Review Copy Provided by NIS America
Even though we have ourselves an Idol simulator, the game still features a story of sorts that seems to slot well enough into the Neptunia universe. A group of 48 Idols going by the name of Mob48 have quickly risen in popularity and now the citizens of the four main nations (Planeptune, Lowee, Lastation, Leanbox) are all flocking to support these new found idols. The knock on effect of this is that the shares for the 4 CPU's quickly drop which means their power begins to wane. What can the goddesses do? well, they decide to beat the idols at their own game and use their combined power to snatch a person from the multiverse to act as a Producer. That person is you. Once teleported to Gameindustri you're confronted by the CPU's and upon choosing one, begin your journey as an idol Producer. That aspect covers the opening segment of the game and once Mob48 are defeated, the girls continue down the idol path till one reigns supreme with the most shares. All this comes to light during the games Producer Mode, but its a shame we don't actually get to see any of Mob48 or where/how they formed as things focus on you & your chosen goddess. Its here in Producer mode you'll be spending most of your time as you build up the Idol career of a CPU.
There's a wealth of things to unlock though for the games Unlimited Concert mode via Producer mode too. Costumes, accessories, stages, songs etc are all unlocked during your time with each CPU and can be used in Unlimited Concert for you to full customise your own concert how you see fit. Unlocks seem tied to the increase of stats & affection/Friendship with the goddesses and their sisters. A lack of variety does come into play when you consider song choice. There are only 5 tracks. One for each CPU and a special one unlocked for your CPU's final concert. Considering I have a fair few Neptunia singles that contain numerous songs, only a singular track each is a baffling oversight (The character CD's & Duet Sisters CD's offer up at least half a dozen tracks for each CPU, theres plenty out there) Luckily you are able to use the songs from other CPU's to freshen up your playthrough. When it consider that the game is going to take a while to 100%, it may eventually grate. There are tonnes of unique events to unlock & multiple endings to see that even a single goddess will need multiple playthroughs to see everything and a platinum trophy will only come by doing so. A Viewer mode is included that fans of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series would more than likely be the only ones that will see use of it. You rotate your Vita so its portrait and interact with the character of your choosing. Interaction by touch is a little limited but they do have much to say it seems and you can outfit them in any unlocked clothing ], even switch to non-playable characters you unlock in Producer mode IE Compa. The best aspect of this feature though is the alarm clock. Nothing quite like the sound of Neptune yelling at you to wake up in the morning.
To be honest, I'm not well versed in Idol simulators. The only one Ive played prior is the Lucky Star release on PsP. Thankfully, its as an accessible enough game type to be of interest to most - as long as you treat your first playthrough here as your tutorial. In typical Compile Heart/NIS America fashion, your tutorial consists of still screens detailing what to do - experience comes through playing. The aim of the game is to defeat Mob48 & take a bigger cut of the worlds shares than the other CPU's. You get 180 days as your time limit (an action takes up one day) & if your Idol is poorly managed enough to hit 100% stress, its a game over. Careful management of condition & increases of stats is the key to success outside of concerts. When not in a concert, you'll be at your CPU's basilcom. Here there are numerous sections, with several activities within, for you to consider for you Idols progress. Work offers up way of increasing fans & forming a group, Lesson gives numerous ways of increasing stats, Relax allows your character to obviously relax, you can also interact with other CPU's here & raise your friendship/affection and finally a Move command allows you to relocate in another nation. Working in another nation will increase shares there, but also make increase the 'Haters' percentage that parallels your Fans. The final activity is the concert. You can only do this one a week, as long as your idol has enough 'guts' (keeping this & your affection high means bonuses during activities) The Concert is where you bear the fruits of your management skills. Once you've chosen your song, stage, stage effects & costume your work begins. Key to success here is by trying to get both your appreciation percentage and technique gauge as high as possible to get a high score and increase fans. Careful timing with your stage effects as the crowd chants and good use of shifting camera angles will win the day. A well timed HDD transformation can also turn the tide of a concert as it boosts stats while on stage, but can only be done on your CPU's own song. The camera is also fully controllable by yourself if the pre-defined angles don't do it for you. When you finally draft other CPU's into a group, taking full control of the camera becomes a necessity. As Ive stated earlier, management of your idols is the bread & butter of this game and those going in expecting any mechanics from the series Jrpg titles will be disappointed. The game relies on its activities, events and your interaction with the goddesses to keep the player interested. Oddly enough, the Idol concept works brilliantly within the Hyperdimension Neptunia universe to the extent that newcomers will be able to get to grips with the characters easily. It takes a little time getting to grips with how everything works, but its accessible enough to still be enjoyable during those early days.
With development shifting to Tamsoft, there was always a little bit of a worry that presentation may change a little, but thankfully everything is exactly as you would expect from a game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. There doesn't seem to be any concessions made considering the intended platform of the game either. Graphically things are quite detailed, with a pin sharp outlook lending itself to the possibility of native output. One area of improvement that hasn't gone unnoticed (for obvious reasons) is in-game character models. Each is more finely detailed than previous games in the series, no doubt owing to the Idol game format, with physics on clothing & hair allowing them to animate more appropriately during concerts. There are some jagged edges here n there, with the framerate dropping a little when activating all your stage gimmicks at the same time, but for the most part the concerts impress (The real-time HDD transformation without a break in the concert is also well done) The sprites & backgrounds used during the rest of the game look as though they have been lifted straight from the main series, all the detail and animations we've come to expect are there. Its not just the visual aspect that keeps you in the Neptunia verse as the games audio also takes its cues from the main series. Music for the 4 goddesses is used here when not in a concert, and even music for the CPU candidates & locations is lifted from other games in the series. As you would expect, all the VA's reprise their roles with almost all of the game dialogue being fully voiced. Considering the game only weighs in at about 1.2GB, it surprising to see NIS America have managed to keep the option of the original Japanese Voice audio (Which I prefer. Always played the series in Japanese so the English track sounds odd to me) The games presentation makes for a well rounded package that helps the game slot into the Neptunia universe like it was always there. Kudos goes to Tamsoft especially, who instead of just transplanting assets from the series - took the time to also improve on certain key aspects.
Its easy to see why Idol games are popular in Japan. Whilst an Idol game based on a Jrpg series may sound puzzling, here its been executed superbly so that it can sit comfortably among the rest of the series without seeming out of place. Some niggles, mainly in variety of certain aspects & a narrative lacking any depth - bring the overall package down a little. The menu based gameplay itself maybe not being for everyones tastes too, but once your producing skills get into full flow it becomes an engrossing game that is structured perfectly for handheld gameplay on the go. Hyperdimension Neptunia fans should run to the shops, while those interested in management sims of other subjects may find enough here to intrigue.
Who Should Buy This?
- Hyperdimension Neptunia fans
- Those looking for something fresh in the west
- Want something that suits the handheld format
- You enjoy management simulators
- No love for Neptunia
- Menu based management doesn't sound fun
- You like a lot of variety with your content
- quirky games from the east are a no-go