Oh look, another game with jiggle physics. Why not?
The latest adventure set in Gameindustri, 4 Goddesses Online is a spin-off from the main series of Neptunia games. Set in a world which parodies the modern game industry; with different kingdoms representing Sega, Playstation, Microsoft and Nintendo, Neptunia games are well-known for having an eclectic sense of humour and visual-novel-alike talking segments. This time around however, instead of protecting their own Kingdoms the CPU’s (Rulers) of the four kingdoms have been chosen to beta test a new MMO based on their likenesses. With its sights set on parodying a whole new genre, how does Cyberdimension hold up?
Unlike in other entries in the series, 4GO begins with the four main CPU’s acting as allies in the sprawling MMO world. As they are introduced in Nep’s typically fourth-wall breaking style, each is shown to have chosen a class for their adventure in the world which contrasts with their style in previous games. Soon after, they are recruited by Bouquet; an AI NPC in the game, to hunt for four artifacts and summon the goddesses to save the world. Granted, as far as starting objectives go it’s not the most original of narratives, but as it progresses there are plenty of twists which tie the whole thing together. In many ways, the two halves of the plot feel somewhat disconnected, and the first section doesn’t really feel resolved by the end of the main campaign, but it’s interesting to see them playing with the themes present and mixing things up. It’s wrapped in the typical Neptunia humour; a mixture of awkwardness, meta commentary and cute comedy, which makes the characters both new and old really come alive. There are obviously some cringeworthy moments; Bouncy Bouncy; but the localisation has been done with panache; kudos to the team.
The world itself is heavily based on MMORPG’s, most specifically those from a fantasy setting. Alsgard is a wonderful combination of fantasy tropes which has a surprisingly coherent feel. Most of your setup and conversations will take place in the central town, with combat and exploration occurring in dungeon-styled levels. In the town you can buy new equipment and items and accept quests from the Guild. Progression is led by the quests you are given for each dungeon, but due to the way in which quests are presented I never felt like I was just going through the motions.
I’m particularly impressed with the variety of dungeons, as previous Neptunia games have been guilty of reusing assets excessively. True, this is partially down to having the ability to load a variety of quests and do them all in one run, but I’m still glad to see that there is a strong range of areas to explore.
Arguably, the combat is the weakest element of the game. You enter dungeons leading a team of four; though if playing online your AI counterparts will instead be other players. Each “Chosen one” has their own class and ability set, but all have a standard attack chain to mash. As characters level up, they gain access to different skills, but each character can only access a limited number of these at once and they do little to invigorate the combat. The camera is arguably clunky during combat, especially when playing a melee character; though there is the ability to lock on with R1. The variety of creatures is also quite disappointing, with many harking back to previous titles. I would honestly have liked to have seen more send-ups of MMO tropes in the enemies, though some may argue it does have the feel of an MMO in that regard. Regardless of this, some elements, such as the counter system, do feel very rewarding; they are just bogged down by other elements of the formula.
As with most Nep games, there is a big emphasis on tangible customisation. From the first mission you gain access to accessories to pop on your girls, and there is a cornucopia of armours, outfits, and weapons to equip them with. When you combine this with the fact there are 12 playable characters, each customisable with their own skills and AI preferences, you can see the scope of the personalisation in this game. You can also choose how you approach combat with the build of your party, which does make the otherwise repetitive system feel more usable.
Interestingly, 4GO is the first spin-off Neptunia game on a home console, ditching the Vita in favour of better graphics and performance. This paid off. 4GO is arguably the best-looking Neptunia game, with worlds looking vibrant and characters popping from the screen. Even the visual novel elements have received a rework, with certain effects showing direction of movement etc. The transition to UE4 has made 4GO a beautiful experience to look at, and although I did notice some slowdowns on the base PS4 it runs remarkably well. I’m equally as impressed by the stellar soundtrack, which is a true step up from previous entries. From pumping Electro beats to fantasy-styled anthems. I could listen to it all day.
Overall, 4 Goddesses is a departure from other games in the series, but one which highlights the most important thing to the series; the characters. Yes, the combat isn’t the best, but the controls are solid and there are plenty of ways to switch up your playstyle until you’re happy. It’s good fun to run through the variety of dungeons with the colourful, comedic cast making witty remarks and jokes along the way. It’s a fun adventure for long-time fans, whilst also being a pretty good entry-point to the lore of the series if you’re yet to jump in; even if it does have some obvious flaws.