For those that haven’t stumbled across this side-scrolling RPG series, the Neptunia games have been knocking around since 2010. Originally created by Compile Heart, Idea Factory and various other Japanese studios since, the adventures of chirpy goddess Neptune and the ongoing Console War have been a PlayStation console exclusive for years until now. And Super Neptunia RPG isn’t just the first instalment to appear on Nintendo hardware, but also the first one to be developed by a Western studio. While not completely unheard of, it is quite unusual for a very Japanese-centric franchise to be handed over to a non-native outfit – even if this is just a spin-off.
To its credit, Canadian outfit Artisan Games clearly knows the series its drawing from, taking cues from both the mainline Neptunia series and from a number of other much-loved JRPGs. While other spin-offs have spun into everything from CCGs to dating sims, Super Neptunia RPG instead opts for something a little more in-line with the series’ roots. There are still plenty of those visual novel-style cutscenes, with long-winded conversations between various atypical anime characters with giant weapons and questionable fashion choices, only now there's a greater focus on side-scrolling movement and platforming rather than 3D exploration.
Set within the same colourful universe as the main series – a humorous meta-world where nations in the land of Gamindustri are divided by their allegiance to certain fictional consoles – Artisan has moved away from the 3D models of old and opted for a more pleasing 2D art style. It’s a great choice, and everything from the gorgeous background vistas to monster and character designs look and feel instantly more timeless than the 3D models found elsewhere in the franchise. The entire mythos might be a pastiche on games as a tribalistic battleground – and the use of an amnesia-stricken hero is beyond dull at this point – but that cute aesthetic helps lend a storybook quality that’s reminiscent of Octopath Traveler and Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds.
When synced up with a poppy and energetic soundtrack and a surprisingly decent amount of voiceover work (which you can play in English or Japanese, with support for English subtitles as well), Super Neptunia RPG is both faithful and refreshingly different in its presentation. However, identifying usable platforms and knowing exactly how to walk up multiple pathways when in a city (you have to jump, rather than pushing up on the analog stick) can sometimes be far less intuitive than it should be thanks to this colourful visual take.
As with previous games, the bulk of your time with Super Neptunia RPG will be split between exploring the 2D dungeons and cities of Gamindustri and taking part in battles. Platforming isn’t particularly challenging, although Neptune’s movement can sometimes be a little too slippery as she moves from standing to sprinting in seconds. While exploring, you can converse with NPCs to gain new quests, open treasure chests for new items and gear and explore forests, cities, towns and labyrinthine caves. You can initiate battles by approaching an enemy or by slashing them with your equipped weapon to begin an encounter with a temporary stat boost.
Combat is semi-active, with your squad of teammates positioned in a diamond formation on the right of the screen, in a similar fashion to Valkyrie Profile. You’ll start off solo for a while, but eventually you’ll be reunited with your fellow deities, with each character represented by one of the four buttons above their respective head. You can’t attack in real-time, but you can once a small meter in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen begins refilling segments. Enemies will also attack periodically, so you’re left with deciding between using a small amount of AP to perform a light attack or hold off, soak up some hits then unleash a much more powerful strike as a result.
Switching formations will place different characters in the position of squad leader, which will enable you to adjust the kind of attacks and support moves each one can pull off, but these subsystems aren’t explained particularly well so don’t expect to utilise this relatively key feature straight away. And while it does throw quite a few pages of tutorial text at you, it soon becomes apparent that there isn’t very much to combat. In fact, you can even hold ‘ZL’ to speed up and automate the process. It’s clearly a decision to make battles more appealing to new or casual players, but it leaves Super Neptunia RPG feeling a little hollow as a result.
Super Neptunia RPG actually has more in common with South Park: The Fractured But Whole than it does more traditional RPGs, simply because it takes systems that can often be a little too complicated and makes them far more palatable for players hoping for a more casual experience. Combat can often drift a little too far into the casual zone – especially with the ability to speed up battles – but the strength of its environmental design and the light-hearted nature of its quests helps this spin-off hold a lot more weight than some of the throwaway cash-ins that have graced PS Vita in recent years.
This is one that I've been completely on the fence with for ages. There's so many games releasing around this time though (and Mario Maker on the same day even) so I might pass on it at launch and hope to find it cheaper in the future.
