There are a handful of gaming franchises that I would consider myself to be a hardcore fan of. In fact, I can name them all right off the top of my head; Battlefield by EA, Marvel vs. Capcom by Capcom, Tomb Raider by Square Enix, LEGO by TT Games, Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft, NCAA Football by EA, Saints Row by Koch Media and Grand Theft Auto by Rockstar Games. The games in these series are games that I simply cannot pass up and usually buy on their respective release dates. For various reasons, they entertain me on multiple levels and I have been a loyal fan of each series almost from the start. It also makes me a collector of almost everything related to these franchises and has led me to buy soundtracks, collectibles and clothing featuring these games. Of course, throughout the years some games have dropped off the list for a number of reasons, but those are few and far between. The last series to have dropped off the list was the Final Fantasy series by Square Enix.
Now, I have a new addition to that list – Hyperdimension Neptunia by NIS America. Over the past few years, the Neptunia series of games, with their flaws and all, has become a favorite series of mine, chiefly because of the story that the series presents in its games. Taking the major consoles of the past few gaming generations, including the cancelled Neptune system by SEGA (which is telling as to which console the developers may have preferred) and personifying them as playable characters that inhabit the digital world of Gamindustri, the Neptunia games parody the console wars and other events in video game history in the real world.
Ever since playing the first Hyperdimension Neptunia game, I have been hooked on the quirky story, quirkier characters and parrying world that they inhabit. Playing as main protagonist Neptune (named after the cancelled Sega Neptune console) she is the CPU goddess of the nation of Planeptune. When she utilizes her goddess form she becomes Purple Heart. Representing Lastation (named after the Sony PlayStation consoles) is Noire who can become the CPU goddess Black Heart. Vert is ruler of Leanbox (named for the Microsoft Xbox consoles) who can become the CPU goddess Green Heart. Finally, there is the ruler of Lowee (named for the Nintendo Wii consoles) Blanc, who can become the CPU goddess White Heart. Together, the goddesses must set their differences aside and defeat the evil Arfoire (named after the infamous R4DS game card) as she tries to take over the world of Gamindustri.
I had so much fun playing the game, despite several control flaws, mainly because I was so drawn in by the story that I needed to see how it would end. Yeah, the character designs may have been a bit over sexualized (and that is a problem… why?) and the simplicity of the game was a bit insulting (my major complaint with the game), but the story it presented, as well as references to real life and actual gaming events and cultural parodies, was a real breath of fresh air for the JRPG genre and something that I thought would lead to more than just one game. Thankfully, I was right.
About a year later, fans would see the release of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, and new characters would be introduced to the series as main protagonist. After Neptune, Vert, Noire, Blanc and Nepgear (Neptune’s younger sister and the CPU goddess candidate for Planeptune known as Purple Sister) are captured by the forces of ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime), secretly working for a revived Arfoire, Compa and IF manage to rescue Nepgear and, together, engage on a quest to look for the other CPU goddess candidates (Uni, known as Black Sister and the younger sister to Noire, and Ram and Rom, known as the White Sisters and the younger sisters of Blanc) and defeat the forces of ASIC in the Gamindustri Graveyard. mk2 made major improvements to the battle system over the previous game and introduced new and fresh elements and characters to the series, greatly improving the enjoyability of the game. Also, the new characters would also carry over to future games in the series, which I will soon get to, and add some more depth to the story of the series.
The latest game in the Neptunia series is Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory which sees Neptune return as the main character and has her transported to a Gamindustri world of 1989 as she tries to find her way back home. In the game, she meets younger versions of Noire, Blanc, Vert and Histoire, as well as Plutia, the onetime CPU goddess of Planeptune and is also known as Iris Heart. This time around the CPU goddesses must deal with the forces of The Seven Sages (led by Rei Ryghts with members that include Mr. Badd, Pirachu, Arfoire, Copypaste, Abnes and Anonydeath) who have also kidnapped a young infant named Peashy (parodying the PC) and have forcefully transformed her into the CPU goddess Yellow Heart. Together, the goddesses must defeat The Seven Sages and Peashy as well as return Neptune to her proper time. I don’t want to spoil more of the story than that, but it is again another interesting story in the Neptunia series that adds even more character development to each character. While not as good a game as mk2, Victory is still a solid JRPG and one worth playing through at least once.
