Super Dimension Game Neptune Playtest: Moments That Make You Say “What?!”

By Melinda . September 15, 2010 . 5:24pm

imageOnce again, thanks for tagging along with us for a Neptune marathon clocking in at a massive 62 hours from one end to another, and for asking questions of the game. I’d like to acknowledge Alaylle for helping me so much with logistics and support – It can be a bit difficult managing a live video stream all on your own.

 

So what did we sit down to watch this time? A console war, cute girls, and a storyline literally out of this world… If you want absurd creativity with a game that pokes all sorts of fun at… well, just about anything game or anime related, look no further than Super Dimension Game Neptune.

 

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The story starts with a virtual caricature of what happened back in the ‘90s, with Vert (Xbox 360), Noire (PS3) and Blanc (Wii) ganging up on Purple Heart, representing the unreleased Sega Neptune, because she wasn’t relevant anymore. Events are more out of this world after the opening sequence, where we are introduced to Neptune, and Compa, Compile Heart’s in-game representative. Compa’s a ditzy nurse who’s very… direct in her medical treatment. IF (Idea Factory) is considerably more sensible contrast to the rest of the cast… although I have no idea where she gets reception for all of her mobile phones she carries. There’s also Nippon Ichi, who you’d suspect took a little too many lessons from various wannabe heroes, like a certain scarfed Prinny. Gust is so adorable, yet you can’t help but wonder if she’s going to accidently blow a hole in a nearby wall.

 

The Hearts are no different. Each console goddess has a distinct personality, which you might even expect if your console came to life, took a female form and started talking with you. Noire’s a classical tsundere. Vert’s a narcoleptic otaku. Blanc’s… well, just say she’s a bit scatterbrained. And Neptune’s by far the creepiest cheerful little girl you’ll ever meet. During the cutscenes, you’ll laugh a lot as you see references and cameos from various Sega games to Fist of the North Star and Sailor Moon. Even if you only understand a little, you’ll find yourself laughing at the characters themselves — Compa’s cluelessness, Neptune’s overly enthusiastic outlook (albeit with violent tendencies), Vert falling asleep in conversations, and IF just standing there thinking "Wait, what did I just see?", disbelieving what she just saw… with you most likely you’ll think the same thing.

 

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A major part of Neptune is combat. The attack system itself is highly customizable, where you can pick attacks. The moves vary from two basic melee blows and a single gun shot, to more spectacular attacks with both gunplay and the weapons. IF may be relatively boring, but there’s something to be said when you watch Compa tear into an enemy… by shooting lots and lots of elemental bullets using with oversized syringe. The strangest attack would be Purple Heart’s Planetune – the game even adds a little disclaimer as you watch the entire planet being blown up telling you it’s a bit of a dramatization, which you’d wish they add to other games with world ending attacks. Like many other Idea Factory developed games, each attack costs AP. Once you’re out of AP or you end the turn, the next person in line takes theirs.

 

A lot of games from the cameo companies appear in little discs where you can summon them to do an elemental damage attack. If you know your gaming, you’ll recognize these characters, and if you remember any of them, it’s kinda neat to see them. If it wasn’t for the fact they don’t do all that much damage for the AP cost, I’d use them more often. Another nifty feature lets players import a picture, and throw that on the blank disc attacks the characters have. It’s silly, and rather pointless due to the fact it costs more AP to use this, but for the aspiring artist, having your favorite character or logo cloned around while an enemy gets torched is priceless.

 

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The little details in Neptune show even during battle, like when you watch Neptune’s matrix style transformation where she changes from hyper silly to hardened heroine. It looks cool, and pokes much fun at the transformation genre at the same time. As you progress through the game, you’ll get access to more parts, to make her look anything from powerful to downright weird in a mix and match process. Leveling up isn’t left out on the silliness – among other things you’ll even hear Neptune manually (and quite badly I might add) sing out the beginning of a very familiar Final Fantasy tune when she levels up.  Virtually no stone was unturned. Compile Heart decided to take a shot at everything. There are subtle references in naming, character design, and a fair amount of events. I really enjoyed how they hammed up everything that moved, and for some reason, watching Neptune introduce herself as the planetary game defender Neptune.

 

For most part, Neptune can deliver its parody  promises in spades, but with all of its strengths, it also has quite a number of weaknesses, with design decisions leaving you scratching your head. I’d like to note, that the game does a bit of deceptive advertising. You might have seen the various videos of the Hearts, even the visual artbook and the opening trailer has them prominently on them. It is entirely possible, and somewhat likely that you’ll never actually get the other goddesses, particularly if you find some of the mechanics just plain confusing. You can, right at the very end, literally before the last battle, although that requires a lot of work to pull off.

