Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Compile Heart
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is an idol videogame parody spin-off of a parody JRPG based on videogames. It's Parodyception!
And it's a decent parody too. The world of Gamindustri -- yes, that's the sort of level we're at here folks -- is ruled over by godesses who cheekily personify a real-life console manufacturer. From the impulsive and brash Noire who runs Lastation (geddit?) to the adorable DS twins, everyone and everything is based around obvious and occasionally hilarious satire of this cut-throat industry.
My personal favourite 'CPU' would have to be the arrogant feature-obsessed Vert, who considers herself to be older and wiser than all her fellows, while occasionally suggesting handing out free hardware at PR events. She wears green and presides over the Leanbox region. See if you can guess what console manufacturer she represents!
This being a Compile Heart game, of course, the CPUs also happen to be scantily-clad anime women who love flashing flesh at every opportunity. It's pure fan service, but rather than trying to parody JRPGs like its parent franchise, Producing Perfection instead mocks the proliferation of 'idol' pop group management games such as the IdolM@ster series, casting players as an unwilling hapless producer tasked with turning one of the lasses into a pop sensation. Once again, satire is very much the point, even including the name of the evil rival idol group MOB48.
So Producing Perfection succeeds at being great fan service and a decent in-joke, then, but much like the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, it's arguably not much cop as a videogame.
The premise is all too simple: you've got 180 days to ensure that your chose CPU receives a controlling share of the world's overall record sales. You'll do so by accruing fans in different territories with PR events and schemes, training your idol in various ways and improving your relationship with them.
Which boils down to picking one of a small number of potential options, reading a little dialogue, seeing a few numbers increase and then doing exactly the same thing again. Even occasional fan-boosting concerts, which most Idol games translate into tense and enjoyable rhythm minigames, basically just let you control the camera and trigger a few stage effects as your buxom lass skips about and gyrates to the crowd. You can practically get away with only using one hand... oh dear.
I wrote an article about "lazy parody games" a while back and Producing Perfection is definitely one of them. It tries to mock idol games by perpetrating the worst aspects of the popular Japanese genre, but does so from a position of weakness.
However, it's not fair to criticise Compile Heart's latest localisation too harshly since it isn't technically an idol management game. It's a visual novel designed for light satire, heavy series fan service and not infrequent titillation - and on that front, it's actually rather good.
The dialogue, no matter who you pick, is excellent. Well-localised and bouncy (easy tiger) banter gives characters their own unique personality, flowing naturally and frequently pokes fun at its source material in surprisingly profound ways. Plenty of unexpected and unpredictable asides put you in silly (often sexy) situations, while replay value is impressive thanks to the different events you'll encounter with each of the four CPUs. Once again, Compile Heart have also made the most of their limited graphic novel setup, presenting crisp and detailed anime character sprites and backgrounds.
We've experienced far better visual novels over the last few months and years -- this is no Danganronpa, to be clear -- but it is surprisingly engaging and well-written.
Mind you, the level of fan service is a double-edged sword. One man's CPU is another man's scantily-clad generic anime girl. I can't speak from a female perspective, but it might be difficult to read yourself into the role of producer when you literally break your fall into Gamindustri on Vert's ample busom. The titillation is cheeky despite the somewhat degrading things idols need to do -- but these are pop starlets we're talking about here. You'll see worse and more exploitative things in 90% of music videos out there.
And in fairness there is depth to be found here. You can merge with other CPUs to form double-acts with shared shares, or move your base of operations to other territories to poach a new audience, accruing 'haters' in the process. I really started to get into my role as manager, finally using real business acumen to get ahead. My first chosen protege, Vert, finally secured a controlling market share after sixty days, after which point I assumed that I'd be able to shoot for total global domination.
Nope. The game just ended. My competence had been punished, not rewarded, meaning that the only way to get the 'true' rather than 'good' ending is to PURPOSEFULLY SUCK while choosing a handful of perfect responses at key scripted moments.
Imagine if Championship Manager rolled credits and quit to desktop the moment you made it into the Premier League. Ridiculous.
Once again, Compile Heart's trademark art style, dialogue and New Game + replayability saves the day -- critical for a visual novel. I just can't get over how, yet again, they've clearly have the skill to pull off something remarkable yet settle for the bare minimum every time.
- Bouncy visual novel dialogue and well-observed videogame satire
- Crisp visuals, colourful anime art style and catchy tunes
- Depth if you look for it
- Blatant fan service: familiar characters abound
- Idol management lacks depth and requires very little/no input
- Pathetic song selection and bare-bones concerts
- Bizarre victory conditions punish competence
- Blatant fan service: scantily-clad anime girls abound
The Short Version: Let's face it, you already know whether you're to buy Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection.
I can't wholeheartedly recommend an unambitious visual novel disguised as a half-baked idol management game, but I must admit to thoroughly enjoying its dialogue, occasionally insightful satire and a few intriguing gameplay opportunities. Sadly Compile Heart have once again failed to back up their trademark racy style with meaningful substance.