Compile Hearts’s Hyperdimension Neptunia series has had its share of spin-offs, with some of them venturing into genres such as the action genre. But for those action-type spinoffs, they’ve been more action-focused than a mixture of action and RPG mechanics. So when Idea Factory announced Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, it came as a surprise. Playing similarly to an action RPG-type MMO (but not actually being a MMO) and featuring an upgrade to Epic Games’s Unreal Engine 4 middleware, does this new approach pan out successfully?
The first impressions of the game on the PS4 isn’t the best, however. There’s a number of loading prompts plus the usual bevy logos appearing, but the loading generally took around 2-4 minutes for me. It’s not really a good look when unless you use the PS4’s Rest Mode, it takes a while to get into the game each time you boot it up. The PC port, on the other hand, did load a bit quicker for me — although the actual length for everyone will depend on a number of factors such as using an HDD or SSD, current CPU load, etc.
As far as the story is concerned, the series’s four main CPU goddesses (Neptune, Vert, Noire and Blanc) are selected to beta test a new online game, 4 Goddesses Online. Taking place in the fantasy land of Alsgard, the guardian spirit Bouquet informs the goddesses (and thus the player) of the world’s origin. Eons ago, four Goddesses left the Divine Realm and created the game’s planet, with Leanverde the Tree of Life giving the world its magical powers.
Of course, there always seems to be evil that wants to upset the world’s balance, in this game being the “Demon King Jester” who is attempting to siphon the tree’s magical essence. Before leaving the world, the four Goddesses left social “Sacred Treasures” that can help fight against evil. Unsurprisingly, the CPU goddesses play a role in the game as “Chosen Ones” who must collect the treasures to fight against the Demon King, with Neptune as a paladin, Vert as an enchanter, Noire as a black knight and Blanc as a priestess.
The usual fourth-wall breaking the Neptunia series is known for is still present here, along with some MMO-related jokes for good measure, but the overarching narrative itself is a bit underwhelming. The plot generally relies on tropes a bit too often and the “Demon King Jester” antagonist feels one-dimensional. The series has never ventured too far into uncharted territory, but I prefer Megadimension Neptunia’s slightly grander scale to this by-the-numbers plot.
Taking after action RPGs, the battle system is pretty straightforward for Neptunia fans who’ve stuck to the JRPG-only titles in the series. You have standard & combo attacks, along with abilities and elemental attacks. The game’s UI is essentially similar to that of an action RPG MMO, complete with a mini-map and battle log. This sounds good on paper, but the game unfortunately takes after MMOs which have a weightless feeling to their attacks, instead of being more grounded. It makes the game feel like a button mashing beat-em-up simulator instead of an RPG. Additionally, as each of your party members follow behind you when exploring, there’s times when the AI can’t follow you correctly until you move far enough away that they teleport back to you or times when they get stuck in the environment but are close enough to the enemy to trigger their battle scripts, wasting time and magic resources if casting.
One of the most noticeable changes is the move to better, HD quality character models and assets. While it isn’t obviously on par with a Final Fantasy title, it’s a major upgrade from what the series has previously implemented. There didn’t seem to be any noticeable lag or frame dropping on the PS4 & PC.
That said, the game does have some noticeable cutbacks in areas. Instead of moving through towns in 3D like recent MMOs, you have a 2D interface that moves characters from one place to another similar to prior games in the series. During the chats between the characters, there’s no animation like in prior games in the Neptunia series, instead going with a more static route that only moves their graphics when needed. Lastly, this game takes after the MMOs which have repetitive fetch quests to complete to progress. Granted this isn’t a diversion from other games in the series, but with other aspects being upgraded it’s a disappointment to not see this aspect changed.
If the issues noted in the review don’t bother you, picking up this game is an easy recommendation. But for newcomers who take a step back with the noted issues or those who wanted a major shakeup to the Neptunia series, it’s not enough of a change to sway your mind to a purchase.Cyberdimension Neptunia 4: Goddess Online was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Copy provided by Compile Hearts & Idea Factory. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|The move to Unreal Engine 4 provides a nice upgrade in terms of graphics and environmental art.|
|Narrative is much more by-the-numbers than other games in the series.|
|You'll notice the areas where the developer put less effort in assets or features.|