Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is brilliant. Not just as a tie-in for fans of Compile Heart's quirky JRPG series, but also on its own merits as satisfying, hilarious and slightly kinky handheld brawler in its own right.
Once again we find ourselves back in Gamindustri, a parody world based on the real-life console wars. Each nation has its own female warrior avatar known as CPUs, who are all based on a particular console's design and philosophy, along with their sisters who correspond to handhelds. Enemies, dialogue and backgrounds all reference classic videogames and gamer culture, which keeps things unpredictable, bouncy and very funny indeed.
You can quickly scan our Hyperdimension Neptuna Re;Birth 1 review for a full explanation of the premise (chances are that you're already familiar with it if you're reading this in the first place), but what really matters is how Hyperdimension Neptunia U takes a different tack from its predecessors. Instead of a traditional JRPG, it's a beefy and substantial beat'em up developed by Tamsoft, who also created the fun yet unashamedly risqué Senran Kagura franchise. As such, the CPUs lose their clothing and strip down to their underwear faster than you can say "fanservice."
Settle down. There's more to it than that. Loaning out the IP was a big risk, but it paid off in spades. In fact, it's actually better than the Senran Kagura series in many respects as Tamsoft are willing to laugh at their own excesses... when they're not poking fun at us games writers.Click here to read more...
There's a lot riding on Omega Quintet. Not only is this the first true PS4-exclusive JRPG, but it's also a chance for Compile Heart to step up and knock us dead.
Despite being infamous for their unashamedly kinky moe content, they're an undeniably talented studio with a flair for great battle systems and eyecatching art, yet they often settle for the bare minimum when it comes to level design, structure and story. Thankfully they've been on a hot streak recently with the Re;Birth series and Fairy Fencer F. The jump to a new console generation is a golden opportunity to push boundaries and set up a new franchise in the process.
We'll get to that in due to time. For now, what you need to know is that Omega Quintet is a game about sexy pop stars clobbering aliens to death.
Our story begins in a shattered post-apocalyptic world as the last few surviving humans have been forced into enclaves by ravenous monsters. Known as the Blare, these alien hordes can appear and attack at any time. Thankfully hope remains in the form of Verse Maidens, female pop idols who also mysteriously happen to be capable of defeating the Blare while putting on a show. Because of course of they can. Don't question it.
With the old guard getting too long in the tooth, cynical lad Takt and his childhood friend Otoha find themselves at the mercy of the Blare, who bring out Otoha's latent abilities as a potential Verse Maiden herself. Joining a cast of new recruits, they put a new Idol Group together and set to saving the world with advanced weaponry, singing, dancing and little cheesecake to keep things interesting. Meanwhile Takt becomes our avatar and their manager in order to set up a fan-pleasing if largely unnecessary harem dynamic.Click here to read more...
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is... good.
Pardon the italics, but surprise is a tough emotion to convey in a written review and I did not have high hopes for this one. In my experience, spinoffs of fanservice-focused Japanese franchises tend to just be excuses for diehard fans to spend more time with their favourite female characters, meaning that gameplay is an afterthought and quality suffers badly as a result. After all, many will pay to virtually hang out with their waifu whatever the cost, so why bother putting in the effort?
To be clear, Hyperdevotion Noire definitely is an excuse to get more intimate with Noire and the Hyperdimension Neptunia girls in some very compromising situations, but there's much more to it than that. It's a full-fat Strategy RPG created by Sting, an SRPG developer of considerable repute, that's powered by solid mechanics, handsome visuals and strives to be a good tie-in first and foremost. And succeeds, at least, more than enough to be taken seriously.
As per usual, Hyperdevotion Noire is a parody of the videogames industry, set in a colourful Sci-Fi fantasy world in which warring nations are console manufacturers battling for market share, lead by powerful (if very moe) female warrior goddesses. Noire heads up Lastation, Vert fronts Leanbox, Blanc represents Lowee and previous protagonist Neptune inexplicably still champions Planeptune despite SEGAs questionable relevance, and their fierce rivalry for fans and shares is still going strong. However, a nefarious plot ends up stripping them of their powers, forcing them to band together under Noire's leadership to reunite their scattered generals and save Gamarket once and for all.Click here to read more...