@Xelha Just because you don't like the Japanese dub, doesn't mean everyone else hates it. Sure, it would be nice to have an English dub option but it doesn't change the actual gameplay and from a simply a cost point of view, it probably doesn't make much sense. Saying they've ruined the franchise seems a bit harsh.
Can't wait for this!
Nothing wrong with a simple RPG. The early paper mario games were hardly that complicated but that didn'tatter because they were THAT fun.
Plus, they were hilarious.
Right on. Was curious how this one would pan out.
That feels less timeless and more smartphone to me. I'll stick with the multiple full fledged 3d neptunia games on my vita.
Looks like a fine RPG, might get it once I had some money to spare later on.
Sounds like a weird and interesting rpg. I'm curious to try it. I also wonder what the frame rate is...
Based on YouTube videos that claim to be 60fps it looks like this game runs choppy. Not one of the video showed 60fps gameplay. It look like a 2D game running at 30fps. Very disappointing!
i hate Compile Hearts' obsession with little girls
The cult of Nep Nep is always looking for new members
In the second picture is that T-Elos from Xenosaga?
This sold 11,521 in Japan. Doubt it do much better in the west. Black Friday will have tons of Switch games in the sale bin this year.
"throwaway cash-ins that have graced PS Vita in recent years"
Glass house man, glass house 🙄
While I have ordered it to support IF on the switch, I'm still very doubtful about the game. It a shame that this review does not mention if the problems of the Japanese version have been tackled.
@Xelha Still ruined, is a bit harsh, especially since Lulua is the best in a while. The season passes are bs, but they are mostly bad anyway and can (and should) be ignored.
I still don't know if I'll enjoy the game much, but I ordered the limited edition because of all the quality goodies that comes with.
Puddingo plushie, hardcover art book, and Neptunia themed playing cards? Yes please! And the steel game case and collector's box don't look too shabby, either.
Super NEptunia RPG is a very fun game from what I see, I hope it gets as good as MegaDimension Neptunia VII
But the following is kinda harsh:
"helps this spin-off hold a lot more weight than some of the throwaway cash-ins that have graced PS Vita in recent years."
That's not really true, Producing Perfect is trash, the Rebirth games aside from the story are gameplay wise same (yes they are all 3 good but don't differ as much gameplay wise, it's mostly the story)
The there is Hyperdevotion Noire which is it's own thing (a fine SRPG), Hyperdimension Neptunia U (okayish hack and slasher) and SuperDimension Neptune Sega vs Hard Girls (fun spin off)
I didn't play MegaTagmension Blanc vs Zombies but all the other games are fine and by saying they are "throwaway cash-ins" is like saying the whole series is that which is not (every franchise has good and bad games)
This is a game I absolutely want to play, but like the whole Neptunia series usually is, it will probably end up in the backlog.
"For those that haven’t stumbled across this side-scrolling RPG series"
This isn't a "side-scrolling RPG series" and hasn't been with the exception of this game.
"the adventures of chirpy goddess Neptune and the ongoing Console War have been a PlayStation console exclusive for years until now."
Except for all the PC ports of just about every game released up till now.
And you misspelled "installment" as well. All this is in the first paragraph of the review, and it just hurts to read.
Plus, "throwaway cash-ins that have graced PS Vita in recent years" just makes me cringe. Those Vita games also got PC ports, and they're pretty damn entertaining.
I hope this game paves way for more entries on this system. I would like to be able to play some of the mainline games on my Switch, especially since I don't own a PS4 (nor a Vita) anymore.
Whatever the case, I still yearn for the day the series returns to mk2's battle system and mechanics (Re;birth 2 and VIIR don't count).
Glad to see this turned out well. Due to current backlog and the avalanche of upcoming games on Switch, this will take a backseat. I'll keep my eye out for a decent sale though.
@60frames-please are you a real person?
@Xelha I hear you. I lived in Japan and speak Japanese and could easily fall into the 'purist' group when it comes to dubs and subs, but I usually still like the English tracks better for most games.
@BeefSanta As real as Beef Santa. Great name by the way!
Never did get into this game series, but I remember laughing out loud at some episodes of the anime. Plus I really enjoyed Valkyrie Profile and this game seems to have been built with that structural spirit in mind. Maybe I'll give it a go.
