twintailed tsundere of the series, she had always been popular since the very first installment, so treating “her” game like this was a good idea in principle.

The player-protagonist interacting with Noire makes up a fairly minor part of the game as a whole, though; most of the action revolves around playing through a series of strategy RPG stages in which you have various objectives to complete. And this is where the game really shines.

Each stage is designed in a really interesting way, with plenty of terrain gimmicks and obstacles with specific areas of effect to bear in mind as you play. Particularly memorable encounters involve creeping around the firing line of dangerous cannons, avoiding explosives and negotiating a deliberately annoying maze on the way to defeating your enemies.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Characters, too, each have their own distinct uses, and many have skills that affect distinctive areas of effect rather than simply single squares. This helps give the combat an energetic feel and makes your units feel powerful; no-one feels like they are useless, so as the game’s considerable cast gradually joins Noire’s party as the narrative proceeds, you can happily assemble your battle party according to your own personal preferences.

And what a cast. Featuring probably the biggest lineup of one-shot guest characters the series has seen, even to this day, Noire’s potential companions in Hyperdevotion Noire include personifications of specific game series rather than gaming hardware — though, as previously mentioned, Neptune and company are still in attendance also. There’s a Metal Gear Solid girl called Lid; a Resident Evil girl called Vio; a Hatsune Miku knockoff called Tsunemi; and even a girl who is a reference to Koei’s Opoona.

In total, there are 18 brand new characters in the base game, as well as four DLC characters including IF and Compa from the Neptunia series, Tiara from Fairy Fencer F, and the personification of Sting itself. Each character has a completely unique lineup of skills, and their designs all feature wonderful references to the series they’re referencing — some are pretty on-the-nose, such as Lid’s tendency to hide in cardboard boxes, while others, like Yakuza girl Ryuka’s personality being largely based on that of erstwhile series protagonist Kazuma, are a little more subtle handled.

Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

The game as a whole really is extraordinarily well-designed, and even those who had been staunch Neptunia haters up until the release of Hyperdevotion Noire had to admit that Sting did good with this one. One of the best things about it is that although it is mechanically deep and interesting to play, it eschews the brutal, unforgiving difficulty of some more “serious” strategy RPGs out there, making it a lot more accessible than some of the genre’s greats. I speak from experience; prior to Hyperdevotion Noire, I’d historically bounced quite hard off a lot of strategy RPGs, but I found this game to be a great entry point.

Oh, and fans of the series’ yuri elements will be pleased to note that there is a major game mechanic based around kissing. Which is nice.

I’d say it’s a shame we haven’t seen more games like this from this dream team — but at the time of writing, the follow-up to stablemate Fairy Fencer F, known as Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord, is on the way, and it very much looks like a spiritual successor to Hyperdevotion Noire. So if you, like me, have been waiting nearly ten years for a new Hyperdevotion Noire… well, this isn’t quite it, but it certainly looks like a more than adequate substitute!

In the meantime, if you want to play Hyperdevotion Noire for yourself, it’s still available on PlayStation Vita or Windows PC via Steam.

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Pete Davison
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