On Oct. 10, 2017, RPG fans will once again experience the fourth-wall breaking adventures of Nep Nep, in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online for the PlayStation 4 and publisher Idea Factory International gave us an early look at this game-within-a-game action-RPG adventure.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is the next game in the Idea Factory/Compile Heart/Tamsoft developed RPG franchise, which has seen several different spin-offs over the years, from zombie action games to strategy RPGs. The series takes place in Gamindustri, a world where each nation represents a different console developer, Lastation/Sony, Lowee/Nintendo, Leanbox/Microsoft, and Planeptune/Sega. The series protagonist is Neptune, the CPU (or Goddess) of Planeptune, who has regained equal standing with the other CPUs, Noire (Lastation), Blanc (Lowee), and Vert (Leanbox). Although they are still rivals, competing for the prayers and support of the people, their world has changed drastically over the course of the games, having seen the ladies team up and battle various threats.
Now that the ladies are on friendlier terms, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online sees them entering an MMORPG, 4 Goddesses Online, loosely based off them and supported by each of the four nations. The CPUs enter the game, which isn’t an MMO in case you weren’t sure, as it hits its beta stage, getting an early glimpse at what sort of adventures future players will have, while also trying to be the first to complete the main campaign.
The story early on is simple enough, you enter the game world, excited to test out a game early. The story sends your characters on a quest to return the four goddesses to the world once more, to stop the Dark Lord from being resurrected. Over half of the game is spent completing missions and quests related to this story arc, until an encounter with some new players that are competing with your party to beat the story first. A stranger approaches the other group and offers them some help in gaining power and along the way, the game world is put at risk, threatening the CPUs’ gaming enjoyment.
Once the main story gets going, newer characters, hackers, and cheaters take on the roles of the main enemies and the game’s story takes a back seat to your quest to help the GM regain control of 4 Goddesses Online. The story doesn’t get a whole lot of attention and it really doesn’t get going until well in to your playthrough, so only a few characters get any real time to develop as enemies, while others are thrown in, but you never actually learn much about them.
While the story feels really rushed and there isn’t much to the game-within-a-game’s story, it is still fun. Most of what you do is take on quests from the guild to advance the main story and earn additional items. The Hyperdimension Neptunia series has always been one that doesn’t take itself seriously, often seeing Neptune breaking the fourth wall and making jokes at her own expense. The idea that they know they are in a game, while playing a game themselves, just gives Neptune more material to work with and the game does a nice job of keeping things light and fun throughout. Getting to see the characters interact with each other in a new environment and taking on different roles from their usual ones, is a nice touch for fans of the main series.
As far as gameplay goes, almost everything looks and feels like the rest of the series, scenes still have character images as they talk with one another and the occasional event image. The world map gives you different locations that you can choose, with more unlocking as you progress through the story, as well as a main city where you can save, pray for additional bonuses during your next dungeon, buy accessories, weapons, armor, costumes, items, and upgrade gear, or talk to other “players” and view various scenes.
Along with costumes and accessories, which change your character’s appearance, including outfits, hair color and things like fairy wings or glasses, players can also set weapons, armor, and up to three Gems. Gems offer many different bonuses, from additional defense, to experience boosts or elemental protections. Getting your character equipped for combat is probably one of the easier things about Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, with only two things to really set aside from the Gems. Some treasure chest offer quality gear that can be upgraded to make battles even easier.
Combat is fairly easy and takes a different playstyle from the main series, with no turn-based battles. Instead players see enemies on the field and can attack them along with their party of three allies with basic attacks, skills, blocking, and using their Awakening, which increases damage as the gauge depletes over time. Awakening Skills can also be unleashed when the gauge is built up to three, using up the remaining time and unleashing a devastating attack that takes a good chunk out of the enemy’s health. Tactics can be set for the party, but the AI isn’t very deep to begin with. I only switched to see if there was much of a difference, but my playthrough was mainly spent with “I’ll leave it to you!” as their strategy.
The only time I had trouble in combat was very early, because I wasn’t blocking much. Once you get used to blocking, the basic attack and skills make most enemies drop easily. Even the bosses didn’t offer much challenge. Often, they were just lengthy battles due to the boss having 200,000+HP and it took time to take their break gauge down, whittling away at their health until it is over. Since each character seems to learn healing, it isn’t very hard to make it through the bulk of the game’s battles unless you fail to upgrade gear or don’t level up and try to rush though.
While the game takes place in an MMO even though it isn’t one, it does have co-op through the Bulletin Board in town. Players can create a room, choosing from quests to complete based on your Guild Rank and join three other players in combat. This isn’t the most exciting online you will find in a game, but it can be fun to play with non-AI party members from time to time and the rewards don’t hurt, especially when bosses drop items needed to upgrade your gear for greater damage and protection.
The game looks good, and if you’re familiar with the series, you already know that there aren’t a lot of motion cut scenes, more like visual novel conversations between the cast. This isn’t bad, as it still manages to get the character’s reactions across nicely, especially with the voice casts, whom both do very well. The English dub of the series is a favorite of mine, as they all handle the comedic feel of the series nicely, but for those that prefer the original voice cast, there is the option for the Japanese cast as well. I played much of the game with the English voices.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online doesn’t offer a lot of difficulty or a deep story, but that isn’t really what the series is. The combat is easy to pick up and just play in short bursts, or long sessions without really feeling burnt out. The comedy of the series and the light-hearted story also make it a nice little break from the seriousness and intense situations of most RPG series. The characters know they are in a game and they have fun with it throughout, making fun of each other and themselves.
While a little more of a challenge would have been nice and better variety in the enemy types, the game was still enjoyable. I probably won’t be replaying it again anytime soon; the quests can get tiresome by the end and there isn’t enough focus on the story to really draw one in. Combat was simple enough and easy to get used to, but there were some issues, the lock-on feature is a must or you hardly hit anything and many times the perfect block counter saved me from taking any damage, but the counter attack was wasted since it never seemed to land.
As a fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online was worth playing. It is always enjoyable to see some of your favorite characters and this time around you get to pair the four CPUs up with their sisters as well as alternate versions of their goddess forms. Plus, seeing Vert trying so hard to get herself her own little sister made for some entertaining interactions with Bouquet.
(A review code for Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online for the PlayStation 4 was provided by Idea Factory International. This review is based on a completion of the main story, reaching level 81 and Guild Rank 7 in 19 hours and 43 minutes.)