Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed Review

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Title: Hyperdimension Neptunia U Action Unleashed
Developer: Tamsoft, Idea Factory (Publisher)
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

As we have stated in previous reviews, the PlayStation Vita, and past Rebirth 1, the PlayStation TV, has become the new home of the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise.  Over the past couple years, the Vita has gotten remakes of the first 2 games of the series, 3 spin-off titles, as well as a remake of Victory on the way later this year.  If there’s any recent or new franchise that is flourishing on Sony’s handheld, it is the Neptunia franchise.

All of the games up to this point have been reviewed by me, and I have every intention on reviewing every upcoming game as well.  Last year, I reviewed Producing Perfection and Rebirth 1.  This year, so far, I have reviewed Rebirth 2 and Hyperdevotion Noire.  This trend will keep going as there is a new spin-off title that is about to release in the coming weeks.

As you may know, the previous spin-offs of the Neptunia franchise have been the series’ way of testing the grounds for various gaming genres.  Producing Perfection made a somewhat decent attempt at the Idol Simulation genre.  Hyperdevotion Noire made a good attempt at the Strategy RPG genre.  Now, we have a spin-off that throws out an attempt at the action genre.  Here is my official review of Hyperdimention Neptunia U: Action Unleashed!

Story

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Action Unleashed takes place in a non-canon version of Gamindustri, where there is peace between the four CPUs as well as the four CPU Candidates.  In that peace, two journalists of the land appear and approach all 8 of them in an attempt to do press and publicity for all of the fans of the CPUs and Candidates.  These two journalists, Famitsu and Dengekiko (parodies of the Japanese Famitsu and Denkeki PlayStation magazines), send the CPUs out on quests to do this press.

Amidst the success of the first article, the two journalists join the CPUs and Candidates on doing a follow-up article.  At the same time, a strange massive flux of new quests and unprecedented number of monsters start showing up all over Gamindustri.  Together, the 10 of them set off on quests to find the root cause of the huge increase that is threatening Gamindustri, and stop it in its tracks.

The story of Action Unleashed isn’t the best the series has to offer.  At the end of the game, I had a big feeling of “Wait, that’s it?” upon completion.  The story doesn’t have immense character development or the feeling of a huge world-threatening crisis.  However, to make up for this is some of the best comedy I’ve seen in the series so far.  Some of the scenes had me rolling and I would wager are some of the best parody jokes the series designers have come up with so far.

Gameplay

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Neptunia U is a 3D action game with RPG elements.  As you play through each quest, you will be hacking and slashing through hordes of enemies and bosses to an ultimate goal of either collecting items or getting major bosses to spawn and eliminating them.  While there are RPG elements, as I stated, it is more action than RPG to be specified as an action game as opposed to a fully-fledged Action-RPG.

The game has three different game modes: Story Mode, Gamindustri Arena, and Neptral Tower.  However, only Story Mode can be accessed from the start of the game.  The other two modes can only be unlocked by completing the story scenario through the game’s final boss.  Once unlocked, though, you can use Gamindustri Arena to match up the characters in tournaments to do 1-on-1 battles with other characters (like Neptune vs Famitsu or Green Heart vs Black Heart) and Neptral Tower to send two characters up a 50-floor labyrinth of quests of various difficulties, leading up to the secret boss of the game.  These modes use your equipment, skills, and levels from Story Mode.

When playing through story mode, you will be going between viewing story scenes to see the plot moving forward and doing quests.  Since this is more of a “Go on a mission, then back to world map.  Then another Mission” situation, the World Map is set up more like it was in Hyperdevotion Noire than the Rebirth games.  Along with missions, you can also do Set Up, where you can change equipment and also view the different countries for new scenes.

When you’re out on missions, you will be in a pair (though some missions are solo) of characters and be tackling hordes of enemies throughout various areas of the Neptunia universe that are very reminiscent of dungeons from Rebirth 1 and Rebirth 2.  While you’re there, you will have a general objective, be it taking down a specific boss, all enemies, or collecting items that certain enemies drop.

