Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a newly released entry in the Neptunia series of video games that takes a different spin on things—lots of things.
Two differences are immediately noticeable. The game’s focal character is Noire / Black Heart, instead of Neptune, as per the main games. And Goddess Black Heart is a strategy RPG, similar in style to Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre; the game plays out on a typical grid, with 3D chibi models instead of the traditional 2D sprites.
The battle system has nothing new to offer, unfortunately. The only twist involved is the use of ‘Lily Points’, or LP, which build up over time as you battle. The Lily Points are gained by placing units near each other and using a special attack or skill. LP that you gain during a battle are then used to power more devastating attacks and CPUs’ HDD transformations.
In addition, Lily Points also function similarly to Fire Emblem’s relationship points. The more often that characters are placed during battle, the stronger their bonds will grow; having units that have high affection for one another next to each other has other benefits as well. Specifically, when a special attack is used next to a unit with high affection, the LP cost of the special attack will be reduced for that attack. Learning to use this mechanic is your key to victory.
Hyperdevotion Noire’s battle system also uses a simple elemental trump system, in which one element is super-effective against one other, while also being weak against another. It’s very standard for the genre.
The problem with the battle system is the lack of ability to efficiently plan before, or even during, battle. As a strategy-based RPG, Goddess Black Heart just doesn’t deliver; the battle system on its own functions well enough, but small quirks keep it from really advancing anywhere.
There is a distinct lack of preparation. The game tells you to plan which units you bring into battle wisely, and to be careful when choosing your party leader (who gives your team a special bonus), yet you are unable to see which enemies are on the field before the battle begins. In fact, the field loads in after you pick your units. This makes planning for elemental weaknesses and such a moot point, as there’s no way to tell what will be coming until it’s already upon you. Author’s Note: As noted in the comments, I simply failed to notice that you can, indeed, look at where units are position before battle. This was my mistake; being able to check before hand does help make setting up which characters to bring in much more thoughtful.
Even worse, however, is that small missteps in planning can lead to silly issues. For example, units take falling damage from a miniscule height. This is fine on its own, except that taking falling damage also ends the unit’s turn. It’s a small annoyance, but when you’re not paying exact attention to the route a character is moving, it can end up costing you big.
All that be as it may, the biggest disappointment is the lack of difficulty. As a fan of strategy RPGs, I opted to start on hard, and was almost immediately disappointed. The first few battles were so easy I couldn’t even call them “a breeze”. But even the battles that followed, which felt like they should be challenging, simply weren’t. Bosses and chapter-ending battles are almost all easy to fight through, without any grinding. I suspect that they may have been more difficult had I not done every side mission that popped up, but who wouldn’t do the side missions in a Neptunia game?
The battle system is a major flop. It isn’t broken in any way, thankfully, but it’s just not fun. At best, you have a middling battle system that does nothing to stand out. Unfortunately, even the aesthetics of the battles are lacking. The 3D chibis are simplistic and angular, and the environments are bland and desolate.
Thankfully, the art in the rest of the game is top-notch. The typical anime/manga style of the series is on full blast here, with moving 2D upper body sprites for all the major characters, and vibrant backgrounds. Sadly, any in-game cutscene that isn’t using just dialogue or (absolutely beautiful) CG ends up using the 3D chibis.
There are a number of fun scenes throughout the game, many of which feature the great art. In addition to these, there is also a fair amount of stuff to do that isn’t combat-based. Laststation acts as your base for the duration of the game, and there is an item shop and such there as per the norm. Throughout the game, you’ll develop items and, probably more importantly, discs. Disc Development allows you to alter and modify your characters, giving them stat boosts and special abilities, even some neat reactive ones like recovering upon taking damage. Item and Disc Development are a major part of the game as you progress, so you’ll often find yourself slogging through already cleared battles hunting for materials, if you’re a collector.
Another facet of the Lastation gameplay is Noire’s room. Two things happen in here: you can deck out her room with items throughout the game by purchasing them with Sim Points, which are gained through spending money in the item shop. The room starts as essentially a run-down little shack, but you can upgrade it to a pretty impressive living space.
The second part of the gameplay here is responding to fan letters. While I had expected this part of the game to be a lot of fun, it was actually a huge letdown. The writing in these short exchanges is mere lines per letter, and the worse part was the choices. When you pick a letter, the text in the letter is presented to you, and you immediately make a visual novel-style decision between three options, one of them being essentially no response at all. Unfortunately, without any sort of talk with Noire beforehand, there is zero indication of which choice may be the fruitful one, and the discussions regarding the fan letters aren’t even worth reading half the time—they’re simply too short to really enjoy.
If you answer correctly, however, your relationship with Noire will grow stronger, and you’ll be treated to a few more cutscenes and the occasional surprise (like a good CGs).
One thing that does carry over from the Hyperdimension Neptunia games is the humor and parodies. They are, of course, all over the place, and the writing is at least not boring. While it does rely on gags very similar to ones already seen in the previous games, they’ll still get you to laugh. Of course, there’s also plenty of fanservice, ranging from some great ecchi shots to fun jabs at other game series and systems. Again, if nothing else, when the CGs appear, it’s difficult to not enjoy the artwork.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a fan’s game. You get to have fun with the Hyperdimension Neptunia cast, and with the lovely tsundere Noire as the leading lady. It’s an entertaining ride, similar to the flagship titles. But the game itself just doesn’t measure up. There’s nothing of note that makes it worth playing, and that is what hurts this title: it’s just a too-simplistic strategy RPG that does nothing to make you want to play more.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart was reviewed using a code provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
- Great art
- Entertaining writing
- Tons of great satire, parody, and other general goofiness
- Noire as the main character!
- Utterly bland, easy gameplay
- Poorly implemented visual novel-style decisions
- Many scenes that should’ve been fun just end up being too short to enjoy
- In-game graphics aren’t up to par when compared to flagship titles