 

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Even though Gust and Ippon Ichi join your party, they don’t actually help in battle either. These characters are passive members that help with shopping. I felt that both Nppon Ichi and Gust were short changed, just looking from the sidelines, and probably pointing and laughing at just how I could have used them. It’s particularly confusing when you realize in the game that you have them, complete with combat stats and equipment, and it’s almost insult to injury if they end up be unlocked as DLC sometime later in September. This means for a significant amount of the game (right up until the end), you’re stuck with three characters for the entirety of the game. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that the game also builds the concept of being able to tag in and out to continue chains with another character. It’s almost like Compile Heart is taunting you for the lack of any real ability to actually use it, since you have three frontline spots, and particularly on hard difficulty, you’d actually want them there.

 

This leads to another struggling system I found – healing is on a conditional basis. You need to meet certain conditions (all in combat) before you can heal yourself. It’s unique, but it’s also really obtuse. Essentially, you can only heal yourself if your HP is below a certain level and you match a certain condition. Then you recover a percentage of your life. Often, the one time you need to heal, is the one time it doesn’t, and it can end a combat there. Granted, the game does let you just retry battles, and if you think Neptune is too hard period, you can go to the options and just turn the difficulty down to reduces the amount of damage you take from enemies before trying again.

 

Consider that enemies can have well in excess of a couple of hundred thousand HP. You can tell you’re going to be in battle awhile regardless of difficulty just due to the amount of chipping away you need to do. I found that it killed the fun of making your own combos, since I was using the combos so many times it proved to be mindless button mashing.

 

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Even for me, someone who regularly spends time grinding away, I found Neptune can be quite draining. I wanted to get on with the storyline.  I have no real problems with random battles, but sometimes you can’t help wonder if Compile Heart deliberately cranked up the encounter rate. The only exploring you’ll find yourself doing is inside dungeons, and sadly, most of those are indoors. Sometimes, I really wished for a change of scenery, you know, like running through Planetune’s streets, instead of the same generic cave, dungeon or tower.

 

I find the best way to describe Neptune would be like this – it represents the absolute best, and unfortunately some of the absolute worst of Japanese RPGs. Neptune has a genuinely off the wall plot, with an outstanding cast of characters you can’t help but laugh at, beautiful (sometimes disturbingly wrong artwork), and moments where you’ll just either laugh or stare at the screen in amazement because you’ll say ‘Wait, you did not just say that!’ It also has some of the worst sticks in the business. Compile Heart tease you with the prospect of all these awesome characters, but you’ll never get to use them, lots (lots and LOTS) of random combat, and elements that deliberately thrown in just to make things difficult.

 

Neptune, in a way, is a lot like Blanc… scatterbrained.


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  • NeoTechni

    This game is so cute, I hope it comes out in NA. Dont even dub it, just translate the text and subtitle it. Japanese voices rule

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

      No! No! No! An English dub is a must. The game does not take place in Japan, so it would make no sense for the characters to be speaking Japanese.I do NOT want another repeat of Record of Agarest War, where I have to turn the voices off to get into the game. Just as I don’t want English voices in the Yakuza series, I don’t want Japanese voices in a game that doesn’t take place there.

      • NeoTechni

        “I do NOT want another repeat of Record of Agarest War, where I have to turn the voices off to get into the game. ”

        Exactly why I want japanese voices

        • mach

          How about they give us BOTH? That way everyone’s happy. NISA rarely lets us down on that front. I don’t see why you all of a sudden think they’ll release a major game with only Japanese VO.

          • nyoron

            Seriously. I’m pretty firmly in the “anime characters speak Japanese” camp, but offering a choice is the best option for everyone and should be encouraged.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

            I am in the characters from Japan speak Japanese, no matter what country actually created the cartoon/game.

          • nyoron

            Cool, whatever floats your boat dude.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

            Oh no, I know NISA would be good to both camps. I was just saying that I was against the idea of JUST having it subtitled.

          • cj_iwakura

            As long as it’s a GOOD dub, I’ll always take a dub.

    • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

      Im sorry but, No!. I need my dub

  • cmurph666

    There’s no doubt that NISA is bringing this over.

  • Ladius

    Thanks a lot Spencer, this is day one material for me. I hope NiSA announces Neptune soon, hopefully packing its USA release with whichever characters dlc Compile Heart releases in Japan in the meantime.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      I’ll send your thanks to Melinda – she’s the author of this piece :)

  • Kris

    Well Melinda, you’ve officially hyped me for the game’s English release! Even with the frustrating dungeon crawling, the game seems weird enough to warrant a look.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

      I did? I’m still of two minds of how the game’s would get received here.

