Developed by Compile Heart, Artisan Studios Published by Idea Factory International Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Switch and PC)
Every once in a while, a long-running series will do something unexpected and switch up the formula that it’s known for. Think of when the first Paper Mario came out and how everyone was shocked to see the style the series took. Well, another series has decided to shake up its formula with something new. This time we are looking at the newest release in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Super Neptunia RPG for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Some might ask “aren’t most games in the Neptune series all RPGs?” and they’d be correct about that. However, where Super Neptunia RPG differentiates itself from the other games in the series is that it loses one of its dimensions; yep that’s right, it’s all in 2D! Another major difference is that this game was developed by a small, Canadian studio called Artisan Studios, making this game the first game in the series to be developed by a foreign studio. How does going 2D fare for this adventure? Let’s dig a little deeper to see if Super Neptunia RPG is really super or falls flat.
The story starts with Neptune and the rest of the four goddesses losing their memories as soon as they land in a version of the game industry that they are not familiar with. This world is really into 2D games and is ruled by an organization called Bombyx Mori that has a tight grip on the citizen in order to produce new 2D games. Super Neptunia RPG’s story is pretty standard if you’re a fan of this series and that’s not really a bad thing. It’s filled to the brim with the references you’d come to expect. The interactions between the characters are enjoyable and the voice acting is very high quality just like it is with every entry in the series. Regardless if you like playing the game in English or Japanese, you’ll enjoy the effort the voice cast made to bring these characters to life.
I can’t mention the voice cast without discussing what makes Super Neptune RPG really stand out: the gorgeous 2D art that was created by both Tsunako and Artisan Studios. I found myself immersed in looking at the world of Game Industry in a new light, always wanting to play a little more because I wanted to see what the next area looked liked. This is one of the first times we see the Neptunia cast in a style of 2D that is different than retro 16-bit pixel art. It’s a very welcome change of pace for the series and I hope they make another RPG in this style.
Having great voice acting and beautiful art is one thing, but the gameplay is what makes a video game. It is pretty good…once get used to it. Unlike other entries in this series, Super Neptunia RPG has an active battle system. Your party runs off of a time gauge and each action takes a section of that gauge depending on how strong the attack. The stronger the attack, the more it takes off the gauge. Where it gets even more interesting is that you can change the leader of your party mid battle and depending on where a character is you can set them to perform different actions. If you have Neptune upfront you can set her to do a normal attack and then switch the order where she is in the back where you can have her use a buffing magic skill. The focus in swapping party order during the battle and making sure you have the right skill for every situation is crucial. This provides more depth to the game that one may realize when first starting out.
Other than the battle system, Super Neptunia RPG places a big focus on platforming. Given that this game is 2D it makes sense. While it is enjoyable it dies become a little frustrating at times because the controls feel stiff at times. Like when you land on a platform, Neptune will take a step or two forward real quick which causes an animation blur. Early on this caused me to over correct my jump, leaving me to fall off the platform I was trying to jump on. I’m not sure if this is intentional or something that might have been overlooked.
Overall, Super Neptunia RPG is a welcome addition to the Neptunia series that new and old players can easily pick up and play. This entry features not only spectacular voice acting but beautiful 2D art which will leave any retro fan wanting more. Top it all off with interesting combat and stiff, but still enjoyable, platforming there’s something here for all RPG fans.