Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is the 2nd spin-off game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, the 1st being Producing Perfection. It is a strategy / tactics RPG with a visual novel presentation and a crude simulation element mixed in. I say crude because it feels poorly implemented and doesn’t add much to the overall game. Maybe it’s just me.
The game was developed by Sting and Compile Heart (the latter also being the publisher) while Idea Factory International handled the localization. It was first released on 29th May 2014 for Japan, released on 24th February for America and 27th February for Europe.
This game was the result of the character Noire winning the first popularity poll Compile Heart released a while back, for this series. Is this the game she deserves for being number 1?
More details below.
In a similar yet alternate world called Gamarket Noire, the goddess of the nation Lastation, with her army of generals are duking it out with Neptune, Vert and Blanc, each of them being the goddess of Planeptune, Leanbox and Lowee respectively. Close to achieving world domination, a mysterious lady calling herself Eno tells Noire of a method to achieve that goal without any fighting at all. Noire chooses to believe her but in the end this fails. It drains all of Noire’s (and the other goddesses) powers and separates her from the generals. Unable to combat even a weakling monster, this could be the end of her…
Now this is fine and all, till this next part which kind of threw me off track and wonder why they decided to go with this direction…
Who saves her? No, not Neptune and her friends, not any of the generals, rather… the “player” himself. Yes. This seemingly random character who is known as the “player”, who appears out of nowhere for no reason at all… saves her. By putting his faith into her, she regains enough power to fight back. After some bickering, she hires him to be her secretary, doing all sorts of crap for her. Neptune and the other goddesses eventually join up with Noire to discover the cause of the problem, find all of the generals and hopefully bring Gamarket back to what it was before all of this happened.
Why did they add the “player” for? It just doesn’t feel right. He acts as a badly written convenient plot device (apparently he can do almost anything he is asked to do, and is the one who saves Noire after all) You don’t even get to control him in any way and has no part in the main gameplay at all. I feel like the only purpose of him is to give the game some sort of simulation element (not necessarily a dating sim though) with Noire.
As a SRPG, there’s a certain pattern that occurs throughout the game. Basically it goes along the lines of dialogue => main menu => more dialogue => battle. Rinse and repeat.
Like the other HDN games, the majority of the dialogue is told in the visual novel format. This time though the game is able to show up to 4 character portraits at once and even makes them a bit more animated than usual. There are no cutscenes except for the opening.
The main menu. This is where you’ll be before and after each mission. The CPU hotel holds the game’s music, cutscenes and picture albums so you are able to view them anytime while the Basilicom is where Sim Noire is located.
During battle, each turn there is a Player Phase and an Enemy Phase. It is important that you decide what type of actions to take for your characters each turn to make sure the enemies does not overtake you.
For most missions the object will be to defeat all enemies, but some will have you to defeat a certain character / leader instead, and others will have you collecting certain items rather than defeating enemies. Different gimmicks for these missions are seen such as riding mine carts and destroying time bombs. These try to spice up the gameplay, making them a bit more difficult than usual.
Some features of this game includes:
- Lily Boost
If a character uses a skill and is adjacent to other friendly characters they are given a boost. The skill has its cost reduced, the power of that skill may be increased, amongst other things. By doing this, Lily Points (LP) are gained which grants access to certain options such as goddess transformation (HDD mode) and special moves (akin to the EXE Drives from the main games)
- Item Synthesis / Development
A recurring feature, you are able to synthesize new items and equipment from materials gained by finding treasure chests, defeating monsters and beating the missions. Once these items are made, they can be brought from the shop at any time (Not all items are applicable).
- Leader Effects
Each playable character has a special passive effect that is only applied if that character is chosen as the “leader” for the current mission. This is one of the few features that makes each character unique from one another and adds a bit of strategic depth.
- Mission types
There are 3 different types of missions: Story, Sub, and Simulation. Story missions advances the plot so they are always important. Sub missions are optional but they provide extra EXP and items so they’re worth doing if the party is strong enough. Simulation missions are essentially replay-able Story missions. These are also optional but will give out different rewards for winning.
