Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Box Art(http://www.nisamerica.com/games/neptunia2)  Rated M for Mature by ESRB.   Piracy is considered a major problem for game companies regardless of the role they play in the industry. Many console makers and major publishers have taken action against it: official patches, lawsuits, ninja updates, proprietary hardware, etc. This game here, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, is a collaborative effort between a few game makers to express their opinion on the matter, in a fun and light-hearted way.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Box ArtHyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Logo(http://www.nisamerica.com/games/neptunia2) Rated M for Mature by ESRB.  Piracy is considered a major problem for game companies regardless of the role they play in the industry. Many console makers and major publishers have taken action against it: official patches, lawsuits, ninja updates, proprietary hardware, etc. This game here, Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, is a collaborative effort between a few game makers to express their opinion on the matter, in a fun and light-hearted way.



Presentation:
The nations (perhaps corporatocracies) of Planeptune, Lowee, Lastation, and Leanbox once again face the crisis of losing their shares in the world of Gamindustri. If the naming isn’t obvious, Lowee, Lastation, and Leanbox each resemble one of the three major consoles in the market today, with Planeptune possibly resembling an imaginary successor to a console by Sega. But “saving the world” barely scratches the surface of this story. There’s tons of interesting tidbits in the peripherals and sidetracks that aren’t required to beat the game. The light-hearted story, hilarious cast of characters, and even the side quests make many references to the real life events in gaming, from major events like the PSN outage last year to smaller scale ones like a dreaded “defective” red ring that only three quarters of it glow. And not to mention the innumerable games it referenced. More than half the fun about this game comes from its witty way of reminding players of other games they have played in the past.

Graphics:
The visual is unique to say the least. The engine appears to use a cel-shading technique, but the textures are far more dense than normal. The result is that round objects are less flat on their own, such as when the game uses full character models for dialogues instead of their anime portraits. The colorful, detailed character models can be questionable however. While the first Neptunia featured girls scantily clad with plastic that resembled the home consoles; Mk2 features their little sisters with even more skin, only each bearing some signature of a handheld system. It is acceptable, perhaps desirable to have characters that are pleasant to the eyes, but it is a bit distracting when their well-designed costume are floating in bits and pieces around them while leaving them mostly unclothed.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot

Sounds:
The sounds as a whole make this game full of energy. The music is comprised almost entirely of upbeat and melodic tracks. Though, only a very few contain any resemblance of a witty reference like the setting, story, and sidequests. Another great quality about these tracks, most of them are much lengthier than the average noises that repeat themselves in less than 30 seconds found in other games. Voices are likewise energized. The Japanese voiceover is kindly included as well, which is  more fitting to the characters than its English voice cast and it’s easy to recommend regardless of one’s Japanese comprehension level.

Gameplay:
Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 is played and watched/read in equal parts, the charm of story and character is packed in this relatively short game. Although the dialogues aren’t entirely voiced, the 3D character models make them more interesting to watch with their gestures and motions. As mentioned before, plenty of interesting materials aren’t placed in the main story arc and the game leaves it up to the player to find these side events. It’s definitely worthwhile to discover them just to see how the game pokes fun at everything, including itself.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot

Despite all the jokes and fantasized girl party talks, the battle system is intricate. Normally RPGs demand management of HP and MP, this one has HP, AP, and SP. AP is required to do anything at all, while SP is used mostly for skills. On top of that, every character can move around the battlefield within their range during their turn. All these factors make battles resemble that of a tactical RPG, but still have in-depth fighting mechanics usually friendlier for conventional RPGs. As for the enemies, their HP and guard break gauge are visible to the player. Monsters die when their HP empties, but that guard break is helpful for tougher monsters as it increases the damage the monster takes when it’s empty. It is sad to note that all of these aren’t put to greater use, as leveling can replace tactical thinking in almost all cases.

The game isn’t without flaws though. While monsters in the main game won’t provide much of a challenge, post-game bosses can be infuriating. Especially when they pull off an unpredictable amount of attacks, which in turn ruins the tactical aspect of having a bar that supposedly tells the order in which characters act. That aside, sitting through 10 consecutive hits gets unnerving every time.

Innovation:
This RPG goes by a lot faster than most others, even with strategy element in its battles. The actions feel a lot more direct since the normal attacks are easily initiated by a push of the X button, and followed up with up to 3 extra hits using three of the face buttons. Albeit still pushing button, it is far more interesting when it causes an immediate action rather than to go through a menu and then wait for it. Even using skills feel faster when the list of skills is opened by simply hitting one button than scrolling through a menu.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 (PS3) Screenshot

Longevity:
A single playthrough can be done in as little as 30 hours but that’s barely scratching the surface. NISA’s games always seem to come with multiple endings, and Neptunia Mk2 is no different. Like the Atelier games, developing the story in different ending paths requires actions rather than picking a few dialogue options. There are additional bosses on top of finding out all the events and skits – some can even be downloaded from the PSN store for free.

Conclusion:
This is a game that excels in several areas: unique and witty story premise, quick-paced yet traditional RPG battles, lots of characters and side stories, to name a few. But the overall loli-ness distracts every and all aspects of the game – even if gaming business is controlled and regulated by young girl goddesses, it still wouldn’t make much sense for them to be saving it in “armors” that provide as much protection as knee-high boots and bikinis. While some might find that graphical choice distracting or even offensive, others might find that to be another enjoyable aspect about this game especially since there’s no shortage of such scenes. However, that branching directions of smart references and flashing panties make this title confused as a whole. It wouldn’t hurt to have games that focus on one or the other.
 

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