Review: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart (PlayStation Vita)
- Release Date (NA): February 24, 2015
- Release Date (EU): February 27, 2015
- Release Date (JP): May 29, 2014
- Publisher: Compile Heart/Idea Factory
- Developer: Sting/Compile Heart
- Genres: SRPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Downloadable version reviewed. Download size (with latest updates) 1581 MB.
Story - The Gaming Market in Peril!
We're all familiar with the concept of Console Wars. Every single generation gamers argue which system is the best (or more accurately why theirs is the best there is), which games are hot and which are not, why all of this is a "big deal" and so on. The Hyperdimension series takes that concept to the next level, no pun intended.
Imagine, if you will, that the Console Wars were actually a real, tangible conflict and all of its parties were real people actively involved in a constant struggle for dominance over the world. Welcome to the land of Gamarket, a land where gaming companies, consoles and IP's are all personified and fighting against one another in a never-ending war for, quite literally, market shares. Intrigued? I most certainly was, I always found that concept amusing.
A vista of the Gamarket, the land where video games are reality
Naturally Gamarket has its reigning rulers, each in charge of their own region, namely Noire, the Black Heart CPU (personified PlayStation brand), Goddess of Lastation, Neptune, the Purple Heart CPU (Personified SEGA brand), Goddess of Planeptune, Blanc, the White Heart CPU (personified Nintendo brand), Goddess of Lowee and Vert, the Green Heart CPU (personified Xbox brand), Goddess of Leanbox.
Our protagonists - Noire, Neptune, Blanc and Vert, the personified PlayStation, Sega, Nintendo and Xbox brands
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart focuses around Noire and her struggle to unite the lands under Lastation's banner (and she's doing pretty well, judging by PlayStation 4's current sales figures - this fact is reflected in the game). The other CPU's, even when united, are powerless as she steamrolls across the continent, gaining more and more Shares, the game's equivalent of power and influence. Unfortunately, Noire draws no pleasure from her victories. Truth to be told, none of the CPU's seem to particularly enjoy battling - fighting for dominance over Gamarket is simply something they are meant to do, not something they desire. Our main protagonist wishes to end the war without causing any more suffering, but that does not seem to be a viable option... until she meets a mysterious witch who presents her with just that possibility.
To be fair, you're doing great, PlaySta-- I mean, Noire
The witch convinces Noire that if she simply makes a wish upon the Sharicite, the physical manifestation of Shares and the source of their flow, she can unite the lands in one fell swoop without having to engage in skirmishes over territory and causing unnecessary collateral damage. Noire does just that, and... the continent unites, that's for sure, except not how she imagined it at all. In an instant all of the Goddesses lose their influence and by extension, their power. Gamarket is united in its people's indifference towards either party, which spells trouble for our heroines. A Goddess is only as powerful as strong the belief in her is - without any followers Noire, Neptune, Blanc and Vert are completely powerless.
Some of the many familiar faces you'll see throughtout the game, can you tell what each of them represents?
Turns out you shouldn't trust randomly met witches, imagine that! Worse yet, the lands are immediately invaded by monsters of all sorts, drawn in by the disturbance in the balance of Shares, preying on the innocent inhabitants. It doesn't take long before generals who used to serve under their respective Goddesses take matters in their own hands and begin to fight for dominance themselves. This is is a right mess and the Goddesses quickly discover that unless they unite in their efforts to restore order in the Gamarket, things will only get worse... and who else should lead them if not the dumb-dumb who caused all this, yours truly Noire?
This is how you're introduced to the story of Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, and although it's pretty simplistic, it demonstrates the core concept of the game in very understandable terms. In Hyperdevotion Noire "meta" is the name of the game and you'll draw a lot of enjoyment from all the references to the video games world the game has in store for you.
