Looking back, Compile Heart has come a long way since the original Neptunia games. The recent Re;birth games are nearly unrecognisable from the series’ origins and Neptunia Victory has gone on act as a base for their future games, Neptune or otherwise, to build upon. Unfortunately, Omega Quintet feels like a step backwards compared to their other recent titles.
In the world of Omega Quintet, the main enemy is the mysterious force known as Blare, which is summoning monsters that have ravished the lands. The only way the Blare can be defeated and sealed away, is by the powerful idols known as Verse Maidens. As the last active Verse Maiden retires, new Verse Maidens step up to the plate. The main focus is on Otoha, who has always looked up to and aspired to be a Verse Maiden. As Otoha fulfills her lifelong dream, her childhood friend Takt is also called in to help and becomes the Verse Maidens’ new manager in training and is in charge of their protection.
Takt is meant to act as the player character, devoid of much personality, to let the player live the idol-harem life. What few personality traits he does have make him the most annoying player character I’ve come across for quite some time. He is so spiteful, so cynical, and pessimistic towards everyone. He isn’t one to directly insult but rather provides a constant stream of snarky comments. I don’t know if it’s intended to be funny but for me, it was just frustrating to sit through. It seems so unnecessary to have this downer of a character when the rest of the cast is so perky and full of life. The writing overall is somewhat disappointing. It doesn’t engage and is boring to sit through. The same jokes are repeated over and over again. Momoka is old! Otoha is clumsy! Takt is living with a bunch of idols and accidents happen? Say whaaaat?
To progress through the game, you take on missions you selected in the office which consist of hunting down specific monsters or finding certain items. You can also take on side missions from citizens which will give you extra rewards. The areas you explore are the biggest I’ve seen in a Compile Heart game. It’s as if all the map sections seen in their other games like Neptunia have been stitched together to create one big map. Each section has its own selection of monsters and treasures though at the beginning you’re limited to where you can go until you level up and progress further into the game. There’s a decent variety to the areas and it’s fun to explore them.
In typical Compile Heart fashion, there’s an complex but unique battle system at play that is poorly taught through picture tutorials. At the beginning of the game, you’re playing as a level 100 character and shown the flow of battle and how everything works, but after the opening chapter, most of what you learn isn’t usable in battle until much later in the game as your party expands. Essentially, the battle system flows around manipulating the turn order. Each action you take has a wait time attached to it, the rule generally being that the more powerful the attack is, the longer you’ll have to wait for your next turn. If three or move party members are aligned in the turn order, you can perform an harmonics attack letting you rack up a higher combo score, increasing your damage and rewards from the battle.
There’s also randomised buffs and debuffs in that appear in the turn order as well, the idea being you want to make sure your party gets the buffs and move the enemies into the debuffs. You also partner Takt with a member of the party. In each battle, Takt has a limited amount of turns he can use to help out his partner. He can provide either a follow-up attack which can knock back the enemy in the turn order, or he can provide an extra level of defence to the Verse Maiden he’s partnered with. His defense skills will not only shield the maiden he’s protecting but also any maiden on either side that might be in the enemies line of sight.
While your party levels up from battle experience, to learn new skills, you have to use Omega Quintet’s take on FFX’s sphere grid. Every character has the same set of available to them, so it’s up to you to customise your party to how you want to play, though you’re better off giving some level of variety between all the party members.
By completing side quests, you’ll earn items and recipes for creating weapons, armour and healing items. While at the beginning, you’ll find the odd weapon hidden away in a treasure chest, later on you’ll benefit more from creating your own equipment. You’ll also learn early on that the default armour isn’t very durable and once it’s taken a certain amount of damage, it falls apart Senran Kagura-style, leaving you vulnerable to further damage. You can repair outfits once you’re back at the office for a small expense and even reinforce them if you want to.
Visually, the game is pleasing to the eye with its vibrant colours and settings, although it does look like a PlayStation 3 game and everything looks like rather simple. As usual, the art is well presented, and the portraits move and react more than they have done in previous Compile Heart games. Additionally, certain sections of the game run at 60fps, namely the battles and smaller explorable areas such as the main office.
I’m not angry with Omega Quintet, I’m just disappointed. I’ve already played better games from Compile Heart and this just feels lazy and badly written by comparison. It doesn’t quite know what to do with its concept. Where Neptunia has a focus—parodying nearly everything it can—Omega Quintet isn’t like that.
Sometimes, it feels like it’s trying be a commentary on idol culture, but at the same time the game is clearly trying to appeal to the idol fanbase. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, and this is one of the major takeaways from Omega Quintet.