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Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 Review - The horsebird is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 Review

Rating: 3,3
A light-hearted, turn-based action RPG about goddesses saving the world, but it cuts corners.
Developer:Compile Heart
Publisher:Idea Factory
Platform:PC

"Anime was a mistake". This troll quote refers to Hayao Miyazaki's perspective of modern anime girls, seeing them as products of selfish wish fulfillment rather than accurate portrayals of the human condition. While technically true, my perspective is that art doesn't always have to be about replicating and contextualizing, it can also include hypothesizing the ideal. If you think real people are flawed, propose what you think people should be like. Real people would become influenced by the ideal images and may even try turning them into reality, which is basically what cosplay is, and you end up pioneering a cultural shift.

That said, I dislike blatant fan service because it's non-committal. It teases sexuality without giving it to me. It's porn, yet not porn. Meal scenes where it shows food and the characters eating together are also the same, showing me food that I can't eat. They all take up screen time, yet they do not advance the plot and are thus, padding. However, I do understand the allure of cute character designs and personalities, and I want to try something corny to broaden my experiences, which is why I decided to take a look at Hyperdimension Neptunia.

Gameplay

Combat system

You engage in battle by attacking or touching an enemy and you are sent to an isolated battlescape where your party fights the enemy party. Successfully attacking an enemy gives your whole party the first move. Touching an enemy results in the first move being determined by each combatant's agility stat. However, enemies will come after you when they see you and if an enemy touches you mid-attack or touches you from behind, the whole enemy party gets the first move.

Turns are decided on a per combatant basis. You are shown the turn order for the next several characters, but it is subject to change on the fly and the exact rules are unexplained. Turn order factors in each character's agility and the actions taken during a turn. Some actions incur a shorter or longer wait, but the game doesn't give you any wait statistics or tell you how wait and agility interact. Performing short actions like defending or cancelling out of an attack allows you to manipulate the turn order, which is useful for chaining attacks with the rest of your party. However, performing the longest actions may allow the enemy to move multiple times in a row. The displayed turn order is what you will get if you perform actions with low to moderate wait. Performing the shortest actions might bump up your character, but it's guesswork. You can buff your agility and debuff enemy agility during combat or have special bonuses that shortens wait, but it's hard to know the exact effect without a transparent breakdown of the algorithm.

Movement in battle is free within a radius determined by the character's movement stat. Your normal attacks hit in an area, so positioning yourself well will allow you to hit multiple enemies with a single attack. Your first weapons will hit within a small square, but most enemies are positioned so that you can just catch two enemies within the square's diagonal. Later weapons can swipe a wide rectangle, although new weapons you have access to are often set up for a trade-off between attack area and damage. Enemies are also capable of attacking in an area, so spacing is helpful to minimize damage taken. However, spacing your characters also makes it harder to use items and abilities that affect an area.

Triple Target.jpg
Careful positioning geometry will allow you to catch multiple targets with your attacks.

Attacks

When you attack an enemy, you will perform a basic attack first, then you can follow up with three additional attack types of your choice or you can cancel out of it to end your turn with a short wait. If the turn order indicates you can move again, you can perform your basic attack plus one attack to have a short enough wait to get that second turn. However, performing a full attack sequence will push back your next turn. For each attack, there are three types of attacks to choose from:

Before battle, you can customize which attacks are available on which attack in the sequence. You are given a 3x3 chart to assign attacks to for each character, where each row represents the attack type (rush, power, or break) and each column represents the attack in sequence (2nd, 3rd, and 4th hit). You should fill up the chart as much as possible, but you have a limited number of CP for assigning attacks. More powerful attacks use more CP, but you gain more CP as you level up. Early on, you should fill up the power and break rows with the most powerful attacks, assigning only leftover CP for the rush row. This allows you to focus on guard breaks and damage to defeat most enemies. However, when you have access to EXE drives, it is better to focus on rush combos for quick EXE charging.