In a way, it does feel different compared to some of the other SRPGs I’ve experienced such as Disgaea (focused on unit creation, numbers and RNG) and Fire Emblem (each type of unit has strengths and weaknesses; choosing who to send can be crucial).
While each character is somewhat unique and has different effects and skills, for the most part you can send any character you have to battle and still manage to win, albeit with a bit of strategy and good usage of items, skills, etc.
Battle screen. The status screen displays the character’s type of weapon and element (if equipped), along with the remaining EXP to level up. The number of turns passed is also shown, and if applicable, the target number. This number varies.
The simulation component of the game… I don’t know if it’s really considered as such but essentially as the “player” (a.k.a the secretary) you help Noire expand her room by buying furniture and upgrading it occasionally. You do get some decent rewards for upgrading so it is not a total waste of time. You can also witness events in which Noire reads out various requests and pleas from the citizens of Lastation and depending on the choices you choose, Noire may act happy about that choice and the secretary will become closer with her.
I personally think this section of the game is pointless… but for the love of Noire I do go through with it just to experience the different events involving her.
The menu screen for Sim Noire. Obtain Sim Points by buying items from the shop.
Graphics and Presentation
All the character models are in chibi mode, rather than sprites you will see in other SRPGs (Disgaea, Agarest series). Even some monster models are in chibi mode. For those who have played the main HDN games before, you will easily recognize the many types seen in this game (which in turn some of them are references / parodies of monsters from other games). I do like that the character models do change facial expressions and even change forms when struck by a status aliment (such as 8-bit sprites).
Aside from the main 4 (the goddesses), each character is also a reference to certain video game series. Some may be obvious (Metal Gear and Dragon Quest comes to mind) while others were pretty hard to figure out (there’s a character referencing to Final Fantasy apparently, but I have no idea how so). Keeping true to the series’ nature, it’s always fun to see new, different references and parodies.
In terms of in-game graphics, they’re pretty average but in turn the framerate is pretty consistent. The environments of the maps doesn’t particularly stand out (again, if you’ve played the HDN games they will look familiar) and are often repeated.
I do enjoy that you have near full control of the camera so if there’s something you can’t see because of the big heads or big enemies… just turn it around, or move it up and down! Some SRPGs give you limited camera angles so this is a nice touch.
One of Noire’s skill in action. All skills and special moves (including buffs and heals) have a small cutscene like this one.
Music & Voices
The game’s soundtrack is a mixture of original tracks for this game (the title theme, victory theme), and tracks from the previous HDN games. I mentioned before that I don’t think the music itself is pretty great but they’re also not bad to listen to. There are plenty of music used as battle themes so at least it doesn’t feel like you’re listening to the same pieces all the time while battling.
Perhaps the best thing about this game (imo) are the voices during the dialogue scenes. The English VAs have really stepped it up comparing to… say Re;Birth 1. There’s more emotion, the things they say feels more natural and true to their character, and the dialogue itself is pretty good for a translation. Oh, and there’s plenty of voice acting. Quite a lot actually comparing to the Re;Birth games.
Only complaint so far is that the volume setting for the English voice is SO FREAKIN’ LOW even when maxed out. You have to turn the BGM way down in order to hear their voices. The Japanese voices are fine though.
As far as SRPGs go, it’s pretty average. There are a few features but it doesn’t make the game feel truly unique. The gimmicks do make a good attempt to make each map play differently but in the end it does tend to repeat itself. The controls can be clunky at times and it can be frustrating to go through the battle menu. Sometimes I would press X a few times or try to go up and down but the game doesn’t register it straight away.
However as a fan of the series, and a fan of Noire, this game is definitely worth playing. The characters are all entertaining in their own way, the voice acting has really improved and the dialogue scenes in-between battles are fun to listen to.
For any newbies out there into SRPGs, the learning curve isn’t too steep and you can always review what the game told you in case you forget something. If you’re looking for a new SRPG to play though, consider thinking about it. It won’t strike you initially as something you SHOULD play though.
So is this game something that the winner of the first poll deserves?
Probably not but at least it’s not a bad one.