Platform reviewed: PS Vita
Idea Factory International and Compile Heart have made Neptune and her friends as the poster girls for the company. Another half year and another game starring them. But this one is different, not just with who is the lead character (Noire) but also because they are attempting to make a good impression on the tactics-RPG scene with their newest release on PS Vita. Can a break from the mold help create a new spin-off franchise, or are they diluting their cast’s appeal by making them do anything?
In Hyperdevotion Noire, you take control of Noire as the main hero, and help her repair the damage she caused by being hoodwinked by the main bad guy. A new cast of characters is added to the roster, making it more than a Neptune and friends game; it’d be a downer to have a tactics game with only four characters. Instead, the beginning revolves around Noire and company trying to re-recruit their own generals after all their power was destroyed. It’s not the most original of stories but it serves to keep the action going.
It should also be noted that the story style mimics other games in the Hyperdimension series, which is fun over seriousness. People who play this series, play it for the laid-back, happy-go-lucky tone. It is a good change of pace in a market where a lot of games make themselves uber-serious. There is one drawback though, and that is the pacing. There is a lot of speech between characters, but because it is of that fun variety, it begins to get tedious. If all you want to do is sit back and enjoy meaningless banter like a comedy or sitcom, then the speech serves its purpose. However, if you need even a little bit of consequence to keep the narrative running, it is not to be found here.
Switching over to a tactics style of combat means there are some big differences. Firstly, the HDD system has become timed. Each CPU can activate it only once per battle, and it only lasts for three turns. It does give you a big advantage that they float on the battlefield, which for the sake of this game is a big deal because of terrain height being a factor. It is very tedious having to throw steps around the map to get things done. The lily rank system is no longer passive. Whenever you perform a special attack or boost, essentially not a normal attack, any character adjacent to the person will be affected. It also helps lower the cost of the special move as well, making it an important mechanic instead of something in the background that is sometimes forgotten about.
Compile Heart was able to mix the the equipment system easily to the tactics style gameplay. Anyone who has played any Hyperdimension game will have zero adjustment as the differences are very slight. Equipment is bought, equipped and made the same way.
The stellar voice acting is also back, and just as good as previous titles. I can’t praise the voice acting talent enough for the series because, personally, I’m not a fan of voice acting outside of cutscenes. I find I can read the text faster than it is spoken, and poor voice acting can ruin a good story. The cast is entertaining and dead on with their wit and chemistry which makes me want to sit back and enjoy listening to the story rather than reading it.
The graphics on a Hyperdimension game have never been that advanced, and the move to Vita doesn’t change that. What they did do was make the characters ‘chibi’, which is a giant head on a smaller body. It works for the game, especially with the theme of the series always being about fun over seriousness. Other than the move to chibi characters, the graphics are virtually identical in style to previous games. Enemies all look the same from previous games, with only a bare minimum of new ones added to freshen things up.
The music is what surprised me the most. They kept the best combat songs from Victory and added in some new ones to Devotion Noire. Despite the combat not adding anything new to the formula, the fact that the soundtrack is enjoyable to listen to makes the long battles less tedious which, historically, has always been a problem with tactical style RPGs. If they are too quick then why not make a normal RPG, but if they are too long then it causes immense boredom if the mechanics are not perfect.
With all the added characters, character bloat inevitably becomes an issue, but Compile Heart has addressed it well. They have done two things to fix the problem. The first is they allow characters not in the initial battle to gain experience points, thus alleviating any grinding that might be needed if the game forces you to use a character you do not normally use. Secondly, and something I don’t see often, is they allow you to swap in your reserves. If Green Heart gets defeated, you can swap in someone from your reserves for a small fee. This gives the bloated cast a purpose other than additional choices to choose from if you don’t like the initial four characters.
Hyperdevotion Noire is a weird game to grade. It does the basics of a TRPG but lacks any flair or depth. The story works well for one group of fans but is entirely ill-paced and designed to appeal to others. It is a decent step in the waters but it needs to add a lot more depth to the series than making CDs to boost characters. If you’re already a diehard Hyperdimension fan then it is more of the same and you’ll be happy. Those who enjoy comedy and an easy-going RPG will also dig into it. Others needing seriousness and/or depth will find it lacking and have a harder time getting into it.