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Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution

Written by Ross Locksley on 13 May 2024


Distributor Idea Factory • Price £44.99


I've always been a huge fan of the character designs from the Neptunia series, ever since the first entry way back in 2010. I still have the limited edition release and a figure of Neptunia herself, the anime-meets-Tron aesthetic even inspiring one of the outfits for our own mascot, Mizuki.

I've fallen off Neptunia games of late, there just seemed to be a new one every 6 months and I just don't have the playtime to pick up every release, though I understand that the series has been utilised in genres outside of its RPG roots (thanks to being set in its own "multiverse) and remains a hugely popular IP today. So I was naturally very interested to see what the latest iteration had to offer.

After a fun intro that introduced the cast, we're thrown into the game proper, wherein the older version of Neptune (Older Nep) we meet is a dimension-hopping collector of bugs, originating in the "Ultra" dimension, separate from the Hyperdimension that serves as home for the main series of games. She's served by an antagonistic pixie called Croise who she captured and uses to help her find insects and cross dimensions. When she loses the book in which Croise has been trapped, she's forced to work with the locals until her ticket to another dimension can be relocated.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution
Boom - Older NEP tools up

Her latest hop finds her in a universe where games are developed, and upon finding/[laying an old game, reactivates three Goddesses who talk her into taking on the role of head honcho at their game company which she names "Victory". The three Goddesses are developers that have been dubbed the "Failure Goddesses" and in line with Neptunia lore, are modelled after consoles. We meet Pippih (Apple Pippin), Jagaa (Atari Jaguar) and Reedio (3DO). I remember all of these consoles and "failure" seems an apt group name, though as I'm always a fan of the underdog I am delighted to see some female designs that reflect these historical relics.

The game throws you into a tutorial fight against a character called F-Sha, which teaches you all the basic attack and defence moves (being an action RPG these are all in real time) before throwing your squad into the melee and showing you how to chain attacks by switching between girls and building up the ferocity of your attacks. Mercifully this is done via an onscreen prompt which keeps you focussed throughout the noisy, explosive action that come at you in such short order. It's all a bit chaotic at first, as you try and remember which key activates what, but the HUD does provide you with plenty of prompts so that, even in your first battle, you don't feel lost. It does make the combat feel a bit "button mashy" but you can work to the mechanics and add nuance as you get used to where everything is.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution
Battles take place with 4 characters working together - chain your attacks by switching characters

Once the initial fight is over, you're introduced to your role as CEO of Victory, and the management aspect of the game is laid out. You can make whatever games you like at your company, which is achieved by developing discs for your party members that will enhance their abilities (extra XP, more damage etc) and these will take some time to develop. Once the games are ready, you need to deliver them to a game-hungry audience, and this can only happen by opening up new areas on the map by exploring and clearing them of enemies. The more you open, the wider your audience so clearing as many as possible is advantageous. Rewards are left in these areas so visit as many as you can quickly in order not to miss any.

You can wander dungeons freely, initiating combat by attacking enemies (or bumping into them)  and you can assign new attacks to two buttons to make things easier as you level up. Overall it's a fairly traditional system that will be familiar to fans of the series. You can also find denizens in these areas who will offer up tasks in return for rewards, which may involve a minimum number of kills or opening specific doors.

The fast pace of the battles did make things seem a bit less organised than, say, Tactics Ogre or Disgaea where you'll take turns and have a bit of time to think, so how much you enjoy the battles here will largely depend on your preferred style of RPG. Once I found my rhythm I did get along with the game pretty well, but around level 40 I hit a difficulty spike that was pretty painful. I had to slink off and grind like hell to give myself a fighting chance. The link chains became critical to inflicting the sort of damage needed for these latter enemies, so I'd absolutely recommend mastering this as soon as you can.  Thankfully the game helps you out by having your team monitor their health and request potions when required, which allows you to spend more time thinking offensively. I didn't mind grinding so much as I've been playing in short bursts, and that prevents tedium setting in. If you're someone who wants to complete the game quickly, this aspect could become frustrating.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution
Handling sucks but the races are a neat innovation - time trials and races, plus you can customise the bike design too!

A few unusual touches have been added, my favourite being a motorbike that can speed up travel through dungeons (you can even race monsters on it!) but the handling is a complete dog. Happily you can add mods to improve things as well as change the bike design, adding an extra element of fiddling to the game.

There's a sense of Neptunia "doing what it does" as it just jumps in to the story without much explanation, assuming you'll have a basic grasp of world concepts by explaining very little, but in a way that's part of the charm - it plays to its fans, probably expecting new players to start with earlier games. Thankfully I remember enough from a decade ago to have a good grasp, but it's a bit of a cold open for anyone new (despite one or two throwaway lines of dialogue specifically addressed to "newbies".

The management hub is bright and colourful, with your CEO powers enabling you to change the style of the company building (I went for "RPG") and shows your employees turning up in the plaza, each of which will have unique development skills. You'll have to manage game development and your capital investment to grow the business, and it's actually quite a fun little business sim all on its own. Changing your business style into other genres will attract different developers and allow you to add more styles to each game, furthermore you can add "idea gems" during development which can create buffs for your characters in battle. It grants the player a feeling of achievement outside of levelling the characters and allows for some fun customisation of your growing empire.

Neptunia Game Maker R:Evolution
The management hub is colourful and easy to navigate

Music is fine, if repetitive. The English cast give their lines plenty of gusto, but I still find it a bit twee and prefer that tone in Japanese where it seems to fit better. The repetitive after-battle dialogue becomes tiresome on long sessions, but you can always mute the girls if it becomes too much.

Graphically the game looks nice and crisp on the Switch, it's not groundbreaking but then it really doesn't need a lot of detailed, realistic backgrounds given the cartoon nature of the Neptunia series anyway. A few occasional graphical glitches aside (monsters getting stuck on walls) it's all pretty seamless.

What we have here is a fun, bright little action RPG that had a few niggles but a big emphasis on fun. You can forgive it the occasional stuck monster or insane difficulty spike due to the sugary nature of what's on screen - earnest characters kicking ass and trying to better themselves, and looking cute doing it.

8
A fun action RPG with some interesting business sim elements to keep you engaged, all tied up with that signature Neptunia charm.

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.


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