      People watching me play felt that the combat dragging on sapped their will to watch, and asked me how I could handle that much combat.

      Regular monsters later on can have in excess of about a quarter of a million HP, and for an idea, you may only do fifty to a hundred thousand damage per character.

      Per monster of course, bear in mind, since you may encounter up to three in a battle. Each combat will occur every twenty five to thirty steps (Yes, I’ve been in so much combat in Neptune, I actually know the variance) without fail.

      And dungeons themselves are fairly big. I can’t emphasise just how much combat you’ll find yourself in. It can go all the way down to press a key repeatedly.

      Your tolerance for random combat (and a lot of it) needs to be high. Really, REALLY high. I play through games slowly for exhibition reasons, but about 40 hours of that is pure combat. That’s a lot of time to beat enemies into submission.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Samuel-Lim/100000807154782 Samuel Lim

        Having beaten the game and touched on several of the post game dungeons, I can say that battle isn’t as tedious as you claim to be seeing as how most of the time, you can skip the excessively over the top moves. And besides, abusing Neptune’s cheap berserk skill works well in dealing more then 200k damage to a whole group with her Neptune break Ultimate attack.Furthermore, encounters are high, sure, but if you ring the bell and fight a few enemies consecutively for about 4 rounds, you get a gauge that prevents you from encountering further enemies till it completely drains. Plus, it doesn’t drain when you’re stationary. Lastly, the largest of dungeons take no more then 10 minutes to navigate.And that’s assuming you’re searching for the blue chest.

        • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

          If you’re not using the major attacks (Neptune’s 60 or 100 AP attack, or the disc attacks) you can’t skip them.

          This can prove to be quite a while if you’re committing to attacks with a lot of hits in the combo. (A good example is Compa’s 5 shot attack. I timed that one to be about 10 seconds per execution.)

          Remember you don’t get access to Purple heart’s Planettune attack until a good distance, and the berserk’s not that cheap.

          The bell ringing I’m not sure if it actually improves the encounter rate – you get about 100 steps (or a minute to a minute thirty of uninterrupted run time) but for that you have to get into a chain of three to five combats.

          Sometimes all it does time saving wise is to chain the combats all together meaning it’s loading time (and the 3-5 seconds you save post combat, if we’re talking time trial times.)

          Depending on your level, you can clear them in 1-5 minutes – IF you know where you’re going, and you know where all the chests are. If you’re searching every corner on the other hand, a realistic first run can take you 15-30 minutes, and if you’re underprepared, some boss combats can take that again, particularly on Hard where they’ll dish out a lot more status effects, like the dreaded attack down.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Samuel-Lim/100000807154782 Samuel Lim

            Seriously though, you get Neptune break at lvl 20. And from that point at last for a while , all enemy encounters get ridiculously easy.Berserk is cheap mid to late game, where the credits roll in free flow from mid game onwards, I was earning at least 8k to 15k credits for Bell fights. Of course, Noire’s black heart skill(berserk) on the other hand is expensive as hell.I’ll do admit certain attacks take up a lot of time, which is why I tend to use more Powerful attacks and spells since compa has high Matk, her spells are decently useful.Ultimately, the most important thing is that bell ringing can be said to be the most effective way to go about navigating the dungeon or to simply head straight to the boss.It’s pretty tedious when you get into a fight every 15-20 steps on average.Attack down is weird in a way, considering that it reduces your AP consumption as well.>_>

          • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

            I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that if you didn’t catch on early (I didn’t check. Oops.)

            They apparently patched the game so that more attacks can be skipped (although I’ve no idea what that’ll do for the time trials) but it’s an improvement.

            The Attack down (when fighting some of the post dungeons) can have combat literally drag on my a multiple of four to five times longer if you’re unlucky to have the entire team hit with it all at once before anyone has a chance to move.

            Fun though when you want to rack up a 200 hit combo though…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

        Never had a problem with random battles, myself. They couldn’t possibly be as frequent or dangerous as the ones in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. That game had death lurking around every ten steps if you didn’t have the right party together. Didn’t bother me then.

        Unless it’s Phantasy Star levels, I don’t think it’ll be a problem for me.

  • http://darron13.deviantart.com Darron Pirtheesingh

    For the love of God
    BRING THIS TO THE US

    • Guest

      why?
      this game looks awful.
      compile heart is an awful developer.

