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August 2020

Neptunia Shooter

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: May 21, 2019


PC Review - 'Neptunia Shooter'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 7, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Set in a mysterious space dimension, Neptunia Shooter also includes an online leaderboard where players from around the world can duke it out and see who has the highest score!

The bulk of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has covered the RPG genre. From mainline games to spin-offs, almost every one of them has either been a traditional modern turn-based RPG or a grid-based strategy RPG. The only exceptions to this were Hyperdimension Neptunia U and MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies, both of which took the characters and placed them into mini Musou-style games. Based on this, it remains surprising that the developers have gone with something wildly different in Neptunia Shooter. What's even more surprising is how bare-bones it is.

Although the game doesn't feature a story, you can make out the premise via gameplay alone. Entering into the space of the shooter dimension, you discover that all of your friends and fellow goddesses from Gameindustri have fallen under an evil spell. As Neptunia, the only one not affected by this, your job is to use your newfound powers of shooting to defeat the enemy waves that come after you and shoot your friends until they regain their senses.

At first, the game comes off as a very basic space shooter, something that was certainly prevalent in the mid-1980s. You can essentially move in any direction but remain flying forward while you rapidly shoot infinite bullets against approaching Dogoos, the bear-faced creatures that are shaped like slimes from the Dragon Quest series. The enemies come in predictable patterns, and the different colors of the Dogoos denote exactly how they'll move and what kind of attack they'll deliver.

At the end of each level, you face off against one of your friends, all of whom come with unique attack patterns of their own, whether that's falling pills or slow-moving projectiles. Aside from seeing a few references to old shooters, the game's hook comes from your ability to take your freed friends into your own party and switch between each of them on the fly. Just like in their boss form, playing as those characters gives you access to different weapon types or abilities, such as producing a shield to absorb attacks or shoot backward.

That's just about all there is to Neptunia Shooter. The tendency to have some enemy attacks creep into "bullet hell" territory might cause panic for some, but compared to the other true bullet-hell shooters out there, the attacks here are rather light in bullet volume. Clocking in at about six levels, the game is on the short side, but this isn't something you'll be able to breeze through in one go, as the game only gives you one life and no continues. The life really indicates how many hits you can take before dying, and while it is fairly easy to earn more hits to buffer the counter, it is just as easy to get hit when you haven't adequately cleared out the area or aren't paying attention to what's flying around you.

This isn't a difficult game at all if you're willing to grind a bit and learn enemy patterns. Anyone with adequate skills in shooters will see themselves progress slowly after each death, so it isn't as challenging as other games in this category. People will have a few issues, though. For starters, there are no visible collisions on Neptunia or any of her friends. You know that the game is obeying some bullet hell rules since you can touch some bullets and be completely fine, but you have no idea how much real avoidance space you have. Secondly, the enemy variety is low. Yes, you have different-colored Dogoos, but since the series sports a decent bestiary, it feels cheap that only one enemy type appears here. Finally, Neptunia Shooter only has this one mode, and while there is an online leaderboard, it only shows the top five and your own placement, and that only underscores the title's bare-bones approach.

The presentation is where it feels that too many corners were cut in development. Graphically, it actually looks wonderful, with some nice chunky pixels that depict the right elements with ease. While the starfield is nice due to the parallax scrolling, the environment doesn't change throughout the game, making it quite boring to look at. The sound is the same story, as the shooting and destruction of Dogoos is classic 8-bit material, as is the sound of bullets hitting for no damage. With that said, the only music you hear comes from boss intros and defeats, making for one lonely journey from beginning to end.

Neptunia Shooter gets the core mechanics right for an 8-bit shooter, and it adds bullet hell mechanics and character-switching to spice things up. It's length also isn't a bother due to the lack of continues, stretching out a very short experience to a more acceptable one for the $5 price tag. What makes the game feel hollow is its bare-bones approach, including the lack of music and a dearth of enemy variety. If you're willing to overlook this, you'll find Neptunia Shooter to be decent enough for a quick spin. If you're expecting something grand with the trademark Neptunia charm, you'll come away disappointed.

Score: 6.0/10

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