Title: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
Developer: Sting, Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download | Retail
EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes
The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise has quickly made the PlayStation Vita its new home. Having originally gotten 3 games on the PlayStation 3, the series has gotten remakes of all 3 of those games on the Vita as well as 2 spin-off games that are exclusive to the Vita. While not all of these games are localized yet, it is well-known that only one Neptunia game isn’t set to grace the Vita, which is the upcoming PS4 title, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory II.
While we got two Neptunia games localized last year, we’re set to get four this year. We reviewed the recently released Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation, a remake of the PS3 title Neptunia Mk. II. Yet, we still have Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, and Re;Birth 3 coming later on this year, and we plan on reviewing all of them.
Today, I have a review of one of those games. This past week, the PlayStation Vita received two new exclusive games from both NIS America as well as Idea Factory International. One of them was The Firefly Diary, which we reviewed earlier this week. Today’s review, however, is a Neptunia game. Here is my official review of Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart!
The story of Noire takes place in Gamarket, which is similar to Gamindustri, but different. This location is where all games are produced and sold. The rule over Gamarket is fought over by the four CPU Goddesses: Neptune, Vert, Blanc, and Noire. However, when a shady character (that Re;Birth 1 players will recognize) tricks Noire into depleting all of the Shares for the CPUs, the source of their power, they are forced to band together to search for all of the Generals that govern each of Gamarket’s cities in order to restore the shares before the world is destroyed.
The story of Noire is something that is different than the rest of the series. Noire focuses much more on the stories of each of the 17 generals, whom are parodies of famous video game franchises like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, and Resident Evil. Because of this, there is little detail done to an overall plot until the very end of the game. While each of the Generals is characterized well and brilliantly represents the series they parody, it feels like too much was done on each general and not enough was done to maintain the overall plot.
Regardless, the story will keep Neptunia fans entertained and in tears with a lot of the comedy thrown into the mix. Be it Lid’s habit of hiding inside cardboard boxes or Ein Al’s mysterious speaking of the Legendary Crystals, gamers will be happy with how faithful the characters are shown and with comedy at almost every turn. Just don’t go in expecting the game to focus on overall plot.
Noire is the very first Neptunia game that incorporates itself as a Strategy RPG, as opposed to a console RPG like the Re;Birth games do. Because of this, there are a lot of things that are different in Noire than the other games. As you go through the game, you will be going through missions across grid-like stages to take down enemies, collect items, and dismantle traps, among other objectives. This is also dealt with in a home base as well, as opposed to the World Map progression that the other games do.
At your Home Base, you have six different areas you can choose to go through: Shop, Mission HQ, Disc Development, Basilicom, CPU Hotel, and Item Development. In the Shop, you can buy new items, weapons, armor, accessories, and crystals to give to your characters or add to your inventory for your missions. Mission HQ is where you can take on Story Missions, Side Missions, and Simulation Missions, which are Story Missions that you can repeat to get different reward items.
The last four areas are divided into development and simulation areas. The Disc Development and item Development areas are where you can use Plans that you find to be able to develop items, weapons, and equipment or using Discs that you find to make disc items (which you can now name whatever you want) with various battle effects on them, which is just like Disc Development works in the other games.
The Basilicom and CPU Hotel, however, are more for story and character development. The Basilicom is where Noire goes to read and respond to citizen requests as well as buy items from “Amazoo.nep” to decorate her room. The CPU Hotel is where all of your party members stay, where you can talk to them, have event scenes with them, or watch/listen to the media of the game, be it scenes, CG sequences, or music tracks.
Character customization is one thing that SRPGs normally have a very deep system for, with Character Creation. In Noire, however, all of your units will consist of story-based characters, or DLC characters that join via Story Events. The customization of these characters are in equipment you develop and buy for them as well as Character Challenges you put them through as you play through the game. This is the most extensive customization system, increasing their stats (other than leveling up), by fulfilling conditions with these characters, such as sending them on a solo mission or having them defeat a certain number of certain enemies.
The actual battles take place in environments that function like grids, with each area being a certain square. As you start each mission, you’ll be set on a map and will be given a certain number of units you may place. Some spots may already be taken if this is a story mission, with the other spots free to be filled by anyone you wish. The blocks you can place your units, however, is preset. You can position your units however you like, but you can’t choose anywhere on the map to place them. Another thing to note is that you can set anyone as the leader, and each character has a leader “effect”, like increasing the Critical Hit rate or preventing certain status effects.
The game is set in turn-based battles where you can move your units around and attack enemy units. Each character has a specific movement they can do per turn, which is different from any other character. For example, Lee-Fi and Lid can move for more distance per turn than Resta or Blanc. You have to use this movement range in order to position your units well to set up your various attacks.
Once you have moved, you can use items or use attacks and skills to buff your party or attack your opponents. Each skill has a different range and where you are also plays a big effect. Attack an enemy from the side or behind and you’ll have more accuracy and damage than if you attack them from the front. There are also elemental weaknesses to exploit in the game, so knowing which enemies are weak against which elements can also turn the battle in your favor.