Combo Chart.jpg
If you don't assign a command, you won't be able to choose that attack type for that hit in the sequence. You can customize individual EX finishers, but it's a good idea to set them up so that their attack types use the same input button as your normal attacks. Jumping Arts is a break combo and Blaze Break is a power combo, so set them to A and X, respectively.

Elemental attacks

Attacks also have elemental types. There are physical, magical, fire, ice, wind, and lightning types. Certain enemies are more or less resistant to certain types of attacks and may inflict certain elemental damages, but the game doesn't tell you any of it. The monster bestiary doesn't list elemental resistances or attack capabilities, so you end up having to use trial and error. Generally, you shouldn't bother with elemental attacks and should just focus on physical or magical attacks because those can be used on anything without much problem. Worrying about elemental resistances leads to a lot of busywork because you have to manually swap out attacks before battle and sometimes you don't even know what you're going up against because you're just watching a cutscene and then the battle begins.

Each character does not have access to all elemental types and most elemental attacks do less overall damage, so it can be hard to judge whether you are better off with elemental attacks in your combo chart. Enemies that will give you the most trouble are machine-types because they are resistant to physical damage, so it's a good idea to switch to magical/elemental attacks when you know you're up against them. You can also equip specialized items to increase resistances to specific elements, but it also means giving up other useful bonuses because they occupy the same item slot, so they're not worth it. Even if you don't consider resistances, you can still win by brute force, so it doesn't really matter in the end, making it a poorly fleshed-out mechanic.

SP skills

All characters have access to special skills that use up SP, but different characters have different skills. Direct damage abilities differ according to damage dealt, damage radius, and SP cost. There are also utility skills that buff your stats, debuff enemies, or heal. Almost all characters can buff stats, but each character is only able to buff specific stats. Some abilities affect an area while other characters' abilities can only affect a single target, making the characters with area of effect attacks and buffs more valuable since you don't have to waste turns and SP on multiple targets. Buffs and debuffs are quite useful for gaining an edge on boss fights, so you don't have to waste turns putting characters on healing life support. SP skills also have the advantage of a short wait, so they won't push back your next turn. However, SP replenishes only when you leave a dungeon, consume items, or have high-level accessories, which means you should save SP skills for bosses.

Because EXE drives are so much more powerful, SP attacks become obsolete at high levels. There are only a few circumstances where you might use SP attacks: when you don't have access to EXE drives, if the enemy is close to death, but you have already expended your EXE gauge, or if an enemy is outside of your movement radius since SP attacks can be executed from a distance.

A game of statistics

There is some optimization strategy to combat, but it is ultimately a game of statistics: You are either high enough level with good enough equipment or you are not. It is only when you are fighting level-appropriate enemies when strategy makes a difference. However, regular enemies don't differ enough to have a major impact on each encounter, so every enemy encounter is the same task of lining up your attacks against a handful of possible enemy formations and wailing on them until they die. Bosses get a bit more complicated, where buffing, debuffing, and healing costs turns, so you have to decide on order of operations to manage guard breaks, maximize damage dealt, or minimize damage taken. However, as you grind levels and get better equipment, strategy vanishes as you are able to brute force most of your opposition with EXE drives.

There is no way to determine how strong enemies are or what to expect until you fight them. Bosses are often much stronger than the enemies in the same dungeon, so it's better to avoid them and come back at a higher level to grind whatever they drop, but that means having to run through the dungeon again, which wastes time. While you have an option to escape a battle, it is based on an agility check relative to the enemy. That means if you are hopelessly outclassed, you will fail the stat check and can't escape, rendering the escape option pointless. You have to quit to the main menu and load a save since dying requires you to load a save anyways. Even worse, you also cannot save inside a dungeon unless there are built-in save points, which many dungeons don't have, so it is advisable to save before entering a new dungeon and testing the enemies. Even if you can win, if it costs you consumables to survive, it's not advisable to continue because it's costly to repurchase items and the time to kill makes the experience points not worth it.