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is brilliant. Compile Heart finally managed to back up their trademark cheeky style, titillating art and unbridled fanservice with true quality, turning a shonky cult classic with a great story into a complete package. The result was an excellent handheld JRPG and the perfect opportunity for Idea Factory to reboot the series from a position of strength.
Unfortunately they decided to remake Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 instead. This unnecessary sequel managed to completely miss the point in several key areas when it released in 2012, so Re;Birth 2's massive improvements to combat, graphics and gameplay flow can only go so far.
We return to the parody world of Gamindustri, in which four nations based on console manufacturers (Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox and Lowee) battle for shares and market dominance in a quirky sci-fantasy universe. However, the champions of each nation's console -- our heroines from the original game -- have been kidnapped by the evil piracy organisation ASIC and its overlord Arfoire, meaning that it's up to their little sisters to put things right. In steps Nepgear, loosely representing the Game Gear, who has to team up with the game's own developers and other handheld console avatars to save the world.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS Vita | PSP
Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Rising Star Games
The PSP bloomed rather late in life, becoming a go-to platform for hardcore JRPG fans in search of plentiful story-driven niche titles. Amazingly, Sony's handheld discovered the niche it so desperately needed after everything from Persona to Corpse Party and Monster Hunter found a new home on the PlayStation Store, and this rich library is now ripe for perusal on the PS Vita.
Blazing Souls Accelate intends to continue this grand tradition here in Europe courtesy of Rising Star Games, who've secured the localised title as one of the Vita's first 'proper' JRPGs (by default). As a grid-based strategy roleplayer in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics, it certainly has a lot to offer, but can it hope to stack up against the wealth of competing games already on the downloadable marketplace?
In terms of storyline, Blazing Souls Accelate chronicles the covert war between humanity and a new superhuman race destined to supercede them. You'll primarily experience the narrative through the eyes of a team of mercenaries drawn into the conflict by chance and fate, doing your best to earn a crust as well as altering the course of major events. While occasionally confusing, overblown and sluggish (a JRPG staple), the plot manages to fall on the intriguing side of nonsensical and acts as a reasonable vehicle for the strategic action.
We're thoroughly bored of the conventional JRPG protagonist - the whiny, naive amnesiac orphan with a crop top and hundred dollar hairdo - so it's nice to see Accelate breaking the mould somewhat. Though lead character Zelos is the visual spit of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, he's cut from a different cloth: a cynical, hardened and world-weary gun for hire whose battle experience makes him thoroughly uncaring towards friend and foe alike. His casual swearing and contemptuous attitude actually threatens to make him totally unlikeable in the early game, but it's a refreshing change of pace nonetheless. Contrasting support characters, such as the romantically unsuccessful yet unfailingly chivalrous wanderer Nguyen and feisty, combatative swordswoman Adelle help to add real angst and personality to the reasonably-voiced dialogue, creating a surprisingly realistic feeling of group dysfunction and angst rather than stereotypical instant bonding. It's a pleasingly mature direction for an RPG to take, though you'll unavoidably encounter a fair few stock cliches throughout your travels.Click here to read more...
Ghostlight have announced today that they'll be publishing Agarest: Generations of War 2 for a European market, with Aksys handling the duties in North America, dropping three screenshots and a trailer full of JRPG goodness to keep us going until next year.
Developed by Idea Factory, Compile Heart and RED Entertainment, Agarest: Generations of War 2 features all-new strategy RPG gameplay, HD graphics, and bonus mini-games. The story involves deicide and retribution and spiritual channelling and generations of shame, guilt and redemption...which is exactly what we want.Hit the jump for a feature list and that shiny new trailer...