The Hyperdimension series has been growing rather rapidly over the past few years to the point that Idea Factory has created Hyperdevotion to act as an offshoot so the franchise can go in a slightly different direction. It focusses on Noire, one of the four goddesses that has been introduced throughout the video game parody series, and offers more of a turn-based strategy approach to the genre. It's offers up an interesting twist on what we have seen so far, but there is still room for improvement if there are more Hyperdevotion games in the wings.
Things kick off with Noire meeting a strange individual called Eno. She reveals to Noire that there is a quick way to unite the land of Gamarket (previously referred to as Gamindustri) without fighting and is very persuasive. Of course, this backfires everything goes wrong. Fortunately Noire is saved by an unknown person (you) and together you work on attempting to solve everything that went wrong. You will also be helped by other completely "original" characters ranging from Resident Evil to Dynasty Warriors and Ms. Pac-Man.
As this game is a blatant parody of the video games industry, humour is a big part of the story. However, there is quite a core focus towards Japanese games and even then some of the references can be a little obscure. Still, many of the references are strong and well received and despite it being an all-female cast, classic characters such as Solid Snake are immediately recognisable. Others, while not as clear visually, become much more apparent when they start using skills and specific move sets, such as characters from Monster Hunter.
The story itself is delivered through events and pre/post-mission scenes. There is some animation and basic lip-sync present throughout the dialogue and all the major events are fully voiced. There's plenty to enjoy here, but for the most part it does lack a degree of substance.
When in battle, characters can perform numerous actions. Each character has clear ranges for their actions, different jump potentials and equipment also plays a big part here. There's also the customary lift command, which we have become familiar with, which is used for puzzle solving and moving characters around.
Aside from these basic elements, Hyperdevotion introduces "Lily Points" and "Affinity". Lily Points are consumed when performing certain moves and can be acquired by having characters stand next to each other. Affinity on the other hand relates to elemental attacks. There are four elements, which come with a customary "rock, paper, scissors" style hierarchy and you have to assign each character one of these elements. It's important to ensure you have the right balance here for battles, but you also need to be careful as elements are locked on to characters.
Due to all how Lily Points are acquired and spent and the Affinities mode, battles require a lot of planning. This is very apparent towards the end of the game where a single mistake can become very problematic. And due to the nature of some of these missions, repeating can become an irritation. There is often because some sort of gimmick associated with these missions, such as finishing in a number of turns or navigating around traps. These gimmicks aren't difficult to overcome, they are just time consuming and will often take place before the bit that causes you to fail. However, it does make it feel a bit more rewarding when the game doesn't follow-up a battle with another directly after. Thankfully this only occurs a few times.
Equipment and items play a bit part in progression throughout Hyperdevotion and item development helps here to no end. You are able to construct all manner of equipment and items from blueprints and for those who like exploring and perfecting their battle performance, the sheer amount of materials and blueprints you can acquire is impressive.
Outside of this, you can visit the Basilicon where you can upgrade Noire's apartment through the spending of sim points. This can unlock new scenes, allowing for the acquisition of new items, and there's also a system called "Requests" where you can help Noire pick suitable responses to letters.
Throughout there, there are weird performance issues. This happens most often in levels with lots of traps and set pieces, something which causes the framerate to slowdown. This is most noticeable when attempting to move the camera around "“ it just feels less smooth. Animations also come off as rather slow, even with the double speed option turned on, and while there are numerous options to speed up the battle experience, it feels like there could have been a better middle ground. This is most noticeable during enemy turns as the AI has to cycle through all of their units, even if it's just to show you that they did nothing.
Status effects can also be a real drag on the experience. There are the standard ones such as poison and weight, but then you have more obscure ones like tofu, anxiety and dizziness. Then there are effects such as freeze and petrify, which add to previous irritations by limiting movement to one space at a time or preventing you from taking a turn and limiting damage you receive to 1. When you have already realised you've lost a stage, having to wait through everything until you are finally defeated is beyond tedious. You could retreat, but if you fail all of the levels you have acquired carry over to your next attempt "“ it's like the game is dangling a massive carrot.
The overall presentation of the game is nice, though the combination of the touch screen and cursor type system don't necessarily work as well together when navigating menus. The portrayal of the characters is also well done, with chibi-type sprites. Music has some positive moments, though the sound effects are recognisable from many of the other games produced/developed by Idea Factory, which is a shame.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a solid game, but there is clear room for improvement. It takes around 20 hours to get through the story missions alone, discounting all the side missions, and the interesting array of characters makes for some interesting parodies this time around. In some ways it's surprising how well Sting has managed to incorporate the elements found in the previous games into the different structure of gameplay, but some aspects made the experience a lot more confusing as a result and having to methodically plan out a stage from the get go with little room for error does sap the fun out of the game a bit. If you're a fan of the previous games you will transition well to this change of pace, but there are many parts of the experience that make it a bit hit and miss.
|Nice art style and game parody presentation|
|Complex strategy requires planning, although it does have its limits|
|Slowdown on some missions|
|Arduous puzzles in terms of time taken to execute|
|Waiting for the AI to finish its turns|