Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is another spin-off to the ever-growing Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise. For a series that started off quite badly on the PlayStation 3 with a very poor first entry, it has really grown and evolved into a series that is always a joy to pick up and play. This particular outing is created by Tamsoft, the wonderful developers who bring us games filled with jiggling sweater puppies (Senran Kagura).
We return to the parody-ridden world of Gamindustri during a time of peace; where two rival journalists are aiming to write articles about the beautiful, powerful and, well, odd CPU Goddesses and Candidates. Each of them is a cute, crazy or big breasted personification of a popular console or handheld device. To help them write the articles, they request that the girls go on some quests to show off their skills, however, as always, things never go as planned.
Neptunia U is yet another huge change for the JRPG series, which has already had a tactical JRPG entry and even stepped into the world of idol simulators. This action-packed title may just be the best spin-off title yet, combining simple, fluid combat and Neptunia’s over the top cast was a wonderful idea.
The game isn’t at all complicated and plays much like a Senran Kagura title; you have the choice of quick weak attacks, stronger, slower attacks or a few button combinations to pull off some stylish moves. Of course, you’ll have access to a few specials too, which as always in this franchise, are awesome. The real fun starts when you have filled up your EXE Gauge and are able to transform into your character’s HDD Forms, you’ll be dashing around the screen and destroying your enemies. While in this form you’ll have access to one heck of a move by holding down L+R and pressing square, it’ll wipe out all of your foes, but you’ll revert back to your original form.
With this title being created by Tamsoft, it’s no surprise that if you get hit too many times, your clothes rip in interesting ways… they just couldn’t help themselves, could they?
There are no shops in the game, instead, you’ll notice that while you’re out knocking down hordes of strange monsters, they drop medals, as you collect medals you unlock more weapons, stat bonuses and accessories; all are vital in your journey to make the goddesses even more badass. This aspect of the game will surely make certain gamers happy while making others groan and not bother, but in all honesty, it’s not too much of a chore and you’ll find it’s an addition which makes Neptunia U even more fun.
Choosing which accessories you equip is a big deal, some will give you an average stat boost, some will dramatically decrease one stat and increase another, it’s a lot of fun to play around with and it has a huge impact on your battles.
Outside of the quests, there is a fantastic tournament mode called the Gamindustri Gauntlet, where you can choose your favourite character, destroy your opponents and earn special accessories. You can also unlock The Neptral Tower; a dungeon where you must advance through 50 floors of enemies that get harder and harder. Both of these modes are great additions to the game and are extremely entertaining.
Unfortunately, it’s not an entirely positive experience, the story is nowhere near as fun as previous outings, while it’s not boring, it doesn’t make you want to find out what’s happening. This game relies on how much you like spending time with these characters, if you enjoy their pointless conversations and arguments, then the story will make you smile from start to finish, if you don’t, then you’ll be reaching for the skip button to reach your next quest.
Another disappointment is the level designs, they are very bland and small, but the strong battle system, decent camera and overall game design make this a slight issue.
The soundtrack is easy to listen to, reusing old tracks from previous titles. The Japanese and English audio options are both as strong as ever and whether you choose to keep it in English or go for the original Japanese, you’re in good hands. It has to be said that the cast of Neptunia continues to grow stronger and stronger, each character becoming more likeable than the previous entry, or heck, maybe I’m just falling in love with them. The writing is solid, the jokes keep coming and characters continue to be named after famous companies and magazines. There are also special attacks referencing A Certain Magical Index/A Scientific Railgun and Blanc acting like Nico from Love Live, yep Neptunia is back and as awesome as ever.
It cannot be denied that Neptunia U is a great addition to the Hyperdimension franchise, while the action may become repetitive after playing in long bursts; it’s an enjoyable and rewarding game. The characters remain charming; the puns continue to be hilarious and best of all the world of Gamindustri is still an absolute joy to return to.