Super Neptunia RPG (PlayStation 4)
Also available on Switch and Windows
One of the first things that people learn about me when they get to know me as a gamer is that I'm a MASSIVE Neptunia superfan. One of my long term goals is to get the platinum trophy in every Neptunia game (which is the only reason I played this on PS4 instead of Switch despite having pre-ordered both versions). Being such a huge Neptunia fan, I've played the whole series, and I'll be the first to admit that some entries are a lot better than others. Super Neptunia RPG, unfortunately, falls on the "not so good" end of that spectrum, but that's not to say that it's a downright terrible game. It's not as good as most of the other Neptunia games, but it's not without its merits. After all, at least it's not Producing Perfection or Megatagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies.
Super Neptunia RPG was a lot of firsts for the series. The first 2D platforming style game. The first game released on a Nintendo system (or a non-Sony console at all since I don't count PC). The first game produced by a Western studio. That last one is what had me the most uneasy, and that's what I pin most of the game's problems on. There are a number of issues, but honestly, the writing is what bothered me most. It's clear that Idea Factory and Compile Heart either trusted Artisan Studios too much or dropped the ball on oversight. Neptunia has never been a magnum opus series for writing, but Super Neptunia RPG just sounds like a bad fanfiction. The dialogue feels forced and just doesn't flow like it should. This is a more minor complaint, but the characters' representations also feel less fleshed out than usual. It's really clear what most characters are supposed personify. Planeptune is Sega, Plutia is the cancelled Sega Pluto prototype Saturn redesign, Uzume is the Dreamcast, Neptune is the cancelled Sega Neptune console, and Nepgear is the Game Gear. Lastation is Sony, Noire is the Playstation, and Uni is the PSP. Lowee is Nintendo, Blanc is the Wii, and Rom and Ram represent the DS. Leanbox is Microsoft, and Vert is Xbox. Eden is NEC, and Peashy is the PC-Engine. Tari is Atari, and Rei Ryghts is the Atari 2600. Some of the characters in this game, however, are just...I don't know what they represent. I don't even know if Artisan knows what they're supposed to represent. IMMERSION BROKEN.
Most people probably won't be as put off by the meh writing as I was. The biggest problem for most people is going to be the performance. I don't know how it stacks up against the Steam and Switch versions, and I don't know how it performs on base PS4, but I was playing on PS4 Pro, and I still had a LOT of apparent performance issues. Menus were as sluggish as the Xbox One dashboard at launch, loading sometimes felt like a Wii U or Sega CD game, and there were a lot of quality of life things that were just unusually absent. There were no options to sort your items. Yeah, there was a "Sort" button, but I still have no idea what criterion the game used to sort them, and there were no options. Just "Sort." Some menus - most noticeably the menu to use an item in battle - had both X and O confirm the item use even though O was clearly balled "Back." Speaking of items, the Berry, an early game healing item, bizarrely had its icon turn from a berry to a plain white box about halfway through my game and never turn back. Sometimes Neptune would make an endlessly falling animation when changing rooms even though she was standing in place on the ground. Inputs would lag especially in menus. It was just...bizarre. I don't remember the last game I played that had performance that bad in menus. If you used the fast forward option in battles to get through grinding faster, the game would go faster than it could load, so it would sometimes just stutter in the middle of the fight. It's a 2D game; how does it even have that much data for a PS4 Pro to load that it stutters? All around, this just seems like a mechanically flawed game.
Now that I've thoroughly crapped on the game, let me point out some of its redeeming qualities. The equipment, while super clunky in the menu, is pretty varied and has abilities and attacks tied to it. Until you've "mastered" that ability by winning a certain number of battles with the item equipped, you can only use that ability or attack when you've got that item equipped. Once you've mastered it, you can use it even when something else is equipped. This gives a real incentive to use a bunch of different weapons and accessories even if the pure stats of the item aren't necessarily the greatest. Rarely does a game give me a reason to use a weapon other than the one with the best stats. That's something I can appreciate. The dungeons were also pretty enjoyable to explore with areas initially blocked off until you progress far enough in the game to unlock jumping upgrades. Unfortunately, aside from those two aspects, nothing else is really exceptional. The rest of the game ranges from "Okay" to "Are we sure this isn't still in beta?"
Super Neptunia RPG, despite being the latest entry in my favorite game series, is not a game that I can readily recommend. It's not terrible, but it's not "good" either. It's a solidly okay platformer RPG, and I really think the big mistake here was letting a Canadian company handle the development. Nothing against Canadians, but Artisan Studio clearly wasn't up to the task. Considering that IF is the mascot for Idea Factory and a Neptunia character (along with Compa, a personification of Compile Heart), they really should have either kept this one in-house or at least outsourced development to a studio with a proven track record. WayForward could have done a stellar job with this. If you want a cute and fairly mindless 2D RPG, then sure, you can do worse than this one provided you can find it on sale down the line for less than $25, but honestly, while I say I overall enjoyed my time with it, and it was an easy platinum trophy, it's a hard sell to someone who's not already a passionate Nep fan.
And here's a bonus image so I can show off.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.