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  1. Developer: Tamsoft Publisher: Idea Factory International Platform: PlayStation Vita Release Date: May 19, 2015 ESRB: T 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 too…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 flounders… 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. Pros: + Humorous plot Neptunia is known for + Great graphics make familiar areas seen new again + Additional game modes after the main story mode Cons: - 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) Decent 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
  2. Developer: Compile Heart Publisher: NIS America Platform: PS Vita Release Date: June 3, 2014 ESRB: T for Teen The last few years have been amazing for niche game fans. Visual novels have finally made their way out of the woodwork and many other unique titles have arrived as well. However, it still took until 2014 for the first real “idol” game to hit North America. Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection (Neptunia PP for short) is a Vita game where you must help a young woman reach super-stardom via singing and dancing. How does that work in a Western market? Well, first off, this game is catering to a specific audience. It is meant to be played by those who have enjoyed at least one Hyperdimension Neptunia game in the past. Knowledge of all the games isn“t mandatory, but it helps to know which characters you like versus which you don“t before selecting your starlet. The whole experience is best served toward existing fans who would like to see their favorite anime heroine dancing around in customizable costumes. The gameplay of Neptunia PP is very simple. Once there is a girl on your team, it“s your role to tell her what to do each day. Should she practice dance moves or should she host an event to gain more fans? Should she take a break to de-stress or hang out with competing idols? As the producer, you make all these choices day in and day out. And, mostly, that“s all you do. Characters can only take one action per day and some actions require a few days to recharge. Days are important because you have under 200 of them to raise your idol to the top of the charts. As the story dictates, this is to topple the stranglehold 48-girl pop group MOB48 has on the world. You can beat the game in a third that time if you make smart idol-focused choices. Players can stretch out playtime by simply getting to know the other idols better or even getting them to join up into duos or trios. You can also attempt to raise affection with the idol you“re tasked with teaching, but that isn“t a requirement. After increasing stats and fanbase, your next role as producer is to produce concerts. Here players can choose what outfits their idol will wear, stage venue and special effects, and the song of choice. As there are only five songs in all (four unlockable), it“s not as if there is much tough decision-making going on. All of the customization aside from outfits seems similarly restrictive. Also, it doesn“t really seem to matter which stuff you choose as the crowd is ready to go gaga no matter what. Once a concert is underway, the player is required to keep the crowd excited. They do this via manipulating the camera to get dynamic views of the performance. Beyond that, you can set off stage effects such as lasers and spotlights. That“s… all you do. It would be awesome to see a musical minigame or anything, but instead you just have to fuss the camera about and shoot off effects when the crowd cheers. It“s so incredibly simple that it feels odd to be scored on the performance afterward. Raise stats, reduce stress, and run some concerts. That“s all you have to do in Neptunia PP. It quickly becomes stale unless you“re in love with stat-raising in and of itself. Thankfully, there is a surprising amount of story events to keep days from being completely mundane. Usually these are humorous interludes but sometimes affect your stats as well. In any case, these moments are usually fun (but sometimes creepy) and should serve as a plus for Hyperdimension Neptunia lovers. Still, even for fans of the JRPG series, it is hard to recommend Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection. There“s just so little there to warrant a playthrough. You do have the option of choosing Neptune, Noire, Blanc, or Vert, but one droll experience was enough for me. Hopefully we do see more idol games come West, though, as there are games like Idolm@ster that are actually entertaining. For now, however, only die-hard Hyperdimension Neptunia/idol fans should pick this up. Pros: + Players have a choice of four characters to turn into idols + Amusing story segments crop up on occasion Cons: - Gameplay mainly consists of raising stats via menus - Little entertainment value in actually producing concerts - Somehow this game about musical idols has only five songs in all Overall Score: 4 (out of 10) Below Average With minimal gameplay and story flourishes that cater most to existing fans, there's little reason for anyone outside the Neptunia fandom to give this game a go. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using PS Vita downloadable code provided by the publisher
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Sees Slight Delay

    If you were amping yourself up for the March 12th release of the latest Hyperdimension Neptunia game then this news will unfortunately cease such celebrations. Publisher NIS America has announced that the game is going to see a slight delay. Thankfully, the game is not being pushed months away or even canceled for US release. The delay sets Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory back nine days so that it will now be out on March 21st for North Americans. Residents of the United Kingdom will see the date pushed back to the 22nd. However, the rest of Europe can still grab the game on the 15th. No explanation was given for the small delay so hopefully it doesn't spoil anyone's weekend. In the meantime, it may or may not be worth it to check out the Hyperdimension Neptunia iPhone app. The app is a free download but gaining access to full versions of characters and extra outfits costs money.
  4. Today NIS America made a handful of announcements to coincide with Tokyo Game Show. Via their official blog they announced two upcoming titles to be released in the US for 2013. These titles are Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory and Generations of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection. The latest Hyperdimension Neptunia game is the third in the series and is still a PS3 exclusive. Instead of focusing on more modern eras of gaming, Victory takes players back to the world of Gamindustri in the 80s. There's no specific date set yet but right now it's pegged for a "Spring 2013" timeframe. To coincide with this, they will also launch a Neptunia iPhone App. It doesn't seem to actually help the game any but just let you take photos with the characters Neptune, Noire, and a few other things. The next title is Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection. The game will be available only as a digital download for PSP but at least it has a tighter release date. Expect to see it on PSN this coming February. Fans of strategy RPGs should give this one a look even if they weren't aware of the last Generation of Chaos release on PSP back in 2006. NIS also announced that they will be bringing Persona 4 Golden to Europe in 2013. However, most of us will probably be picking that up with the US launch on November 20th. Are you looking forward to any of these games?