Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection (PSV)

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Title: Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection
Format: Game Card / PlayStation Network Download (1.4 GB)
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Original MSRP: $39.99 / $51.99 (Limited Edition)
ESRB Rating: T
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
For those unfamiliar with the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise, the game’s biggest claim to fame is that the characters in the game are all based (loosely) on video game consoles or companies. The world of Gamindustri is split into four regions, each with a CPU (Console Patron Unit) that serves as a goddess of sorts. These goddesses, Noire of Lastation (PlayStation), Vert of Leanbox (Xbox), Blanc of Lowee (Wii), and Neptune of Planeptune (fictitious Sega console), derive power from the prayers of the people (referred to as ‘shares’).

Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is a spinoff of the main games. In it, the CPUs find the shares of the world being taken up not by each other but by a new idol group, MOB48. MOB48’s increasingly popular songs and concerts are becoming a diversion to the people of Gamindustri and the CPUs powers to protect the world are suffering as a result. Putting aside their differences, the CPUs convene and determine that the best course of action would be to also become idols and beat MOB48 through the power of song and dance. Using the last of their power, they manage to summon a producer/manager to help them on their path to regaining their shares.

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Despite being a part of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Producing Perfection’s game play is not an RPG like the rest of the series. Producing Perfection is an idol management simulator, a genre of game where the player plays the manager or producer of a Japanese pop-idol seeking to help lead them to stardom. In Producing Perfection, the player has the choice of producing one of the four CPU characters. From there, the game revolves around planning her daily activities and directing her concerts to try to regain the shares lost to MOB48 and the other CPUs.

Daily activities include: work, which can be things like signing events or radio shows that boost the number of fans; training, which increases the CPU’s stats; relaxing, which reduce the CPU’s stress or lets her interact with other characters; or putting on a concert, which regains shares. With the exception of concerts, which I’ll get to shortly, choosing between these daily activities is pretty much the entirety of the gameplay of Producing Perfection. The outcome of the choices here are semi-random, based slightly on the CPU’s current level of “guts” and “stress.” That is, trying to practice singing, for example, with guts low and stress high will more often yield bad results compared to the opposite. Occasionally these daily choices will lead to story events which can have dialogue choices that also affect the CPU’s stats if the proper or improper dialogue choice is made. Other events may also raise or lower the CPU’s affection level and interacting with the CPU’s of other nations will boost friendship levels with those characters (useful once the ability to form an Idol Duo or Idol Trio is opened up).

While the description of that gameplay probably makes it sound like there is a ton of planning involved, that’s really not the case. Producing Perfection ends up just boiling down to randomly picking work to do or training to undergo and then occasionally letting the CPU relax when her stress becomes too high. Stats increase at such a slow pace, and have so little impact anyway, that it’s easy to stop caring about raising them. The biggest curve balls the game throws are random events that occur from time-to-time but these rarely do more than delay whatever you wanted to do by a couple days while you regain guts or stress level. Perhaps there would be more urgency in the planning if there were a stricter time limit in play but the 180 (game) days given are incredibly lenient. My first playthrough was very leisurely and I easily completed the game in 90 days.

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Concerts are the one gameplay element that is different, essentially a mini-game during which you must help produce the concert to make it more fun for the concert goers. This really just amounts to changing the camera angles and setting off stage effects while watching the concert. Getting the most points in a given song is brain-dead easy: mash all of your stage effects when the crowd is cheering and be constantly moving the camera angles. This strategy works for all the songs (of which there are only five, and one is only playable during the final concert) and even adding another idol to make a duo or trio doesn’t change anything besides having another performer to focus the camera on.

On top off all that, the game is incredibly short. My leisurely first playthrough only took about three and a half hours and a few subsequent ones I played took even less than that. There are eight endings to unlock, two per CPU, plus a bad ending for each character for maxing out stress level so there is a little bit of replayability to pad out the length. However with the gameplay largely a bust, the weight of the game falls on the story to hold it. And the story itself doesn’t really hold that weight. There are moments of brilliance, where the characters being a proxy for the game industry allows for some snarky comment or a nice joke that those steeped in game culture will get. But by and large there isn’t much to Producing Perfection, in story or in gameplay, to hold the player’s interest. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that the game is as short as it is.

Visuals
Character designs have always been a strong point of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, in my mind. They manage to take the essence of a console or game company and distill it down into a costume. Some are perhaps brain dead obvious, for instance Vert’s collar is clearly just the Xbox logo. Others are a bit more covert, for instance Noire’s younger sister Uni whom I saw a few times before realizing that the silver circle on her costume was reminding me of the back of a PSP. Sadly, while the upcoming game in the series, Planet Destroyer Black Heart, is teasing a ton of game-companies-turned-characters that are quite clever, Producing Perfection really just sticks to the four CPUs and their younger sisters with a quick cameo of a couple of past characters.

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As is usual for these games, the 2D art is bright and colorful and should be appealing to those with a stomach for cute anime girls. The game reuses a lot of assets from previous games in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series though, particularly the backgrounds. The 3D parts of the game, which are the concerts, aren’t as up to par. Character models look alright and have a decent variety of costumes and accessories to equip. Venues are much less impressive and crowds seem to be pulled from the Guitar Hero PS2 days where they consist of a couple dozen clones doing the same motions at the same times. Assuming there even is a crowd, since the game replaces the crowd with a dark area of moving glow sticks for larger venues.

Audio
As usual for an NIS America release, Producing Perfection offers either the original Japanese voices or dubbed English voices depending on player preference. Both voice sets give a solid performance but the main menu gives the option to enable or disable select characters should the player feel the need. As is sometimes the case, the English voices suffer a bit as the English voice actresses occasionally work to imitate the original voices. That said, several of the English VA do seem to be coming into the roles a bit better than in previous games. Melissa Fahn, in particular, as Neptune seemed to giving the character a bit of her own take rather than trying to copy Rie Takana’s infectiously cute Neptune. The only role not voiced in the game is the Producer/Manager character, but since that is supposed to be the self-insert for the player of the game, it isn’t surprising that the role isn’t voiced.

An idol game wouldn’t be complete without some music, of course. Producing Perfection has five concert songs that the CPUs can perform. Sadly for those who prefer the English voices, but the songs were not re-recorded with the English cast. There are recordings for each of the four Japanese cast so that the song adapts to match the specific member(s) that are performing the song. All of the concert songs are upbeat J-pop songs, so an ear for that genre may be required to enjoy the concerts.

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Online/Multiplayer
This game is single player only.

Conclusion
Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection is really a game designed with fans of the series in mind; those who may be able to wring some enjoyment from interacting with their favorite characters. For everyone else, the unengaging gameplay may have trouble holding their interest while bridging the gaps between the occasional well-placed jab at the game industry.

Producing Perfection has the undertones of a better game in it, one with more content, a story worth caring about, and some actual challenge in planning out the Idol’s days. Perhaps a sequel might manage to weave those better ideas into a more soothing melody, but as it stands this game is just a bit too out of tune to produce anything more than a gathering of second graders on recorders.

Score:
5.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built-in screen capture feature.

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