Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1
Online: No

I’ve always appreciated the Hyperdimension Neptunia games more in theory than in reality. On the one hand, they’re trying to skewer the gaming industry, and there’s no denying it’s an industry thoroughly in need of a good skewering. On the other hand, a lot of the time the games’ humour essentially amounts to either a) simply referencing other games, or b) pointing out the absurdity of a common gaming trope and then turning around and doing it anyway, as if doing it all with a knowing smirk somehow absolves the games of their sins. Needless to say, those are the kinds of things that miss a lot more frequently than they hit.

It should come as little surprise, then, that some of the same things can be said for Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart. It may switch gears from the mainline series, in that it’s a strategy RPG instead of a JRPG, but it’s still just as focused on cramming in all the game references it can come up with, regardless of how much sense those references make. Likewise, if you’re looking for tropes, you won’t have to look very hard to find them here. This isn’t inherently bad; in fact, it’s kind of awesome that it’s so willing to make fun of creepy otakus, especially since those are presumably the game’s primary consumers. Significantly less awesome is Hyperdevotion Noire’s love of titillation. I get that these games and their ilk are occasionally built around fanservice, so it only makes sense to have some of it, but that doesn’t make it feel any less dirty (in a bad way) when the game has a shower scene that goes on forever, or when one young-looking female character enhances another young-looking female character’s abilities just by kissing her.

Hyperdevotion Noire 2

Of course, even on the weird fanservice front, things aren’t all bad. Case in point: the fact that the game’s characters are all chibi-fied when they go into battle. Admittedly, this falls right on the line of good-weird and bad-weird, since it means you have ultra-sexualized cute things, but since the alternative scenario is too terrifying to think about, I’m just going to assume that the resulting characters are too bizarre for anyone to honestly find sexy. Dear God, please don’t less anyone think that this is sexy.

On a much less unsettling front, Hyperdevotion Noire represents a vast improvement over those other games in that the grinding is far, far less noticeable. You still have to do it, of course, but this time around, rather than crawling through dungeons to level up, you’re engaging in turn-based tactical battle after turn-based tactical battle. That may not sound like a huge improvement, but when you play through the games, it quickly becomes apparent just how preferable it is. Rather than playing levels over and over again to meet certain random criteria, the whole game progresses in a much more logical way.

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In fact, because it’s so different from the franchise norm, a better way of looking at Hyperdevotion Noire may be as a successor to Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, the weird little pop idol management spin-off that came out last spring. Much like that game succeeded largely because it was so willing to break franchise convention and do its own thing, Hyperdevotion Nore is worth checking out because it’s not just Hyperdimension Neptunia 2.5. It may not be as out of left field as Producing Perfection was, but it’s still a marked departure from the norm, and in the process of differentiating itself it shows that the series still has promise, no matter how iffy the first two mainline instalments have been.

Grade: B