From the creative impulses that brought you the Senran Kagura and OneChanbara series, Tamsoft lends its “unique guidance” to Complie Heart once again for the next entry in the Neptunia catalog, Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, an action based spinoff that shares close similarities to the Senran Kagura and Dyntasy Warriors family. If you always dreamed of laying down the law to a hoard of Doogos or familiar looking green pipes that Nintendo would most likely file a lawsuit over – the dream is now a reality.
Title: Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed
Genre: Action, Beat ’em up
Developer: Compile Heart, Tamsoft
Release Date: 05-19-2015 (NA), 05-22-2015 (EU)
Taking place in another branching universe, the premise for Action Unleashed is a very anemic one that has the 4 CPU Goddess and their sisters compete against one another completing quest in order to provide entertainment to the citizens of Gamindustri as well as interview material for Famitsu and Dengekiko – two real life Japanese game publications anthropomorphized as journalist. Doing away with most of the heavy visual novel style cutscences and trying to adhere to some narrative, the writing takes on a more unrestrained and campy approach from the main entries as it makes plenty of self-referential jokes and callbacks to the rest of the series. Being someone who usually enjoys that aspect of the games, all the humor does seem suit the spinoff titles more than it does for the main entries. Given how short and barebones the virtually non-existent story is, I did actually appreciate and welcome it this time around. New players are feel to jump in to give it a whirl, but due to the established tone it is highly recommend to play Rebirth 1 and 2 or at least have some familiarity with the characters, since it almost expected of the player to.
Like Senran Kagura, the game proceeds with you taking on quest: main quest that move the story along are usual marked by an exclamation point and optional ones that can be completed at your leisure. Most of the objectives for either category boil down to basic victory conditions like defeating a certain amount of enemies to taking downing the boss that sometimes only appears after dealing with a specific amount of minions. Once you do finally pick your poison you are given the chance to pick the characters you will use in combat – usually 2 out of the given 10 choices. Depending on the quest details your team will sometimes be restricted to specific characters or even require you to complete them alone – an option that also exist for any quest if you choose it. If you played any of the aforementioned Dyntasy Warriors games then the combat will very familiar and simple – mostly consisting of button mashing your way to victory, building up massive combos with the aid of skills, and using the character’s transformation abilities when needed. While all of the characters do have different play styles and movesets based on their signature weapons, they all control very much the same, so you don’t have to worry about one character being better than the others. Although, I will say that Nepgear has better aerial control and the likes of Dengekiko, Blanc, and Vert fend off crowds of enemies better. And just like the Senran Kagura games, if you take too much damage in combat your clothing will be destroyed, thus making enemy attacks do more significant harm to your health. Unsurprisingly, the game gingerly references and mocks this aspect during the course of the story.
Before and after combat, you the have chance to improve your characters by way of classic RPG conventions such as equipping them with new items. Since no shop exist in the game, all items are acquired through trading in medals you can occasionally get through defeating enemies. With each set of medals containing different reward tiers – you can also obtain permanent stat boost for all the characters as well. Some medals are easier to obtain than others and often or not, find yourself going through the same mission or similar ones to get the more uncommon pieces that often hold better rewards. As annoying as that sounds, it does act as a motivational tool to go off course from the story missions, but since you level up significantly during and after combat – you can easily get by with just leveling up and gaining stat boost from the other medal reward tiers. Another quick diversion is the inclusion of short vignettes that might come up after completing certain missions. They aren’t required or change the game in any fashion, but if you are a fan of the banter that happens between the various characters it is something you can look forward to and aids in breaking up the ad nauseam of quest. Thankfully, most of the scenes are short, so no need to worry about sitting through an hour-long nonsensical conversation.
Once you complete the main storyline, you will soon be introduced to another pair of game modes: 1.) The Gamindustri Gantlet that allows you setup your own single-elimination tournament against the computer, and 2.) Neptral Tower (a reference to the company’s past game Spectral Tower), where you seek to reach the top without switching out characters. Both of the modes are sort of unique, but still not entirely all that different from the quest in the main story. On the flip side, the modes do incorporate your latest save data, so even if you do go back to the main story to finish up a few more things, the progress in levels and the like will be carried over.
As much as I like the main HDN series for the RPG side of things no matter how flawed they are, the spinoffs are just as equally flawed, but at least that doesn’t chide the creative ideas from being put to use or exhibiting the same level of exuberance. And despite the game wearing out my enthusiasm quicker than any session of Samurai Warriors or Dyntasy Warriors, Tamsoft’s design scheme does at least make it very enticing to pickup again hours later. It looks like a beat beat ’em up, plays with same finesse as one, and certainly has the quality of sameness all of them do have. As long as you are fine with that and not perturbed by it being somewhat short in the narrative department to get to the extras and other content, Hyperdimension Neptunia U is an okay and small step forward for the spinoff series even though it isn’t exactly the best.
Pros: Simplistic and easygoing combat, smooth combat animations and framerate, all the characters possess balanced capabilities, unique environments/stages, medal reward system, some higher level quest objectives offer a challenge, light on the RPG elements.
Cons: Highly repetitive quest, additional game modes offer little variety, camera controls are awkward to use.
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/Tamsoft and only for review purposes.