You play as Noire, the CPU Black Heart for Lastation, one of the four regions of the world. You’re one of the four goddesses, each ruling a region of the world which is known as Gamarket. You’re worshipped by your citizens, giving you more shares, which in turn makes you more powerful. You have generals helping you to conquering more territories, and in a pinch can even transform into your HDD form, making you even stronger than you already are. You have the upper hand, ahead of the other three goddesses – so what could go wrong, right?
Enter a distant traveler, promising that there is a way to unite all Gamarket without any more fighting. You follow the stranger and do as she says, just to realize that you’ve been tricked and lost all power and control over your land. It’s time to take back what’s yours and find another way to unite the world.
Before getting into the game further, I’d like to deliver some interesting pieces of information. This game is developed by Sting – the developer behind PSP games like Riviera: The Promised Land and Gungnir, and published by Idea Factory International – the ones responsible for bringing the Neptunia Re;birth Vita games to the West. It’s also PlayStation TV-compatible, which is great news seeing as how the first Neptunia Re;birth game is still incompatible as of this publication.
Enjoying and understanding Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart doesn’t require you to have played the mainline Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth games to understand what’s going on (since it’s an alternate universe take), but it’s definitely more enjoyable if you go into it knowing the goddesses beforehand and what they’re all about. That said, let’s dive into the game itself.
The premise of Hyperdevotion Noire is simple; your job as the future savior of the world is to adventure through the land gathering generals to help your cause, all the while searching for the one responsible for this whole situation. The other goddesses join you to help unite Gamarket and stop other generals who are going rogue and conquering territories.
The game is divided into chapters, with each chapter seeing you search out new generals to try and make them your allies. Most of them won’t listen to reason right off the bat, forcing you to fight them in order to prove your worth before hearing you out. That’s the bulk of the story – achieving more allies through battles and adventures, then getting to know and interacting with them. Ultimately, you’ll be ready to face the one behind it all – but first you must gather all your strength, and there’s definitely strength to be had in numbers.
You have an overview of a city at your disposal – there’s a shop (to buy and sell items), the item and disc development stations, the CPU hotel (where you’ll be able to view images, listen to music, and interact with your generals), the Basilicom (your home, where you’ll be able to take requests from citizens and decorate with new furniture), and the mission HQ (where you’ll be able to take on story or side missions).
As mentioned, there are two kinds of missions; story missions and side missions. Story missions are required for the story to move forward, where you’ll have scenes before and after battles, and once you clear them, another story mission will be waiting for you. Side missions are mostly comprised of a battle scenario, where you don’t actually advance the story and can repeat them as you’d like.
If you’ve read in the introduction that Sting was the developer and that rang a bell for you, you might be worried that the gameplay and battles could become too complex or complicated – but in Hyperdevotion Noire, they’ve pulled back and surprisingly enough kept it somewhat simple. You’ll have a defined number of characters to choose from to go to battle, and after choosing your team the combat will begin. You can move, attack, use skills, specials, lift boxes in order to throw them and be able to reach higher grounds… and that’s about it. It all takes place on a set map, with orientation happening on a grid-based system.
The most interesting aspect is something quite common for strategy RPGs; when you’re standing around another character, you’ll be able to use skills for less MP and achieve lily points – which in turn can be used to transform your goddesses to their stronger, HDD forms. All characters will be portrayed on chibi form during active gameplay, which means they show up as “smaller” and “cuter” versions of themselves.
During battles, both your characters and the enemies can inflict a number of ailments, which is my only gripe for the combat. It’s your usual poison, petrify and freeze – adding over ten other statuses for good measure. While it’s true that the tutorial will show you what each of them does, it’s a little hard to stay on top of what action they take, if they’ll last for all of battle and which item will heal them across that many flavours of malady.
The soundtrack is the same as the ones for your other standard RPGs – simply nothing extraordinary. You won’t be humming the tunes after playing the game, but at the same time it’s not an assault to the ears. That said, the voiceover for the game is great – giving you the option of English or original Japanese voice over, and delivering a quality experience whichever you choose.
As for the matter of graphics, the game looks sharp – both during battle and story segments – but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s sharp enough to be recognized as a native Vita title though – especially with the pop of the bright colors used for different characters. Also, while the chibi form used for battles might not appeal to every gamer or personal preference, it works and you’ll get used to it after the first couple of battles.
One thing I should note is that this game comes full of fanservice. It breaks the fourth-wall, makes jokes about the characters, and even puts those characters in risqué situations and positions. Every time you finish a chapter, you’ll spend some time interacting with the generals you recruited… and as the game progresses, you’ll be facing some very sensitive and suggestive situations with them.
The game isn’t terribly long however, and you can get it over with in about twenty hours if you’re playing on easy mode (there are three difficulties: easy, normal and hard) and are simply going through the story missions, one after the other. There are different endings to entice you back in, but not much in the way of post-game to enjoy. You may want to go back and max out the lily rank with all your characters, but all you’re getting for your trouble there are some additional scenes and trophies.
Like the most recent Neptunia games, there are lots of DLC options – both free and paid. The free DLC is mostly comprised of items and equipment that’ll help you get up and running for the beginning of the game, but if you’re willing to pay for it you can get additional party members that otherwise are not present in the game. The most notable of these are Tiara from the Fairy Fencer F PS3 game and both Compa and IF from the mainline Neptunia games. Ultimate sets of equipments for your members are also available for a premium if you want to go that route.
In the end, what’s left to say is that Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a well-rounded game that is appealing to both longtime fans of the series and newcomers. It doesn’t get too complex to jump into as a newcomer, though it can get deep with the lily system and different characters skills. As an original game developed for the Vita and/or a spin-off of the Neptunia series, it’s a great title.