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Psychotic Reviews: Hyperdimension Neptunia

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Hyperdimension Neptunia is a turn based RPG developed by Idea Factory, Compile Heart to be specific. It was published by all kinds of different companies depending on where you live, Compile Heart in Japan, NIS America in North America, and Tecmo Koei for the Europeans. It has spawned sequels and a plethora of extra media in Japan. It was remade for the Vita with the epithet Re;Birth 1. Once again the Japanese start messing around with our punctuation and grammar.

The idea behind the game sounds like heaven for long time fans of video games. Imagine the major manufacturers personified as goddesses, and you get to play as one! You play as Neptune, the personification of Sega, with the name pulled from the Sega Neptune prototype of the combined Genesis and 32X. Neptune love sleeping and food, almost too much. The major supporting characters include personifications of the developers and publishers involved in the game. Compa for Compile Heart, IF for Idea Factory, Nisa for Nippon Ichi, and Gust for GUST! The Goddesses can also transform, with Neptune growing well over a foot in height and a couple letters in cup size. She’s affectionately referred to as “Magical Boob Girl” by IF.

In this world the Console Wars are real battles between the Goddesses as they vie for domination of the world of Gamindustri and their own realm of Celestia. Some events transpire in Celestia that lead to the Goddesses descending to their respective planes, except Neptune who ends up lost. She lands face first and suffers from amnesia after that. There is a lot of hidden comparisons and criticisms of Sega and the other hardware manufacturers scattered throughout the story, this being the first major one. There are events scattered throughout the planes, with Planeptune including one where a game obsessed kid criticizes a game company’s history, including releasing a console the same day they announce it. That sounds familiar. The same kid also screams at an executive for the company, telling him the company sucks, then justifying it as a sort of encouragement for the company to improve. For such a light hearted game there are many quips and jokes that feel like they’re roughly scratching at sensitive scar tissue.

In the end, this is not Segagaga. There is no atmosphere of despair and failure surrounding a group of executives and creators. It is upbeat in no small part thanks to Neptune’s natural energy, eagerness, and brash personality. The main characters are unique in their own way, and the supporting characters are quite helpful, Gust’s discount ability saves a lot of credits! Compa is a rather airheaded nursing student who ends up being pulled along with Neptune into a grand, epic adventure after her school is closed due to monsters. Her grandfather is also hilarious! IF is the more rational and level headed group member, helping to balance out Neptune and Compa’s tendency to run head first into dangerous dungeons without preparing themselves.

While the story and characterization is quite strong the rest of the game is lackluster. The battle system is quite weak, devolving into monotonous combos that you’ll end up skipping to get S ranks in the dungeons. Repeatable dungeons are all about finishing them quickly to get higher ranks, then you get more reward money at the end. Skipping the attack animations makes this actually attainable. So you’ll spend most of combat mashing a few face buttons with L2 mashing in between them. This gets old quickly and wears the fingers down. There is usually a grinding dungeon thrown in somewhere, where some dungeons are harder, take longer, and offer worse rewards this grinding dungeon is relatively easy with some great rewards and fast experience. One of the last dungeons I found of this kind got me from level 48-65 in about an hour. I was entirely overpowered after that dungeon.

Items are also awkward. Instead of buying the items you want to use and navigating a menu the party gathers up four ingredients, then mixes them based on whatever item skills you equip them with. Its not a simple equip either, but how many percentage points you allot to that specific ability. I pretty much kept the cheap, low level healing abilities up at the maximum percentage since the healing skills are also percentage based. The one skill I found myself micromanaging was Neptune’s Protein skill. This lets Neptune start the battle with Lunatic, an attack power buff. Bosses die fast with that on, but its expensive to use for every battle.

I do not believe that Japanese developers have properly grasped the concept of DLC yet, moreso when this game’s DLC was releasing. Neptunia has some DLC, including free dungeons. Some of these dungeons are extemely high level, and you’ll have to buy multiple level cap increasing DLCs to make use of most of these free dungeons, which serve to grind out a hundred or so levels. As monotonous as the main game is I know I would never have the patience for that kind of post game grinding. Some extra characters are also unlocked in combat through purchasable DLC, like Nisa and Gust. There are also the obligatory costume and gear packs to buy as well. Given the price of a used copy of the game now you’ll spend over twice as much extra scratch for DLC that will likely never be touched, so I would not even bother supporting this awkward and contradictory style of content addition.

This first game in the series really should only be played to see the story, and as such you might as well play it on the easiest difficulty. You won’t be missing much for this, and will probably save a couple fingers some fatigue and soreness in the process. This game took me the longest to play out of anything I’ve reviewed so far. I started the game I just beat almost three years ago, but found myself bored and moving onto other things only to pick it up for a day or two months later. I finally powered through the rest of the game to see the rest of the story. The monotony may drive you insane and if you’re looking for an RPG with deeper and more engaging mechanics then it is best to look elsewhere in the PS3 and Vita’s library.

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Indie Minute: Hotline Miami

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Hotline Miami is the game that got me to pay attention to the current indie scene. I had played some recent indies beforehand such as Minecraft, Geometry Wars, and its ilk, but this game really made me watch avenues such as Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter for indie or crowdfunded games. Hell, there’s even a Suikoden fangame that I’m watching at the moment (are you even surprised by this?)

I’ve seen Hotline Miami described as a top down ‘fuck’em up’ by Eurogamer and that description is quite accurate. You play as a nameless character that the community has named Jacket as he wears a letter jacket. The gameplay revolves around slaughtering everybody on the floor you’re running around on to a kickass soundtrack. Jacket wears a mask to disguise his identity, but each mask has a certain feature that changes gameplay slightly.

