Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a spin-off to the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise made by Sting. It focuses on Noire, who won a poll to get a game focused on her. Truth be told, I hadn’t initially realized that I’d played any games by Sting. Then I glanced through their releases and spotted a few games I’d played, those being Yggdra Union and Hexyz Force, both of which I enjoyed. On the other hand, I’ve played every game in the Neptunia series as they came out. Yes, that includes Producing Perfection. To cut things short, I like the main series, but the spin-offs had everything to prove to me.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised as I started this game up. But first, the plot. Our story opens up with Noire nearly having unified Gamarket (yet another separate continuity in this franchise…). After being tricked by recurring villain Arfoire a mysterious fortune-teller named Eno, Noire’s sharicite, the source of her power as a goddess, suddenly disappates. Everyone in the city she’s in disappears except for her and a self-insert character only referred to as “Player” or “Secretary”. Additionally, all of her subordinates, whom are generals in charge of cities throughout Gamarket, suddenly cut all ties with the CPUs and fight each other.
When Noire starts trying to set things right, she’s told that most of the generals only put up with her begrudgingly, not being her friends like she’d thought. As such, Noire has two goals: unify Gamarket all over again and be friends with her generals for real this time. The whole friendship thing is a sort of franchise-wide in-joke about her being too hardworking to make any friends other than Neptune. This Noire avoids that by making friends with all of your new characters at the end of each chapter, giving you a short scene where Noire hangs out with them. What that entails varies from playing soccer to reading hentai.
The way this game is setup is very simple and intuitive to those who’ve played the series. The city interface is that of the console entries of the series, not the handheld remakes, except you cannot go to the world map. This means that, between missions, you will find yourself in Noire’s nation of Lastation, where you can purchase equipment, create game discs as customized equipment, and create items out of recipes and material items. You can also see all cutscenes again from here, which is important since you can’t disable the ability to skip cutscenes on first viewing. This means you can accidentally skip a cutscene when trying to take a screenshot.
Sim Noire is one of this game’s original features, which basically allows you to upgrade Noire’s living room by spending points. You get these points in exchange for any in-game currency you spend. To make this work, money grows on trees in this game and all prices for items are quite high as well. Additionally, you get to look through requests from the citizens and pick between 2 choices for Noire to act upon. There’s a right answer for each of these, not all of which are immediately obvious, and you only get one shot at each per run. However, if you get all of them right, you get an extra scene added to the ending of the game, regardless of which of the two endings you get.
Now for the main meat of the gameplay. The guild, where you normally take sidequests in the main series, is where Histoire will send you out to all of the missions in the game. For story missions, she’ll give you a brief explanation of your goal and leave you to things.
At first glance, an SRPG may seem like an odd choice for a spinoff to the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise. Only at the first glance, though. Once you’ve spent some time with the game, a lot of the things at work in the battle system feel familiar in some sense, since the main series’ combat is entirely about positioning anyway. During party setup, you must pick a leader (who causes passive stat changes depending on who’s picked), as well as the remaining characters to fill in the slots allotted for the mission. After that, it’s very rudimentary stuff. You get to move everyone around, then the computer does, repeat. Of course, you have to deal with multiple elevations, which is handled by lifting and throwing boxes around to create stairs, or by simply jumping. Everyone has set jump heights you can alter with equipment, but floating characters (read: only the CPUs when in HDD and Lady Wac) can just ignore that and go anywhere the map allows.
Additionally, there are things like steep falls, damaging traps, and other things of that nature that prematurely end any attempted movement unless you’re floating… or if you’re an enemy character. Yes, even grounded enemy characters are completely unaffected by pit traps and the sort, with no explanation given. As for how the rest of your characters can avoid these, you have limited control over your movement path. Every character attempts the simplest L-shape starting by going in the direction they’re currently looking. You can manually turn them around before moving, but that’s the full extent of your control.
Furthermore, there are treasure chests (and, depending on the map, other things like switches) scattered about. These only respond to normal attacks, and must be attacked in all cases where they exist if you want to interact with them. There are some elemental treasure chests around that only open if you attack with the element the chest is weak to.
