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Review

Review: Super Neptunia RPG

The Nep­tu­nia series isn’t aver­se to spin-offs, evi­dent by the fact that the majo­ri­ty of games in the series have been non-main­li­ne ent­ries. Unli­ke pre­vious spin-offs though, Super Nep­tu­nia RPG is being hand­led by a Cana­di­an deve­lo­per, and I was inte­rested to see what they could do bet­ter than the lack­lust­re War­ri­ors-style Nep­tu­nia games. This was not the cast at all, and Super Nep­tu­nia RPG has ended up being one of the least enjoy­a­ble RPGs I’ve play­ed in a long time.

Super Nep­tu­nia RPG takes place in an alter­na­te Gam­in­dus­tri, whe­re ever­ything is 2D inclu­ding the games crea­ted the­re. Series prot­ago­nist and names­a­ke Nep­tu­ne wakes up in this uni­ver­se with amne­sia (again) and must find out what events tran­spi­red befo­re her memo­ry loss and ine­vi­ta­b­ly end up saving the world. Asi­de from the four main god­des­ses of the series and a few unplay­a­ble side cha­rac­ters, the rest of the cast is made up of ori­gi­nal cha­rac­ters, though none of them are par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ting. Nep­tu­nia spin-offs have often had a hard time making you care about cha­rac­ters they intro­du­ce, and usual­ly just rely on easy jokes or refe­ren­ces to get by. That’s exac­t­ly how the sto­ry is hand­led here as well, and asi­de from a coup­le of decent moments the plot falls flat very ear­ly on.

Explo­ra­ti­on in Super Nep­tu­nia RPG takes the form of simp­le 2D plat­forming, making your way through the towns and are­as of the alter­na­te Gam­in­dus­tri. Asi­de from a basic jump, Nep­tu­ne also has access to a short dash and a pud­ding-like mons­ter that can be used to gain extra height when jum­ping. It’s ser­vice­ab­le, but there’s never much incen­ti­ve to explo­re sin­ce the ent­i­re­ty of the map is shown right when you enter an area, inclu­ding chest and ene­my loca­ti­ons. It can also be hard to tell if some­thing is part of the back­ground or some­thing that you can stand on, espe­ci­al­ly in towns. Over­all, the explo­ra­ti­on sec­tions are fine but the bland area design and lack of incen­ti­ve to explo­re real­ly start to make get­ting to the next sto­ry event a cho­re.

The batt­le sys­tem is whe­re the game real­ly falls apart though, from poor­ly thought out mecha­nics to the slow pace of com­bat over­all. Each batt­le con­sists of wai­ting for a meter to fill up so you can use on of your 4 par­ty mem­bers’ attacks. The par­ty can be rota­ted to chan­ge the moves that they can do, such as swit­ching to a for­ma­ti­on that heals every few seconds. The pro­blem with batt­les is that they’re far too slow, with the meter taking fore­ver to increa­se. A lot of attacks also have incredi­b­ly long ani­ma­ti­ons and cha­rac­ters only attack one at a time, making each batt­le drag out lon­ger than necessa­ry. The­re is a speed-up but­ton, but this feels like igno­ring the main pro­blem ins­tead of try­ing to actual­ly fix it.

If fights were at least inte­res­ting or requi­red some level of tac­tics, the slow natu­re of the batt­les sys­tem wouldn’t be as annoy­ing. But you’re never requi­red to real­ly learn the intri­caci­es of your par­ty mem­bers or plan for each boss fight. Ear­ly fights are incredi­b­ly easy and boil down to mashing one but­ton while hol­ding the fast-for­ward but­ton, and once you unlock a few healing rela­ted abi­li­ties you’re pret­ty much set for the ent­i­re game. The way you unlock active and pas­si­ve abi­li­ties is at least well done, and works simi­lar­ly to Tales of Ves­pe­ria. Each pie­ce of equip­ment has abi­li­ties that can be lear­ned by the cha­rac­ter using it after figh­t­ing enough batt­les. It’s a decent sys­tem in Ves­pe­ria and gives you an incen­ti­ve to use every pie­ce of equip­ment. In Super Nep­tu­nia RPG howe­ver, the­se abi­li­ties have next to no balan­cing or chan­ge up batt­les in any mea­ning­ful way. The best examp­le of this is the health regen rela­ted pas­si­ve, which allows you to heal every few seconds even when attacking. Becau­se of this, batt­les devol­ve into using attacks with the lon­gest ani­ma­ti­ons and then healing any dama­ge you have taken, nega­ting any pos­si­ble chal­len­ge with later boss fights.

When loo­king at screen­shots of Super Nep­tu­nia RPG when it was first announ­ced, the game had a plea­sing art-style even if the back­grounds and spri­tes didn’t qui­te work tog­e­ther. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, in moti­on this is not a pret­ty game to look at. The cha­rac­ter spri­tes look fine when stan­ding still and are well ani­ma­ted during cuts­ce­nes, but no atten­ti­on has been given to how ever­ything looks during explo­ra­ti­on and batt­le. Nep­tu­ne tran­si­ti­ons bet­ween ani­ma­ti­ons in an unna­tu­ral way which makes it look like she’s stut­te­ring most of the time. There’s also an ove­r­use of a real­ly ugly blur effect that is pre­sent for fast move­ment ani­ma­ti­ons, inclu­ding many attacks, and it drags down the game’s pre­sen­ta­ti­on even fur­ther. The back­grounds, when not making plat­forming con­fu­sing, can look nice, but even then many are­as in the game look the same and it leads to the alrea­dy repe­ti­ti­ve plat­forming fee­ling even less enjoy­a­ble.

As for the PC ver­si­on, it’s very bare bones though that isn’t much of a sur­pri­se con­si­de­ring the other game’s ports. Asi­de from a hand­ful of reso­lu­ti­on opti­ons you’re not going to be able to tweak the game’s gra­phics any fur­ther. The­re are also no but­ton prompts for anything other than Xbox One con­trol­lers, which is defi­ni­te­ly a pro­blem con­si­de­ring the awk­ward default lay­out on key­boards. Mou­se sup­port is near non-exis­tent too, only sup­por­ting mou­se but­tons which makes menu navi­ga­ti­on wit­hout a con­trol­ler more cum­ber­so­me.

The Switch ver­si­on on the other hand is incredi­b­ly rough, even after the day-one patch. Frame rates are poor across the board even when play­ing in docked mode, and the game will often stut­ter after only a hand­ful of spri­tes are on the screen. Fur­ther­mo­re, Super Nep­tu­nia RPG on the Switch feels very unpo­lished out­si­de of the poor frame rate. From menus that don’t always work cor­rec­t­ly to a UI that is clear­ly not meant to be view­ed on a smal­ler screen, this is by far the worst ver­si­on of the game. Fur­ther patches could fix some of the­se issu­es, but con­si­de­ring how long it has been sin­ce the ori­gi­nal Japa­ne­se release it seems unli­kely.

Con­clu­si­on

After a long run of medio­cre at best Nep­tu­nia spin-offs, this game has somehow mana­ged to be the worst of the lot. A bland sto­ry, won­ky game­play and a who­le host of tech­ni­cal issu­es all come tog­e­ther to make Super Nep­tu­nia RPG a tho­rough­ly unen­joy­a­ble expe­ri­ence.

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