In terms of style Hotline Miami is a modernized version of the Playstation game Loaded, but with pixel based graphics and an even better soundtrack. You could point out elements to even old top down arcade shooters from the mid-late 80s like Ikari Warriors, Commando, Iron Tank, and many others as inspiration for some elements of design. Hotline Miami is more of a free roaming game though, with full movement and with the ability to scroll any direction you desire.

In terms of story this game can only be described as a stream of consciousness descent into sanity. The music is right at home in a dance club but some just feel deeper, and with all the face stomping and brain bashing it creates a unique dynamic.

The game even goes into a spin based on alternate timelines and how the story evolves from there. At a certain point in the game there’s a confrontation between Jacket and a man wearing a motorcycle helmet. After completing Jacket’s story the game switches perspective to the slain motorcycle man and lets the player control him, following the events until the confrontation with Jacket and showing what would happen if the motorcycle man won that fight and killed Jacket.

This version of 1980’s Miami will leave you craving more. With a sequel on the way I am anxiously awaiting this follow up to a wonderful indie game that took some old ideas and made them stylish and new. It normally retails for $9.99 on a variety of platforms, from Windows, OSX, Linux, and with Crossplay support on PS3 and Vita. On the PC front it often goes on sale for $2.50, which is the price I paid for it. It was worth every penny.

PSP Farewell Part 1 of 2

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With the recent release of Sony’s new Vita there are many out there who are ditching their PSP and the many games and UMDs available for the once lukewarm selling system. So while many are saying farewell to their PSP and personal library I am saying ‘Hello!’ to the world of Sony handhelds. Why is that? I only recently picked up a PSP and a handful of cheap games the same night, only about a month ago. So here are some reasons why another collector should be saying ‘Hello’ to this system as well!

First point: Timing

There is no better time to set your sights on a new system than shortly after it is deemed obsolete and the general public has a shiny new toy that is trending to talk about. Because everybody is offloading their PSP and games in lieu of the Vita’s ability to download some games then it means the market is being flooded with fresh, new titles that will hopefully soon make it to everybody’s favorite haunts. This means prices are dropping for all but the most coveted and sought after titles. From here on out, we will be talking about some of the big marks for a collector of physical media and why the PSP should not be ignored.

Second Point: Imports

The PSP is region free, just like its brothers the PS3 and Vita, so there are many reasons an importer will find this system friendly. I am just entering the realm of importing, and I am also a fan of the Suikoden series, so the system already offers me at least one personal title to pursue as I fill in the rest of the small holes in my own personal collection of that series.

Genso Suikoden I & II

Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki

There are a few other reasons for the import friendly RPG fan to be excited about the PSP library. For example a remake of Breath of Fire III was released in Japan and the EU, so it is perfectly friendly for any BoF fan that only speaks English to go after the EU version of the game. Other options include Sega’s Shining Hearts, Valkyria Chronicles III, Falcom’s Zwei!, Namco’s Tales of Eternia and the quirky Nendoroid Generation. If you know what a Nendoroid is then you should have an idea of what to expect. There are also quite a few options for the fan of the good old Shoot ’em Up, with Taito’s Dariusburst topping my list of desires. A remake of R-Type is available from Japan and Europe’s PSN to add to the list,

A vast majority of import options are based on the most popular anime in the Land of the Rising Sun, and as such can be just what you expect, or maybe even worse than that.

Valkyria Chronicles 3

 

Third Point: Remakes/Re-releases

Right here is where the PSP library will shine for any fan of Japanese developed, console RPGs, and where I will have a hard time even starting the list!

Atlus starts with an A so I might as well mention that Personas 1-2 were completely remade, graphics and sound were upgraded to make use of the PSP’s superior capabilities. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was also released for the very first time in English on this system! I’m proud to say the collector’s edition of that game was one of the first ones I grabbed. Eternal Punishment is currently in the works from Atlus, no word yet on if it will come across the Pacific. Both 1 and Innocent Sin had soundtrack’s released in a collector’s edition for North America. Persona 3 was also ported, however it is more recent and the upgrades were given to the combat system to make it function like Persona 4’s, but story was cut out that was in the PS2’s FES edition. Where’s Persona 4 you ask? Well its being re-released on the Vita, so this trend looks like it will continue, at least from Atlus. Outside of Persona the great Atlus also re-released the cult-favorite Game Boy Advance title Riviera: The Promised Land.

Capcom has the aforementioned Breath of Fire III re-release to check out if you wish to import a copy from Europe.

Falcom remade and re-released Ys 1 and 2 in a collection called Ys I and II Chronicles. I can say with experience that these are some fun games to play if you just want to run around and grind mindlessly. Button free combat, Peter Molyneux must be completely jealous that Falcom did that in 1987! The collector’s edition came with a soundtrack and this is one series that certainly deserves it! More Falcom re-releases include entries in The Legend of Heroes series. I personally have not grabbed any of these yet, but Trails in the Sky has been tempting me.

Game Arts also threw their hat into the RPG remake ring by releasing Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. If you have been wanting to experience the first Lunar but do not want to shell out a pretty penny for either the Sega CD or PS1 release then I would go for this one!

And last but not least (maybe for their newer games) for the RPG side Square Enix. As you can expect I am going to be mentioning a series that has Final and/or Fantasy in its title. Sure enough Square re-released Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 4! Their release of 4 for PSP also includes the various spin offs that have been increasing in number for the past few years.

Before I lose all of your attention I will mention some re-released arcade games that came to the system. SNK’s Metal Slug Anthology piles 7 classic run and gun games onto a single UMD. And Konami’s Gradius Collection crams 5 classic shmups onto one UMD as well. Natsume brought Harvest Moon to the system with a re-release of the PS1 classic Back to Nature. On this system it is known as Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl.

Next Week I will return with a focus on titles built specifically for the PSP. No remakes, imports, or remade imports in Part 2!

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