Hyperdimension Neptunia is busy branching out into various genres alongside the original JRPG games, including music, hack and slash and now SRPG with Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart.
As you might’ve guessed by the title, this is the first game in the series to have Noire as the main character – something which Neptune complains about in the game, saying she wouldn’t fall in battle if she were the lead still. Noire had previously won multiple character polls for the series, prompting her to get her own breakout game, and I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it and not just because Noire is a hugely likeable character, but because it’s a fresh spin on one of my favourite series’.
Hyperdevotion Noire deviates from the series’ JRPG roots and ventures into SRPG territory where the four CPU’s band together to bring peace to Gamarket (similar to Gamindustri with the four CPU’s fighting for power), and to clear out the sudden wave of monsters that have come around due to a mistake made by Noire. Neptune, Vert and Blanc recognise Noire as their leader after she beats them in battle, and they’re joined by new girls who represent series’ such as Street Fighter, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy.
I’m not very good at SPRG’s to be perfectly honest, and I’d stupidly failed many times in Hyperdevotion Noire but the game allows you to restart the mission immediately or lower the difficulty – the best thing is that if you levelled up previously, these levels will carry over making you stronger than you were in your first attempt; it’s much more forgiving than Valkyria Chronicles where if someone dies, they stay dead! The number of characters you can use per battle depends on the matches conditions, and so there were fights where I could only use one character and then others where I had seven on the field fighting against an alarming amount of monsters. An SRPG staple that has been preserved is the ability to lift and throw things, giving you access to higher ground and in Hyperdevotion Noire’s case, you can flip switches to activate carriages and the like to move to other areas of the battle area.
You begin battles on a square-grid, with the squares representing where you can go,and each character is different in stats so won’t all travel the same distance. Once you meet with an enemy, you can choose to use a standard attack or a skill, which costs SP, to defeat them. If you do a skill when other characters are around you, they’ll peck you on the cheek and raise your LP meter – once this hits its max you can unleash a devastating special attack; you can also use the points to access the CPU’s HDD forms which raises their base stats. Each battle has its own challenging victory and defeat conditions, so make sure to keep an eye on these as some have time limits. You can skip actions thankfully, although waiting for the enemy to finish their turn can still take quite a while even if you do mash away with the X button.
Despite the crazy amount of options in battle, and working the camera which takes a while to get used to, it’s a simple yet complex affair that should please hardcore SRPG aficionados as well as newcomers to the genre who are first experiencing it with Hyperdevotion Noire. Many of the series’ features returns, such as creating items and equipment via plans, which require you to collect specific ingredients, and disc dev which allows you to burn a disc with various enhancements to your offence, defence and other stats. Fans will feel at home with this fresh take on the Hyperdimension Neptunia formula, and will find themselves with plenty to do other than progress the main story.
Another new gameplay feature is introduced in the form of Sim Noire, which is a sim-like mini-game with Noire where you answer fan requests and gather points to decorate her home. The requests are humourous and simple, with people submitting questions concerning various topics including help on becoming an idol, how to treat an ill pet, advice on love and a multitude of other trivial things. You’ll be given two options to reply with, and if Noire agrees then you’ll build a rapport with her which unlocks special scenes with her during the game; the right answer is indicated by a jingling noise. You’re able to provide Noire with things such as new interiors, furniture and various entertainment items, and although they’re inanimate they do talk and even question why they’re able to talk.
The graphics are a pleasant departure from what I’m used to, with Hyperdevotion Noire featuring cute chibi-styled art in battle with the normal character portraits for conversation. The chibi art meshes perfectly with the colourful cast and even if they’ve changed in size and shape, their personalities and designs remain intact. Everything runs smoothly despite the amount of action on-screen, and the cutscenes in particular are hugely entertaining and the animation wouldn’t look out of place on a children’s cartoon channel – you know, ignoring the breasts, some swear words and abundance of action. As always, the 2D character potraits are highly detailed and easy on the eyes, and seem to be more dynamic than ever with various facial animations.
As an advocate of English dubbing, Hyperdevotion Noire carries on the series’ tradition of having brilliant voice-actresses (as there’s only ever been about one male in the series) delivering one of the best examples of English dubs – honestly, they’re just phenomenal. You can choose to play it with the original Japanese VA’s if you prefer, which is also an enjoyable listen from what I can tell. Much of the OST will be familiar to long-time fans of the series with many tracks returning, and the new tunes snuggle in as if they’d always been there; yes, the opening theme is something you’ll find yourself listening to outside of the game.
Hyperdevotion Noire is both different yet familiar to the series, and if you’re a fan then this is a game you won’t want to miss out on. The trademark, fourth-wall breaking and genuinely funny humour is present, the gameplay is easily accessible and features many of the usual series’ mechanics, and the chibi-inspired visuals are adorable and reflect the character designs flawlessly. If you’re a fan of Noire then Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is already a no-brainer, but I can easily recommend this to fans of the series and even if you haven’t played the other titles, the game makes it very easy to jump into with its alternate world and standalone story. Now, time to wrap this up so I can go ahead and lose many more hours to this fantastic game.