Up until now, the Neptunia franchise game have always been developed by an Eastern development team. This time around, Artisan Studios, a development team out of Quebec, headed development of Super Neptunia RPG, a 2D romp with all the quirky bells and whistles the franchise comes with.
With this change comes the possibility of this new game going so far off the rails that franchise fans just wait for the next one. Another possibility is that a fresh outlook on the franchise brings in new fans with a different perspective. What makes Super Neptunia RPG rather odd is that it kind of does both of those things, though more the latter than the former.
A silly premise that just seems to work
Neptunia’s franchise hero, Neptune, finds herself in a two-dimensional world under siege by an organization called Gameindustri. Everyone in this world is forced to play 2D games, with all remnants of 3D games wiped from memory and locked away. Neptune, among the rest of the cast, suffers from the standard condition for situations like this: amnesia. Neptune must journey the world, with help from her handy magical book, to fill her party and recover her memories.
As you can see from the above synopsis, the Neptunia franchise is all about tongue-in-cheek jokes, breaking the fourth wall, and just going over the top with everything. The game, from start to finish, is silly and peculiar. At the same time, the overall delivery takes itself seriously enough to make the whole experience worth the ride. Super Neptunia RPG is not a deep adventure by any stretch, but it delivers something fun enough to keep you moving along. The characters exchange silly quips back and forth, and enemies have a way of bringing a sense of motivation while still living within the silliness.
The full package surprised me, even though I was excited for the 2D gameplay beforehand. Super Neptunia RPG pulls inspiration from all over the industry, with nods to Pokemon with monsters, Final Fantasy when Neptune hums the victory jingle, and Valkyrie Profile insofar as how the combat layout works. These references run deep and vast; in fact, there’s even one side quest NPC named TooBee.
These little nods don’t really mean much, and they often cause as many eye rolls as they do giggles, but that’s par for the course with Neptunia. In fact, Super Neptunia RPG did something for me that surprised me the most: made me really have a good time with a Neptunia game. I have attempted a few Neptunia titles over the last couple consoles, including Sega Hard Girls (which came close on its own), but RPG brought me into the fold and showed me the franchise appeal. Silliness and quirkiness walk alongside loose, approachable RPG elements for more or less a good time.
Simplicity is what you make of it
Nothing complicated comes from these games. They just find a way to break the mold with something different and silly. I know I keep using that word, “silly,” but many other synonyms would come across as too negative. I can’t say how Neptunia hopefuls might feel about this one, since this is the first one to truly take me as an outsider, but there is definitely something here for anyone who has had a fleeting curiosity for this franchise. This one might just break the ice for you, like it did for me.
Combat feels very simple, but Neptunia RPG offers some depth that unfortunately feels redundant. I mean that there are options available to make combat complicated and deep, but the game never calls for you to dig too deeply. You learn skills from equipment, and many of these skills allow you to breeze through the game with minimal effort. In fact, all the auto-apply skills, like Regen and Wall, make almost every fight a joke, even major boss fights.
No fights really tax you to really understand the systems that Neptunia RPG offers. One cool feature however comes from equipping four skills to each party member. Pin these four abilities to the four shape buttons, and you have sixteen available skills. This allows you to spin the party around in order to use their different abilities. Again, this system is wasted on how little this game challenges you. I spent a good part of the game mindlessly mashing Square and Circle to overcome anything in front of me.
Glaring issues keep coming back
With that in mind, Super Neptunia RPG has some significant issues. Many of them are small, and some impact the game greatly. The first issue, I believe, comes from either skipping cutscenes, using the game’s combat speed boost (fighting at 5x speed), or a combination of the two. While using the combat speed boost, input delays come with combat freezing briefly, like too much happens at once.
Every once in a while, combat just stops, leaving both your party and enemies standing there. They don’t attack. They just loop their stance animations and will not respond to your inputs. Once or twice, I managed to flee combat and get out of the glitch, but I mostly resorted to reloading my save.
Many times in many different places, frame rate suffered. It happened at times when I jumped, often seeing me run into an enemy I tried to avoid or dropping me off an edge because the jump didn’t register. Other times, I attempted to attack an enemy, but the frame rate actually dropped the part of the attack animation that was going to make contact. So, I either got attacked by the enemy or I would just have to try attacking again to initiate combat.
When in combat, a frame drop occurred from time to time when trying to string attacks together. This rarely affected damage output, which was helpful. However, when in fast combat mode, combat often appeared like an incredibly slow stop-motion video, with characters appearing in places rather than moving there.
All in all, these issues do not necessarily hinder you from finishing the main storyline. However, some may force you to reload an old save (so save often), and some will keep you from completing everything if you’re not either careful or lucky.
Super Neptunia RPG offers an odd curiosity
All in all, Super Neptunia RPG manages to invoke the franchise silliness into something more approachable for those outside the fandom. Neptunia RPG breathes simplicity. This ease often works in the game’s favor, allowing you to move through the eye-rolling bits with little hindrance. There’s enough here for a good time if you’re looking for something relaxing or different. However, its issues keep this game from garnering the attention it seems to reach for: completionists and RPG fans. As long as you don’t expect something deep or complicated, Super Neptunia RPG could show you why many enjoy these games.
Super Neptunia RPG releases for PS4 on June 25, 2019.
Review code kindly supplied by publisher.