Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher (Developer): NIS (Compile Heart, Tamsoft)
ESRB Rating: “T for Teen” for Language, Partial Nudity and Suggestive Themes
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection from Compile Heart and Tamsoft, is the completely crazy, song-and-dance, non-canon, spin-off of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. Admittedly, I have never played any of the other Neptunia games, but I’ve heard good things. Suffice to say that Producing Perfection is nothing like the RPGs of yore, and is intended as a stand-alone game that pretty much only exists, well because. This may sound like a bad thing, but actually adds to the charm of the game, because it’s a crazy spin-off from an already crazy series, and can do whatever it wants with itself while not being beholden to anything approaching canon.
This is where I would normally love to briefly explain the story of Hyperdimension Neptunia PP, but to be totally honest, I’m not sure I ever fully understood what was going on. Part of that is my unfamiliarity with the series as a whole, and part of that is from the game just being so utterly off-the-wall. In a good way. Basically: the 4 CPU Goddesses Neptunia, Blanc, Vert, and Noire (who are manifestations of the unreleased Sega Neptune, Wii, XBOX, and PS3 respectively) inhabit the world of Gameindustri. Their “shares” have fallen off because everyone is more interested in pop idols than video games, specifically the idol group MOB48. In response they decide to become idols themselves and summon you, the player, from the “real” world and kinda-sorta-not-so-subtly force you to become their producer to help propel them into pop idol stardom and regain their shares. Yes, it’s crazy and a bit nonsensical, but it somehow manages to work. If anything, that’s because of how self-aware and satirical the whole thing is.
Beneath the surface
At first I was a bit turned off by the obvious and overt fan-service, that often crosses the line into creepy and insulting. Thing is, after a while you get the impression that the developers were pretty conscious of the fact and it comes off as more satire than anything. It’s also hilarious. I’m the first to admit I didn’t expect to be so amused by Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, but it made me genuinely laugh out loud on a pretty regular basis, with not so subtle references to other games, and the industry as a whole. At some point my feelings on the game’s writing went from “this is so cheesy” to “this is brilliant.”
The actual mechanics of the game are pretty simple. Too simple probably, but I’ll come back to that. The way the whole thing works is you pick one of the 4 Goddesses to raise into idol-dom. From there you manage her career on a day-by-day basis. It’s almost like Persona 4 in how it handles this, where each day you pick your activities to accomplish. You can train up your idols stats, perform promotional activities to gain more fans, interact with the other idols (maybe even trying to form a group with them) or sometimes, just relaxing and taking the day off. Every so often you get to put on a concert too, where you choreograph the whole thing. There isn’t much to it really, but man, is it addicting. There is always another stat to grind, a friendship to build, a fan-base to grow, or concert to put on. It may all just be selecting items from menus, and reading text boxes, but Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is the very definition of the old adage: “Just. One. More. Turn.” It is really difficult to put down. It helps that your interactions with the characters, and theirs with one another, are so often downright hilarious.
While most of the game is just menu selections and advancing text, you get more onctrol over the concerts. After choosing the stage, the song, etc, the show begins. You now act as the show director, taking direct control of the camera (often in really creepy and perverted ways, or is that just me?) and decide when to set off different special effects. The goal of these mini-games is to hype up the crowd as much as possible to build up buzz and find new fans. They prove a nice distraction when you get sick of just going through text.
My biggest complaint about Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is, ironically, the music itself. It just isn’t very good. Not bad, but none of it is just all that special in any way. I was expecting to have a never-ending cavalcade of Japanese Pop music stuck in my head while playing through the game, but instead I honestly can’t remember a single bit of any of the songs, even immediately after concerts. It’s all just very generic and bland.It isn’t helped by the fact there are only 5 songs, and they all sound basically identical. My only other issue with the game is how easy it is. After a while I stopped worrying about “winning” and instead just had fun exploring the game and the characters. As a result, I wound up not doing very well, but that is because I actively went out of my way to stop trying and just mess around. If you put any effort at all into beating the game, you will. It provides almost no challenge. One thing that could be good or bad depending on your view, is the game’s length. You can finish all 4 characters story lines, with the best “true” endings, all in an afternoon. Personally, I think this works in the game’s favor, as I feel if you had to spend hours upon hours grinding stats and performing concerts, it would start getting pretty repetitive and quickly overstay its welcome.
An idol role model
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection genuinely surprised me. It was not only better than what I expected from the genre (it’s basically a VN with a mini-game), but it also quickly surpassed my first impressions of it just being an obvious fan-service cash-in. If you enjoy the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you like goofy, somewhat obscure Japanese games about girls dancing around jiggling, you’ll certainly enjoy it. More importantly, if you like well-written games that don’t take themselves seriously, are completely self-aware, and contain oodles of satirical subtext under some genuine hilarity (if it is a bit girly) then you need to check it out. Heck, even if you don’t, it’s worth a look. The game is honestly just that good. It isn’t revolutionary or anything, and won’t come out as some surprise sleeper hit, but it does what it sets out to do extremely well, and I rather enjoyed the short ride on the Neptunia pop idol crazy train.