Gameplay - Strategy with a Dash of a Dating Sim
That's what I'm planning to do, Segata Sanshiro! As for you Snake... carry on
Once you are properly introduced to the story and its characters, the game takes you directly to the center of Lastation, your base of operations. From here you can talk to your citizens, select missions you wish to embark on, shop for and develop items, create game discs to boost your stats, listen to the in-game sound tracks, browse through the picture gallery, re-watch previously seen cutscenes and chit-chat with your party members by visiting the CPU Hotel or spend time with Noire in her Basilicom, Lastation's government headquarters. It's a bit of a shame that this menu serves to replace in-game exploration, Gamarket is a place you'd probably want to wander in, but it serves its purpose.
This is Histoire, she plays the role of your Mission HQ manager. Remember to visit the shop in-between missions!
The missions are divided into story-centric and side missions, you can advance the story at your own pace and replay any mission at any time. It's worth revisiting missions you've already completed with stronger characters in order to collect items you might've missed or various ingredients necessary for developing new gear.
Space Invaders have invaded your land! Ha! Invaders? Get it? Okay, I'll shush now...
The missions themselves are beautifully-rendered in 3D and full of various references, much like the rest of the game. If you ever wanted to play a game where a girl wearing a Super Famicom outfit bashes the living slimes out of a Space Invader with a laser-hammer, you've come to the right place. The battle engine is strongly reminiscent of Disgaea and hits all the right notes as far as Strategy RPG's are concerned.
Time to fight some Sli-- I mean, Dogoos, they're totally not Slimes *wink!*
Each battle starts with deploying your forces (the number of characters you can deploy varies between missions) and selecting their squad leader; an important choice, as each character has unique leadership abilities that can boost your team's statistics. Once you're ready to rumble, you can expect the usual assortment of actions such as standard attacks, skills, consumable items etc., along with some unique mechanics to make things more interesting.
*Peck!* Fan service at its finest, but here it's used as an actual game mechanic!
For starters, each CPU has a basic and an HDD (Hard Drive Divinity) form which allows them to fly over obstacles as well as greatly enhances their statistics for three turns. Of course you won't be able to transform from the get-go, and here's where the Lily System comes into play.
Noire in her HDD form, slicing a slime into ribbons - lace ribbons, to be exact
Whenever a character uses a skill while being surrounded by her teammates, she receives a peck on the cheek from them as encouragement. This makes the attack stronger, improves the bonds between the teammates and generates Lily Points (LP) which in turn can be used to unleash powerful special attacks or to transform your CPU's into their HDD forms. Naturally, the stronger the bonds between the characters the bigger the boost you can receive. The Lily System adds another layer to strategizing your encounters - character placement becomes crucial as you'll want to generate as much Lily Points as possible. In fact, improving the Lily Ranking is not just recommended - it is required to reach the game's True Ending, so make sure your teammates kiss the life out of each other whenever it's possible.
Another fun twist to the game mechanics springs from interactive environments. Often times the battle grids will be filled with environmental hazards, moving bridges, switches, or crates that you'll have to interact with in order to reach certain parts of the map. You'll have to lift and carry objects around the level to reach all of the chests and get your precious loot, and once you open all of the chests, what better way to dispose of a crate than to throw it at an enemy for some massive damage? Speaking of treasure chests, some of them have elemental restrictions - only characters using certain elemental powers are able to open them.
Elemental damage and resistance have been staples of RPG's for years and Hyperdevotion Noir also has these elements, however they're implemented in a somewhat original, simplistic but at the same time effective way. Your characters are initially element-neutral and most attacks (aside from some skills) and equipment have no element of their own. In order to use elemental power you have to equip your characters with Elemental Crystals which assign a given element to them. Characters equipped with crystals receive a damage boost and resistance against enemies weak to that element, but also a weakness against those of the opposing element, making Crystals a double-edged sword.
Lookin' a bit frosty there, Noire - you better do something about that status ailment you've got there
Status ailments are another RPG no-brainer and they're present in this game too. Some are the standard ones, for instance getting frozen or dizzy, others are pretty wacky, such as getting pixelated, zombified or turned into a block of tofu! Geez, battling is pretty dangerous, eh?
