QCF: Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart

t’s truly startling to me; another Neptunia game so soon? This is getting pretty ridiculous, especially since, in the last six months, three games of nearly the exact same flow and design have been released by NIS America. One, ok, I can see that, but three? That’s just too many.

Thankfully however, Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart looks to shake up the formula considerably as a pure Strategy RPG featuring the girls of the Neptunia universe.

Hyperdevotion Noire, as the title may imply, follows the exploits of Lastation's Console Patron Unit (or “CPU”) Noire, rather than Planeptune's Neptune. Rather than traversing Gamindustri to reclaim shares lost to other forms of media, Noire instead focuses on the fictional Gamarket, which represents the commercial world that videogames as we know them, are obtained by their devoted fans. Noire and the gang set out to investigate the sudden loss of their shares, and hopefully unify Gamarket in the process.

As a pure strategy RPG, it becomes clear very quickly that Hyperdevotion Noire is actually a really solid game. Game progression is smooth, there's never a point where you'll be confused as to where to go and the story unfolds in a more or less interesting manner. NIS is all about Strategy RPGs – they did, after all, pretty much gain their entire North American foothold with Disgaea: Hour Of Darkness on the PS2 all the way back in 2004 – so it's no real surprise that Hyperdevotion Noire has a level of polish that's hard to miss. Pairing the core mechanics from the Hyperdimension Neptunia ReBirth series with Strategy RPG gameplay actually feels much, much better than in a regular JRPG setting.

After a bit of exposition, the stage begins and your objectives are laid out—usually you have to defeat all of the enemies. However, other conditions are sometimes required for victory, and sometimes, different conditions can lead to defeat as well. The main story missions and additional ones that can be played to boost your stats are indicated by different icons when selecting the mission to take on, and there's quite a bit to do. One of the more interesting aspects to the combat in Hyperdevotion Noire is getting boosts from your comrades while performing special moves by using the newly reformed Lily Rank system.

If a special move is performed, any adjoining ally will give the attacking character a quick kiss to rally them up – up to four at a time. Typical NIS. There are also all kinds of awesome status effects as well. When was the last time you saw “Tofu” as an adverse effect? Or how about having your character regressed into 8-bit forms of themselves? The mechanic is good for movement, terrible for defense—these are just a few of the admittedly great parts of Hyperdevotion Noire.

Outside of battle, there are a few recurring themes and new additions. First up, as in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth, plans can be obtained to create new weaponry, items and other amenities, so far as you have the raw materials to make them. As always, these materials are collected from felled enemies, so more fights may be needed to obtain what you need – tasks that help greatly in raising levels. Disc Development also returns with the added bonus of being able to directly name that games that are burned onto the data discs that are collected. These games allow for various added effects and stat bonuses to be applied to the character that equips them.

Visiting the Basilicom also opens up Sim Noire, which is kind of a The Sims-ish subgame that allows insight into the inner workings of a CPU – in this case, answering questions and completing requests from Lastation's denizens. You can also spruce up Noire's room by purchasing furniture, new decor and other homely acquisitions through Sim Points which can be earned through purchasing items in the shop; 1 Sim point is awarded for every 10 credits spent.

Other than that, the world here isn't much different between Gamindustri and Gamarket, but being that the game plays out one battle at a time, it's not an especially big deal. Rather than being accompanied by the personifications of real-world game developers, your allies will instead represent console parts and genres; Lid, for example, draws inspiration from stealth games like Metal Gear Solid - complete with an exclamation tattoo on her boob, obviously (also very NIS.)

A lot of the music and sound effects in this game are recycled from the previous Neptunia titles, which comes as no surprise. And again, the VO is patchy in either language, though I prefer to have to it set to English, which unbelievably holds the edge yet again. But in addition to the typical portraits that are once again very well produced and animated, the overall art style is a refreshing change of pace and eds up being fairly great as a result. If you've ever wanted to play an SRPG with a bunch of Nendoroids of the Neptunia cast, this is your chance. Special effects and overall design are a winner here.

Once again the writing is fairly decently localized and, of course, contains some pretty funny dialogue. Threre's never really a dull moment plot-wise—well played, NIS, well played…

The short to the long of it is, Hyperdevotion Noire is solid fun; It's a game that Strategy fans will enjoy as a relaxing, easygoing title, yet still one that is newbie-friendly. It has its little perverse moments, which come as expected with, well, any NIS game, but in the end Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart stands as the best title the series has pretty much ever seen.

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