The Neptunia games have been going on for almost a decade now. They’re primarily JRPG games but Neptune and co. have dabbled with multiple genres over the years with the characters that people know and maybe love being the one constant. Super Neptunia RPG is, as the name suggests, an RPG too, but fans will be in for a new experience as the exploring and battling are quite different and all characters and environments are 2D.
Neptune and her goddess pals aren’t strangers to being represented in 2D, with 2D portraits being the common method of portraying story scenes in previous entries but there’s not a 3D model in sight and the majority of story sequences are played out in engine. Character sprites are sharp and well drawn, with smooth animation and backgrounds are colourful if a little busy at times.
The story this time starts with Neptune and the other goddesses (being anthropomorphised versions of Sega, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) all having amnesia. Bit of a common concept in RPGs but fans know that it’s just an excuse to have all the characters meet for the ‘first’ time again and it wouldn’t be the first time that a spin-off has played with the lore. The overarching story has a resistance fighting against an organisation that have banned 3D games and forcibly block anyone from making new ones, even denying they ever really existed.
I can’t really remember a Neptunia title where the story pulled me through though, but the characters can often be fun if sometimes annoying. Here you have the four main goddesses, only a couple of returning side characters, and a few new ones. They all have their usual mannerisms and character traits though they get a little less screen time, with older games often having scenes upon scenes of extra dialogue for flavour that didn’t really progress the story but just focused on character antics. You get some of these, some optional/missable, but most of the scenes progress the story in some way which may disappoint fans of the characters.
There are a few towns to explore in the game which is more than you usually get in a Neptunia title, but they aren’t that complicated with some NPCs which are only used for dishing out sidequests (which are usually kill x number of these or fetch quests), an inn to rest at, an item shop, armour shop and a guild to collect bounties generally being the landmarks. You can sometimes go into other houses which may contain NPCs or scale the outside to find hidden chests but you won’t be spending too much time in these locations.
Head out into the world and you’ll select an area from a map and be looking at a side scrolling platformer. A basic one, but one nonetheless. You can explore the space, finding chests, on the odd occasion having to leap over bottomless pits (generally if you fall in them they put you back where you were with a little health taken off) and attacking/avoiding monsters which are always represented by a dogoo (the series’ basic, blue blob enemy). You’ll gain a couple of enhanced movement options as you progress through the game to help you access new areas which is nice.
Get into a fight and here you’ll find things to be very different. If you have four members in your party then they’ll be represented by each of the face buttons (, , and ), less party members will require less buttons. As an action meter builds pressing that button will use some of it and that character will perform an action. What action that is can be set before battle from the menus and you can rotate which position each character is in with the / buttons, with each position allowing you to set a different action for each character.
As you progress through the game characters will learn new moves from the weapons and accessories they equip which will give you more options. Ideally you want all elements covered, as enemies often have elemental weaknesses. Hitting an elemental weakness will increase your action meter, allowing you to attack more frequently. This is the key to defeating enemies quickly and enemies without weaknesses can be a real chore to defeat.
The way the battles are set up also means that, if the enemy has no weakness, you’re just tapping the button for whichever character has the strongest attack as everyone shares action points so you want to be efficient. If an enemy does have a weakness then you end up having plenty of action points so you just mash on all the buttons like you’re playing an old track and field game. Neither is a particularly fun, challenging or strategic experience. A super meter builds as you attack but annoyingly that means that if you’re fighting an enemy with a weakness then it builds super fast, whereas if you’re fighting an enemy without one, exactly the time you might want a devastating attack, it takes far longer.
Combined with the rather basic exploration and you have a game which is easy enough to playthrough but is only passable in all forms and, I can’t really believe I’m saying this, the lack of silly cutscenes that add little to the story actually takes some of the charm away. Whilst out exploring there are also visual pauses that eat your inputs meaning you’ll press jump and it won’t activate of try to slash at an enemy to gain an advantage before a fight and your attack will vanish. Not being an action game it’s not game breaking but boy is it frustrating and it happens frequently.
Similarly the load times can be very long and the loading icons have a habit of freezing making it look like the game has crashed. It never did but the game would linger on a black screen for an uncomfortable amount of time often and even loading into the in game menus, especially the first time, would freeze the game then load the menu in in stages.
I had the platinum in just over twenty hours so it’s also quite short for this type of game. The lack of challenge stops it getting frustrating but the so-so exploration, overly simplified combat and technical quirks make this one of the weaker Neptunia titles. The toned down character moments even make Super Neptunia RPG a tougher recommendation for fans, though I’m sure they’ll get some enjoyment out of it. It’s an interesting diversion for Neptune but not a particularly successful one, but I’m sure she’ll be back in some form or another before long.
+ Same characters you know and possibly love
+ No frustrating difficulty spikes
- Overly easy and simplified gameplay in all areas
- Some annoying technical issues