There are so, so many games in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. A lot of genre territory has been covered as well, from Musou-style action brawlers to an idol sim. With Super Neptunia RPG, Neptune and the gang are occupying a new space, or rather a new dimension. While the core Hyperdimension Neptunia titles are 3D JRPGs with combo-oriented combat, Super Neptunia RPG is a hybrid 2D platformer/JRPG that sort of feels like a cross between Valkyrie Profile and… a kitschy mobile game from ten years ago. Diehard Neptunia fans, the ones who bought those TOP NEP snapback hats, will probably be able to happily drink this Kool-Aid. But for me, someone who has played and enjoyed the series but isn’t all in, I found Super Neptunia RPG to be more sloppy and dull than I expected.
A Strange, New Land for Video Game Jokes
If you’re new to Nep Nep, here’s the pitch. The world of this series, Gamindustri, is an existence fueled by video game jokes. Each region of the world is based on a console-making company in real life, and the main characters are goddesses who are all terrible people and rule over their people with an intense reluctance. Neptunia, who represents Sega platforms, is typically the main character, and the air-headed silly type who just wants to have a good time. The other ladies have their own one-dimensional personality quirks, and the way they bounce off each other is generally a good time. Usually, while the goddesses hate each other, a common enemy (such as piracy) forces them to band together for the good of Gamindustri.
In Super Neptunia RPG, Neptunia wakes up in a strange world with no memories of anything, other than her name. The weirdest part about it is that everything is 2D, including Neptunia herself. While trying to find her way around this new world with new rules and physics, Neptunia gets wrapped up in a strange organization that aggressively evangelizes the merits of 2D video games. Neptunia sets out on an adventure to figure out, well, anything, and takes a whole bunch of quests from NPCs along the way. Silliness ensues, in typical Neptunia fashion.
It’s Super Neptunia, not Super Mario
Around when Super Neptunia RPG hands control over to the player for the first time is when the problems start. Moving around this game’s world just feels off in a way that is immediately offputting. Neptunia moves around in a sort of awkward, floaty way, never quite feeling like a solid presence in the world. It’s hard to tell whether or not you can move up or down on some screens, since the backgrounds can often be quite busy. When you are able to find your way around, you end up out in the field, where monsters and platforms become your main focus. Jumping is just as awkward and floaty as walking around, making any and all platforming tedious, especially when the backgrounds make determining solid ground a task.
For combat, Super Neptunia RPG takes on a form similar to Valkyrie Profile. Each character has a button, and pressing that button in various contexts is how the player attacks. This can lead to staggered combos and other strategies, which is totally fine. But instead of having a turn-based system, Super Neptunia RPG instead seeks to adapt the 3D games’ AP system, meaning how and when you attack have limitations. This time AP comes in the form of a bar that slowly fills, and can fuel attacks when enough meter is stored. This makes the combat, which is already a little on the slow side, even slower as each battle sees you and your foes just standing still for several seconds before anyone can do anything. And that’s just if you want to use basic attacks. Stronger maneuvers mean you need to just sit there for even longer, absorbing damage while the AP meter crawls to where it needs to be. A fast-forward option for speed grinding exists, but Super Neptunia RPG can’t really handle it, chugging when too much happens at once on the screen.
It’s More Like Medium Nep, Really. Middle Nep?
Fortunately Super Neptunia RPG isn’t difficult, so sticking to basic strategies is often a totally viable path, especially on the default difficulty setting. If you’re more interested in Neptunia’s goofy antics than the combat system, you can push your way through to get from gag to gag and have a good time. But for me, I’m always the most interested in combat systems from Idea Factory and Compile Heart games, because they’re often full of interesting and unique ideas. This time around, Canadian developer Artisan Studios has made something that feels a lot more rote, which combined with the rough overworld mechanics makes for a slog of an experience.
Super Neptunia RPG feels like a good idea gone awry. On paper, having everyone’s favorite Hyperdimension Neptunia characters come together for a more traditional JRPG style makes plenty of sense. That’s especially true since the classic JRPG style is a wealthy mine for comedy. But instead, Artisan Studios made a game that looks and feels cheap, due to a bizarre focus on platforming that detracts from the experience more than it adds. Having Neptunia flop around on generic, floating platforms to collect shiny orbs and swipe at monsters, all powered by that clumsy, wobbly animation style that often plagues smaller scope 2D games, just doesn’t work. A simple 2D grid for moving around would have been fine, and perhaps more appropriate for the series since I’m sure there are plenty of unused Dragon Quest gags floating around. While the visuals are well-drawn and the series’ trademark gamer humor is alive and well, everything about the way Super Neptunia RPG moves and feels to play is a real drag.
Super Neptunia RPG review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a Standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.