Hyperdevotion Noire is a spin-off title from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series that allows you to play as the titular character, Noire. While the whole run of games from the Neptunia world all look and feel fairly similar, being able to approach the conflict from the other side is always a refreshing, take on things that I’m more than happy to get behind, despite not being an outright fresh notion.
In this world, insofar as I comprehend it, there are a quartet of factions that each battle for dominance of a world known as Gamarket. The relative measure of dominance in this world is related through the notion of market share, and the leaders of each of these factions, Noire, Neptune, Vert and Blanc. The game begins with a conflict wherein Noire manages to beat out the other three CPUs (the aforementioned faction leaders) and achieves complete market dominance, only to be tricked by a very obvious looking baddy that looks like an anime adaptation of a cute goth girl that was often around the college I attended. Following the most obvious coup in literary history, the four CPU must band together and set about rebuilding their collective empires, and the world of Gamarket.
Now I haven’t played the other Hyperdimension games, so my frame of reference is going to be a bit skewed here, but this game has a very similar style of humor to Disgaea. It’s funny, zany and very strongly telegraphed, such that you can see every chuckle coming from a kilometer away without needing to be bludgeoned over the head by the clue-by-four. The roster is varied, mostly comprised of tributes, parodies and allusions to popular game franchises, some of which I recognize, such as Lee-Fi (Chun-Li) or Estelle (With a set of goo-themed gear from the Dragon Quest world), the whole roster rounding out in excess of 20 scantily clad busty lolis that you’re going to want to keep your friends/mother/spouse from seeing you playing with.
The atmosphere of the game is cloying and sweet, with silly affection, lewd innuendo, shower scenes and even mid-combat kissing as a form of power-up mechanic. The character art style used for introductions and conversational scenes is a sharp contrast from the chibi-style art used for the actual combat. You spend a lot of time reading text and seeing the character art, but the chunky chibi style of the combat compliments the game's sense of humor nicely. Hyperdevotion Noire doesn’t ever breach the barrier of indecency, but a couple of times while playing this, my wife did have some questions about what it was I was doing.
Don’t let the outward appearance turn you off, though. This is a solid strategic RPG title that features a wide array of gear you can outfit a character with, along with affinity crystals that make adjustments to the style of play, instead of simply increasing character stats. You can replay beaten levels to grind experience and level your characters up, but no matter how much you over-level yourself, you will have a much more enjoyable experience learning how tactics and mechanics abuse will serve you. Much like Disgaea, you can gather your units around the enemy to allow the damage dealer to do far more damage based on their specific affinities, or you can use things like knockback skills to knock your enemies into electrified barriers, using the environment against the short-lived foes.
The music is cheerful and peppy, the special effects in combat are flashy, long and drawn out, and all in all, it does play like a lighthearted anime title that you might find on Crunchyroll. The difficulty isn’t anything at all like the forerunners of the genre (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy Tactics) or some of my personal favorites (Disgaea comes to mind), having neither the obscene stat extremes of the latter, nor the soul-crushing difficulty of the former. Hyperdevotion Noire doesn’t even truly punish you for losing a fight, trading deeper challenge off for a far more accessible game that makes my inner elitist jerk scoff.
If you have trouble clearing a challenge, Hyperdevotion Noire will give you the option to ‘Eat the Golden Banana’ or collect the P Wing, and retry with a marked advantage from your previous attempt. While I don’t personally think that this approach will teach anyone how to play the game any better, it does allow for a drastic reduction in stress, leaving a carefree experience with a lovable story with a spunky cast of characters. Don’t expect a gripping tale, but if you turn your brain off, suspend your disbelief, you will be happier for it as the end result is a really good mix of RPG and strategy mechanics and a game that is a lot of fun to experience.
Idea Factory International
Article by Marc