Only In Japan
There’s no denying that culture has an impact on arts and entertainment. An art film from France has a distinctiveness about it that no other country can match. A fine American horror novel has a feel all its own, and when it comes to Japan, there are also certain things that can only come from the mind of a creative personality born and raised there. Games like Hyperdimension Neptunia PP are one of those products. While the rest of the gaming world is deeply entrenched in shooting things from a first person point of view, HNPP takes the Neptunia world—which was already pretty crazy—and thrusts it into a “simulation” where players create the ultimate idol singer. No other country could have come up with this.
Welcome To The World Of Showbiz
The main Hyperdimension Neptunia RPG series was about a world called gameindustri (pronounced “game industry”) rule by “goddesses” that manifested as cute anime girls that were physical incarnations of game consoles. This side-game is not a canon addition to the series, instead taking the girls and their world and creating a new crisis. An idol group called MOB48 is stealing the “shares,” the spiritual currency that fuels goddess abilities, thus depowering the console girls. They summon a gamer from our world to be their producer so they can fight back as idols with even better dance routines and catchy tunes, and the battle is on. This is obviously not meant to be a deep, serious game, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Typical Japanese comedic lunacy abounds with all the expected idol/dating simulation tropes like the “tsundere” girl and awkward/creepy harem moments that are the norm for anime/manga comedies and romance. This game, like most games published by NIS, is aimed at the otaku crowd that enjoys the unique “Japanese-i-ness” of games from the East, and while this is actually a relatively easy game for neophytes to get into, there’s an expectation on the part of the story that the player is familiar with a lot of these clichés.
The game itself is straightforward for those with a lot of experience in Japanese simulation games. The majority of the game is menu-driven, using a lot of quality manga illustrations of the girls as the player chooses what activities to perform during the day, whether it’s training to build up stats, publicity to get more fans, or interacting with various characters to build up friendship and romance. None of this is action oriented at all, relying more on wacky writing and emotional investment in deranged characters to carry the player through. The more “interactive” portion is the actual concert where players have the choice to control camera angles and use stage effects to build up audience enthusiasm, and thus garner more fans and “shares.” Proper 3D polygonal models are used here, but the actual interaction is more about button presses timed to certain cues and making sure to pair the right song to the right venue than anything else. This game, like most Japanese simulation games, is really more about plot and the occasional choice than constant, highly active interaction.
Unfortunately, it’s also very, very slight. For an idol simulation game about J-Pop stars, there’s a meagre total of five songs. The actual duration of the game is also pretty short, with one playthrough running about three hours or less. There’s a total of four characters, and the game’s “clear save data” carries over the stats of each idol to a new playthrough, so the game is clearly intended to be played multiple times. At $40.00, that feels a little steep, compared to games with lengthy playtimes, such as Toukiden or even Demon Gaze. However, it’s an idol simulation game on the Vita, and there’s a real dearth of that genre not just on the Vita but most platforms.
Hyperdimension Neptunia PP is all about player predisposition. There’s absolutely NOTHING here to convince the anti-Otaku crowd to change their minds. Even for those that like Japanese culture, $40 for a short game with minimal interactivity might be asking a bit much. But for those that love games like Idolm@ster and are starved for a Vita—or even just plain English—version, this is it. It’s entertaining, there’s just not a lot of bang for $40.