No, Vert-box - you're the real MVP *wink!*
Once all your foes lay defeated and you enjoy the sweet taste of victory, you're rewarded with experience points, Credits which can be spent in the store as well as other items, such as Idea Chips, storage mediums and item ingredients which can be used for developing new weapons, armor, accessories and... video games, another interesting meta-concept in this game. You know what they say - "a console is only as good as its library", and this game takes that saying literally.
Hey guys! I think I made "Hyperdevotion Noire" in Hyperdevotion Noire! See, I can be meta too!
I also dabbled in some item development - gotta get those legendary weapons, uh-huh!
Combining Idea Chips and burning them onto casettes, discs or cartridges results in creating equippable "video games" that boost the character's statistics. Other items can be used to research new gear which later becomes available in the store. In addition to weapons, armor, accessories, crystals and games, the CPU's have another set of equippable items which only they can use - processors.
All of the equipment options provide a healthy amount of customizability
These special items allow you to change the appearance of their HDD forms as well as their powers. All of this provides a good level of customization without being too overwhelming - equipping your characters with the best possible gear and customizing them to your liking will keep you busy for sure.
That's... Uhm... Not sure if cosplay is an activity fitting for a Goddess, but... Okay?
We can't forget your role in this game, too - Noire is a CPU, a Goddess, essentially the head of a country and your subjects will often request her help. To tend to their needs you will have to visit the Basilicom in-between missions - this is where the "Dating Sim" section of the game, Sim Noire, takes place.
Ah yes, Amazoo.nep, I shop there too! Did you hear about their drone delivery system?
The requests are available to you in Noire's room where you play the role of her Secretary. Upon reading a request, you will be given three options and your job is to pick the one that will please Noire the most. This can be quite tricky at times - sometimes the only winning move is not to play, so don't be afraid to Pass on a request if the other options seem inappropriate. Choosing the correct answer will improve your relations with Noire and unlock special events for you to watch.
...learn to knock, Mr.Secretary. You're in trouble - that face expression means "I will murder you. Slowly"!
Initially your Basilicom looks like a run-down apartment, but you can improve it by buying furniture and renovating, much to your boss' approval. To do so, you have to spend Sim Points at Amazoo.nep. Sim Points are earned by spending Credits in the Lastation Store, neatly tying the Sim Noire side activity with the rest of the game.
This minigame is actually quite important - making sure that Noire is a happy and effective ruler is the only way to reach the True Ending of the game, so pay attention to your citizen's needs and be sure to refurbish and furnish the Basilicom frequently... Did I mention that the furniture speaks to you and occasionally gives you hints? The furniture can talk - neato.
Sim Noire isn't nearly as advanced as the equivalent Diva Room feature from the Project Diva games, but nevertheless it provides some comic relief in-between of dialogue sections and combat, I just wish it was a bit more extensive and allowed more interaction with the character.
Audio-Visual Presentation - Now I'm Chibi, now I'm not!
That's a mission I can get behind, you do that Sna-- I mean, Lid!
As you've probably noticed, Hyperdevotion Noire blends two anime styles - the chibi style seen throughout most of the game and the more traditional anime style seen during character dialogue. Although I'm not a huge fan of chibi characters myself, I found them somewhat endearing in a game that doesn't take itself seriously.
The playable characters, maps and monsters almost pop out of the screen - the models are high quality and look great on the PSVita's screen. There's a variety of enemies to encounter, too - you get to fight anything between Pac Man ghosts and elder dragons, so combat gets real wacky real quick. Some of the monsters are just recolours and even more variety would've been welcome, but I can't complain too much about a game in which you get to fight Tetris shapes, can I?
...if only I could be so incandescent.
The traditional 2D sprites seen during dialogue sections look just as good. They're wonderfully animated, similarly to those seen in Dragon's Crown, giving them a more life-like feel compared to static ones. Simply said, the game looks great and the two styles don't seem to clash too much.
