Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Remember when Jay-Z and Linkin Park had that awesome mash-up CD? If you somehow haven“t (what“s wrong with you?) there are plenty of times when you might have discovered two things that you never knew you needed together, and — once combined — just make perfect sense. Stuff like french fries and chocolate shakes, eggs and ketchup, or Baloo and an airplane. Much in the same way, Compile Heart collides with Tamsoft at break neck speed for a Senran Kagura-style game set in the Hyperdimension Neptunia universe. The result is something both beautiful and frightening.
This time Neptune and the girls team up with journalists Dengekiko and Famitsu (both based on prominent Japanese gaming publications) to get to the bottom of a series of odd quests being filed with the Basilicom. If it sounds pretty inconsequential... it is, which is funny because the game actually breaks the fourth wall and tells you as much very early on. Despite this, the game still features walls and walls of text at times, giving you that trademark Neptunia humor that isn“t bad, but feels sometimes like you“re getting nowhere fast. Without the plot to drive the puns, much of it ends up feeling forced, something rarely encountered in other Neptunia games.
For those of you who have never played a Senran Kagura game, the premise is simple. You choose a girl and battle your way through hordes of enemies. The victory conditions may vary from time to time but ultimately mashing that attack button with the occasional well timed special attack or activating Hard Drive Divinity mode is the key to victory. You“ll want to keep on your toes tooâ€¦because taking too much damage can ultimately lead to some wardrobe malfunction. Basically, be prepared to experience the bare necessities (or not, since you can actually disable clothing damage if that sort of thing is not your cup of tea) if you don“t watch yourself!
And of course there“s plenty from the Neptunia side too, as this time you get to pair two characters of your choice and switch between them during battle. This opens up the use of Neptunia“s Lily system as well as giving the player the ability to occasionally shake things up during a mission. Even EXE Drives can be used, bringing plenty of core elements from Neptunia“s core franchise here to play.
So when it comes to Action Unleashed, the premise is simple but the problem is the game doesn't really communicate exactly what you need to do to advance the chapters, so you“re left feeling pretty lost among a sea of monsters that just won“t quit. In a way this game falls into the same trappings as "Musou games," a very mindless mashing of a couple buttons to kill literally hundreds of enemies before the boss appears, wherein you will mash a couple buttons until he“s dispatched and you can finally go home, only to do it again in a new area.
Many times I found myself hoping for something, anything, to get me to want to kill a few hundred more dogoo in the next quest. Even the promise of randomly dropped items, gear, collectibles, anything could make the next go a little brighter, but none of that exists. And unlike the core Neptunia series (especially the Re;Birth games), leveling up characters doesn“t periodically add new moves and mechanics to play around with (they“re usually only added between chapters). Even more baffling is the fact that unlike other Tamsoft games, combos don“t get any more intricate by leveling up either.
But that isn“t to say this game is all bad. In fact, there are a few things I feel like Action Unleashed does well. First of all, it looks fantastic. Character models have been improved from the core Neptunia games, and it“s pretty easy to tell. Dungeons themselves also feel like they benefit from more attention, and the ability to look around more than ever before is probably the reason for their collective facelifts. You can even see the action from any vantage point by pausing the game and using the viewer. While it“s pretty inconsequential in the long run it“s a pretty neat feature to have. And not just for the pantsu.
Another credit to Action Unleashed is the fact that characters vary from one and other. Each character has their own speed and method of attacking, making switching girls at least a little interesting. Lily ranks also help a lot, which means combining certain girls often makes them work even better together as time goes on (not to mention getting you closer to the game“s hardest trophy, reaching max lily rank between every girl).
But the best this game has to offer comes after the credits roll. First off you“ll get access to Gamindustri Gauntlet, which is a bracketed tournament that will see each CPU fight each other, and not the same horde of dogoo that you“ve been decimating since the first mission. This is more akin to Tamsoft“s Senran Kagura series wherein the goal of most missions is to fight another ninja, and nameless lackeys serve as fodder up until that point. I kinda wish this would have been implemented in some fashion prior to beating the main story, but at least you“ll get to experience it at some point. And make no mistake, the easy setting may be a pillow fight (like some cheesy sorority cliche), but the higher difficulties will make use of all your skill.
After you beat your first tournament you“ll unlock Neptral tower, a slaughter fest where you can try to reach ever higher and higher floors in Gamindustri“s worst kept dungeon (seriously, who let“s this many monsters roam around?). Both this and the Gamindustri Gauntlet mode really help the game in an area where for so long it kinda floundersâ€¦ monotony. Both of these modes could have been parsed out earlier to really help but rest assured, they are there.
It“s unfair to say the game doesn“t really start until after you beat it since there“s plenty to experience before the credits roll, but it can get repetitive. Even so, the game does still have plenty of shine to it — polished graphics, a collection of neat in-game options, and a whole new take on the Neptunia franchise“s characters. But when you have finally cleared it, the game gets some much needed change of pace, and is much easier to enjoy.
Ultimately though, Action Unleashed feels exactly what it sounds like — Neptunia stretched over Senran Kagura“s skin. That isn“t necessarily a bad thing though, since it can serve as a flawed but enjoyable palate cleanser for Neptunia fans coming hot off Re;Birth1 and Re;Birth2, before playing the recently released Re;Birth3. But for people curious about the franchise? Well, this probably isn“t the best jumping on point.
+ Humorous plot Neptunia is known for
+ Great graphics make familiar areas seen new again
+ Additional game modes after the main story mode
- Undefined chapter requirements can be frustrating
- Repetitive gameplay until you beat the main story mode
- Story is surprisingly anticlimactic/inconsequential
Overall Score: 6.5 (Out of 10)
Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed scratches a very specific itch, but may cause irritation for players not already invested in the world of Gamindustri
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher