Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection Review (PS Vita)
When you review a large number of games, you develop the ability to very quickly appraise their quality. Normally I feel the same about a game after fifteen hours as I felt in the first fifteen minutes, but occasionally a game comes along that’s much harder to judge. In the case of Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, even after I finished the game I was unsure of how good it was, whether I liked it, or even whether I had actually played it. It’s so weird and ephemeral that when I got the credits, I wasn’t sure if the game was finished or about to begin. Sadly, that tells you a lot about the actual content. When it was all over, I was unsure if I had somehow missed the “game” part and just watched the cut scenes.
I was left even more confused when the closing titles showed all sorts of retro gameplay that I hadn’t experienced. Sadly, the ending (which shows the games characters talking part in 8 bit style RPG adventures Parappa-style rhythm action games and Space Harrier influenced corridor shooting) is nothing more than a video that plays at the conclusion of the campaign. Confused? Well so was I, and I played and finished the game.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is probably best described as interactive fiction with some basic management gameplay. You play as a blank, unseen protagonist, transported from reality to a world known as “Gamindustri”. The other Hyperdimension games have also taken place here; a world where the four major console manufacturers exist as scantily clad anime girls. Yes, that last sentence was a strange one. And yes, this is a fictional reality where Sega also still make consoles.
The Hyperdimension Neptunia girls are being overtaken in popularity by a rival girl group (that I don’t think you ever actually see), and you must help them overcome their competitors.
So umm, that’s the characters. Four girls with the perceived personalities and qualities of the main consoles who form a girl group. Literal living metaphors for Nintendo, The Xbox, The Playstation and Sega. That dance and sing.
Like all the other games in the series, Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is self-referential and a bit meta, but in truth this strange premise is actually quite engaging once you stop thinking too much and just accept it. The four characters are actually kind of endearing and interesting. Well, after you get over the inherent creepiness of their double entendres mixed with their childish naivete and a leering emphasis on their breasts, especially in their “HDD” forms. Thankfully these hyper-sexualized incarnations of the characters aren’t seen very often in this entry in the series, and if you haven’ played any of the other games then they don’t really make much sense. Indeed, not much of Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection makes sense.
When you start the singleplayer campaign, called “Producer Mode”, you will be asked to chose one of the girls as the idol you will manage. Eventually you will manage as many as three of the four girls, but the one you chose to start with will be the main character you interact with throughout the game.
When I started, I chose Vert (the Xbox 360 analog) as my main character because…. well because she had her boobs out, and I decided that if I was going to indulge in this sort of anime voyeruism, I should sample it at its purest.
I chose wisely, because (for me at least) Vert is the most nuanced and interesting of the characters. As you make choices to help her with her idol career, you’ll get to know her. You’ll become exasperated by how she stays up late to play games, reducing her performance in concert, and you’ll learn how her competitive nature can be leveraged to make her perform better and push her songs above her rivals in the charts.
The minute-to-minute gameplay involves simply choosing an activity for the day from a bunch of menu options. You can then follow the story and read the accompanying text, or skip past it if your patience is wearing thin. If you choose to skip through the text you’re missing most of the game though, and once I had adjusted to the games very quirky Japanese style I did quite enjoy some of the character interactions and story twists.
You only get to make one choice a day, so really there’s not a lot of strategy required. You have a range of attributes that you are building up in categories like dance and vocals, and different activities will raise these attributes different amounts. The only threat is your stress meter, which will cause a “game over” if it reaches 100. Choosing relaxing activities brings this down though, so essentially all you do is train, train, train, relax, train, train ad infinatum.
There is one more part to the game, and that’s the concert mode. This might seem like where the “game” part would reside, but in this section all you do is move a camera around and trigger some effects while your idol sings on a stage. If you’re into JPOP then this will be mildly diverting, and I did quite enjoy the tunes, but there’s only a few of them and as such you’ll get bored pretty quick. There’s a poorly explained mechanic whereby triggering effects and camera views at certain times can increase your score, but I have no idea how it works, or indeed if it even exists. Perhaps my mind manufactured some sort of “gameplay” in this section that isn’t even really there.
Even as I write this review, I’m trying to work out exactly what Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection actually is. It’s barely a game, but then it’s barely an interactive novel either. The story is short. The interaction you have with the characters is basic. The concert mode is really just a glorified character gallery. The art is very nice and the menus are slick, but the whole package is very slight.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is pure fan service, but even for fans of the series it can be hard to recommend. It feels like it should have a lot more content. If the female cast are there to be lusted after (and their outfits would suggest that this is the case), then surely this could have been one of those weird dating sims. Or they could have included a lot more character art. Or more songs. Or they could have made the concert mode more fully featured. Or made it a rhythm action game with dancing. Or included any number of those cool game ideas they showcase in the end credits.
The ultimate irony is that Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is a game ABOUT games. All of the main character talk about games, they play games, and when you think about it, they are metaphorical representations of the spirits of games consoles. Indeed the only person who doesn’t get to play a game is you, the person who buys Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection. Maybe it’s a big joke at the expense of the player. You certainly won’t be laughing too much if you pay full price for this punch line that falls flat though.