Things have definitely changed since the last time we visited the land of Gamindustri (yes, that’s really what the world is called). For one thing, everything is now in 2D which, according to the locals, is the height of modern gaming technology. Super Neptunia RPG is a spin-off from the Hyperdimension Neptunia games, a super cute JRPG series that parodies the video game industry and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Our energetic purple haired protagonist, Neptune, has unfortunately lost her memories... again. But she’s not the type to let a little something like that get her down, and it’s not long before she gets chatting to a shady organisation, going by the name of Bombyx Mori. They give you a job to keep you busy while you await the return of your memories, and so begins your life as a humble tax collector.
Instead of money, Bombyx Mori is going around collecting cartridges of 2D games. The organisation is very much into their retro software, so much so that they are locking up anyone who tries to make anything even slightly different. It’s not long before Neptune starts to suspect that maybe these aren’t the good guys she thought they were.
While the storyline is interesting to start with, it very quickly loses momentum. There are far too many long-winded cut scenes where nothing much is discussed but every character just has to give their input. It’s a pity as although the game is fairly self-aware and likes to poke fun at the tropes of the RPG genre, and gaming culture in general, it doesn’t seem to be able to avoid the trap of overly repetitive exposition.
While the story is a little protracted, the characters themselves are delightful. There are some really amusing scenes filled with jokes that parody various different games, including the likes of Splatoon and Pokémon. The characters regularly break the fourth wall as well as making fun of typical fan service tropes. While the jokes might not be enough to make you laugh out loud, they will almost certainly bring a smile to your face.
In terms of gameplay, things are a bit different than the previous games. It’s a side-scrolling RPG where you’ll be exploring gorgeous 2D environments that wouldn’t look too out of place in Odin Sphere or Dragon’s Crown. Running around and jumping on top of platforms feels a little bit floaty, but it does start to feel a lot better once you gain the ability to double jump.
The battle system is fun but a little simplistic; whenever you run into a monster on screen you’ll have to fight. You can have up to four party members in your team, and you’re able to order each character to attack individually by pressing the button that corresponds to where they stand on the battlefield. You’ll have to wait to build up action points before attacking, but if you attack with an element that the enemy is weak to, then you recover bonus attack points, which means you can easily chain together attacks to quickly overwhelm enemies.
While you’ll be able to switch around the skills and formation of your party, combat doesn’t ever really evolve, so after a little while it becomes a bit stale. Thankfully you’re able to fast forward through the battle at the touch of a button to quickly get through any encounters. However, this does seem to exacerbate one really annoying issue; in the heat of battle there is an awful lot of slow down. The game doesn’t seem to cope very well when lots of different enemies and allies are trying to attack at the same time.
When you’re not listening to long-winded discussions from your companions or beating up monsters there are tonnes of side quests to occupy your time. Most of these are simple fetch quests or kill X number of monsters. Most of the time they feel like busy work just for the sake of it, but they do reward you with pretty generous amounts of experience and money, and there is thankfully a warping system which allows you to quickly zip around the world.
Super Neptunia RPG is a fun but ultimately fairly average spin-off. Neptune and her friends are as funny and endearing as ever, but the story does them a disservice by bogging them down in needlessly long and boring conversations. If you’re a fan of the Neptunia series then you’ll certainly enjoy seeing all the familiar faces and the world in its gorgeous new 2D form, but for everyone else, this is a run-of-the-mill JRPG.