Spin-off titles have become so common that these releases have now established themselves in the annual gaming calendar. What was once a hazardous and risky investment has now turned into an incredibly lucrative sector of gaming, when successful obviously. Strong after its strategic spin-off in Hyperdevotion Noire, Nep-Nep and her crew are now embarking on a much more action oriented spin off, duly titled Action Unleashed.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U stars the main characters from the first and second games in the main series, namely the CPUs in the first and the CPU Candidates in the second, in what can also be called a prologue to the third re-release of the series, being Re;Birth 3: Victory. Action Unleashed takes place in a much more, as Neptune herself would define, chill Gamindustri, and there seems to not be much to do for the CPUs and their Candidate sisters. This is why Dengekiko and Famitsu decide to write reports on the CPU and Candidates. These reports are mainly based on quests which the player has to play through, which means that the plot in the game is basically that; beating the hell out of anything that moves, for the sake of the journalists writing about you.
One could very well start playing the game without realising that it is a spin-off, since the main pieces of the puzzle are all there: it takes place in Gamindustri, Neptune and co. are present, and the dialogue is as fuzzy and funny as ever. Upon encountering the first gameplay minutes though, the opinion quickly changes and one will definitely realise how different this is to traditional Neptunian games. This is because while Hyperdimension Neptunia 1 and 2 featured a turn based approach, Action Unleashed takes the form of a proper hack and slash title, which glorifies the CPUs much more than the previous titles. Action Unleashed features a combo system reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors system, which sees the combos differ by the number of presses of the light and heavy attacks, assigned respectively to square and triangle, a system which suits the game and the characters very well and which, honestly, feels much more satisfying than previous titles, without taking anything from them.
As mentioned just above, combat is quick and action-oriented, and is also very easy to learn. At the start of the missions the player chooses a pair of characters among the respective group, such as CPUs or Candidates, and heads of to the mission. Players are then able to switch between the main character and the second by pressing the down button on the Vita’s D-Pad, and while one character is fighting, the other is resting and earning HDD gauge faster than the character you are controlling. This is a smart move from the developers, who try to ensure you maximize your characters by switching back and forth to adapt to the situation at hand.
Apart from the light and heavy attacks, players can also jump, decently instead of the usual bunny hop of the main series. More powerful abilities can also be used but on a limited basis, so one should be careful when to use these attacks. Characters can also access Hard Drive Divinity mode, where they deal much more damage than normal to the enemies. During HDD mode, the character can also perform an EXE attack, which deals incredible damage to anyone unlucky enough to be targeted by it. This EXE attack will deplete all remaining HDD gauge, be it just shy of being full or seconds from expiring, so keeping an eye on the meter is very important to determine the timing of such an attack. All ten characters, which include Neptune and the other CPUs, Nepgear and the other CPU Candidates along with Dengekiko and Famitsu all feature different combos and all feel satisfying. Although the roster is limited to ten, variety is not a problem and characters all have their own fighting style. Uni, for example, has a gun as her main weapon, so fighting with her would feature much more flexibility and cover than, say, one selects Neptune.
As a bunch of Japanese games have recently started doing, Action Unleashed features a fan-service mechanic as well, in the form of clothes ripping when exceeding a certain threshold for damage or also if performing repetitive heavy attacks. The clothes of the characters will get torn little by little until they end up in their underwear. For those soft enough to be irritated by this, there are indestructible clothes to be unlocked later on in the campaign. While it adds an element of realism to the game since these things do happen, it still feels a little off that clothes tear so easily especially when the CPUs are this strong to be able to rip anything in the way in half.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U also has replayability features, so in case Neptune’s charm does not do the trick, there is something else begging you to play more. Killing enemies will net you medals, and upon exchanging a number of these you will be able to earn perks or weapons. These medals also carry over to a sort of horde mode, where players will try to fend off as much enemies as possible one after the other. This mode is unlocked after beating the main campaign, so one will not go in inexperienced or relatively weak.
In terms of graphics, the colours of the game are as bright and joyous as ever. Character design is terrific as always, and the graphic style is a joy to watch. The action is also incredibly smooth, and very eye pleasing as well, without any frame issues whatsoever. The dialogue between characters is quite silly, honestly, but it is always a joy seeing what Nep-Nep will come up with next, and fans of the series will definitely laugh heartily at the conversations during the game.
Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed features everything one could want from a Neptune game, and more. Apart from the usual, funny story and the witty dialogue, it also features a very rewarding combat system which suits the series more than its usual turn based system. While Action Unleashed lacks a real plot to keep players absorbed, the characters and gameplay are definitely enough to ensure players are hooked from start to finish.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.