The biggest unique point about Noire as opposed to other SRPGs are the environments themselves. As you play through each map, you’re not only fighting but doing light puzzle-solving to figure out how to navigate the area. Some stages have boxes you must lift and move to create stairs for characters to climb that don’t have the Ignore Height passive skill. There are also traps that you have to avoid, or you might have to go through a maze and board a train to take to the other side of the stage. As you progress further in the game, your strategy will not only be positioning your units for attacks but also positioning them around the various hazards and puzzling environments you’re thrown into.
The Neptunia basics have been incorporated into the game as well. Many of the characters from previous games, like Neptune and IF, have their skills from previous games but given the make-over for a strategy RPG, like Neptune’s Victory Slash or Noire’s Lace Ribbons. The Lily Rank system is here as well. In Noire, you gain Lily Points in a stage (and establish a rank with the characters involved) when you use a skill and are right next to any other character in your party.
This has two purposes. The first is gaining Lily Points for that battle. Lily Points will give you the ability to cast your skills for lower amounts of SP when doing the sequences, but it’s also linked to HDD Transformations and Special Attacks, which are characters’ Ultimate Skills. You can have a max of 100 Lily Points in a battle, which is the required amount for a single Special Attack. You can also use 30 points to transform one of the CPUs into their HDD Form, like Noire into Black Heart or Neptune into Purple Heart. These forms only last a few turns, though, so it’s also a part of the strategy to know when to and not to use these points, as HDD can only be used once per battle.
As you progress through the stages, you will gain experience for anything you do, be it using an item to heal another member of your party to using a skill to defeating enemies. Gain enough EXP and you will level up, increasing your stats and learn new skills. You also earn EXP when you finish a stage. Aside from item, credit, and plan rewards, each mission gives a certain amount of EXP to all party members, including ones that are KO’d and ones that were never deployed in the mission.
The difficulty of the game is also something to be addressed. When you first boot up the game, you will have a choice of playing in Easy, Normal, or Hard Mode. SRPG fans may want to jump into Hard Mode at first, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t challenging on the other difficulties. I spent a lot of time in both Easy and Normal Modes, and the game proved to be challenging on both levels. The difficulty spikes quite a lot and if you don’t constantly improve equipment, levels, and do side missions, the game will quickly overwhelm you.
Another part of the difficulty is that certain story missions have requirements that will test your thinking by giving you only certain characters to use. Let’s say you use Lee-Fi, Estelle, and Poona in almost every mission. Then you get a story mission where they are unavailable due to story reasons. Now you have to make do with who you have left and think about how you need to approach the battle, knowing your three main hitters aren’t available to you.
All in all, Noire is an SRPG that isn’t hardcore like Disgaea but still proves to be a good challenge to RPG and SRPG fans alike. Across 9 chapters, the game will take you at least 30-35 hours to complete once. Once you beat the game, you can cross your Clear Data into a new game with all of your levels and equipment to go through again to try for a different ending if you missed out on the True Ending your first time through the game. It doesn’t have as much post-game content as games like Disgaea and Valkyria Chronicles, but it’s got plenty to keep an RPG fan busy.
Controlling Noire isn’t going to be a hard task, especially if you’ve playing Strategy RPGs before. The first thing you need to know is that you don’t need the touch screen or rear touch pad for anything at all. All of the controls in the game will be handled by the buttons, whether you’re playing the game on a PS Vita or PlayStation TV.
The base and menus can be navigated easily enough with the D-Pad and the X and Circle buttons. In battle, much of this is the same. You can cycle across the tiles on the map with the D-Pad as well as using it to go through the various menus to decide on commands. The two Analog Sticks are used as well, mostly for the camera angle. The Left Analog Stick can rotate and move the camera while the Right Analog Stick can zoom in and out to show you a larger perspective of the battle arena.
The face buttons are mostly used for menus. The X and Circle buttons are used to choose options in the menus or selecting a character to give commands to. The Square button is used to quickly switch to another unit instead of dragging the pointer all the way across the map to give them commands. The Triangle button is used to pull up the Main Menu, where you can end your turn, check your units, see mission objectives, do a quick save, among other things. Finally, the L and R triggers are the quicker ways to rotate the camera.
One last thing to note is that the PlayStation TV doesn’t add any extra controls. The extra R and L trigger buttons aren’t used when you have the game in a PSTV. The controls are the same as they are on the Vita.
The visual presentation is something that could turn you off of the game, but can also be something to enjoy. First of all, this game is the cutest SRPG you will ever play. While the story scenes are made in the same way they are in the rest of the games, everything in battles is set up like Chibi characters or Nendroids. This is a very cutesy art style.
The visuals, themselves, look really nice. It takes some time of very close looking to find any jagged edges on the character models. While this is mostly the same in the other games, this game’s graphical engine is much more polished than the already-good engines used in the Re;Birth games.
The biggest complaint I have about the presentation is the voice track. While all of the returning Neptunia Voice Actors do a good job at their work, they messed some scenes up, whether intentional or not. In every scene where the CPUs begin talking after transforming into their HDD forms, their voices don’t change. When Purple Heart is talking, she talks in the high-pitched Neptune voice instead of the deeper Purple Heart voice, despite using this voice in battle. This happens almost every time an HDD Form talks in a scene and is very strange and awkward, especially for fans of the series.
Otherwise, the game’s presentation is done well. The load time for each stage is never terribly long, taking up to 8-10 seconds to completely load a stage, and there is no lag or slowdown to be seen in the game.