Also, there are a large slew of status ailments ranging from becoming pixelated to falling in love, to becoming a zombie to turning into a piece of tofu. A lot of these are only really used for one or two characters or one or two missions. For example, Saori, who’s based on romance visual novels, is one of your few characters who can inflict Love.
Returning from the main series is the Lily system. If characters are standing next to each other when one uses a skill, you get a short cutscene (the surrounding characters kiss the attacking character), the skill’s SP cost is decreased, and your LP meter raises by 10 for each character involved (so if one character is kissing one other character, it raises by 20). You can spend 30 to replace a character with one in reserve, or you can spend that amount to allow the CPUs to transform, granting them major stat boosts and flight for 3 turns, after which they revert to normal and cannot use it again for that mission. If you hit the cap of 100 (or 70 if a character is next to you), you can use a character’s powerful special skill for a lot of damage or some other strong benefit.
Attacks tend to have very amusing animations, as well. Using Saori as an example again, her special skill is a strong offensive attack called “Waiting under the Legend Tree”, which plays out like a generic love confession scene… but she reverses it at the last second. She calls the enemy out and says (and I quote): “I dislike you more than anyone. I! HATE! YOUR! GUTS!!!”
That’s the extent of it. Most missions have some manner of gimmick, but the base system is simple. Most of the difficulty comes from map layouts that allow the enemies to hit you when you can’t fully hit back. I played the game on the normal difficulty and found it all very easy except for the final boss, who took a while even after I realized that the only thing she wasn’t immune to was debuffing. If you lose at any time, though, you’re allowed to retry with a lower difficulty.
What I got from this game was a simple, but functional experience. I would say I enjoyed it, if only because I was laughing at the attack animations and, before I realized it, I was already at the end of the game.
Food for Thought:
1. Histoire doesn’t take 3 [unreasonable measurement of time] to get anything done. That’s been as much a part of her character as talking with emotes, yet the emotes are here with the time thing being missing. ヽ(#`Д´)ﾉ
2. I don’t get why Neptune and some NPCs make such a big deal out of her not being the main character. This already happened in mk2. Sure, everyone proceeded to laugh in Nepgear’s face in Victory when she brought up that she, of all people, was protagonist once, but it happened.
3. The CPU candidates are absent for the first time ever since their introduction in mk2.
4. The self-insert is harmless, contrary to the reaction to his existence in Japan, but I can’t help but feel that his role could be swapped for Kei, who pretty much is Noire’s secretary.
5. Weapons for everyone except the CPUs must be created using the item crafting system, meaning you will have some characters using their default weapon up to the end of the game unless you go out of your way for the ingredients.
6. I really don’t get the elemental weaknesses here. Wind > Lightning > Ice > Fire > Wind is pretty… iffy.
7. There are points where the CPUs are transformed but they use their normal voices (at least, in the dub track). This is especially jarring for Neptune, since she has a distinct split-personality.
8. Most of the music here is reused. On the subject of audio, the background music is so loud by default that you can’t hear anything. Good thing there are separate audio sliders. While you’re there, I recommend setting the game to play all animations at double speed and skip the Lily Boost cutscene or this game may feel too slow.
9. Both analogs control the camera (right analog is zooming, left is the camera’s orientation), so you need to use the D-pad… except when you’re in Lastation, where the D-pad doesn’t work and you have to use the left analog.
10. Tiara from Fairy Fencer F, IF and Compa from the main series and original character Sting are DLC characters in this game. Yes, Tiara can use her Fairize ability. No, unlike the CPUs, she doesn’t float while doing so. No, the Fairize theme doesn’t proceed to override all background musi— DAMMIT, NOW IT’S STUCK IN MY HEAD AGAIN! I don’t even know how, since I haven’t listened to that track since when I wrote about Fairy Fencer F.
11. Expect a Blanc game in the near future. She won the second poll to be a spin-off protagonist.