Thursday, 18 June 2015

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed

Hey. Sup. Guess what? You're probably sick to the gills of me saying this, but today I'll be reviewing an game by Compile Heart. Yeah, seriously. I know, it seems like every second week (literally!) I'm reviewing another title by the Tokyo based developer/publisher. Well, technically this latest was developed by a different company entirely, but it's part of a Compile Heart franchise and it was published by Compile Heart, so it's one step away from being renamed Compile Hearts presents: Compile Heart- the game. Despite being sick to death of typing the name of that developer since I started writing for CeX around 3 years ago, it's a good thing that this latest title, like most of the games in their growing catalogue, is actually pretty fun despite no without a few problems.

Developed by Tamsoft (a developer that retro fans, like me, will associate with the Battle Arena Toshinden series) and out now on the Playstation Vita comes Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, another entry in the ever expanding and confusing Hyperdimension series. However, despite being a spin-off to the main games in this series, Action Unleashed pretty much features all the characters you've come to know and love since the first Hyperdimension game. That said, though it does contain characters already seen in the series, it's apparently deemed non-cannon in terms of the series' greater saga. I haven't played much of the series myself, but even my time playing Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation was enough to help me understand this world and its characters without being too confused. 

Like all the titles in the series before it, Action Unleashed takes placed in the world of Gamindustri, and as the name implies, this is a world that is essentially a parody of the gaming industry itself. The game pokes fun at the industry numerous times, and even goes as far as naming characters after consoles and well known gaming magazines. However, compared to previous games in the series that contained overblown and confusing plots, Action Unleashed keeps it pretty simple in terms of narrative. Basically, one day two videogame journalists turn up in Gamindustri (named after Japanese gaming magazines Famitsu and Dengeki), and the girls (Neptune, Noire , Blanc, Nepgear, Vert,  Uni, Rom and Ram), alongside the two playable journalists, must complete various tasks and missions. Why? They want to impress the journalists so they write something nice about them. Yeah, I know, War and Peace it ain't but it works in terms of being the catalyst to sending the characters off to some nice locations, so whatever.

Compared to previous Hyperdimension games Action Unleashed goes for more of a Dynasty Warriors type of approach. Action is fast paced, easy enough to get a handle on and, most importantly, fun. Initially coming across as a game that heavily relies on button bashing, Action Unleashed's free-form combat is rather simple compared to previous games in the series, yes, but it's not without its charms. You'll dish out small attacks, large attacks and combos on the fly, and eventually build up your EXE meter, which ultimately lets you unleash your HDD form. Once this form is initiated both the appearance and skill-set of your current character will drastically change, and will instantly turn the tide of battle. Each of the 10 playable characters in Action Unleashed have their very own form, but even beyond all of that, each character in their default form are incredibly different from each other. You'll find yourself switching through them mid-battle, testing out who is the best against certain enemies, and this excellent approach to free-form combat is both refreshing and a joy to play around with. Sure, it's nothing new of course (Kingdom Hearts 2, anyone?), but it still manages to make for some pretty slick gameplay.

I wouldn't play this game in public though. There's a game mechanic in Action Unleashed called “costume break”, which effectively means that as your character is damaged they start to lose bits of their clothing. When this happened at first I looked over my shoulder, keen to tell anyone who was around that no, I don't have a body pillow shaped like a wide eyed, sharp chinned, annoying voiced Hentai character. If you can play this game on a bus with the costume break in full effect, complete with countless jiggling breasts and not give two shits, go for it. But personally I like to hide my shame.

The graphics here are pretty nice, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of the assets in the game were taken from other Hyperdimension games. A lot of the game seemed like I was either adventuring through places I've already been before, or that these “new” places were merely made up of walls, scenery and objects that were in previous games. I can't be certain about this, but that was my impression once I finished the game.

Depending on your view of Action Unleashed's combat, you'll either see the game as either pretty interesting or completely repetitive. I did love the combat, but if I'm being honest I have to admit that I got sick of the “go here and kill all of these monsters” types of missions, which essentially makes up for around of 80% of Action Unleashed 12-15 hours of play time. The rest of the enjoyment I got from the game comes from it's simplified story, its characters and their dialogue. Some of the jokes about the games industry are definitely cringey to read, but for the most part the script is funny, charming and harmless.

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed just about makes the grade and gets a 3/5.


Denis Murphy

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed at CeX

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