There comes a time when a series must try something new – sometimes a platformer gets a kart racer, sometimes action/adventure games get fighting games, the list goes on. Among the most common types of spin-offs; however, are RPGs dipping into other RPG Sub-genres. Thus, we have Hyperdevotion Noire, the Hyperdimension Neptunia series’s parlay into the world of strategy RPGs.
Game Name: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
Publisher(s): Idea Facory
Release Date: 4/26/2016
Taking place in the world of Gamarket, Hyperdevotion Noire follows the journey of the titular character, Noire, guardian and CPU (console patron unit) of the nation of Lastation in her quest to unify all the land. Thanks to the deception of a wandering ne’er do well, Noire and the other CPUs (Neptune of Planeptune, Blanc of Lowee, and Vert of Leanbox; who Noire constantly fought with over shares, or prayers/faith as it were) find themselves with greatly diminished power. Now, they must put aside their differences in hopes of unifying Gamarket and getting their powers back.
Unlike the stylized JRPG gameplay offered by the mainline Hyperdimension Neptunia games, Hyperdevotion Noire is a strategy/tactical RPG, meaning that it focuses on positioning and battlefield awareness on an exponentially higher degree than other games in the series. With this in mind, the cast has grown beyond the usual four CPU protagonists to include various “generals” who served under them as well, all of whom are referencing an affluent game series in their design. Of course, all of these new characters aren’t thrown in for the sheer sake of introducing fresh blood into the cast. Like any strategy RPG, Hyperdevotion Noire’s units (or CPUs/generals in this case) all serve their own role thanks to their inherent stats and the passive bonuses they grant all units with their “leader skills” should they be picked first. Noire’s leader skill is useful for reconnaissance as she grants an extra space for movement, Neptune is an excellent for strikers due to increased critical hit chance, Blanc is strong for physical tanking thanks to her 1.5X health modifier (at the cost of magic resistance), and Vert gives a flat 15% bonus to strength and intelligence. The list goes on, but the point is that care was taken to ensure that different characters brought different strengths to the table.
The battle system isn’t perfect, but it certainly has its strengths. Much like the main series, each character has access to both basic and special attacks. However, the exe gauge (which was used for certain special attacks and powering up CPUs) has been combined with the lily (affinity) system. Now, if you want to get access to each character’s strongest moves and activate the CPUs’ Hard Drive Divinity transformations, you’ll have to raise the lily bar by activating special moves while adjacent to other units. In addition to gaining lily points, using special moves while next to friendly units also increases the move’s effect while lowering its cost as well (this also applies to specials that cost lily points). This system seems as though it would promote brainless huddled formations dragging themselves throughout battlefields, but thankfully many levels feature hazards and obstacles such as: minecarts, electric fences, and moving platforms make such formations less than ideal. Boss caracters also have access to special attacks with high damage and large area of effect, so piling up won’t do you many favors there either.
Otherwise, there is a simple Pokémon-esque attack type system that gives the player the ability to choose what type of damage they deal, as well as an exhaustive list of status effects. In all, aside from the main gameplay of formulating a plan of attack, the game revolves almost entirely around special attack-based resource management. Hyperdevotion Noire is not the most sophisticated strategy RPG on the market, but it still has plenty of punishing puzzles and complicated combat situations, making it a worthwhile entry in the genre.
Now for the good stuff. If you’re a veteran to the series, you know that you don’t play Nep for the gameplay alone.
The Hyperdimension Neptunia series is well-known for its formula of mixing its JRPG gameplay with the storytelling of a visual novel, and Hyperdevotion Noire is no different. Unlike the main series though, this game is set in an alternate universe, which means that there will be quite a few inherent differences and deviations this time around. As the title suggests, Noire is the protagonist instead of Neptune and the CPU candidates either are never seen or don’t even exist. Those are pretty big changes from the main universe, but perhaps the largest is the addition of a true self-insert character: an awkward, faceless young man who finds himself saving Noire and becoming her secretary. Now, in addition to the normal comedic storytelling of the series, players will be able to be praised for their hard work by every CPU except for Noire, who offers up heaping helpings of tsundere on the reg.
Those are pretty big changes from the main universe, but perhaps the largest is the addition of a true self-insert character: an awkward, faceless young man who finds himself saving Noire and becoming her secretary. Now, in addition to the normal comedic storytelling of the series, players will be able to be praised for their hard work by every CPU except for Noire, who offers up heaping helpings of tsundere on the reg.
They even left the secretary’s lines unvoiced so that the player can do it themselves! I for one appreciate the developers’ acknowledgement of my own lack of shame.
As far as the technical side goes, Hyperdevotion Noire uses a chibi-based artstyle in actual gameplay. There is certainly charm to be found in this style, but the character models don’t handle the jump to 1080p too well. This is particularly true when it comes to hands, which are all permanently stuck as lego-esque claws that occasionally aren’t even holding on to the character’s weapon. Normally this is not an issue as hands are quite small in this art style, but the problem is made much worse during special moves due to the stylized camera work.
Between these chibi characters and the menu system in general, it’s easy to tell that the game was originally made for a high-spec handheld platform. But on the bright side, the sound design is strong all around, from the voice acting to the series’ trademark ambient music.
All in all, Hyperdevotion Noire is pretty much what one would expect from the series: focus on entertaining character interaction over innovative gameplay. There’s nothing wrong with this, but those who don’t value the banter that the characters bring to the table won’t get nearly as much out of this game, especially in this strategy RPG format. As with every other game in the series, existing fans of the series will love it, fans of the genre are really likely to enjoy it, and people who are really aching for a strategy RPG could do worse.
*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
Neptune's still cooler though
Hyperdevotion Noire is something of a strange offshoot from the series. All the CPUs retain their trademark personalities, all of the friendship/banter dynamics are the same, ETC; but the addition of a self-insert player character that interacts with the characters in story segments is a welcomed treat in a series where the player has only ever been an onlooker. It shakes up the dynamic in a way that the characters still feel like themselves, but you just happen to be there too.
Regardless, what Hyperdevotion Noire lacks in inherent innovation, it makes up for in character (and tsundere).
- Lovable characters
- Well-designed levels
- Somewhat bland gameplay for the genre
- Humanoid models are somewhat flawed
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