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Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation Vita
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: April 26, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart'

by Brian Dumlao on May 24, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Hyperdevotion Noire is the first strategy/RPG in the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise and not set within the world of Gamindustri, but instead within a similar, but separate, world known as "Gamarket."

Buy Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

Publisher Idea Factory seems very determined to bring all of its Vita incarnations of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series to the PC. All three of the Vita versions of the main series made it to the platform last year, finding fans who were interested in the series even if they weren't planning to get a Vita or a PS3. Just last month, the spin-off Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed made it to the PC, where it was as positively received as the other series entries. While there's no word on whether the first spin-off, Producing Perfection, will come to the platform as well, Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart arrives a little over a year since its Western debut on the Vita and adds another Japanese SRPG to a platform that has rarely had them.

Though it uses a number of the same characters from the main series, the story is set in the land of Gamarket and should be considered as an alternate universe. The four CPUs that represent Microsoft (Vert), Sony (Noire), Nintendo (Blanc) and Sega (Neptune) battle it out for domination of the land via the mindshares of people who root for them. Noire has been successful in ensuring a majority control over the land thanks to her own power and that of her generals (all of whom represent major game franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Winning Eleven). Unfortunately, a member of the Arfoire organization tricks her into thinking that there is a way to peace without conflict and gets her to destroy those shares, weakening her in the process. With the help of a newly appointed human secretary, Noire and the other CPU candidates must band together to get back Noire's generals and reclaim the land from Arfoire's control.

As before, the story isn't really the strong point. The plot is straightforward, and each scenario is pretty predictable. Where the game shines is with the characters and their mannerisms. If you're familiar with the characters based on earlier series entries, you'll be happy to know that the change to an alternate universe doesn't change them at all. Blanc is still a soft-spoken and serious character, while Neptune remains the kind of person who spouts random things and heads into a situation without thinking. With the focus on Noire this time around, you get more insight into her character and her somewhat lone-wolf nature, but don't expect any deep analysis or revelations. Having her front and center just makes her more available to be part of the shenanigans.

Noire's generals end up stealing the show. Unlike the CPUs, who are all based on consoles or console companies, the female generals are based on game franchises like The Idolmaster, Resident Evil and Yakuza, just to name a few. They also have some pretty notable personality quirks that bring about humorous lines or situations. Lee-Fi, for example, always wants to pick fights on the street while Tsunemi sings like a robot. Then there's Lid, who tries to sneak around and gives long expositions about battle while Resta has a strange fascination with adult material. Thanks to the parody nature of the world, the quirky personalities elicit genuine laughs.

Of the new characters introduced in Hyperdevotion Noire, the secretary is perhaps the least interesting. The lone male character who comes to Lastation looking for work, he immediately serves in a secretary role after he inadvertently helps Noire regain some of her power for a short time. Since he represents the player, you never see his portrait or body, and all of his lines are presented as text without a voice accompanying it. He may be essential to the plot, but he comes off as rather boring. When compared to others in the game, he simply fails to be interesting enough to complement them. Though he isn't irksome, he could be removed from the game, and it wouldn't suffer at all.

As mentioned earlier, this entry moves the game into strategy RPG territory, and it covers the basics quite well. Players assemble a team and designate the leader of the squad based on the benefits she would provide. Movement is turn-based, so you can move as many members of your party as you can (within restrictions) and have them unleash an attack or use an item. Positioning comes into play because you can take or inflict more damage depending on where you are in relation to the foe. Once you execute all of your turns, control goes to the enemy, and the process goes back and forth until the objectives per match are met.

Some of the staples of the series also make it to the new battle system but in slightly modified forms for the genre. The Lily Rank system that determines the relationship affinity between characters is now an active ability. To increase it, you have to set characters next to one another and have one use a special attack. The rank increases, but you also lessen the cost of the attack. Performing these moves also feeds into a meter that gives any one character the chance to unleash a major attack against multiple enemies. The HDD system is here but is very limited in that you can only use it for three turns, and it can only be activated once per character per fight. You gain added strength when unleashing attacks and the ability to easily hover over the terrain, so it's useful during specific situations.

