America - Front
America - Back
By Karl Koebke 14th May 2014 | 5,031 views
Once I've reviewed a couple of games in a series it can become difficult to figure out what to write about in reviews for subsequent entries. Unless a series is at the pinnacle of its genre it can become tiresome playing entries that are plagued by same issues again and again. This is definitely where the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has fallen down for me, but Neptunia Producing Perfection seeks to break this trend with a spin-off where the characters from the RPG series try their hands at being idols.
There's trouble in the land of Neptunia. An idol group known as MOB48 has started dominating all the shares from every region in place of the corresponding CPU regardless of how many fetch quests they do. Rather than just beat the crap out of the singers (an option gladly put forth by Blanc), the four CPUs decide to defeat MOB48 at their own game by becoming idols themselves. They combine the last of their powers to summon forth an experienced producer to help in their efforts, but instead they get you. As the producer you must now decide who to take under your wing and help achieve stardom.
As fun as it may sound, don't expect too much from the storyline; it serves mostly as an excuse to interact with the CPUs and their sisters in different events and activities without worrying too much about the overall conflict that started the whole mess in the first place. In fact I saw the credits without ever actually seeing the MOB48 group beyond a basic silhouetted image. There is probably a 'true' ending which has more closure and can be achieved if you play through the campaign multiple times and achieve certain conditions, but there's little incentive for all but the most ardent fans to achieve such a feet.
Neptunia Producing Perfection's gameplay is almost easier to define by what it isn't than what it is. It's certainly not an RPG with turn based combat. Instead, the personalities that fans know and love from the series spend their time training to become idols, building up their fanbase, and putting on concerts with progressively larger audiences. So it's a dancing/rhythm game then, right? Well no, because when your idol puts on a concert there isn't actually any rhythm based gameplay to go along with it, instead your job is simply to change camera angles and initiate stage effects whenever you hear the crowd get excited. So Neptunia Producing Perfection is just what its name would suggest, even though it may boggle your mind - it is a pure idol management game. But, to be honest, this exemplifies the Neptunia franchise: fun and interesting characters stuck in a mire of uninteresting and repetitive gameplay.
Developing someone into a top idol is easier than you might think. Every day you decide on an activity for your idol to take part in, ranging from ad campaigns and recording sessions that increase their fan base, to dancing practice or vocal training that foster their talents. Each task, however, includes a chance to increase the idol's stress levels, which you can bring down by giving them a chance to rest. Sometimes these activities feature unique scenes with the other characters, like Nepgear making a robot version of Neptune to play with because she gets lonely or Blanc simultaneously reading a book to one of her twin sisters while she plays tag with the other in a superhuman act of parenting. Most of the time, though, you'll just be treated to identical pieces of text that play out as your idol either performs the task to a good, bad, or neutral level, with their stats or fan percentage changing accordingly.
Management type games can be highly addictive and rewarding, but you need to see some manifestation of your efforts for it to all seem meaningful. If I'm managing a player in MLB: The Show, for instance, I want to watch him noticeably improve due to his efforts and work his way from a small local team all the way to the majors. Neptunia Producing Perfection doesn't really feature anything like that. There's a monthly idol ranking update which seems to fluctuate randomly but will in fact steadily improve with your efforts, but what I really wanted to see was some kind of effect on the concerts. If I'm just starting out and my idol is supposedly terrible at everything then I would expect her to be performing at a much smaller, less impressive concert than when you've trained her up to the top of her field, but that isn't the case; the concerts are exactly the same no matter what state your character is in, and your own involvement in said concerts is minimal as you merely change the camera angles and set off stage effects in an attempt to excite the crowd.
The best way I can think to describe the sensation of playing this title is it's like having a swimming competition in white water rapids. Ignoring the bone breaking injuries and probable death that would go along with such a contest, you swim with all your might but you have no idea if it has any effect on the overall outcome because the momentum of the river seems to carry you to where you're going anyway, regardless of your efforts. It was fun to hang out with the characters from the series once again, but my own input into what was going on felt ineffectual and minimal at best.
Another major issue with Neptunia PP is the value prospect. As far as I can tell there are only five songs to listen to, and my first playthrough as Neptune's manager only took me four hours to complete. There's a free concert mode where you can set up concerts with different characters, but the miniscule list of songs makes this a pretty dull prospect. Additionally, you can go into a mode where you just dress up and interact with one of the characters or even use them as an alarm clock, but these are minor to a very short title that has a steep $40 price tag.
Neptunia PP is a disappointing management game - nothing you do seems to have any meaningful effect on the idol herself, the concerts are repetitive and quickly become irritating once you've heard the same song seven or eight times over, and it all comes at an inappropriately steep price tag. In short, I would only recommend it to the most dedicated of Neptunia fans.