Never tried out this series, but may have to give it a shot eventually.
@Vectorman I did play it, the part where Mario goes behind a folding screen and is suddenly 8 bit Mario was priceless.
Sadly, never finished the game, was back in my pirating days and I left that behind me. I need to pick it up sometime...
@Vectorman It's a shame that we haven't had games like it. The Mario and Luigi games got close, the first few anyway. Lately they just haven't convinced me to by them. (their music is still amazing though).
@Vectorman I think some YouTube videos have some kind of motion smoothening applied. I think some are encoded at 30fps thus obscuring 60fps gameplay. It's frustrating trying to figure out a game's frame rate without having the game myself. A contributing factor is that a fair fraction of gamers and people who vlog and write about games don't seem to understand frame rates, or can't see them or something.
I'm kind of in a catch 22 regarding Santa Claus. My reality, the degree to which I am real, is directly inversely proportional to Santa Claus's reality. Basically as more or less people believe in him fewer or more people can perceive my existence/reality (um, not really!)
@Vectorman I got what you said. The only part I might object to is the part about old games. Old 3D games usually ran crappy at 15 to 30fps, but almost all old 2D games ran at 60fps. Practically every game on NES, PC Engine, SNES, Mega Drive, etc ran at 60fps.
@Vectorman John at Digital Foundry has a great video on why frame rate has always mattered. It focuses on Daytona and what a revelation it was when it came out in arcades with it's beautiful graphics that run at 60fps. Games like the first 3 Tekken games on PS1 ran at 60fps, but the N64 with it's nice texture filtering had a hard time in the frame rate department. Anyways, yeah, frame rate history is interesting!
@Vectorman I disagree. I think Tekken 1, 2, and 3 still look and play great. I played Tekken 2 a month or two ago and loved it. Tekken 2 has one of the best songs in any fighting game. It's on Jun's stage. For me anything that runs at 60fps is pleasing to watch and is simply more satisfying to experience. Of course there are many awesome games that don't run at 60fps that I play a lot too.
@Vectorman Yeah, I am always pleased and happy to see a game running at 60fps. Recently when I played Blockids on my PS3 (it's an import PS1 game you can buy digitally) I loved it's 60fps graphics too. It's a simple breakout/arkanoid type game, but you can change the camera angle at any time and I think it looks great moving at 60fps. And that's on my HD TV. I have a 1080p TV. And yeah, even though they have low polygon counts, low resolution, and warping texture maps, I think Tekken 1, 2, and 3 still look and play great. Later Tekken games look better, like Tag Tournament on Wii U, but if it ran at 30fps I would strongly argue that Tekken 1 looks better!
It's true that Jun's song is more peaceful and relaxing. A rock song or metal song might fit a fighting game better. But I find it to be really beautiful and it combines with the verdant field of her stage to create a really nice impression when a fight starts. I guess I like beautiful and melodic music for any type of game!
Yep, I can't stop playing games like Kingdom Two Crowns and Party Golf which don't even have even frame pacing or anything really smooth about them. Breath of the Wild is my favorite game and it is 30fps. I dream about the Kingdom and Party Golf developers either getting really good or turning over their games to the best teams at Nintendo so I could play sequels that run perfectly at 60fps. I hope they make Party Golf 2 with 60fps, online multiplayer, more customization (such as being able to change the graphics, build and save stages, etc), and maybe boss battles where you hit a monster with your golf ball.
@Vectorman They are very different games, but both are in my top ten all time games. Party Golf is mainly for 2 to 8 players, but I still play it a lot in single player too. It has about 200 options and variations where you can change power ups, the size of everything (your ball, the goal, the type of landscape you play on, etc). It's an incredibly fun game.
Kingdom New Lands and Kingdom Two Crowns are both just superb games. Awesome 2D graphics (except for the often bad frame rate), addictive simplified strategy, awesome music (these two games have some of the best music I've heard in a game, love it!), and great 2 player coop in Two Crowns. Two Crowns also has some really cool mounts you can ride (and some have nice special abilities).
@Vectorman Yeah, true. I did mean co-op. They're not likely to make it into best games of all time lists. I recognize not everyone will think they're as great as I do. They're favs of mine though.
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