Our favourite pudding loving amnesiac is back again in an all new adventure. Some may say Neptune is a bit too one-dimensional to be a Goddess, but she is here to prove you wrong in her new two-dimensional game.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Developer: Artisan Studios
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release Date: 20 Jun, 2019
A Link to My Past
I have to say that as a result of growing up with 2D games, I wasn’t a huge fan of the early 3D games. I freely admit that The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo is still my all-time favourite Zelda game. I realize that confession will make some of you question my abilities as a reviewer but I will not be swayed. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as well as Majora’s Mask for the longest stretch were the ones I didn’t really care for. Now my tastes have changed a bit and I admit that I do enjoy the Nintendo 64 versions of Zelda although I still would take the SNES over the N64 if I was only allowed to play one console. Nostalgia is a powerful tool. I think the reason why I was so slow to adapt to 3D games over my 2D games was that in 2D games the controls worked smoothly and in the early 3D games they tended to be hit or miss. I still have nightmares of my first 3D platforming game. Poor camera angles leading you to move and jump blindly, micro-misaligned jumps leading to death even though your foot clearly landed on the ledge, difficulty aiming with a thumbstick due to now having to worry about the various angles of your shot (and missing because you were 0.00001 degrees out even though it showed the shot passing through the enemy) and other such 3D exclusive problems lead me to hold on to my 2D world just a little longer. Of course, over the years most of those problems… still exist… but they are not nearly as bad as they were back in day when they were a revolutionary new thing. Super Neptunia RPG takes place in a world where the Goddesses are gone and forgotten and where 3D games have been banned. I have to say, that world really doesn’t sound as dystopian as the game leads you to believe.
Super Neptunia RPG is an interesting game in its own right. It’s a bit of a departure from the usual 3D world Neptune and her friends usually reside in and instead is a 2D game. The plot of the game is even more game centric than a normal Neptunia game as well. I’m not saying that games are not a central focus of the Neptunia series as a whole, but the people in Super Neptunia RPG can’t seem to go more than two sentences without a reference to gaming. It’s pretty much a world of gaming addicts. With 3D gaming being banned, there is a glut of 2D games available for people to enjoy. The game even comments about how often games get recycled with the same assets used to generate multiple very similar games…that originality tends to be an afterthought when the focus is on churning out games as fast as you can. For lack of a better word or description, Government, collects tax on people residing in that world. That tax is in the form of games rather than money. The quality of the game still matters, but quantity is also important. I say Government, but it is really more of a radicalized group of fanatics following a dictator, imposing their will on the people and punishing anyone who stands in their way. Anyway, the Government suppressed any knowledge of 3D gaming and imprisoned and/or brainwashed anyone who dared to even suggest the idea of 3D gaming. With the suppression of modern games, the four main Goddesses of the Neptunia series lost all their Share energy and were at the risk of completely ceasing to exist. Luckily rather than vanishing from the world entirely, they were trapped in their human forms with a bad case of collective amnesia.
Way back in the day I used to go to a friend’s place to play the original Playstation as I didn’t yet have one for myself. I played a game called Final Fantasy IX. It had a rather unique (at the time) way for your characters to learn their abilities and skills. Rather than learning new abilities as they leveled up, they had to learn these new abilities by equipping weapons and accessories that had the abilities they wanted to learn. This was always an interesting system in my book. The game I was working on also had this system in it although with my own personal flare to it and one day you may see a totally impartial review of my game here on Save or Quit. The nice thing about this system was that it encouraged you to try out all different weapons, armors, and accessories. This made it more interesting than just taking what you figured was the absolute best stuff right away. It was also a bit annoying at times because you would often find yourself using a weapon meant for a level 5 character while you were already level 42 just because you wanted to learn the abilities associated with it. That was okay though as it just added to the challenge and kept the game from getting too easy. That system is back in Super Neptunia RPG and it was quite refreshing to see its triumphant return. The only thing that really kneecapped it in Super Neptunia RPG is that most of the time I couldn’t afford enough new gear to ensure no one was sitting idle with their kit already mastered. The quests tend to take a fair amount of your money early on and unless you grind for a bit you will likely be running a deficit most of the game in terms of spending money. There was one element that was a little annoying that related to this and that was the fact that you would need to equip the ability or attribute before it could be used. You were limited to only four abilities per character at any given time and some of them shared slots preventing you from using them all freely. For the attributes you needed to have enough points to equip it which means you will likely be unable to equip the majority of your attributes due to their high point cost or because you favoured another attribute instead. It meant chasing down every possible skill or attribute was kind of pointless because you likely wouldn’t even be able to use it anyway. Now you might be thinking to yourself, why would they do that? The reason why is quite simple, eventually you will be able to equip more attributes because you will earn more points to spend. There are 999 levels in this game however if you play the story at a reasonable pace, odds are you will be well below level 100 when you ultimately see the credits roll. I had to grind for a couple of hours in a secret metal dogoo room just to unlock the level 100 achievement to finish getting 100% achievements for this game. I have to assume getting to level 999 will take a certain level of dedication and a healthy dose of insanity to go along with it.
As you walk around the field you will see enemies roaming around. The enemy you encounter likely won’t match the appearance of the one roaming around, but it at least still warns you that if you come in contact with it that a battle will occur. The combat in this game feels like a nice blend of retro 2D charm with modern undertones to let you know that this is still a modern 2D game. You can have up to four characters on your team, and each one of them can have four abilities attached to them but you can only have one ability per character active at any given time. You can rotate your characters around the field in order to change their current ability as well as any formation perks they might have in that position. Combat is handled by pressing the button associated with the character you want to perform and having them do their only currently available move assuming you have enough action points built up to perform the move. The action point pool is shared between your characters so you have to decide carefully who will attack rather than just spam button presses. Depending on elemental attributes, attacks can either do normal damage, extra damage for weaknesses, less damage for resistances or even heal if the element attunement is right. This can lead to situations where it is nearly impossible to complete a battle if you have only one character on the screen and they are equipped with an element that heals your enemy. Besides just normal attacks though, there are also a couple of other tricks up your proverbial sleeve. There are the limit breaks that occur if you beat on the enemy enough to charge it as well as the eventual transformations to a stronger version of your character that any Neptunia fan is familiar with already.