Those three games in the Neptunia series have really turned me into a huge fan of the series and has me looking towards the future to see what else is coming out that involves the Neptunia franchise. Thankfully, it looks like there are several works in Japan regarding the Neptunia franchise that I hope find their way to American shores in the near future. Two new games featuring characters from the series, a manga series and an anime series are all in the works or nearing release and are sure to be entertaining in their own rights. But I would like definitive word that they would eventually come to the US. However, when it comes to the two games and the anime series, the official word from NIS America (the company that publishes and licenses the Neptunia series here in the US) is that there is no word on those three projects. Still, I would like to discuss them here with you.
Hyperdimension Idol Neptune PP (Kami Jigen Idol Neptune PP in Japan) is the first Neptunia game to be released on a portable system, this one being for the PS Vita. As you can probably discern from the title, this game is an idol management simulator and is due for release in June of this year in Japan. If you are familiar with idol management games (i.e. The iDOLM@STER, Lovely Idol) the main point of the game is to guide your Idol (or Idols) during their career and help them improve their skills and popularity. Some elements of the dating sim and raising sim genres are usually included in these games, but not always. In Idol Neptune PP, the player must guide the CPU goddesses through a career as an Idol, much in the same vein as other idol management games. Though I know a number of Neptunia fans who would love to see this game released in the US, the small number of American fans who would appreciate this kind of game is limited at best. While I hope that it does come to the US, I am not exactly holding my breath about it.
The second game I want to talk about is another portable Neptunia game, again for the PS Vita, titled Chou Megami Shinkou Noire Gekishin Black Heart, and will star Noire as the main protagonist of the game. Since the game will be made for the PS Vita, I am guessing that it would be a pretty safe bet that her young sister, Uni, would also be making an appearance. Not much is known about the game as of yet, but sources indicate that it will be released in Japan sometime in 2013, possibly during the fall or winter. Of the two future games to be released in the Neptunia series as spin-offs, I believe that this one would be the most likely to come over to the US. Idol Neptune PP is too gimmicky and niche for the average American gamer, but depending on the gameplay of this game, I believe it would have a better chance of receiving a localized port.
The Neptunia series is also looking towards the summer debut of Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation, an anime series based on the story of the Neptunia games. Produced by David Production (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, DC Nation Shorts – Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld), and featuring the main characters of Neptune, Nepgear, Noire, Blanc, Vert, Histoire, Uni, Ram and Rom, little much is known about the series other than the main characters. But I am willing to bet that the main antagonist of the series will be the villainess Arfoire who has appeared in all three games in the series released so far. For the Japanese production of the anime series, it has been announced that Rei Tanaka will return to voice Neptune once again. It is also believed that other seiyu from the game will return to reprise their roles for the anime. I am hoping that there is still some time to work out a simulcast of the series in the US through sites like Crunchyroll so American fans could also enjoy the series. I would also like to see a DVD or Blu-ray release of the series hit American shores as well.
There is also a Hyperdimension Neptunia manga that was produced after the first game’s release and features slight differences in story compared to the game. It is a short, two chapter book that features the goddess living under one roof and shows the goddesses engaged in various hijinks. An English language version was produced but has since become a hard to find item. Believe me, I have been looking for three years and have yet to find a copy of it available for purchase. (Maybe the English version is a myth after all.) Still, trying to find a Japanese copy of the manga in the US is just as difficult.
There are other Neptunia collectibles available as well, such as art books, wall scrolls, mobile phone cases, etc., for fans to purchase. Personally, I have a Neptunia shirt that I am awaiting to arrive, which I ordered recently. But one of the best Neptunia related items that I have seen for fans is Hyperdimension Neptunia: The App available for iOS device owners. With the app, you could interact with either Neptune or Noire in various ways. You can “converse” with them, take pictures with them, set them as alarms for your iOS device and even change their outfits. In a way, The App is kind of a tease for me because I am the owner of an Android phone and there is no way to use this app on my device; which kind of sucks because I really want this app to use on my device. If for no other reason, I would buy an iPhone or iPod just to get this app on that device.
If you are a fanatic like I am, then hopefully this little piece here has helped in some way inform you of what is out there and what is about to be released in terms of the Neptunia franchise. From three released games, two games in the works, an anime series, a manga adaptation, and various other Neptunia items, you can get your fill of the series in any way possible so you can show your love for the series. As for me, I am hoping that we soon get some news on the two Japanese games coming and the anime series being localized for American fans. I am also hoping that Victory is not the last game in the series. I still see a lot of potential for the franchise and know the loyal following that has developed would also like to see more, as well.