As far as the audio of the game, it's spot-on. The background music is quite catchy, the sound effects are fitting and most lines of dialogue are voiced. Fans of Undubs can even choose to play the game with the Japanese voice-over, so the game gets top marks in the audio department.
Fan Service: The Game
So... what advantage does the "Boing-Boing" technique give you in battle, exactly?
With the gameplay and the presentation covered, it's time to finally touch upon (no pun intended) the last element of this game I'd like to discuss, the... fan service, something I'm not a big fan of. I guess it can't be avoided in a game specifically aimed at the most devout gaming maniacs, but at the very least it can be used sparingly and in moderation, and that's how it's used here. I haven't encountered anything terribly offensive in the game, but naturally it has its fair share of innuendos and comically awkward scenes.
...I don't think you're old enough to read that manga, Noire seems to agree
Hell, the Lily System in and out of itself is fan service, but at the very least it's used creatively, as an important game mechanic. If you really have to include fan service in a game, perhaps this approach is the best - it actually gives it some purpose, it's not just there to titillate the player for no reason. It's a blatant excuse, sure, but one that has certain strategic implications that affect the gameplay.
Ah, now I see what Snake Eater was all about!
If you're one of those gamers who enjoy fan service like this, you'll be pleased with what the game delivers, but at the same time, if it makes you sigh and roll your eyes, you won't be offended by Hyperdevotion Noire, at least not to the point of dropping the game.
Conclusions - So I Heard You Like Gaming so We've Put Gaming in our Game, how Delightfully Meta
I spy with my little red eye... a surprise attack by Rule 63 Sna--, I mean, Lid!
Although I was conflicted about this game as it's not a genre I dabble in very often, ultimately I found it very enjoyable. Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a simple story about friendship supported by a solid combat system, its game mechanics are simple to grasp and it's a good Strategy RPG overall, but that's not what I drew the most enjoyment out of. To me, this was very much a game of "Guess the Reference", which makes this game series very much one of a kind.
If you're a gamer who's passionate about gaming like myself, you'll find all of the meta touches heartwarming. A recognizable logo or shape here, a line of pop culture dialogue there, all blended into a coherent whole. While some may cringe at the fan service, I could live with it just to see what other gaming-related jokes the game had in store for me, and for that alone the game is worth picking up.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart tries to be many things at the same time and while it doesn't excel at many of them, it excels at its intended purpose, being a video game about video games - you don't get to see that very often.
+ Solid battle mechanics
+ Gorgeous presentation
+ "Moe" levels are off the charts and there's plenty of fan service for those who enjoy it
- Non-existant exploration
- ..."Moe" levels are off the charts and there's plenty of fan service, this might be an obstacle for gamers who aren't fond of this sort of thing
- Sim Noire could use some additional features
Presentation is quite gorgeous, the game looks and sounds great. Now, I'm not a fan of the chibi art style and I'd prefer the game to be made entirely in the traditional style, but I can't say that the two styles clashed - the models look fine and accomplish the goal set by the developers - "looking Moe".
The combat is solid and the dialogue isn't too lengthy or pandering as it's often the case with JRPG's, making the game very enjoyable. As far as gameplay is concerned, there's little to complain about - if you like SRPG's, you'll probably like this game.
With two endings and some item designs requiring you to play the game at least twice, this title has plenty of lasting appeal. If you're a completionist like myself, you'll squeeze out more than just one playthrough from this one.
out of 10
(not an average)
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is definitely a title worth picking up, for a number of reasons. The concept is interesting, the audio-visual presentation is great, the gameplay is solid and it's one of those Japanese RPG's that are wacky, but not wacky to the point of being unplayable for a typical western gamer. If you've never played a JRPG or SRPG of this kind, this is a good game to start with. If you have, all the better, you'll feel right at home with Noire and her CPU friends.