Party

You can have up to three characters active in battle at a time and you will eventually have a roster of twelve characters to choose from through the normal progression of the game. There are also four additional secret characters you can unlock. Most of the characters are actually cameo extras from older Neptunia games. With some exceptions, the extra characters don't do anything the core characters can't. So, I'm only going to list the more significant characters.

Neptune, Noire, Vert, and Blanc are the goddesses of the game. They have the ability to transform to gain small, but significant stat boosts at the cost of some SP. Transformation does not cost a turn, but it only lasts for a single battle. Since SP doesn't recover by itself, it is costly to use for regular enemies, so save it for bosses. Party composition can affect your damage output and survivability, but the characters and enemies are not niche enough to require regular composition changes to win. My endgame composition is Neptune, Noire, and Blanc since Neptune provides damage, Noire provides damage resistance debuffs, while Blanc provides damage resistance buffs.

Partners and lily ranks

Each of your three active characters can be assigned a partner. When assigned as a partner, the character will provide passive bonuses to the active character. The main purpose of the cameo characters is to provide more useful partner bonuses than the core characters. Particularly, the "ignore enemy traits" ability allows you to ignore the natural resistances of certain enemy types. For example, machine-type enemies take half damage from physical attacks, but having that ability allows you to inflict full damage, making it a game-changer. It doesn't ignore everything, though, and some enemies may still be resistant to elemental attacks. Unfortunately, the game doesn't tell you what exactly the enemy traits are.

There are also assisted EX finishers each partner provides, as well as EXE drives that require specific partners. Both are more effective than solo attacks, but they are focused on guard breaking instead of raw damage. However, a lot of characters do not have decent guard break EX finishers, so partner skills are very useful. However, one annoyance is when you reassign partners, your assisted EX finishers get unassigned, requiring you to double-check your assignments or you may end up going into battle with missing options. It's particularly an issue because characters join, leave, and rejoin your party throughout the story.

Partnering characters also allows those characters to gain relationship points between each other referred to as lily ranks. Partner abilities have lily rank requirement, and lily ranks are gained by assigning partners and winning battles. However, it will take a lot of grinding to raise lily ranks, and it is useful to have special accessories that speed up the process. Early on, you have a small party and characters are more effective on the battlefield than as partners, so I don't recommend trying to gain lily ranks early. It is also best to focus on gaining lily ranks for one character for each active character rather than try to make everyone best friends with each other because it will just lead to a lot of grinding for no practical benefit.

Goddesses.jpg
Some scripted battles start you off transformed, so you have full SP. You also get to see girls in combat swimwear.
Partners.jpg
Partners are useful for providing passive bonuses and can enable powerful guard breaking EXE drives (i.e. the "C.Skill"). However, only the goddesses partnering with Neptune will grant such EXE drives since no one else has them.
Formation.jpg
You can also change your party's starting formation. Starting at the front allows you to take out enemies quickly while starting at the back will give you time to buff. It's not really all that crucial, so you will likely set it once and forget it.

Grindy crafting

There is a crafting system that allows you to acquire plans, either from dungeons or from browsing the overworld to find points of interest. You can unlock various things, from game features, secret characters, side dungeons, and items. For items, it just unlocks them in the store for you to buy with credits, so you don't have to farm materials to make more. You can also craft item and monster changers for each dungeon to get better loot and fight bosses that give you tons of experience points.

The crafting system is grindy because the game doesn't tell you where you can get each material, there is randomness to material drops, and a lot of crafted equipment are soon outclassed. You have a monster bestiary that fills in as you fight monsters and it records what monster drops what, but there is no reverse lookup of materials, so finding the material you want requires going through every monster in the bestiary to see if they drop it. Even worse, some materials aren't dropped from monsters and are just found as items in specific dungeons. In short, it is best to consult online resources for finding the materials you need.

