I know some of you who are reading this will be expecting me to go on a diatribe on the blatant offensiveness and creep factor of the Neptunia series on the whole, but I won’t. Partially because Brett already did it, so there’s no reason for me to rehash it, but also because I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of pointing out the pandering to a perverted audience, tired of defending the mostly harmless stories because they’re juxtaposed with scenes that are one penis away from being rape pornography; and most of all, tired of trying to convince myself that products with this much idiotic content can also be a fun game. By now, if you’re reading this review and haven’t already started drafting your angry comments, then you know if this product is for you.
And what will shock you even more, is that I like this game. A little background; I already play quite a bit of the visual novel genre. Of course, I can only get my hands on the limited number of releases that either have an official translation or fan translation, so my experience is still limited compared to the massive sea of unlocalized VNs. As you can imagine, the very limited number of fan translated games / official releases available from sites like JList means most of the games I’ve played are some form of porn. So yes, I’m already well prepared for the high doses of lolicon moe creep that games like the Neptunia series bring and I’m going to continue with this review and just ignore it. I think by now, you’re either prepared or not, and no amount of my reinforcement is going to change you. So with that in mind, hit the jump for my 100% snark free review of Neptunia where I shall never again speak of the creepy shit in the game.
Some quick things to get out of the way; NIS America seemed to advertise Neptunia PP as a idol sim, and it definitely has aspects of that, but the core of the game is a Visual Novel / Dating Sim. Because of this, I’m going to be reviewing it much differently. I’ve read other reviews with some logical criticisms based on the idea that Neptunia PP is an idol sim, but I can’t. So, if you have no experience with the dating sim market, this game might not be for you. I just want to ensure we’re all on the same page.
As a western released visual novel, Neptunia PP doesn’t have a lot of competition, but I can safely say, it is mechanically very good. All of the options you’d expect from a good dating sim are here. You can save at any point, check up on the girl you picked stats, and the all important “skip dialogue I’ve already seen” button is mapped to the L button. What is strangely missing from the UI is a quick save and quick load button. I understand that it might not have been practical to map them to buttons, but the Vita has a touch screen! That said, loading times are close to negligible and it’s easy enough to back out of the game and load your last save.
Even though it lacks the quick load, Neptunia PP’s New Game+ makes quick save and quick load a thing you might not even want to do. Once you complete a path through the game – and watch the AMAZING ending music video which is worth playing for alone – when you start a new game using your clear save, the next time you play, all of the girl’s stats will reflect your play. This makes it EXTREMELY easy to max out the stats of every character and turn them all into superstar idols. You may recall a post on Sega Addicts about this game being too easy. Well, there’s a reason for this. The point of visual novels is to see everything. To put an arbitrary challenge in the game would be counter to the goals of a visual novel player. The real challenge is to look at each character’s event completion percent and realize you’ve seen 90% and not know what to do next; which brings me to my next point.
Unlike some visual novel / dating sim style games, Neptunia doesn’t give you a way to easily jump to different decision trees. This means when you’re done playing through each scenario and just playing along – which won’t take long – when you decide to start 100% completing each character, you’re not going to intuitively know which paths will lead to the “True Ending,” and trust me, you’ll know when you don’t get “True Ending” because “Good Ending” isn’t that good at all. The easy solution for this is to look it up online, but otherwise, you’ll just have to keep trying with your finger on the L trigger, because only the most dedicated and experienced dating sim players will try to do it all alone (cue theme to The World Only God Knows).
But none of that gameplay will mean diddly if the story isn’t good, and in this case, the story is passable. Nothing exciting here, but it does serve as launch pad for some fun references to the console wars and that’s what the Neptunia series is all about. One of my favorite references in the Neptune path is her sickly fan, named 32x. Outside of that, the game is surprisingly tame and charming; and sans four shower scenes – one per character – I would not think playing this game will get Chris Hansen knocking at your door.
One common criticism I see directed at Neptunia PP is the lack of music, aaaaaand I’m not going to completely disagree with that one. Five songs for a game where the central story is focused on being an idol is weak even by dating sim standards. I understand that this game was probably made on a tight budget, but all of the art assets seem like they were pulled directly from Neptunia Victory, so I feel like there should have been money for more music. That aside, the “minigame” for performing concerts is nothing more than switch to specific camera angles during the music, and activate stage effects when the audience reacts. It’s really only there to give you something to do while listening to the music, and it’s not very fun. It is worth noting that the music, while limited, is pretty good, so if they blew the budget on good music instead of more music, then it was money well spent.
Is this game one of the better dating sims I’ve played? Not really. In fact, it might not even be the best one available on the Vita since you can nab Sweet Fuse from the PSP section on the Playstation Store. Even from an interactivity aspect, it can’t compete with the visual novel, Disgaea Infinite also available to download on the Vita from the PSP collection. The problem is the price point. At $40, it’s not worth taking the chance on, but I’m glad I did. I had a lot of fun playing through each scenario, and I’m going to continue until I 100% each character well after the review is done. I know I’m glad I nabbed it, but take a look at the score card before you decide.