Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed (PlayStation Vita)
- Release Date (NA): May 19, 2015
- Release Date (EU): May 22, 2015
- Release Date (JP): August 28, 2014
- Publisher: Compile Hearts/Idea Factory International
- Developer: Tamsoft
- Genres: Action RPG/Hack 'n Slash
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Welcome to Gamindustri! There's nothing going on.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Action Unleashed U takes you on a trip across Gamindustri - a world where video games are the bread and butter of everyday life and the populace of the four lands, Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee and Leanbox, is ruled by their respective CPU's - Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert. After many years of strife due to constant invasions by monsters it would seem that the CPU's have finally succeeded - times are peaceful in Gamindustri at long last. So peaceful in fact, that it's boring - it's boring to the citizens, it's boring to the CPU's, but most importantly, it's boring to you - the player.
Normally I preface my reviews with a brief but climactic introduction to the plot - here I have to admit that I'm struggling because there's very little to introduce. The premise of the game is very simple - there is literally nothing going on, all is well, and that's not very entertaining. Even the characters themselves are quick to point out that something has to be done before Gamindustri turns into a bore. Enter Dengekiko and Famitsu, personifications of Japanese gaming magazines, with a plan ready to hatch - pit the CPU's against hordes of monsters! That should keep readers interested! Here's for hoping it will keep players interested, too.
Action RPG with a Big Focus on Action
The two journalists quickly come to the conclusion that the only thing that can spice things up in Gamindustri is a healthy dose of action. With CPU's and their siblings on-board they embark on quest after quest in order to gather material for an article of a lifetime. If action is what the readers want, it's action they're going to get - a whole lot of it.
Action Unleashed U is mission-based - every now and then Famitsu and Dengekiko will refresh the list of Quests available for you to pick. You can embark on those quests solo or in teams of two - teamwork is encouraged as it strengthens the friendship between the characters expressed by their Lily Rank, allowing them to deal more damage when they fight together. The game offers a generous roster of 10 characters, each with their own moves and weapons. The characters can also be additionally customized with additional gear or special attacks - some can be found as quest rewards, some are given to you in special events and then some can be bought with medals from fallen enemies - typical RPG stuff.
The combat in this game is solid and very enjoyable - the game is fast-paced and happily throws mobs of monsters for you to slaughter. The controls are simple - you have to mix and match normal and heavy attacks into longer, more destructive combos. In addition to standard moves the characters also have access to special attacks which can be unleashed provided you have enough energy which is replenishable by drinking energy drinks which occasionally drop out of fallen enemies. Each character has a total of three special attack slots to which you can assign your selected specials, as well as a Transformation which turns the character into its powerful HDD form and a team attack unlockable later into the game. Unfortunately, the monster AI leaves a lot to be desired - their strength is clearly in numbers, not smarts, which is a bit of a shame. It will take several quests before the enemies will become capable of putting up any form of resistance against you.
The quests are interspliced with the daily happenings of Gamindustri, including interactions between the characters and press reports regarding their performance. These reports give you access to new outfits, but more on that below. The better you do in-game and the more friendly the characters are to each other the more you'll get to learn about them through cutscenes, so the goal is very simple - manage your teams balancing Lily Rankings and performance to get the best of both worlds and unlock as much character banter as possible.
There's another aspect of this game intrinsically connected with combat and I figured that it's prevelent enough to deserve its own section. That aspect is... Fanservice.
Hello, this is Fanservice Central, how can we help you?
I think it's safe to say that Japan is the birthplace of implementing fetishism into video games. Jiggly breast physics? Made in Japan. Skimply clad female characters? Made in Japan. Chainmail Bikinis? Made in Japan. I don't want to seem like a prude - I understand that sex sells and I'm totally fine with that, there's clearly a market for this kind of games, but that fact gives me little comfort. The latest trend in the long history of innovation in digital titillation is tearable clothing - think Senran Kagura as an example. There's something exciting about clothes getting ripped in the heat of combat, as cringeworthy as it can be at times. It didn't take long for me to bump into this "feature" in Action Unleashed. Hyperdimension Neptunia as a series is satirical in nature and initially I figured that perhaps the developers decided to take a swipe at the trend with some righteous parody. Little did I know that Compile Hearts got in touch with Tamsoft of Senran Kagura fame and asked them specifically to make this game. The result? A gratuitous amount of fan service.
