Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2

Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 (or Choujigen Game Neptune mk2 in Japan) is the sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia, announced on April 12, 2011, for the PlayStation 3. It was the first in the series to gain a "M" due to the female characters with revealing costumes.
It was released on August 18, 2011 in Japan, and was released in February 2012 in the United States and Europe. The sequel contains brand new main characters, as well as returning characters, and the gameplay has been updated so as to remove the random encounter feature. New maps and a brand new world feature as well, and the cutscenes have been upgraded from the old 2D visual novel style cutscenes. The story focuses on the younger sisters of Neptune, Noire (Black Heart), and Blanc (White Heart), which are the CPU Candidates on a quest to save the goddesses after they are defeated and captured by Arfoire. The time period for the game is known as 20XX, which possibly not coincidentally, is the same time period name given to the Mega Man series. The game is due to be released as a special edition with a Purple Heart figurine, a Purple Sister figurine, a soundtrack, and an art book. It is being co-produced by Idea Factory and Compile Heart, with assistance from Nippon Ichi Software, Gust Corporation, 5pb., and the recently founded company Comcept by Keiji Inafune. It was published in North America and Europe by NIS America in February 2012.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a strange game. It's a JRPG that looks and plays like JRPGs are supposed to, but it's also very streamlined, focusing less on deep gameplay elements and more on an almost convoluted storyline that slowly starts to make more sense the longer you stay with the game. Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is also a great game. But it's not great for a lot of the reasons that many JRPGs are great--it's great because it boldly tries to do different things, and while it doesn't always succeed, it's still a completely exhilarating experience thanks in large part to its video game awareness.

You play as a group of young ladies destined to protect their home land of Gamindustri from the evil Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime, or ASIC. While the first Hyperdimension Neptunia was based on the video game console wars, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 revolves entirely around piracy in the video game industry. It's an interesting plot idea, but unfortunately, it can be a bit overwhelming and confusing trying to understand everything that's going on in the game.
The main issue with Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is that character dialogue drags on for way too long. This is problematic because it can get boring having to read walls of text. The strange thing is that I switched to the Japanese language option for one dialogue scene and noticed that the characters were speaking, but when I switched back to English and watched that same scene, I had to read a bunch of text due to the lack of voice acting. The fact that some of these scenes feature spoken dialogue while others force you to read is strange, and it really is a bummer that the entire game doesn't feature English voice acting.
Despite that inconsistency, and the fact that the story in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 can be overbearing and uninteresting due to its delivery, there are several reasons to care about a lot of the characters showcased during the game's plot sequences. Some characters are more entertaining than others, but the most interesting are incredibly enjoyable to watch. Nisa (named after developer NIS America) was my personal favorite, and hearing her over-the-top delivery as she professed herself the heroine of Gamindustri made for some truly enjoyable moments. There was also IF (named after developer Idea Factory), who struggled to deal with the fact that she was working alongside a bunch of loonies and emotional saps. These are just two of the many fourth wall-breaking characters that made the story in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 fun to sit through, warts and all.
Gameplay and progression in JRPGs is usually pretty straightforward, and this is definitely the case in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. Still, it should be noted that this game is far more linear and streamlined than most other titles in the genre. The game's overworld map will always point you to your next direction, no level grinding is necessary at all throughout the story's entirety, and customization is incredibly simple. Some JRPG enthusiasts may not take too kindly to the simplistic nature of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, but I found it refreshing as I always knew what to do next and never got tied down to any one stage due to grinding.

Dungeons are small, and getting through them doesn't take more than a few minutes at a time. There are conveniently-placed save stations, so you know when a major boss or cutscene is coming. Ingredients that you can use to craft items are scattered throughout these micro dungeons, and there are even hidden health items that you can discover by pressing the Circle button to locate any nearby treasures.

Enemies are seen roaming the dungeons, and while many of them are easy to get around, you'll want to battle them to ensure that you're leveling up and obtaining new skills. Battles are turn-based, and you have a number of attacks at your disposal. As you increase in level, you obtain attacks that act as combos, which you start by pressing a specific button and then string together by pressing different buttons as indicated by your attack menu. There are also special attacks you can perform, and these are highly damaging ordeals that are especially effective against stronger foes. You also have healing commands and items at your disposal, and as you encounter stronger enemies, you can bet you'll be using everything to your advantage.
By JRPG standards, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 isn't a very long game. It can easily take about 15 hours to play the game from start to finish. There is a guild where you can take on sidequests, but all of these are pretty mundane and require you to either fetch certain items or defeat a set number of specific enemies. It's nothing too imposing, really, but it isn't all that interesting either. It's a bit of a shame that you're forced to complete these if you want to view the game's different endings, but if you really want to see everything Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 has to offer, you'll have to tough it out and get to fetching and hunting.
Gameplay
Dungeon Gameplay
While in a dungeon, various actions can be performed, mainly the Treasure Search and the Symbol Attack. When the O button is pressed, the player scans the area to find hidden treasure. Enemies now wander the map, and when the player character comes within their sight range, a red exclaimation point will appear (a play on Metal Gear Solid), and they will chase the player. Hitting it with a Symbol Attack gives the player's party the upper hand, and may sometimes even defeat the enemy. If the latter occurs, no rewards are gained. Likewise, if the player character is approached from behind, the battle will start with a Back Attack and the enemy will gain the advantage. Other items within dungeons include Sharicite Symbols that trigger events, Save Points, Common Items, Gathering Points that release ingredients for item synthesis, and a dungeon exit.
Battle Gameplay

When the player comes in contact with an enemy on the field or during an event, battle starts. Each character's turn is gauged by their AP, or Action Points. Normal attacks and items consume AP until the points run out, after which the character's turn ends.

