Saving the Gameindustri
The original Hyperdimension Neptunia became somewhat of a cult classic amongst RPG fans with its lovable, if not slightly disproportionate, heroines and quirky game industry parodies. It’s no surprise a sequel was granted.
Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 is once again set in the world of Gameindustri and keeps to the original console and developer based parodies. For example the two major cities in the game, Lastation and Leanbox, are representations of PlayStation and Xbox respectively. The theme continues with character names and various other places in the world.
The game starts off with the four original CPU goddesses being captured by a group known as ASIC, who are out to corrupt the citizens of Gameindustri. With IF and Compa only being able to free NepGear, Goddess Neptune’s little sister, it’s up to the three of them to save the world. With such a solid base to build on you would expect MK2 to be another rip-roaring success. Sadly this isn’t the case.
The original game’s story was one of light hearted jokes with a serious undertone of a game industry under threat of extinction due to in-fighting and constant bickering. Only by coming together could all platforms survive, a lesson that the real industry could learn from. The only problem was that this was a closed story the writers have been forced to extend into a second game. Apparently they thought adding even younger heroines, in slightly more risqué outfits, was the way to go about this. They were wrong.
Instead of four powerful and beautiful heroines we’re left with one pre-pubescent girl who’s suffering from a severe case of schizophrenia, never quite sure if she’s saving the world, or writing a Dear Diary entry. The story jumps from one random dungeon to the next in a series of fetch quests with a flimsy reason presented for each trip, all while desperately clinging to that first plot point of saving the goddesses. If turned into a book it would be a choose your own adventure where someone’s sneakily switched all the page numbers around.
Another area the development team decided to “improve” is the graphics. Originally, the cut-scenes used quite stylish, albeit wooden, 2D character renders. MK2 opts for 3D models that on paper sounds like a fantastic upgrade, but though offering more emotion, just look out of place against the 2D backgrounds.
Area movement has also been switched up in MK2, which is luckily one of the better changes. A mini-map has been added allowing for quick and painless travel between cities and dungeons, replacing the pointless dungeon crawl that had to be undertaken every time you wanted to travel to another city in the original. The dungeons themselves are pretty much the same, bland areas as before, offering a set of winding corridors with different backdrops. However, the fantastic decision was taken to remove random encounters and replace them with on-screen enemies, preventing a lot of wasted time fighting pointlessly weak enemies.
A few other interesting tidbits have also been added to the game. Firstly, the Guild allows players to select which quests are on offer and hand completed ones in. This keeps them all in one easy to manage place, as opposed to repeatedly moving through land masses in the original. The item synthesis is a neat little addition allowing for the creation of unique and useful items on your journey. However, these are sadly few and far between with mostly generic healing and buff items available to craft, and which can easily be brought from any shop with the abundance of money that you receive.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Ironically the one thing that was an issue in Hyperdimension Neptunia, the dull, boring and downright annoying battle system, has been completely fixed in MK2. The random healing has been removed, replaced by set skills for health recovery and free use of items. Players are now free to move around the battlefield meaning that more thought must be put into each encounter to trap enemies and avoid getting boxed in. Finally a separate skills section has been added to the battle menu enabling powerful attacks, buffs and healing skills to be quickly and easily activated. The only little gripe I had was that the HDD button, used to activate NepGear’s ultimate form, is mapped to an attack button, leading to a lot of frustrating moments where I accidently either activated or deactivated the form. Apart from this, the battle system is a major upgrade.
Judged as a single title, MK2 is a mediocre JRPG, but as a sequel fails in far too many departments. An improved battle system sadly can’t make up for the lackluster story and sadly empty shelled characters. How Idea Factory managed to take so many steps in the wrong direction I will never know.
SUMMARY: Where the original Hyperdimension Neptunia showed so much potential, its sequel falls flat on its face in most ways.
- THE GOOD: An improved and interesting battle system.
- THE BAD: The poor decision to move to 3D models.
- THE UGLY: A line of fetch quests posing as a story.
Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2 is a PS3 exclusive.