Additionally, there's a global crafting limit that prevents you from unlocking everything at certain points in the game. Your crafting limit will increase as you proceed through the game. However, there are far more things to unlock than the limit allows by the end of the game. The game allows you to play again with all of your unlocks, so to get all of the most useful stuff, especially all of the secret characters, you will need at least two playthroughs. This crafting limit just makes the system needlessly complicated. While it adds a sense of trade-off, it discourages experimenting. If you want to gate off progress, just don't give the player certain plans at certain points in the game. Also, playing through the game again with high level characters makes the battles trivially easy, which turns the system into a grind since you can only unlock the secret characters late into the game. You also have to re-unlock the story dungeons, so you can't get materials from them right off the bat.

Custom accessories

You can also craft discs, which are special accessories that allow you to choose what bonuses you want using idea chips you can find. Blank discs are limited throughout the game and are granted through defeating certain bosses or completing certain side quests. However, each disc you acquire differs by how many idea chips it can support and at what level each chip can be. There are also secret combinations of idea chips that will grant you an additional bonus, but you will have to look them up to know what they are. However, most of the secret combinations are not as useful as high-level custom combinations. You will want to focus on chips that shorten wait, ignore enemy categories, reduce physical or magical damage, increase your EXE gauge faster, or recover SP. There are also chips that increase experience points and lily ranks, so you can make discs solely for level grinding. You can respec discs as much as you want, but you will lose the idea chips used.

I feel that the disc system is overcomplicated and poorly paced. I would often get high level chips only to realize that none of my discs supported them, so I ended up disappointed. Of the chips I had that were supported, the available chips gave unimpressive bonuses like increased defense against a specific enemy type. While you start getting discs and chips early on, you can't make anything good until late into the game. Even then, you still have to make compromises because discs that support the highest level chips are scarce, which means you can't max everyone out.

Plans.jpg
Crafting stuff uses up MB. Items don't cost much MB, but more powerful unlocks will use up a lot. Also, the game doesn't tell you where to find needed materials. You will have to look them up online.
Overworld.jpg
Crafting item and monster changers for each dungeon will allow you to get new stuff out of dungeons, but it's hard to tell what dungeons give you worthwhile stuff without a guide.
Equipment.jpg
You can acquire new weapons and equipment as well as choose different skins for your characters. Most outfits have to be purchased for a not insignificant amount of credits, but the store doesn't show you what each outfit looks like before you buy them.
Disc Dev.jpg
Customize your accessories for useful bonuses. Most high-level chips are found only by crafting item changers for certain dungeons, so it is best to look up online where to find them so you don't waste your crafting limit.

Fetch quests

You can accept fetch quests through the Guild, which lists all available quests you can pick and choose. Quests either require you to kill a number of enemies or retrieve materials, usually by killing enemies. Most quests are repeatable, so you can reap the rewards multiple times, although there are quests that can only be completed once, but give you a more valuable reward. If you have excess materials, you can quickly complete materials quests by taking them and then turning them in immediately. However, enemy quests have to be taken first in order for your kills to count.

You will eventually be able to unlock the Colosseum, which allows you to fight challenging enemies for various prizes. High-level fights will give you the most powerful weapons in the game. However, it will take some grinding to level up enough to survive the tougher encounters. The best way to grind levels is through dungeon bosses that you can quickly defeat by spamming EXE drives after charging the gauge on regular enemies. Bosses and enemies respawn, and the amount of experience you gain from killing certain bosses will make levelling up quite fast. Having discs with chips that increase your experience gain also helps.

In addition to rewards, quests affect the shares of each of the four world nations, showing you how much is transferred from who to who. Shares refer to how much global influence each nation has, with shares totalling up to 100%. Shares are mainly a story mechanic that influences the ending, but raising the shares of one nation up to 50% will enable you to unlock a secret character late in the game, with the exception of Leanbox. Manipulating shares is just a matter of doing the same repeating quests over and over, so it is a grind, but you need to get the four nations' shares to be around 25% with 0% other shares to get the true ending. Unlocking the secret characters will also show additional scenes in the ending, so it is a good idea to get them, even though it will require grinding.