      • FireCouch

        Couldn’t have said it better. I really don’t understand why so many people love these games which are obviously not that great. It seems like the only reason people buy the games are because they are so KAWAII!! ^_^

        • Guest

          I wanted this game to basically be an HD version of SEGAGAGA but it seems they failed miserably and just went ahead for straight MOE instead of full out cross platform game and arcade cameos

        • Ladius

          Have you played some CH games before going all out against them?

          Their battle systems are actually more interesting than those employed in many so-called “high profile” jrpgs, and the fact that their titles are autoironic and slapstick at heart (except for Agarest) is really refreshing seeing how many jrpgs take themselves uber-seriously only to fail in delivering anything worthy of mention. The whole “kawaii” thing is parodied in their games (along with a slew of anime tropes and jrpg cliches), they aren’t like, say, the Marl Kingdom series.

          Of course their games aren’t perfect, but seeing titles like WKC and FF13 I tend to think that Compile Heart is going to disappoint far less than other developers, even more so since their games are directed to a smaller niche that know what it want.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

        If you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. Those of us who want this will be more than happy to play it.

  • goronyan

    I still haven’t started to play it seriously since i’m filled with other rpg’s to finish.
    Until now all I can say is that the history is good and hilarous and it’s like a visual novel wich is possible to review and repeat the dialogue, Compa’s personality kinda piss me off imo (especially when she calls Neptune as “Nepu-Nepu” イラ☆), loading times appears very often especially when you enter in a battle, and I have to prepare myself again to play long turn based battles.
    I can recommend this game by the following points:
    .There’s a large quantity memes, cliches and cameos. (all from games, 2ch and mangas);
    .You can assemble and customize combos as you wish;
    .There’s panchira;
    .Free scenario development;
    .Cute girls;
    .and the most important thing, wich is needed to say it twice, “the girls are CUTE!”;

    ditto

  • http://www.nisamerica.com NickyD

    All valid complaints and praises. A nice, objective look at the title. Hopefully if it gets a localization it’ll be given a second look!Healing ain’t so bad. A few skills activate at the beginning of your attack, after attack, or at the beginning/end of battle. Toss some points in all of those and you should be okay =)As for switching, comboing isn’t such a big deal in general, but like you mentioned on Hard mode you kinda need all three characters in there. Otherwise I’d suggest keeping on in reserves to keep at least one person’s HP up in case healing fails too many times.

    Addendum! I also wish the dungeon designs made ANY sense. If I’m exploring a tower, why is it a single, gigantic floor with small sets of stairs going into tiny pits randomly everywhere?

    • Pesmerga00

      If? “wink wink, nudge nudge” ;P

    • http://www.siliconera.com Melinda

      I apologise, I’ve been dealing with some external issues at the moment.

      I found that there seems to be a bug where healing skills won’t activate, even though they’re set to 100% of the time, and the condition’s met. I’m not sure why that happens, although it always seems to happen the one time you need it.

      You can adjust the points on the fly, literally in the middle of combat. Strangely, even then, the bug can happen.

      But yeah, Neptune is a weird, weird creature. So much to say, good and bad about it.

  • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

    Ugh. Lots of humor and references sound fun, but broken enemy encounter and character lock/ tease is game-killing for me.

  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Wow seems like a pretty awesome game.

  • JustaGenericUser

    And this is why the game should have gone to Atlus, NIS, or Sega instead of Compile Heart/Idea Factory. I had a feeling they’ll eff up the battle system in some way. Also like the fact that apparently it’s possible to never get the other “main” characters.Compile Factory, I am disappoint. Everything else about the game seems fun, I love me some light-hearted RPGs. But the healing and party member thing, uh….EDIT: Oh yeah, and that crapload of HP thing. What’s with Idea Heart and that? Even Disgaea series was careful of that in the main game. Oh great, now it seems like I’m bashing something without having played it yet. I’m trying not to, I’ve always wanted to play this game, but the scale is tipped more toward disappoint than psyched.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Samuel-Lim/100000807154782 Samuel Lim

      The battle system is actually a refinement over TU’s battle system. At the very least I don’t have the look at the long ass command list to rack up combos I want. This game allows total customization of your moves. For the 4 attacks you have, your various attacks can be mapped to sequences to your liking. Neither do I have to waste a turn so I can perform a long ass combo. Nevertheless, Tu’s battle system was lot tedious then it seems, thank god for the complete animation skips. Which later on their will be a patch for animations to be skipped almost completely.

      In regards to enemy HP, most random encounters pot game won’t even have close to 150k hp, normally those are more common on those rare encounters.(there are exceptions though)

  • Hei

    I think a dub would be great but it just depends on what they could do, and weather they can get a good cast together. If nothing else then subbing will work but I would prefer a dub, God willing the game gets licensed.

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