Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed
The Hyperdimension Neptunia series is something that has helped the Vita truly stand out. No other system has it, and PC releases are slow-going. The series has gone from a fast-paced JRPG to strategy, and now enters the action RPG realm with Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed. You still get the series’ trademark banter between all of the characters is retained, and the end result is the most accessible entry in the series for newcomers.
Action Unleashed takes the console-parody main characters and puts them into a short-length dungeon-crawler with action-heavy gameplay. Square and Triangle are your primary action buttons, with the former doing a short-range attack that can swoop around while Triangle tends to be stronger, but more focused. If you have a sea of enemies surrounding your character, you’ll want to mix the attack combinations up. Before battles, you’ll usually send two characters in and can freely swap between them to heal the other one up over time and when health pickups appear on-screen.
Much like a fighting game, Action Unleashed includes a handy command list so you can figure out which chains work best for each character. The game is best described as Hyperdimension Neptunia crossed with Dynasty Warriors combat. It’s quite a bit scaled-down, but you do get the same visceral thrill that comes with beating up dozens of minions. Things certainly do look a bit different though, as you’re beating up tons of cute little enemies and then sometimes even-cuter bosses depending on the stage.
The control layout is fairly logical, with X jumping, and the aforementioned combat commands are laid out in an easy-to-remember layout. R acts as the button used to get you into mech mode, and when you press X after, you’ll transform and do tons of damage in CPU form. The d-pad is used to do things like swap characters in and out or select items. There’s a lot to remember with the controls, but once you get a few battles into the game, it becomes second nature.
Action Unleashed really opens up the fighting area compared to the regular entries in the series. This winds up removing the claustrophobic feeling felt in many battles. Now, you can fight anywhere you want on the field and not have to do any waiting. It’s a more fun experience and something that makes this yet another great gateway entry into the series for folks who haven’t played it before.
Every storyline is basically its own self-contained thing, and all you really need to know is that the writing is hilarious. It’s very fourth wall-leaning and self-referential, but long-time gamers will chuckle at most of the references in the game to other franchises.
The core story mode is a lot of fun and provides a variety of challenges. Sometimes, you’ll just need to navigate from one island to another, destroying folks along the way. Other times, you’ll have to defeat a giant swarm of enemies to progress. Even when things are theoretically mixed up a bit, like having to find items, it still just amounts to beating a whole bunch of enemies and then the item appears and you win. Variety isn’t exactly the spice of life for the gameplay, but the different characters do mix things up. For the most part, they all have different personalities and play largely the same, but with some variance in there.
The game is a lot of fun to play and the transforming mode gives you a super-powerful mode that lets you feel like a beast. Beyond the main game, you’ve got City Watch where you progress things with dialogue to unlock new quests and then little areas to kill some time like a music test area. Far too many games lack them, but the Hyperdimension games are usually pretty good about including them and adding music to the library as you keep playing.
Visually, Action Unleashed looks about the same as the other mainline Hyperdimension games. Character designs are the same, so if you loved the anime-styled ones in past games, there’s simply more of that here. Animations are fairly smooth, and the CPU transformations look good as well – with enough pomp and circumstance to show off the power of the new form while not taking up a lot of time to show the process. The enemy designs are outstanding, and run the gamut from being silly to occasionally serious – or at least serious enough to be taken seriously due to their sheer size.
The voice work is about on-par with past Hyperdimension games. The cast’s chemistry is fantastic and everyone clearly has a blast. Musically, Action Unleashed sticks with a pat hand of easy-listening pop music and a few intense songs thrown in for good measure. The soundtrack isn’t amazing, but I do enjoy taking a break from combat to listen to a few of the songs – so it does succeed at making you want to listen to the soundtrack outside of just its original context.
Hyperdimension veterans will find a lot to love about Action Unleashed. The gameplay is faster than ever before, and taking the Hyperdimension cast and plopping them into a mini-Dynasty Warriors game works surprisingly well. The action-heavy gameplay meshes well with the original gameplay, and feels like a natural evolution of it rather than a radical departure. Anyone looking to get into the series might want to start with this since the storyline is self-contained, but the game is far more accessible thanks to the focus on action.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Idea Factory International
This review is based on a digital copy of Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed for the PlayStation Vita provided by Idea Factory International.