Tearable clothing is not a small portion of the overall package here - it's clearly in focus and the game shows no signs of shame in introducing it as an integral mechanic of the game. Every heavy attack you deal and every hit you take gradually damages the outfits of your characters until they disintegrate in the flashiest way possible. You would think that this is a debilitating effect - less clothing equals less protection, right? You couldn't be further from the truth - it is in fact desirable as it recharges your HDD bar immediately, allowing your character to transform on the spot rather than painstakingly refill the bar with effective attacks. Of course you can opt out - non-destructible outfits can be earned from the journalists provided your performance in-game is good enough... but even with those in mind, Action Unleashed is not a game Little Timmy should play on the bus.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Action Unleashed had me stumped in terms of how to grade it fairly. On one hand, the game looks gorgeous, the combat is fluid, quite spectacular and overall the game is quite enjoyable. On the other, the game is lacking in an involving story, it's criminally short and it's a glimpse into the world of Japanese-style fetishism. There's a stark contrast between how the game is designed and who the target audience is - on the exterior it's cutesy with all shades of pink and purple, but once you chomp into the meat of it it's shots of panties left and right. I guess it's to be expected from a game designed to inject Moe directly into the player's eyeballs, but knowing that gave me no solace.
With that in mind, I have to split my score. If you're a fan of this sort of games, you don't mind a lack of overarching story and prefer to observe interactions between characters in numerous long-winded chit-chat scenes, this game is exactly what you're looking for and probably a 7 or even an 8 out of 10. Unfortunately, I'm not that kind of gamer. In my eyes, the storyline was lacking and the fact that I practically had to reach the half-way point of the game before things really got going is a testament to that. I wanted more RPG from this Action RPG and the explosive clothing, as much as it was entertaining, was not enough to keep me entertained on this ride, so to me it's a 6.5. That's not to say that the game's not enjoyable - it's a bumpy rollercoaster ride, but it's a rollercoaster still. The trademark Hyperdimension Neptunia humour and a wealth of video game references are still there full force and they'll bring a smile to your face. I guess my recommendation is to curb your expectations when getting into this game as we all wait for the next fully-fledged installment in the series - treat Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed as a fun, action-packed appetizer while the main course is still in the oven.
+ Excellent fighting mechanics
+ Great audio-visual presentation and smooth performance
+ A cast of colourful, likable characters
+ Two additional modes unlocked post-game give the title some extra longevity
+ The game features both an English and a Japanese dub
- Poor story
- Gratuitous amounts of fan service - could kill the lesser man
- Very short campaign
The presentation of the title is great - the levels, albeit a bit cramped, are relatively well-designed and pleasant to look at. The other *cough* *cough* kind of "presenting" the game offers is also noteworthy if you're into this sort of thing, but the novelty of the "cutscenes" may fade once they're repeated over and over... Then again, there's 10 characters to choose from, so who am I to complain?
The gameplay of Action Unleashed is just that - Action Unleashed. Combat is fast-paced, flashy and very enjoyable. Unfortunately, poor enemy A.I. spoils the experience a bit, especially in the initial stages of the game and the challenge springs mostly from enemies crowding around you rather than being individually threatening. Thankfully the game offers debilitating items for gamers who wish to test themselves.
It's unlikely for me to finish the great majority of a game during the short amount of time I have to review it - with Action Unleashed I had time to spare after finishing the main storyline. It's short, this much is obvious, but with two extra unlockable modes and a scoring system which encourages you to revisit previously completed missions, it has some decent replay value.
out of 10
(not an average)
I didn't have to try hard to like Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed - it's a fun pick-up-and-play game. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to "love it", and that's a shame because it has all the makings of a great title. The game has plenty of things going for it, but its numerous flaws prevent it from shining like a gem. I'd recommend the title to fans of the series as well as fans of Senran Kagura-style games, but if you're not a fan of either, you can probably pass this one up.