Alleviating some of the issues of the first game and still keeping some other nuisances into the mix, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 does a fair job of applying bandages to some otherwise large wounds. However, that does not keep it from being enjoyable for certain audiences.
I did not play the first game in the series, but did see a lot of gameplay videos and hear a lot of opinions concerning its glaring shortcomings. Sexualized portrayal of young girls, clunky combat and game mechanics, boring storyline, and so on and so forth range in the number of complaints. Playing through Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, a completely alternate universe of its predecessor, most of those glaring problems and shortcoming were addressed and found the game to be a very cute and charming pardon for a JRPG. It is not exactly a fine satire for gaming and the video game industry, but does good regardless and probably loved to death by diehard and hardcore fans of anime and JRPG’s.
The story follows the journey of Nepgear (a play on the Sega Game Gear and sister to Neptunia) and her CPU candidate allies to free their captive sisters, the CPU Goddess from the clutches off ASIC, who wish to rule all of Gamindustri. As stated before, it is alternate universe of the first, so new players are free jump into the story without any knowledge of the previous title and able to follow it just fine. While the exact story is somewhat poorly written, rife with linear progression, and down right cheesey, the game, as a satirical piece knows it and exploits it endlessly, with various references and even poking fun at itself. It is a very bold and endearing move, but very helpful when it comes to moving through the story and makes the various characters likeable. Lighthearted and whimsical, the story never takes itself too seriously, but overall, makes it more palatable to get through.
As you explore various areas on the map, some which are dungeons, combat is a must. Unlike the last game that seem to have a active turn-based affair, it is still turn-based, but so much more fluid. When you come into contact with a foe on the map, you enter battle with up to four characters (with additional four as backup) and move along the map when its your turn. Once in a radius to where you are close to the enemy, you have the option attack and use specials skills to dispatch them. Your AP gauge determines how many attacks you can dole out and items you can use, while the SP gauge handles skills (as well as needs AP) and transformations for the CPU characters, allowing them increase their parameters and deal out more damage. Items can be used to recover both SP and AP, but so can skipping a turn if you are low. If you utilize your skills and combos properly and effectively, you can “Guard Break” the enemy, allowing you to do extra damage to them for a limited time before the “Guard” bar fills. You can also switch characters on the fly if the other character is couple with someone and even perform team attacks if certain conditions are fulfilled. Other than that, combat is straightforward and easy to comprehend. With the option to customize various combo attacks, this even furthers the simplicity, but also does not cheapen the overall process and enjoyment.
Outside of combat, you can go to various towns to buy items and participate in Chiper events, which some, will increase your friendship with various allies. You are also free to do request at the town guild’s that reward you with items, money, and shares. Shares are a big feature of the game, but mainly just govern endings and also how much power your characters will have in certain areas. The power aspect is negligible, since you do not notice the change and will mostly be used to get you enticed in taking request in the first place. Besides the game play mechanics, the voice acting is also pleasant for both the English and Japanese tracks. I tried the Japanese track, but found on the natural settings that the voices are too meek and often get overtaken by the BGM, but still nice. The English voices are not bad and in fact, enjoyable. The dialogue definitely comes across in weird ways thanks to the localization process, but only adds to the comedic aspect.
Sadly, while the mechanics are okay, the game definitely has a frame rate issue. Even playing through the orignal medium (opposed to the downloadable psn version), the game at some intervals are choppy and clunky. You do not see this as much around combat, but various cut-scenes are just horrible to watch because of it. However, it is not a major issue and easily dismissible, since not many of these scenes occur or occur subsequently. The dungeons are also an mild annoyance, with the same reused foes and often times, backdrop. The only source of change for it is the names used, but with plenty of generic monster outlines you have beaten before, changing the name does not help. The on-screen player character sprites are just as bland, despite being able to change their look around with customizable clothes. Unexpectedly, the CG images are very aesthetically appealing. Some cut-scenes are risqué (with the dialogue to match), but it is nowhere as “hyper-sexualized” as most critics claim. It is a misrepresentation of the cute culture the game wishes to create and blinded with fanservice, but again, nothing overt more than it suggestive in nature and surely, not a frequent issue.
It is pretty much clear that the game is still aimed toward the loyal anime and JRPG segment. Idea Factory and Compile Heart makes that fact known clear. It still manages to bring back a few problems with it, but also alleviates the biggest ones that has haunted in the past such as the gameplay mechanics. Despite what is does right or wrong or what segment it is market toward, Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 still proves to do a fine job of improving on what and where it fell short. It definitely does not fix these issues by leaps and bounds, but at least a start and makes the game somewhat enjoyable.
Pros: Nice combat mechanics/gameplay mechanics, satirical and humorous storyline, plenty of characters to use in combat adds variety, awesome artwork applied to CG, likeable cast of characters.
Cons: Frame issues slow down the game and cut-scenes at various points, terrible and limited soundtrack, reused and generic dungeons/monsters, aggravating/ridiculous requirements for some of the endings.