Each character is also assigned SP, or Skill Points, for performing skills or activating HDD (Hard Drive Divinity) in the case of the CPUs or the CPU Candidates. Skills vary in range, effect, and attack power. One skill can be used per turn, after which the character's turn ends, regardless of current AP remaining. HDD requires 100 SP to activate. This is done by using the HDD ON command, and once activated, the character will regularly consume SP until it runs out, after which the character will revert. Up to 100 SP can also be carried in between battles.

Movement is gauged by a blue circle around the character. This marks the area within which the controlled character may move. Certain normal moves may shorten this circle, limiting further movement. The turn order of the battle is controlled with the Agility stat. The higher a character's Agility, the sooner their turn will come.

The command menu is used for performing various actions. The character may perform normal attacks, use skills, activate HDD (only CPUs and CPU Candidates), or end their turn. They may also switch between standby characters using AP and SP, escape from unscripted battles (dependent on Luck stat), or use items.

As in the first game, draining an enemy's GP, or Guard Points, forces that target into Guard Break mode. In this state, the defense stat and resistances of the target are significantly reduced until the enemy's GP completely recovers. GP depletes faster when a Break attack is used.

Normal combos can be edited by inserting extra commands. These commands appear after the first normal attack. Normal combos branch off into three types: Rush, Heavy Hits, and Break. Rush attacks usually involve high hit counts. Heavy Hits usually deplete enemy HP faster. Break attacks usually deplete enemy GP faster. By executing certain commands in specific patterns and consuming a set amount of AP, a combo finisher called an EX Finish is performed. The type of EX Finish is usually related to the command used to execute it.

Status conditions can affect combat. Whenever a target is affected by Poison, they continuously receive 1/16th of their max health in damage. Likewise, Heal continuously recovers 1/16th of their max health instead. When affected by Skillseal, Skills are disabled. When affected by Paralysis, the character is immobile and their turn is skipped. When a CPU or CPU Candidate is affected by Virus, the HDD ON command becomes locked, and if the target is in HDD, they forcibly revert.
Plot
The year is 20XX, and in an alternate universe, where Arfoire is dead, a force known as ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime), a group solely dedicated towards the deceased Arfoire, has risen, led by CFW Magic. Over the years, the influence of ASIC has become increasingly powerful, currently affecting many residents of Gamindustri. As such, in response to the threat, the CPUs and Nepgear travel to the Gamindustri Graveyard to combat ASIC. However, the five of them are overpowered and captured. Three years later, IF and Compa arrive to find Neptune. With the power of the Sharicite, a crystal made from the hopes of people, the two manage to free Nepgear and escape, though the Sharicite is broken in the process. Retreating to Planeptune, Nepgear must recover her strength and free Gamindustri from the influence of ASIC, though she must first locate the mascots of the landmasses, who can provide the power to potentially assist the captive CPUs. As she travels Gamindustri to find the mascots, she crosses paths with Nisa, Gust, 5pb, Cave, and Falcom, as well as the other CPU Candidates, who she befriends. They eventually join Nepgear's party, and together with the power of the mascots, they manage to free their captive sisters. The members of ASIC fall by their hand as well, though they uncover a sinister plot to use their power to revive Arfoire. Making their way to the Gamindustri Graveyard for the last time, Nepgear's party defeats Arfoire, and the CPUs attempt to seal the entity forever.
Visually, this is your standard JRPG fare, which is to say that Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 doesn't look bad, but its graphical presentation isn't all that excellent either. It simply gets the job done and provides different dungeons for you to explore and some anime-style story sequences. The same can be said about the game's soundtrack, which has a few decent songs, but nothing too impressive. Thankfully, the character dialogue is great (when they're actually speaking), and though the story is too convoluted for its own good, the voice acting is at least pretty great.
It would be easy to say that Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is just another JRPG that plays great, looks OK, and sounds decent, but in reality, the game is much, much more than that. Yes, that's a pretty basic breakdown of its built-in "game-ness," but there are plenty of elements that make the game stand out, and they're all rooted in how well it parodies other video games. Whether you're encountering a mouse named Pirachu who constantly shouts out "chuu!" much like the iconic Pokemon mascot, battling Mario-inspired green pipes, or taking on a giant head that's very similar to that dude from Brain Age, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is rife with awesome, "holy sh*t!" moments.




The game doesn't just parody other titles, though. References to video game consoles are everywhere, too. Whether you're visiting the towns of Lastation, Lowee, or Leanbox (which upon doing so causes one of the characters to remark that she better hold on tight to her purse because she doesn't want to get robbed), Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is an abundant little bag of enjoyable video game references. That said, the game makes it a point to parody aspects of pop culture, as well. Chirper, for example, is the game's version of Twitter, and you can see what different townspeople and even your teammates have to say. Also, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune is totally on Chirper as a cameo character. And in case you're wondering, it's as awesome as it sounds.
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a great game that would have probably only been a really good game had it not been for its awesome awareness and video game parodies. As it stands, the game has all the tools to be an enjoyably paced JRPG that's a bit on the short side and fairly streamlined. But it's all of those references--from Mario to freaking Twitter--that really make it stand out amongst the crowd of overly saturated, poorly constructed JRPGs out there. This game is something special. If you give it a chance, be aware that it will likely take about two hours for things to really pick up, but when you get through that barrier, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is an outstanding little JRPG that's both fun to play and hilarious to witness, and it should not be missed by video game aficionados and fans of the genre.

Oh yeah, Inafune's also a freakin' special attack in the game!

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