It can be tough to judge a game that clear focuses on a niche market. It can be easy to assume such a title is doing something wrong if you're not part of the target audience — especially the extremely Japan-focused idol simulation genre. Despite that, Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection stands out as a game that doesn't do it right, even for the target audience. It's not because of glaring mistakes but an unsatisfying lack of content.
Hyperdimension Neptunia PP opens up with the four goddesses of the Gameindustri world facing an unprecedented disaster. The game hardware they are known for selling has greatly declined in popularity. The audience is now fixated on a new popular idol group, MOB48. The goddesses decide the only way they can compete is to become idols, so they summon a mortal from the real world to serve as their producer. The player is this producer and must guide one of the goddesses in her superstar idol career. Until they reclaim their popularity, he can't return home.
Producing Perfection's story is genuinely hard to judge. It's largely for fans to see the characters they enjoy, but they repeat the same character traits and don't do anything interesting or creative. I chose the Leanbox CPU for my first playthrough, and roughly 90% of her conversations boiled down to, "I like playing video games, don't you?" Even if you like the characters, it's tough to imagine getting past the unlikeable producer protagonist. He's supposed to be a faceless nobody, but he can be a kind-of-nice guy, bland as dishwater, or a full-on creep. Regardless of how you treat them, each goddess seems to instantly fall in love with the producer. It's hard to imagine die-hard Neptunia fans enjoying these limited interactions, and anyone who isn't familiar with the franchise is going to be bored.
This might be more forgivable if the core gameplay were more solid, but it isn't. You have a core set of idol stats to increase. Each day, you can assign your idol to either train or work to build up these stats, but you must also balance your idol's stress and guts. Too much stress, and she fails in her training or work. Not enough guts, and she can't perform. You can earn fans by performing at events or visiting other CPU lands (at the cost of earning some haters, too). You can team up with the other CPUs to form an idol group to increase the group's popularity at the cost of individual popularity.
The actual simulation aspect is completely toothless. Increasing stats is trivial, and managing stress is almost nonexistent. I kept my stress at or near zero through basic gameplay and occasionally resting for a day. There's an emergency option to rest for three days, but I can't imagine using it when resting for a day decreased my stress by as much as 50%. Once the guts stat reached 100%, I never went much lower. It was easy to increase stats and earn fans, and I accidentally finished my first playthrough before the halfway point. My idol hit #1 on the charts without giving any concerts outside of Leanbox or teaming up with other idols. Replays only made it even easier. The toughest part was not finishing the game too early so I could see certain events.
You can give a concert roughly every week. When you have enough guts, the concert option is available, and choosing it starts the minigame. You pick a costume, a stage and a song. The costume options are robust but have no real effect, so there's no reason to think about what you're choosing. The stage options have a minor effect but are so insignificant that they're unnoticeable. The song options are where things really go wrong. There are a total of five songs in the game: one for each CPU and a final song. There is also no reason to use any song but the idol's designated song because the idol can transform into her goddess form only during that specific song. Using any other songs is pointless since you get the most points for using the designated tune. After that, you can select stage effects and position your idol onstage.
The concert gameplay is basically one step up from a cut scene since every concert plays out exactly the same way. You start the song, and the moment you hear the crowd cheer, you set off a stage effect. Repeat until you win. By doing this, I was able to ace almost every concert. You can make minor adjustments to the camera angle to further raise your stats, but it's not a big influence. It is less of an idol simulator and more of a stage lighting simulator. I've played F2P Smartphone games with more complex and involved gameplay.
That's about all the gameplay it offers. You can select dialogue options, perform some very basic simulation management gameplay, and perform a boring minigame. Producing Perfection is a simplistic visual novel that does the bare minimum it needs to qualify as a game. It's possible to make the dialogue-selection piece engaging, but PP lacks the writing quality to pull it off. The characters are simple and one-note, there's no real plot, and the only thing the game seems to do is offer the player a chance to "date" the girl of his or her choice.
Visually, Producing Perfection is pretty bland. The dancing animations are quite nice, but they are limited in number. The characters are customizable, but it takes a while to unlock more options. The rest of the game just doesn't do anything to stand out. The voice acting is passible enough and allows for Japanese voice acting if you prefer. The songs are kept in the original Japanese, and there are only a small number available, so there's little appeal even for J-Pop fans. Die-hard Neptunia fans may enjoy hearing idol singer remixes of the character theme songs, but that's about it.
It's difficult to identify the audience for Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection. Anyone interested in an idol singer game would be turned off by the simplicity of the gameplay. Anyone who likes the Neptunia characters would probably rather see them in their own events instead of fawning over a faceless protagonist. If you don't fall into either of those niches, the game doesn't offer anything. It's one simple minigame tied to some lackluster simulation-style gameplay, and it doesn't do anything well enough to carry the title for those who aren't fond of the Neptunia franchise. Even those die-hards would probably rather have another RPG than this dull, non-canon distraction.
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