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Super Neptunia RPG

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Artisan Studios
Release Date: June 25, 2019 (US), June 28, 2019 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Super Neptunia RPG'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 11, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Super Neptunia RPG is a side-scrolling RPG that brings the characters of the self-referential Neptunia series to life in a whole new way.

Buy Super Neptunia RPG

The Hyperdimension Neptunia series has always been dependable. The banter between the likeable cast members masks stories that are full of standard RPG tropes. The combat systems work well enough, and the game does a good job of minimizing parts of the grind. The presentation and voice work are fine, while the length of each title is on par with other genre offerings. It has drastically lessened the amount of fan service over the years, but to its fan base, the games remain enjoyable as popcorn fare, something to tide you over between big releases. The latest game in the series, Super Neptunia RPG, tries to change things up, and while there's some good stuff here, some questionable decisions make it more difficult to like this entry.

The game starts off in typical fashion, at least if you were to compare it to the mainline series. You begin in a dream sequence where you, as Neptune's goddess form Purple Heart, and the other goddesses are fighting against your shadow. You wake up from the dream in an amnesiac state, knowing nothing else but your name and finding yourself in a medieval version of Gameindustri. You're recruited by an organization known as Bombyx Mori, and you soon discover whose side you should be on. Once you gather all four goddesses and cure them of their amnesia, your goal is to topple a government that is forcing everyone to make cookie-cutter 2D titles while hiding the truth about a third dimension.

Except for the setting, the amnesia plot has been used in the series several times over, and Neptune points that out at the beginning. You know where the story goes from here, but the characters save it from being tired. Everyone's personalities remain unchanged, and there's a greater emphasis on these personality quirks now that the younger siblings of the goddesses are nowhere to be found here. There's a lot of fourth-wall-breaking, and the jokes appear at a rapid-fire pace. Depending on whether you're already a fan, the quips will either hit or miss, but the series has been about not taking things too seriously, and that remains unchanged.

This game is a turn-based RPG like many of its predecessors, but that's where the similarities end. Instead of being a 3D affair, Super Neptunia RPG is completely 2D. All of the battle areas are side-scrollers, as are the towns, which are explorable for the first time in the series, letting you converse with the inhabitants and enter homes and shops. Platforming is thrown in for good measure, and vertical pathways expand the traversable areas beyond using exits on the left and right sides of the screen. Bottomless pits are also introduced, with the caveat that falling through them result in HP loss but not instant death.

The combat system is also overhauled greatly in several different ways. Instead of being turn-based, the game goes for an active time system similar to Final Fantasy VII or Minion Masters. A timer at the bottom of the screen fills up so you know when you can execute a move. At that time, you can hit the corresponding face button that appears over your character's head to execute the move. In a group, formation is key, since each character performs a different move or instigates a different buff based on their placement. For example, put Neptune in the front for a standard melee attack, but put her in the bottom for an ice spell. Group placement can be done on the fly, but the moves can only be customized outside of battle, forcing you to memorize what everyone can do in each placement, since you can't refresh your memory otherwise. This can be a little complicated, but item use is simpler since you can bring up the menu at any time, and the items have an immediate effect.

The change in both perspective and battle mechanics makes things feel fresh, but the changes don't feel well thought out or aren't executed properly. One of those early cases comes from the side-quest system, which emulates old RPGs to a fault. That means you'll partake in fetch quests or donate gold to gain other rewards. Standard requests from quest-givers populate a wide swath of the world map, so you're never far from getting bonuses, and that means you'll need to travel back and forth between screens several times to complete them. That wouldn't be such a big deal if the older Neptunia games didn't feature those same quests in a more streamlined way, as every quest-giver was on a job board and easily accessible via icons. With so many side-quests, reverting to a less streamlined method feels like padding.

The switch from 3D to 2D environments brings about a platforming problem, namely trying to discern what can and can't be traversed. The starting town shows off this problem when you'll encounter a split path and you can only walk down the lower path by default. To walk on the upper path, you must jump and land on that path. From here, you must use trial and error to determine which portions of the environment are usable, since they blend in too well with the environment.

Those platforming woes show up later in the game when you're asked to gather a few collectibles in a limited time, only to discover that the game isn't very responsive when you press the jump button. That's problematic when you're trying to reach far-off platforms, as you can't time your jump correctly. There are more than a few instances that require precise jumps, and the unreliable nature of the jumping means that you'll often be frustrated when simple leaps don't work as intended.

If you're looking at the sound aspect of the presentation, then you'll find Super Neptunia RPG to be an upgrade. This praise is mostly because of the soundtrack, which abandons the typical Japanese RPG score for a more orchestral one. Every track sounds like something that belongs in a bigger-budget RPG and is also worth listening to outside of the game. The sounds effects are fine, and the voice acting for both English and Japanese is just as good as ever. Certain quirks, like Neptune announcing her jumps, remain an annoying quirk since you hear it quite often, but at least the change in developer didn't also result in a voice actor change.

If you're looking at the graphical presentation, the game both hits and misses in this regard. On the positive side, the change to a flat style is adorable, and the animations look very nice even if they're more limited compared to the 3D versions of the characters. The environments are also more detailed, bringing about a game that is more attractive-looking than the titles that came before it in the series. On the other hand, the performance isn't as good as expected. We've seen Unity games do fine on the Switch before, but this one seems to suffer from constant hitching and slowdown in some unexpected places, with a pulled-back camera being one of the culprits behind this. The hitching and slowdown also occurs in menus, a big sign that there wasn't any optimization done for the Switch version.

Super Neptunia RPG negates the positives that it brings about. The fresh perspective that comes from being a classic 2D RPG with a simple battle system clashes with the unintuitive and unresponsive platforming. The presentation is beautiful, but the performance is hampered when compared to its predecessors. The ability to explore also seems nice until you realize that the streamlined side-quest system has been replaced with the more time-consuming method of visiting each quest-giver individually. Fans of the series may still enjoy it.

Score: 6.0/10

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