Recycled dungeons

The dungeons have simple layouts with a few branching paths. However, there are a lot of reused dungeons. Some dungeons have added sections to the base dungeon, some just start you off from a different side of the map, and some are identical, differing only in enemies encountered and treasures. There is a lot of empty space to traverse and there are no puzzles, so unlocking dungeons just feels like a grind after a while since every dungeon plays the same. All battles teleport you into contained, flat, open battlescapes, so dungeon layout and obstacles have nothing to do with combat. While different dungeons have different enemies, they differ mainly in stats and appearance, so there isn't much gameplay variety from one dungeon to the next. It's a quantity over quality approach to level design.

There are three kinds of treasures you can find: question marks, blue cubes, and invisible treasures. Question mark treasures respawn every time you visit the dungeon and they usually contain materials that serve as a bonus to avoid excessive grinding. Blue cubes do not respawn and typically give you items and plans. Invisible treasures tend to give you more valuable materials and even plans, but it's random per visit, which means you have to look up online resources to see which give valuable drops. Invisible treasures have to be found by using a treasure search pulse you just have. Finding invisible treasures is a matter of running around while spamming the search pulse, which is just mindless busywork. Fortunately, there is a plan you will get that marks invisible treasures on your map, but you will have to grind materials to unlock it.

Guild.jpg
Lots and lots of fetch quests means lots and lots of grinding. However, as long as you keep up to date with the guild, you should be able to complete most of these quests as you proceed normally through the game.
Dungeon.jpg
You're going to be running through multiple replicas of this dungeon.

Controls

The game supports XInput gamepad or keyboard and mouse, but the user interface was designed for gamepad. You can remap keyboard controls and you can assign up to two keys for each action, but you're literally mapping gamepad buttons to keys and all of the on-screen button prompts will still show gamepad buttons. Also, you can't remap the mouse buttons. Your mouse cursor is visible on the screen at all times and it's just the plain Windows cursor. You can point and click on menu items, making it faster than a d-pad, but there is no scroll wheel support, so you need to use W and S to scroll up and down lists. In the overworld map, you use WASD to move your selection icon around and you left click on the location to select it rather than allow you to directly point and click with your mouse. In dungeons, movement is 8-way digital whether you use keyboard or analog stick, so keyboard is better.

To look around with the mouse, you have to hold down the left mouse button, which is needlessly clunky. I assume it was designed that way to let you point and click on things with your cursor, but there's no actual use for it. Outside of combat, right mouse button is for jumping or cancelling out of menus (i.e. it does what the gamepad's B button does). In combat, you can either click on the command buttons or you can press the assigned keys. You can aim your attack by holding down the right mouse button to rotate your character or you can turn the camera with the left mouse button and tap forward. Aiming actually works better than on gamepad because aiming your attack uses the d-pad, which is much less accurate. I recommend assigning the YXAB gamepad buttons to 1234, respectively, so you can intuitively select attacks from the list and focus your mouse on looking and aiming. You should definitely remap all the buttons to be around WASD because the default mapping assumes you have three hands.

Mouse aiming feels responsive enough, but there is input limiting, which means the game will not respond to fast mouse swipes. It's not really an issue for this game because you don't need fast, precise aiming and the sensitivity is high enough to make it not an issue. However, you can't adjust the mouse sensitivity at all and since the sensitivity is high, it suffers from slow movement stutter and imprecision. While there is a camera speed setting, it only affects analog stick. I imagine using a lower sensitivity will make the input limiting worse like it does in other slapdash console ports. Overall, the keyboard and mouse controls are still better than gamepad.