The combat will go in a very hack-and-slash feel.  You will be able to use various attacks with your physical weapons on the enemy to do combos.  Imagine things like Ragnarok Odyssey.  You have a Light Attack and Heavy Attack, and different combinations of these two commands can move into different combos, both on the ground and in the air.   As you attack, you also gain SP and EX Force, which can be used for special attacks, like Neptune’s Critical Edge or Uni’s Brave Cannon, or using your EX gauge to temporarily go into HDD Form or use your EX Drive’s Ultimate Attack.

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When you fight and defeat enemies, the RPG elements come into play.  You gain Experience Points upon defeating enemies as well as Medals.  The EXP is used to level up to increase your stats, and Medals are used to redeem new equipment and stat boosts from the World Map.  Since there are no shops in the game, you can only gain new weapons by redeeming enemy medals and each enemy type has specific rewards that can only be obtained by trading in those medals.

Another thing to note is the fan-service that is built into the game.  Some of you may have seen the videos and screenshots of the costume-tearing mechanics in the game.  By default, when you receive so much damage, much of your character’s costume will rip off.  This does have benefits, like a boost to the EXE Gauge.  However, this is also more of a lewd part of the game.  The tearing doesn’t reveal as much as games like Senran Kagura, but it does reveal a good bit and show the CPUs in embarrassing attitudes.

The one thing to know about this is that it is completely optional.  Once you use a certain character on a few missions, you will unlock different variations of their costumes.  There are versions, specifically, that are built to never tear.  So, if you do not enjoy the fanservice element, you can simply equip the “Hardened” version of their costume and never have to worry about seeing that content outside of character battles in the Gamindustri Arena.

All in all, the main scenario of the game should take you about 10-12 hours to finish if you balance out the use of all 10 characters and reach the final boss.  After this, you unlock the Arena and Tower, which will easily eat up a few more hours, more if you go through with each character.  It also unlocks several post-game missions in Story Mode for you to play through with much higher difficulty ranges, many being character-specific with Level 99 enemies to fight.  Even without being an RPG, there’s plenty of content for the Neptunia fan to play through.

Controls

Controlling Neptunia U isn’t going to be an incredibly hard feat.  There are a mix of button and touch controls, but the touch options are completely optional.  If you’d like to use touch controls, you can.  If you don’t want to use them, then there are button counterparts for each of those controls.  However, the only major touch feature is double-tapping the screen to access HDD.

When you’re on a quest, you will be using the Left Analog Stick to move and the Right Analog Stick to move the camera.  The D-Pad is used to pull up your command list, medal count, and the ability to switch control to your partner character.  The L Trigger is used to center the camera behind your character and the R trigger can be held down to access your skills as well as HDD.  The rest of the commands are with the face buttons.  You use X and Circle to jump and dash.  You use Square and Triangle for light and heavy attacks.

One thing to note about the controls is the camera.  There is no lock-on feature because of how many enemies come at you at once.  Because of how chaotic thing can get on the screen, it’s not hard to lose track of your character amidst waves of enemies.  I had several instances where I needed to go back and manually move the camera to make sure I was still directing my attacks in the proper direction.  A lock-on feature or automatic camera would have been very useful here.

Presentation

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The visual presentation is one of the most impressive parts of this game.  The character models, environments, and enemy models have been improved a lot since the Rebirth games.  There is a lot more polish on the character models and it’s much harder to find jagged edges or inconsistencies.  The models aren’t completely perfect, but this is definitely one of the best-looking cel-shaded games the Vita has to offer.

The game also runs great.  The load times for each mission never go more than 7-8 seconds, and are even less in the Neptral Tower labyrinth.  There is also no lag or slowdown to be seen, like the Rebirth games had with accessing HDD.  Everything from the animations to knocking down mobs of enemies runs very smooth with practically no issues whatsoever.

Summary

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed is the Neptunia franchise’s first dive into the action genre.  On the downside, the story lacks the depth of the Rebirth games and the camera can be bothersome at times.  Past this is a fast-paced action game that looks beautiful and will keep the Neptunia fan’s attention for a long time. 

8/10