Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution - PS4 Review

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution by developer Compile Heart and publisher Idea FactoryPlaystation 4 review written by Richard with a copy from #keymailer #NeptuniaGameMaker
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Nep nep! It's time once again for our favourite purple haired protagonist! Well, sort of. Today we're talking about the newest and latest Neptunia title: Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution. This time around we get to focus on big Neptune, the dimension hopper instead of the Goddess version.

In this Neptunia title, big Neptune arrives in a new dimension chasing fancy insects to find another world centered around gaming. This dimension however has more of a focus on game creation itself. As she's checking out a local game store, she gets pushed around and drops her "Nep Note", the book that she keeps Croire in because she's been bad, and also allows her to dimension hop. While trying to find her Nep Note, she comes across a rundown building where she encounters a trio of Goddesses who want to take another shot at game making after their last major failure. So begins Neptune's journey as the CEO of a game company.

If you're familiar with the Neptunia series at all, this should be right at home, feeling a little closer to a mainline title rather than a spin-off, but still in the spin-off/extended universe line. There are some changes from the Sisters vs Sisters gameplay, but it's fairly close, so you may be rather familiar going in if you've played that title. For those new to the series, this may be a bit of a weird place to hop in, as there are a bunch of references you may not understand, but everything is more or less laid out for you to get the gist of things.

So, new things being brought to the table, old staples being used, and a bit of a new viewpoint on things. Since it's the new focus this time, let's talk a bit about the new game development system. In your town area you have access to a number of features, such as building development, game disc creation, a shop, decorating your front plaza, and giving out assignments to any game makers who you've enlisted to help you.

Game disc creation is pretty basic in principle. You choose a genre, a specialization, makers to work on it, and optionally any bonus plans. Depending on the makers' specialties and preferences, the quality of the end product may increase. Once you've started development, you need to wait for the game to finish being made, although you can add bonus plans to it, at the cost of quality. Once development is finished, you'll be rewarded with points used for development as well as a CD. These CDs can be equipped, up to four of them, and they have certain skills attached to them, such as increasing the damage from certain attacks, hence where those additional plans from earlier come in handy. As you continue through the game, you can gain access to more creators and more genres.

In terms of building development, you can pay out CP, the game creation currency, in order to improve your building, which unlocks purchasable upgrades such as increasing CP gain from games and decreasing the cost for the creators and decreasing time required for disc creation. Some unlocks also include new genres or more creators for disc creation opportunities. If you need a little more boost to get some more out of your discs, you can decorate your plaza with monuments relating to some fairly well-known game series to help boost production. Additionally, you can summon creators to your plaza, and then send them out to earn experience in other locations. Yep, creators have levels, and sending them out to other locations gives them experience for leveling. They will also usually return with handy items, like Building Renovation Kits, which are needed to increase the level of your buildings.

So, now that we know about how game creation works, let's take a look at the rest of the gameplay. When you first get onto the world map, you'll notice that different areas are all subdivided into sections, which you have to unlock by paying CP for and sometimes specific permits. This will open up the area and allow you to choose a location to explore, although most areas are restricted by plot progression. Once you enter a stage you are free to roam around the area, collecting any items you find, getting into fight for money, items, exp, and a minor amount of CP, or starting some bike races or time trials!

I know that last item may have interested you, but let me warn ya right now: the bike time trials/races are usually either really easy or table flipping difficult. No seriously. The first time trial you can unlock? I could not get the gold time for it. The race? Almost lapped my opponent. Later stages that was flipped, and the race was difficult to win. The bike is super handy for speedy exploration as long as it's a stage you can ride in.

Ok then, it's time for combat. Combat this time around is active action combat instead of turn-based, similar to how Sisters vs Sisters was. You don't have any action gauge or anything, so you can't "run out of" combo. On the other hand, when you finish a combo with a finisher, you can swap to one of the other three characters you can bring to battle (four in total) and do a chain attack. More chain attacks without getting interrupted or waiting too long before beginning to attack again increases your chain combo, which increases your attack damage up to two times your base value.

Combos can be changed under the skills menu, where you can set what move happens at what point in your combo, as well as swapping other skills around. New moves can be learned as you level up. I'd like to make a comment here since we're talking about combat, some bosses are pretty simple, and others are... surprisingly tough. The last boss for example? Can roll you over if he gets a good attack off on you at the wrong time. One boss fight sequence in the mid game? Really rough. Others were an absolute joke, so it feels like fights are either too easy or too cheap sometimes, although you can be pretty cheap yourself if you abuse certain disc effects.

Fair warning, combat in Game Maker R:Evolution feels... pretty dang clunky at first. Thanks to a disc set-up, some skill reorganizing, and some practice, it was definitely better once I got used to it, but good lord did it feel stiff at the beginning. Also, by the time you reach the end of the game you'll probably be about done with any stages. I know I was getting rather tired of running through areas by the time I hit the last two chapters. I also stopped wanting to deal with disc creation when I maxed out on available points and was basically just going through the motions. As a final point here, I found that the game would crash occassionally, mostly when trying to do disc creation through the pause menu rather than from the company building back in town. Slightly frustrating, but the sheer amount of autosaves the game makes thankfully salvaged that.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is a pretty decent entry in the series, but unfortunately doesn't rise above "pretty decent". While adding some new elements and changing the battle system slightly keeps it fresh enough from their previous title, the repetitiveness of the dungeons, large number of fights that get boring pretty fast, and the sidequests that are almost entirely "kill x number of y monster" get really grating. While the voice acting is still really solid, and the Live 2D they use for the cutscenes is evolving, it feels like the music direction and dungeon design hasn't. Neptunia VII has a great soundtrack and the dungeons didn't feel all the same, even with some repetition, but that isn't the case for the past few titles. Sure, the music isn't bad, and they've added more area types which is great! But there are still some areas that feel the same as others, or that felt identical to areas in the previous title.

As someone who strives to get the full hundred percent completion in Neptunia titles, especially before I write these reviews, I can say for certain that by the time I got the platinum I was well and done with Game Maker R:Evolution. That being said, if you play more casually and wait longer than I did to do the Neptral Tower, especially considering I crashed about eight times in the tower, it definitely isn't as bad as how I felt at the end. I had fun, and it was mostly enjoyable, despite some of my concerns and issues with the game. While I would really like to see some more improvement in the series, I feel like it is progressing back onto a line that would make a solid RPG instead of just a decent one. I must say though that I really did like the bigger Neptune as a protagonist this time. It was a nice fresh take on the old Neptune.

Overall, Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution is a decent title that adds some new perspective and elements in the latest Neptunia title entry. While there are some issues of repetitiveness and balancing issues, it was an enjoyable journey from start to finish. While not quite as silly as most titles with Neptune as the main character, there was the opportunity to mix a little more seriousness into some of the scenes while not playing it too straight. While Game Maker R:Evolution might not be the best entry in the series, especially as a stand-alone title, it isn't a bad one either.

Score: 7 / 10



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