The game also adds some other changes that make it better. The first is that you can spend points to bring in any reserved characters if you fall in battle. This prevents characters from being useless, since they might be able to unleash the killing blow if one of your starters dies on the field. Also, the game ensures that everyone on the team scores XP equally even if they didn't fight, preventing users from having to grind too much to level up.

Compared to other strategy RPGs on the market, this one is pretty simple. The only real complication is the matter of element affiliation, which can determine the amount of damage some enemies and players can take or give. Beyond that, the only other thing to deal with is the level gimmicks. One level has pits that immediately end a player's turn if they fall into it. Another has electrified tiles and electrified barriers that you can knock each another into for extra damage, and another stage has a trolley as the only means of transport between areas. They make for interesting stages to fight in, and part of the enjoyment comes from seeing what awaits you.

There are a few things that may disappoint genre fans, though. The enemy AI isn't exactly the smartest, and enemies sometimes employ some awesome tactics, but they'll also do inane things like heal allies who are already at full health. Movement is quite slow on both ends. It doesn't mean that you'll spend your time waiting for your opponent to decide what to do, but traversing the battlefield isn't quite so swift. You also can't specify the exact path you want your team to take. You can change it by altering the direction they face, but you'll sometimes have no way around traps since every path forces you into them. You can't queue up moves, either, so it isn't possible to perform more advanced moves, like moving everyone to their spots and attacking all at once. In short, anything more advanced than moving into position and attacking one at a time just isn't done.

Outside of combat, there isn't much to do. You can view the conversations of people for fun, since you no longer need them to get items and side-quests. You can decorate your house with the points you earn from shopping, and while that does get you items, the rewards are so few that you can forget they exist. The main purpose of the town is to create items, weapons, and new discs for new buffs, something that remains unchanged from the original titles but is fun nonetheless.

For those wondering about the fan service, know that it is about on par with previous entries. The breast bouncing is certainly reduced when compared to the older games, but it is present, and the upskirt panty shots have also been reduced. There are still plenty of risqué shots, such as a prolonged view of strategically placed suds while Noire takes a shower. Your attacks are also boosted by Lily points, which always start with a cut scene of your hero getting a peck on the cheek, though that is pretty tame compared to everything else. It's getting better, but keep in mind that enough of those scenes still exist.

The PC version of Hyperdevotion Noire seems to have both the benefits and drawbacks of the other games that have come before it. Even on a mechanical hard drive, the game loads up almost instantly between world map and battle screens. The game references controller buttons for all of the tutorial screens, but it plays well enough with the keyboard and mouse. The controller is still the recommended peripheral for this game since it was developed for it in the first place, but the use of the left analog stick for camera controls is a bit odd. One thing that needs to be addressed, however, is that the game consistently crashes when you try to access the disc development system in town. Until a patch comes out for that, the inability to craft items to buff yourself means that battles will be much more challenging.

The Hyperdimension Neptunia series has never been considered a graphical powerhouse, but it's not terrible in this department, either. The backgrounds are rather basic, though a few elements keep them interesting. The character models for the enemies are fine but recycled from the previous games, and the special effects are fairly pedestrian. The heroes, however, are more interesting because they're displayed in a chibi style while still retaining some details. Their expressive nature is certainly endearing. The cut scenes, while usually impeccable, have more than a few instances where the mouths simply refuse to move while a character is speaking. For a game that is mostly about cut scenes, this oversight can be bothersome to some. The title gets increased resolution on the PC, but given the simplified nature of the graphics in the first place, don't expect the PC version to be vastly superior to the Vita.

The game does very well in the audio category. The music is mostly recycled from the older games, but it still sounds good, and the scant new material blends in nicely with the rest of the soundtrack. The voices are also well done for both Japanese and English tracks, so fans on either side of the dubbed/subbed debate will come away satisfied. More importantly, the delivery of each line by just about everyone ensures that even the worst jokes don't fall flat. The sound effects are also good, so the game is a delight to listen to.

In the end, the genre change doesn't hurt Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart. The story may be straightforward, but the characters and their personalities make things enjoyable. The gameplay may not bog you down with too many systems and minutiae, but it remains fun. The simple nature of the strategy and some slow elements, like enemy movement, may irk genre veterans, but for fans of the series and those who are starting to get interested in strategy RPGs, Hyperdevotion Noire is worth a shot, especially if the developer patches up that crash.

Score: 7.0/10

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