The playing field is two dimensional. You can go up or down, left or right, but that is about it. The platforming in this game is actually remarkably good considering that it is a departure from the normal Neptunia style game. You eventually unlock high jump and double jump which makes it even easier to navigate as well as encourages you to revisit previous areas so you can get to areas and items you were unable to reach before. The world map is divided into five areas, and each area looks different than the previous. You are able to fast travel between crystals or take boats between the islands. I have to say that it did get a bit confusing despite having access to a map to find my way around the different areas when I was trying to find a specific location, but eventually I did get the hang of it. The game tends to assume you know where they mean when they tell you to visit an area. Often times those areas sound like they should be in town, but in reality, they are accesses via one of the many exits to the common monster filled area that is located on each of the islands. This translates to the fact that the game has a lot of backtracking and revisiting of previous areas built in to it. It’s kind of padded, but forgivably so as the enemies you encounter change the further into the game you get despite being the exact same area as you visited countless times before.
Familiar faces from the Neptunia-verse are here as well as a bunch of new characters for you to meet. The story is told in the standard way that Neptunia games handle plot development and that is through long visual novel style scenes as well as text bubbles on the screen. This familiar story delivery mechanism is one of the many things I tend to enjoy in a Neptunia game regardless of what genre the game is currently in. Much of it is voice acted although there are still plenty of scenes where it is just text on a screen. This is acceptable for this sort of game and doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story delivery.
Graphically, the game actually looks really good considering the fact it is all two-dimensional. The 2D and Visual Novel components blend together rather nicely since neither version of them has any third dimensional features that need to flattened for the visual novel components. The 3D shown as 2D is something that the Neptunia series has been doing for years with its story delivery and while it has always worked well in the past, it works even better now that the character models themselves were in the same art style. Even in 2D Blanc looks about the same as she did with her previous 3D model. The various parts of Gamindustri look different from each other so it was very difficult to forget which continent you were one. The enemies are all highly detailed and not really just recolours of previous versions. Sure, there are some recolours, particularly dogoos but for the most part all the monsters look interesting.
The sound in the game worked well. While there were plenty of repeated sounds, they never really became annoying. In fact if they had not been there it would have been more annoying. Neptune is notorious for saying “Like a kangaroo” when she starts jumping around a lot. You will be jumping a lot between platforms here so you will hear her say it countless times but it never really got to the point where I wished she would be quiet. The other sound effects in the game worked well even when they were spammed too. The language track is available in English thankfully, so I was able to understand what was being said to me although for you purists out there it is also available in Japanese audio as well. Each of the continents of Gamindustri had its own soundtrack for the various places and areas you could visit.
The controls and user interface worked very well for the most part. The menus did get a bit confusing at first and I admit it took me longer than it should have to realize I could change the abilities my characters had (the game even told me about it, I just didn’t get it at first). Once you get past the little bit of a learning curve the menu throws at you, everything worked well. The ability to air dash and double jump when I wanted worked smoothly for the most part and I think the mild difficulty I had was caused by my aging gamepad more than any issue in the game itself. The game works very easily on a gamepad although the keyboard controls worked fine as well due to it being two dimensional.
The gameplay in general worked well. This isn’t the first time Neptune and her friend found themselves in another genre of game but each time they manage to roll with it and come up with a solution that works fine for them. I would definitely play Super Neptunia RPG 2: The Curse of the Amnesia Pudding if it ever existed. I have to admit when the entry point flipped between sides of the screen in some areas that I found it a bit annoying. You would exit the screen on say the left-hand side and you would teleport to the left hand side of the next screen meaning you now had to run right to continue rather than continue to the left like you were expecting. It’s a minor annoyance and not one that really precludes me from being able to speak positively about the game. The only real and true fault I can find in the game is the optional quest system. The quest system feels like it was added as an afterthought and maybe rushed in on the last day of development just before closing time. While the quest giver might give you sufficient details on where to find what they are looking for, once you accept the quest unless you go there straight away you will likely forget where you were supposed to go. The quests in your quest log are a bit cryptic at times so you may have a hard time finding what you are looking for. The other issue with the quest system is the fact that quest specific items only spawn after you have accepted the quest. This means you will basically have to retrace your steps and search an entire previously visited area over again just to find where the new item box spawned. I mean it’s fine, and it does add length to the game, but if I just spent an hour hunting down stuff (such as low spawn rate enemies with low drop rate items) in that area and then the next phase of the quest wants me to go right back there, I swear I wouldn’t blame Neptune for bludgeoning the NPC in an unheroic manner.
So, should you pick up Super Neptunia RPG? If you enjoy the old school 2D games of yesteryear then by all means get this game. It doesn’t matter if you are an existing Neptunia fan or someone who has never even heard of the series, the game will be enjoyable for you as a 2D fan. If you enjoy the humour and story typically associated with a Neptunia game, then you will enjoy what this game has to offer as well. It’s a bit overly preachy with the gaming stuff this time around, but it actually is deliberate as it is a focal point and a matter of contention in the game. It may not be the best game to introduce you to the wonders of Gamindustri, but it is still an acceptable first foray into their world. Overall, if it had new game plus, I might have considered replaying it just so I could utilize more of my attributes but as it stands it is still a game that I will save for later.