Story

In the world of Gamindustri, four goddesses rule their respective lands. Neptune rules over Planeptune, Noire rules over Lastation, Vert rules over Leanbox, and Blanc rules over Lowee. The goddesses fight over dominance of Gamindustri in the Console War, but on the advice of a mysterious voice, the three goddesses team up against Neptune to defeat her, sending her crashing down from the sky to the outskirts of Planeptune, where she is saved by a local nursing student named Compa. Neptune loses her memory of who she is, but she is contacted by Histoire, a tome that records the history of Gamindustri. Gamindustri is under threat by someone named Arfoire, and Histoire has been sealed away, so Histoire needs Neptune's help by collecting Key Fragments to unseal her and save the world.

Planeptune

Monsters have been appearing out of nowhere around Planeptune, so Neptune and Compa take on jobs for the local guild to find the source of the monsters. During their adventure, they meet IF, who is also doing jobs for the guild. They team up and find that the source of the monsters are from a special disc. However, they also encounter Arfoire, who is after the Key Fragments and Neptune's goddess powers, but Arfoire turns out to be too strong of an opponent. She has the power to copy others and tries to copy Neptune, but Compa jumps in to protect Neptune, so Arfoire ends up copying Compa instead. Since Compa is weak, Arfoire becomes weak, allowing the three to defeat Arfoire for the time being.

Lastation

Continuing their search for Key Fragments, they travel to Lastation. Noire has been away from Lastation for too long fighting in the Console War, and in her absence a major company called Avenir took over. Avenir has been trampling on smaller businesses and damaging the environment, so the three take on work for a small business in the hopes of finding Noire and solving the problem. However, Noire finds them first. Thinking that Neptune is an enemy in the Console War, Noire fights Neptune, but loses and flees. Being a goddess, Noire can transform, so she uses her human form to disguise herself and join Neptune's party. To learn more about Avenir's plans, the girls take on work for them. However, Avenir learns about their plan first and sends them to their deaths with a false job, but they survive only to discover Avenir wrecking the city and destroying their competitors with a giant robot as a demonstration of their technology. The girls stop the robot, but Noire reveals herself as the goddess of Lastation while Neptune realizes that she is the goddess of Planeptune. With no leads on a Key Fragment and Lastation needing repairs, they go back to Planeptune while Noire stays behind to take care of Lastation.

Leanbox

IF talks about her respect for Leanbox's goddess, so they head over to Leanbox. A representative from Lowee fabricated evidence that Neptune is a heretic against the goddesses, worships the Overlord Momus, and is spreading lies and destruction across the lands. A Leanbox official attempts to assassinate Neptune with poison while taking IF and Compa into custody. Vert has been isolating herself during everything, but eventually caught wind of the situation. She releases the girls from prison while helps them create an antidote for the poison. It turns out that Vert lost her goddess powers to someone and was hiding in embarrassment, but with the help of her personal assistant, she eventually tracks down the person who created the false evidence, who turns out to be Arfoire. Arfoire is too strong for the party since she stole Vert's power, but Vert's assistant is capable of copying powers as well and gives the power back to Vert. With this, they defeat Arfoire for the time being and acquire a Key Fragment from her.

Lowee

Since Arfoire came from Lowee, the party heads there while Vert joins them. They meet Blanc only to be accused of being followers of Momus, so the party flees. They meet members of a resistance group who helps them only to discover that the resistance is headed by Blanc. The first Blanc they met was a copy made by Arfoire and she turned Lowee into an imperialist nation. Lowee has been buying weapons from Avenir, so they travel to Lastation to put an end to Avenir's production, where MAGES. joins them. However, this was mainly a distraction while Arfoire attacked the Lowee resistance. They hurried back to Lowee to confront Arfoire and evacuate the survivors to Leanbox, also defeating Arfoire for the time being. Blanc's assistant searched Arfoire's room and found a Key Fragment for Neptune. To stop Arfoire, Blanc joins the party.

