Just a little guy.
Clearly, Compile Heart is as tired of making Neptunia games as we are of playing them, and when you’re tired of making grind heavy JRPG’s there’s only choice: You make a tactics RPG. Since Compile Heart is nothing if not a company that pays attention to character popularity polls, that game is HyperDevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart.
And to Compile Heart’s credit, they did a good enough job on HyperDevotion. The game competently ports the Neptunia battle system to a tactics RPG interface, and I’d even go so far as to argue that on a mechanical level, HyperDevotion is superior to previous Neptunia titles, if only just for making positioning your characters important.
The actual combat is pretty standard tactics RPG fare. You won’t really have to think too hard during missions, but the systems are competently put together and there’s a good variety in terms of objectives. Combat stays fresh even in the late game, the various characters are all appreciably different in combat, and the game gives you good reasons to use the whole cast. All in all, it’s good, if not particularly inventive.
HyperDevotion’s transition to being tactics rpg wasn’t completely smooth, however. The game still takes a very JRPG approach to grinding, which would be fine, but the battles in a tactics RPG are much longer than in a JRPG. I’ll often be farming for a specific drop from a monster, kill the monster, and then have to spend ten minutes cleaning up useless trash I don’t care about before I could try again, which kind of undermines that relaxing feel of progress one normally associates with a well made grind. This isn’t a huge issue, a lot of the grind is pretty easily ignorable, but it’s still rather frustrating if you want to really sink your teeth into completing all the game’s item recipes.
Visually, HyperDevotion does a great job. Compile Heart reuses art assets heavily between games, particularly with regard to monsters, and while this is usually fine, their games sometimes have problems with their art style being inconsistent. HyperDevotion resolves this problem by chibi-ifying the cast during the battles and scaling the various monsters so models with excessive detail tend to be larger in size. This helps the game feel much less patchwork, and the deformed versions of the characters are super cute to boot.
I like HyperDevotion Noire as a game, but at the same time I feel it’s a failure as a Neptunia game. Normally, the appeal of Neptunia games tends to be the writing, with all-woman casts and huge amounts of homoerotic sexual tension. Sure, there are also elements of character comedy and lots of fandom in-jokes from other series, but let’s be honest here: This is a game where the main heroines are moe console-girls who transform and lose their clothes: You’re here for gay women and/or their boobs.
I was surprised then to discover then that HyperDevotion introduces a new main character, in the form of an explicitly male self insert who serves as the titular Noire’s secretary. That’s fine, but the game also pushes this character as some sort of harem protagonist, with almost every other cast member fawning over him in at least one scene. His inclusion undermines much of the game’s subtext. Sure, the women of the cast may kiss each other in battle, but really at the end of the day they’re going to go back to the secretary. It’s queer baiting of the worst sort, which is far below what I’d expected of a Neptunia game.
It doesn’t help that even though the self-insert is bland as hell the game goes out of its way to give him lines and try to include him in the story. Despite being having tons of lines he still manages to contribute no humor or perspective to any situation that another character could not do better if given the chance.
This is even more sad because HyperDevotion does so many other things right. The female cast sharing kisses to power up each other’s attacks when next to each other is a great way to pander, and the actual scenes when the main character isn’t involved are excellent. I liked how Compile Heart stepped away from personifying companies and instead set to try and personify genres with the sports game girl, stealth game girl, etc, and even though some characters are perhaps a bit too heavily typecast, it’s still a nice break from the typical Neptunia companies.
So, is HyperDevotion worth your time? Well, if you’re not too bothered by the main character undermining much the subtext, and if you like tactics RPG’s, sure. The game is competently made and the girls are cute. If you liked Neptunia for the yuri subtext or shipping however, HyperDevotion will probably let you down.