Neptunia Game Maker Goddesses
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution Is Charming, But Repetitive

The Neptunia franchise is an endlessly fascinating one. It’s a series built on the concept of game consoles existing as goddesses in a land that echoes the real-world games industry. It sounds like a one-off joke, not something that’s been trucking along happily for fourteen years at this point. And now we have reached the sixteenth game in the series, Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution, which combines the franchise’s traditional JRPG elements with a management sim.

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You play as older version of series protagonist, Neptune, who has found herself in an alternate dimension. Here, she teams up with three goddesses – Reedio, Jagaa and Pippeh – who’ve been banished to obscurity after their failures in the past. Together they form a new game studio that will allow the Failure Goddesses to reach the heights they deserve again.

This results in an adventure split between dungeon crawler RPG aspects and a management sim. In the dungeon crawler sections, Neptune and friends open new Sales Areas by fighting monsters. In the management sections, you hire developers and place them onto projects based on the genre and style. You also need to invest in the studio to improve development time and unlock new genres.

Screenshot by Siliconera

It’s a slightly confusing concept to newcomers. Neptunia Game Make R:Evolution makes no effort to catch new players up on what the series is about. As a newcomer, I’m fortunate enough to have heard about the central concept ahead of time. If I hadn’t, I’d be very confused. It’s a world where all the current consoles (and Sega) are represented by goddesses, with everything around them representing the wider games industry. Even the Failure Goddesses are based on fifth-generation runners-up: the 3DO, Atari Jaguar and Apple Pippin.

Despite the lack of proper introduction, the writing is delightful. The entire story is absolute nonsense, but Neptunia Game Maker gleefully leans into it at every turn. It’s used as a platform for jokes about the state of the modern games industry. It throws out winking references to everything from piracy to the work of FromSoftware. Every game designer you can hire at your studio is a reference, including a Ghostly Robber who asks you to contact him through his calling card and a designer named Rapapa whose past work was considered “flat”.

Even the “failure” consoles are given a fair amount of representation. Reedio is based on a professor from Japanese ads for the 3DO, with a hair clip pulled directly from its logo. Jagaa yells “do the math” at every opportunity, a slogan from an extremely 90s ad for the Atari Jaguar. For consoles that most have forgotten about, it’s surprising how well represented they are. I assume the Pippin is too, but that’s too obscure even for me.

Screenshot by Siliconera

The voice acting is also surprisingly good too. I played with the English dub and every performance is punchy and enthusiastic. Particular highlights go to the pirate crew, who chew the scenery at every opportunity. The voice actor for Copy the Hard is having the time of his life especially. Even the dodgy accent of Copy the Art is endearing in a so-bad-it’s-good way. It’s also a huge part in why the main cast are so charming, as each performance perfectly balances the amount of sincere and absurd the game requires.

Where this falls apart a little is how these lines feature in gameplay. As you wander a dungeon, your party members will fill every bit of silence they can. By the end of the first dungeon, however, you’ll have heard everything they will ever say. Pippeh repeats a variation of “are we there yet?” as often as possible. Jagaa tended to get stuck saying “make sure to look around” in an endless loop. Also, as someone who checks maps a lot, it didn’t take long for each girl’s single “let me check the map” line to wear out its welcome. There’s nothing wrong with the lines in isolation. However, there’s so few lines repeated so frequently they became obnoxious.

Screenshot by Siliconera

Sadly, this is not the only issue with the dungeon crawling in Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution. It is brutally repetitive for most of the game’s run time. Dungeons are a series of rooms so nondescript I thought they were randomly generated (they are not, I checked). They’re also cluttered with enemies, meaning you’re tripping over an enemy almost as soon as you leave a fight with another. Sometimes there are puzzles to solve, but they add little more than making already tedious treks a little more tedious.

Combat isn’t much better. On paper, it’s similar to Final Fantasy VII Remake and Rebirth, as you attack using combos, build up a meter for more powerful attacks or using items, and can switch between all your party members on the fly. There’s even a cool chain attack feature, where increasingly more powerful burst attacks will trigger with character changes at the right time. However, in practice you’re mostly pressing one button and occasionally a directional button whenever a prompt appears on screen. There was little strategy in the combat, with most battles playing out the same way. Even boss fights failed to shake things up too much, apart from upping enemy health. Dodging and guarding also felt wildly inconsistent. It honestly got to the point where it felt more effective to just button mash instead of trying to avoid getting hit.

Screenshot by Siliconera

The management aspects of Neptunia Game Maker are a little more compelling. You assign developers to game projects, with their stats determining how well that game will turn out. Initially, you’re going to be releasing a string of 1-star duds. However, as you earn more points and attract better developers, you’ll soon see the stars increase. You’ll also accrue territory, taking market share away from other game makers. I didn’t find it particularly deep, but it was interesting. It reminded me of a stripped-down version of the real estate minigame from Yakuza 0, which is not a bad thing.

My main critique of the management gameplay is that it feels disconnected from the rest of the game. It’s something you don’t always need to pay attention to. The only real connection with the rest of the game is management progress arbitrarily locked behind story progress. It’s a shame because I could see so many ways the two sides could complement each other and elevate them into something more.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is a mixed bag. If you want a charming story with plenty of nerdy goofs about consoles from the 90s, you’ll find something to enjoy here. If you want interesting and in-depth mechanics, then you’d be better off looking elsewhere. One for the established fanbase that’s unlikely to win over many newcomers.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution releases for the PS5, PS4 and Switch on May 14, 2024.

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Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution

The latest installment of the Neptunia series has arrived!

The goal of this game is to rebuild and manage a game company!

Build your company and turn it into a huge corporation!

This latest entry to the world of Neptunia is better than ever!

The battle system has been expanded and now allows for a 4-person party, dungeons can be explored on

a high-speed motorcycle, and the Heartful Photo Mode will let you express yourself via fun, manga-like creations!

Oh, and have we even talked about "Admin Mode" yet?! There's a lot of fun to be had here! PS5 Version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is one for diehard fans, with a charming story and fun goofs but tedious dungeon and combat.

Food for Thought
  • Do not trust auto-save. I lost two chapters of progress at one point because of its lies. Save manually as often as possible!
  • Character combos are created in the menu, and many of the early moves should be swapped out as soon as possible.
  • Neptune gets a motorbike to navigate dungeons quickly but it handles so poorly it often makes your life harder.

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Author
Leigh Price
Leigh is a staff writer and content creator from the UK. He has been playing games since falling in love with Tomb Raider on the PS1, and now plays a bit of everything, from AAA blockbusters to indie weirdness. He has also written for Game Rant and Geeky Brummie. He can also be found making YouTube video essays as Bob the Pet Ferret, discussing such topics as why Final Fantasy X-2’s story is better than people like to think.