In the last Hyperdimension Neptunia, we saw intrepid protagonists save the world known as Gamindustri from evil. In Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2, brought to us by NIS America, we find Gamindustri has been taken over by a dark force called Arfoire. The player’s job is to travel and look for others to help rescue the world again. But, along the way, you need to change the views of people you interact with and convince them to actually join you. The gameplay is turn based with a free roaming component where characters move around the battle area to perform attacks that have different radii. When not in battle, the game is text based and uses 2D backgrounds. (There is a lot of reading involved.) If you’ve ever played a visual novel, then you will find this game to be similar. The first thing you’ll notice in the new game is the intro song called “Kirihirake! Glazy☆star!” voiced by Nao. It’s great, so don’t skip over it; I recommend listening every time you start the game.
The game’s story begins three years after a battle in which Arfoire captured all the CPU’s (Console Patron Unit) from each nation. The CPU’s are guardians that represent each nation, so they are very important. We see that Compa and IF, protagonists from the first game, have gone back to rescue the CPU’s, but they are only able to rescue Neptunia’s younger sister, the CPU candidate Nepgear. They have to find a way to save not just the captured CPU’s, but the whole world from the dark force of Arfoire. You start with three members in your party and are sent to seek the help of each nation’s mascot. You try to convince them to join you on your mission to save the CPU’s and stop Arfoire from gaining total power over the world. Along the way, you have to complete quests that will gain you shares. The shares are how much faith the people have in different nations or Arfoire. So, you want to lower the Arfoire shares and raise your nations or other allied nations shares instead.
There are four nations: Planeptune (your nation), Lastation, Lowee, and Leanbox. Each nation has a CPU, which are being held captive, and a CPU candidate (except Leanbox; they don’t have one but Lowee makes up for it since they have a set of twins). Arfoire has four main bosses who will try to stop you from rallying the nations while they try to revive their deity named Sin, but they mostly show up close to the end of the game and belong to the group Criminals of the Free World (CFW). Along the way you will keep defeating Linda, an underling of Arfoire (who is nicknamed Underling by your party), who, after being defeated, runs away to inevitably fight you later over and over again.
This story sounds like any other RPG, right? Well, there is a unique underlying theme which deals with the piracy of video games and how it is causing harm to the game industry. The developers make this the main point of the story and go as far as to name monsters after the same piracy products that are out there such as the R4, which is a chip that was sold to play Nintendo DS ROMs that people download illegally. The goal of the game is to save Gamindusti from the evils of the piracy world and some of the character names are even derived from the companies that developed the game; for example, the character Nisa, who is a crime fighter, is named after none other then our good friends from NIS America, and the idol singer character 5pb is from the company 5pb (side note: the voice of 5pb is Nao, who sings the opening to the game and is working under the company 5pb). Also, Gust is based on the Gust Corporation which makes the Atelier series, so that is why she is an alchemist. If you're a fan of Atelier, you will notice her outfit is similar to the ones worn in that series. If you keep your eyes open you will notice references to other games which range from the names of quests, such as "Gal can" which is a reference to the game Gal Gun, to the appearance of two very famous plumbers with mustaches. Those are a few Easter eggs to look out for and you should keep your eyes out for other characters from classic games.
The only thing that got to me in a bad way was how much the game preached about piracy. It constantly tells the player that it is bad to upload gameplay footage online, play games illegally, and so on. I understand these things are bad, but I don't need to keep hearing it every second -- it just puts me off from enjoying the game. To be fair, there is a battle scene where both sides explain why they believe they are fighting for the right reasons. One of the points given by a CFW boss is that if game developers have a passion for what they do, then they should share their gifts with the rest of the world for free to make everyone happy. I'd say yes to that idea, but developers make a living off of their passion, so if they invest in developing a game and don't see any returns they'll stop making games. After a few hours of playing, the message that players would enjoy games more if they pay instead of obtaining them illegally was more than hammered into me. I thought the message was repeated a little too much, and I got so tired of hearing it that I wanted to stop playing. But, I soon returned mostly due to the characters.
Just like a visual novel, there are many characters to fall in love with and romance. You get to pick who you like the best and assign them to lead the team, but you can't have them play as the main character in the story. I personally fell for Uni and Cave, but unfortunately there is not much gameplay with them which left me wanting more. There is a new synthesizing/alchemy system in the game, so you can gather ingredients to later mix and create useful items. But here is the thing: you will end up maxing out on some ingredients but will only have one or two of the final, most powerful ingredient. Plus, as I found out, sometimes it is easier to use the characters special skills to heal and cure ailments so spending money on items will seem pointless. Also, money is not that easy to get unless you complete quests or repeat the same dungeons. I am not saying you will be broke, but since they have purchasable accessories for the characters along with different outfits, you will be spending most of your money on those over anything else. Since you can't preview the outfit till you buy it and they are not cheap, you will find yourself grinding a lot to see your favorite character with cat ears or sexy glasses.
There is a nice element to the game in which you can download templates for Nepgear, the CPU candidate from Planeptune, under Hard Drive Divinity (HDD) from the NIS website and follow their steps to change her outfits. They also plan to release more DLC later on. They might offer it for free from their site, but we don't have that information at this time. I feel that it would have been nice to do this for the other CPU candidates. Also fun, in the towns there is a Chirper which is like a forum or twitter element where NPCs hang out and post random things. Once in a while this will trigger an event. There are some funny characters, *cough* game designer *cough*, that appear there, so I recommend you look for them to trigger events because they might have some useful or funny things to say.
Another thing I thought was cool is that you get the option of having the original Japanese voices with English subtitles or just English voices with English subtitles. I also noticed the familiar voice of Kyle Herbert; I looked into it, and yes, he plays a few characters. He even tweeted, "wanna hear me be a narrator, old man, ooze, a gay boy band member, a monster, and a mecha? Get Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2." The Japanese voice actress who plays Nepgear is none other than Yui Horie, so I could listen to her forever.
The game is enjoyable, but due to the preachiness and the synthesizing system being useless, a lot was really taken away from the fun factor. I did enjoy playing Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2, and I need to play it again so I can unlock everything in the GC gallery so I am off to play it again!