Lastation, Part 2

Since Arfoire has been targeting goddesses for their power, Noire is in jeopardy, so they head over to Lastation. Lastation is holding a technology expo where the best company will win a trophy presented by Noire. The party goes to the expo only to be pushed into a battle competition against Avenir's robot, making the event a trap for the goddesses. However, they manage to defeat Avenir's weapons with the help of a ninja girl named, MarvelousAQL. The battles weaken the goddesses, which allows Arfoire to come in and copy Noire's power, but IF, Compa, MAGES., and MarvelousAQL protect Neptune, causing Arfoire to flee. Avenir's most powerful machine was powered by a Key Fragment.

Planeptune, Part 2

With all the Key Fragments, Histoire contacts the party and tells them that she is somewhere in Planeptune, but doesn't know exactly where. They begin an aimless search, but Neptune receives a stick from a girl named, Broccoli, who tells her to throw the stick and go in the direction it points to. She does that and it leads them to the cave where Neptune first encountered Arfoire. They discover a hidden passage and followed it only to be ambushed by Arfoire since it made sense that Neptune was collecting the Key Fragments to release Histoire. Unfortunately, Arfoire had a robot that was too powerful for the party. She uses Histoire to summon the Overlord Momus, but the girls distract Arfoire long enough for Compa to sneak around and steal Histoire from Arfoire. Momus turns out to be unkillable because it is fueled by people's beliefs, so the party flees.

Finale

With Histoire and the Key Fragments, they release Histoire. Histoire explains that Arfoire was a hero who helped defeat an evil goddess in the past and took care of the current four goddesses in their infancy, but copying the evil goddess's power corrupted her. Defeating Arfoire will require the four legendary weapons wielded by the Quartet who fought with Arfoire. Arfoire creates copies of the goddesses to wreak havoc on the lands, so the goddesses split up to deal with the copies, rally their people, and retrieve the legendary weapons from each land. The weapons are old and unusable, so they are reforged into weapons the four goddesses can use. With the strengthened faith of their people, the goddesses became empowered by it and were able to defeat Momus completely. The legendary weapons enable them to go to the goddess land of Celestia where they have a final showdown against Arfoire. Neptune realizes that Arfoire sacrificed herself to raise the goddesses properly, so she asks everyone to believe in her ability to save Arfoire from the corrupted power and she succeeds.

Flawed goddesses

At first glance, you might think this game is just trashy wish fulfillment for socially awkward nerds, but the goddesses are actually terribly flawed people. Neptune is an attention-seeking airhead who selfishly demands pudding and casually insults others with a smile, Vert is a manipulative princess who spends her time gaming instead of performing her duties as a head of a nation, Blanc is prone to violent outbursts over trivial matters, and Noire is distrustful and jealous of others, but at least she works hard for her people. You might think their skimpy outfits are just for mindless sex appeal, but I would say their outfits are a caricature of their flaws. The goddesses would make annoying long-term relationship partners, so they're no better than sex objects. Their behaviours actually make sense according to the lore because the goddesses were raised from birth to hate each other. They wouldn't be engaging in the Console War if they didn't have a level of arrogance. That said, it does make them amusing to watch.

There are two male orbiter characters who are mockingly portrayed as men who act chivalrous, but are actually shallow perverts who reduce women to their sexuality instead of recognizing them as people with their own independent motivations. This highlights the problem with waifu culture. She may be everything you want in a woman, but there's a very good chance that you are not what she wants because women are attracted to status and this is a cross-cultural pattern. She's a socially well-adjusted goddess saving the world while you're just a basement troll hiding behind a computer screen thinking you can "win" her by being chivalrous. It's a one-sided attraction where you lose yourself in the illusion that you are a much better person than you actually are. Then again, women can also be quite ignorant and shallow since they are indeed people, which is why it is important to be able to resist your urges and rationally analyze their character for flaws that will piss you off.

