Hyperdimension Neptunia U is the third Neptunia release of the year and the third spin-off in the series so far. After taking on idol simulations and a strategy RPG, Neptunia U is the series’ take on Koei’s Warriors series.
Here’s the setup: Dengekiko and Famitsu, two journalists working in Gamindustri have been tasked with covering the quests taken on by the CPU Goddesses after an earlier article about them proved popular. But as the Goddesses continue taking on quests and word spreads of their efforts, more and more enemies start to appear, increasing in strength each time. Together, they start to investigate what is causing these new monster appearances.
The whole game is broken up into quests, each having a set condition to complete. You take on quests until you’ve done enough to further the story. That’s all there is to the flow of the game: Quest, Event, Repeat. The conditions to fulfill the quest will be usually be to just take out a certain number of enemies. Take out 500 enemies, take out 250 enemies while avoiding the boss, take out the boss (which means going through 300 or so enemies just to make the boss spawn).
It’s a repetitive experience, although being a portable title it makes it easier to play in shorter bursts and come back to later. What breaks the game up is the inclusion of special quests, where the condition to win is hidden and you’re given a vague clue within the quest description on how to succeed. These are more creative in nature and require you to explore your options more than just hacking away at your enemies. One quest for example, had me find and lead two enemies together to take them out simultaneously. Another quests had me defeat a boss only using special abilities. If you’re struggling to figure out what to do, all you need to do is abandon the mission, and you’ll be given a more straight forward clue on how to proceed.
The gameplay leans towards the simple side. Each character has a small number of combo moves along with a player defined number of special moves. Once your EXE drive has reached 50%, you can use your HDD ability to transform into your goddess form where you become much more powerful. You can also unleash a devastating special attack which will use up the remainder of your EXE drive, so it’s something that should be saved for when your ability is about to run out. You take two characters into battle (You can take only one if you wish, but there’s isn’t any significant benefit) and can switch between them at any time. The character not in use will automatically build up their EXE drive faster than the character in use will, so there’s a degree of strategy to which characters who use or pair together given the specific style and ranges of their attacks.
No matter how strong you are, taking on the hundreds of enemies required is a time consuming experience, as you’ll likely be taking them out faster than they can respawn. Also, despite the dungeons being visibly quite large, you’re always tucked away in a tiny section of the map and can barely explore the area. The constant repetition of everything does begin to wear a little thin eventually. That said, I can’t deny that they’ve got the most satisfying aspect of Warriors right—the way you plough through hundreds of enemies is what kept me playing.
That having been said, this is something of an easy game to finish—or rather, it’s as difficult as you want it to be. If you want a challenge, from the beginning there’s accessories you can equip to forcibly weaken your characters, lowering their stats significantly. If you use the same set of characters for every quest, you’ll quickly find yourself overleveled for the quests at hand. Some quests require specific characters, so you’re better off keeping everyone fairly levelled in the long run. That said, I managed to finish one level 30 quest with level 15 characters. As you defeat different types of enemies, you earn medals. These medals are used to unlock upgrades and accessories between all your characters. These accessories are made available to every character so you can enter a quest with both characters equipped with powerful equipment.
Moving on, it’s no secret that game development is an expensive process, but I was surprised at the amount of reused assets in this game. All the enemies, every piece of music, costumes, even the quest locations are exact copies of dungeons seen in other games. I wasn’t expecting a spin-off to start with a clean slate but I feel like I haven’t seen anything new, apart from Dengekiko and Famitsu, but even Dengekiko has appeared in previous games.
Coming from Senran Kagura developer Tamsoft, you might expect Hyperdimension Neptunia U to be a fanservice-laden game. The fanservice here is around the same level as the main series. There’s a costume destruction feature, where as characters take damage their clothes fall apart. There’s no penalty for the destruction as in Omega Quintet. Instead, the feature is actually optional as the game provides “unbreakable” versions of the costumes as you progress. Conversely, you can also unlock costumes that break apart more easily.
Neptunia U provides something of a “Neptunia Warriors Lite” experience. The very basics are there, the endless hordes of enemies, multiple playable characters and a variety of locations are there… but that’s about it. While additional modes are unlocked once you’ve finished the game, by that point I felt burnt out. There’s no incentive to replay any missions, no additional objectives, characters don’t have different types of weapons. I would have thought a mode where you could conquer Gamindustri would fit the series nicely, given its origins. Unfortunately, while it’s fun in short bursts, overall it’s just too simple.