Sting Entertainment and Compile Heart partner up once again after their last collaboration to create Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, a spin-off the Neptunia franchise. From the minds that brought us Yggdra Union and Riviera: The Promised Land, this certainly isn’t new territory for Sting or Compile Heart that are both known for strategic infused titles, but bringing the two together does make for an interesting combination and use of the Neptunia brand. In a myriad of ways, this little spin-off is better than the main series, but not completely without a few nagging issues.
Title: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Developer: Sting, Compile Heart (Localized by Ideal Factory International)
System: PSVITA, PSTV
Length: 40-55+ hrs
The story of Hyperdevotion Noire takes place within the world of Gamarket (unrelated to the Gamindustri of the main series) where 4 goddess battle for dominion over all. With Noire close to claiming victory, she and the other goddess soon find their strength depleted and world on the brink of destruction. With no other choice, Noire teams up with her fellow deities to stop this looming threat and assemble Gamarket’s most trusted generals back together again. Looking past the fact that Noire’s name receives top billing, the game still feels largely the same as the main series and doesn’t stray too far from the campy and jovial tone it carries. Keeping with the video game motif and humor, you can expect to see that facet in tact as well with the introduction of new characters that are the personifications of various industry developers, publishers, and game titles. Aside from the fun-loving mood, the actually gameplay elements do make a fine case for themselves once you get into the madness.
Unlike the freedom of exploration found in the Hyperdimension Neptunia line, this spin-off does away with that and locks the player into the Nation of Lastation that acts as the hub world. From here your able to access: Item Development to turn raw materials into useable items, Item Shop to purchase said items, Disc Development to make combat supplementary disc, CPU Hotel to view/listen to the in-game media, and the Mission HQ to begin the main storyline missions and side missions. For any of the main campaigns or side quest completed, you are free to tackle them again to heart’s desire through the simulation training option at HQ. Having no other way to get valuable resources to create gear and items, revisiting these maps will be in your best interest, especially for keeping your characters levels in sync if nothing else.
Akin to Fire Emblem, battles follow a basic set of turn-based SRPG conventions many might be familiar with such as: attacking enemies from the side or back deals more damage, characters have the chance to counterattack, and there is a nice elemental affinity system that works in the same vein as rock-paper-scissors to determine a units effectiveness or open specific chest, if equipped with the corresponding crystal. However, the most noticeable and noteworthy mechanic in the game is called “Lily Boost”, a system where if two or more characters stand adjacent to one another allows them to unleash more powerful uses of their skills and build up “Lily Points”. Everything from goddess transformations to swapping characters in and out of battle rely on these points and most likely will go into consideration when developing stratagems against the opposition. Of course, if the enemies don’t give you enough problems, having to skirt around various field traps that certain maps present will and do add a lot of trouble on their own. With all these components acting simultaneously, battles and victory conditions from mission to mission are fairly unique, but do have tendency to make battles linger or drag as most of the mechanics are brought down by some inadequate design choices.
For example: a few maps have hazards on the ground and the player must navigate around them to reach the boss. Since your character can only move in relation to how you align them, you often find yourself taking several turns trying get around trapped tiles and the enemy having no trouble getting off potshots if they are nearby. Yep, hazards of any kind don’t work on foes, but they will hurt you. Another map has a similar issue, but instead of traps it deals with multiple platforms that move every turn and can only support one unit at a time – having two at the most that are able to get to the other side quickly. Again, it takes several turns to finish. There are some nice ideas and concepts for the maps, yet ones are time impediments as the game progresses. Besides a few choice frustrating maps, the vast majority are very enjoyable and do a fine job of testing your tactical wherewithal under specific conditions. When you want to take a break from all of the combat, the Basilicom allows you to enter a game mode called “Sim Noire” where you purchase furniture for Noire’s room using points earned from buying items via the Shop. You can also take on Q&A request that lead to some varied results depending on how you answer. None this is actually required to complete the game in earnest, but does provide some personal amusement.
Despite the game being a spin-off from the parent title, Hyperdevotion Noire uses nearly all of the assets found in Neptunia. With the inclusion of the new characters created for this game, returning ones, and enemies have been reduced to Nendoroid-like models that not only look adorable, but work the diorama style maps and general art direction. The music will probably sound all too familiar as well, only containing a few tracks that are exclusive to this title. Like with all the previous games, Hyperdevotion Noire does have both an English and Japanese language track option.
While I do have a lot of love and admiration set aside for the mainline Neptunia games, spin-offs like Hyperdevotion Noire are an unexpected, yet welcome addition. Granted that this was a one time deal between Compile Heart and Sting, I am hopeful that this does lead to future collaborations and other genres being tackled. And despite this one being subjected to some rather odd design choices, it is at least competent on delivering the SRPG experience it promises and makes it a pleasant one at that. I couldn’t ask for anything more and if this is the direction Compile Heart wants to take this growing franchise, this could be start of a very fruitful relationship.
Pros: Large ensemble of characters to use, Lily Boost mechanic presents another strategic layer to combat, replayable missions and extras, varying victory conditions, selectable difficulty modes.
Cons: some maps take awhile to complete or too gimmicky, some mechanics aren’t well-implemented.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Ideal Factory International. All images and rights to them belong to Ideal Factory International/Compile Heart/Sting Entertaiment and only for review purposes.