Pointless amnesia

Even though Neptune loses her memory, the most glaring issue is that nobody in Planeptune recognizes their own leader. If they did, the amnesia wouldn't be an actual issue. Neither Compa nor IF know who Neptune is, even government officials don't recognize her. They even have a hard time pronouncing her name even though they have no problems pronouncing, "Planeptune". IF points this out, but it just comes off as a weak joke. All of the other goddesses have to disguise themselves to not draw attention while in other lands, implying that everybody knows them, but for some reason Neptune doesn't have to disguise herself since nobody other than the goddesses recognize her. Apparently, amnesia also wipes your social status.

Even then, Neptune's amnesia doesn't really play a significant role in the story. None of the goddesses knew about Arfoire, so there's no reason to think Neptune having her memories would have made a difference. Even though Histoire offers to restore Neptune's memory, she refuses under the belief that she will remember her dislike of the other goddesses due to the Console War, even though all of the other goddesses have set aside their past prejudices to co-operate against a common enemy that threatens them all. Neptune naturally believes that everyone should get along, so it's unlikely she is the kind of person who would hold grudges and break up the alliance right then and there. Also, retrograde amnesia doesn't cause you to lose general knowledge, so her goddess conditioning should have made her naturally hostile towards the other goddesses, even though she won't remember why. Therefore, it's unlikely that getting her memories back would have changed anything.

Insult.jpg
The main character is a toxic asshat. There's a fine line between teasing and bullying, so it's better to not take the risk, but the portrayal of her character glorifies such an awful personality.
Lost Translation.jpg
I suspect the translation for this scene is incorrect. I don't speak Japanese, but from my experience of watching anime and gaining limited word association, what's actually being mentioned here is that Neptune believes Noire has amnesia, so she is worried that Noire might get lost going out alone even though Neptune also has amnesia.

Overly light-hearted narrative

The story is told through a visual novel format and there is a lot of talking. However, a lot of dialog is not plot-relevant and is just the characters fooling around. There's so much talk about pudding, teasing others, breast sizes, and wearing glasses to disguise themselves that it drags out the cutscenes. I get that it's supposed to be light-hearted, but sometimes I wish they would just stop and get to the point because those trivial things are just immature for goddesses that are supposedly hundreds of years old.

The Leanbox incident is particularly stupid. The Leanbox official, Yvoire, gets shown sketchy evidence of Neptune being a follower of Momus, but Neptune shows up and provides counter-evidence suggesting she is not a follower and that someone else is responsible for the summoning of monsters. The suspicious Lowee representative was the one who suggested assassination with poison and doing it without notifying Vert, which should be a huge red flag, yet Yvoire trusts the Lowee representative anyways without any consideration of Neptune's side. Yvoire then singled out IF and asked her to kill Neptune even though IF has absolutely no reason to suspect Neptune of anything. She doesn't even tell Neptune about it, which would have avoided the poisoning. Yvoire said the poison would only harm those who are not pure of heart. Considering Neptune's personality, she got what she deserved, but she learned nothing from it and continues being the same naive person. In fact, there is no character development at all. The story takes the characters' fixed personalities and role plays them in different situations.

The appearance of the cameo characters from the older Neptunia games just seems so random to the point they actually detract from the story. They introduce an alternate dimension sub-plot that is never expanded on while they are used as convenient deus ex machinas to help the main characters succeed where they would otherwise fail. There are barely any explanations of who they are and why they are helping the main characters. They just appear out of nowhere to provide help unconditionally, violating all semblance of logical storytelling.

Final Words

It's a charming game, but it's like junk food: tastes good and you might end up going through the whole bag, but bad for you if you eat it to the exclusion of healthier alternatives. One more thing, while there is English voice acting, not every scene is voiced and the voice actors just don't do the characters justice. I recommend the Japanese voice acting because it's much more expressive and fitting for the exaggerated character personalities.

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