Idol Eyes: A Review Of Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection
Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that idol simulators were “a thing,” as they’d say, and as such Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection represents my first foray into the realm. In it, the player acts as a manager guiding a fresh-faced ingenue in her efforts to become an international singing sensation. See, you’re… you’re simulating the career path of an idol. Someone’s idol.
These kinds of games popular in Japan, as is the Hyperdimension Neptunia series that this game is based on, but I’ve never played one before. And for better or for worse, what I got was exactly what I expected.
What makes a great game designer is an intimate knowledge of a chosen genre. For instance, Spelunkey couldn’t have been made by someone who just woke up and thought it might be super neat to make a platformer; it’s brilliant roguelike design and unique depth of challenge aren’t things that someone just stumbles upon.
Alternatively, think about the premier entry in any particular genre. Take Super Mario Bros. or the first Final Fantasy game–great games that absolutely defined genres. But, they’re skeletons of what those genres blossomed into; for better or for worse, a multitude of bells and whistles have been added to what we now refer to as platformers and role-playing games.
Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection ’s design makes it feel like one of those premier entries; it feels like it’s a shadow of what it could be, and tying in the first idea, like the exact kind of game I would make if someone told me to make an idol simulator. I’d say, “Aw, cool! We should put in, like… training, and recording sessions, and promotional campaigns, and maybe the girls could all form a band and make, like, a supergroup or something!”
And that’s all in there, which is really not great news since I was just spit-balling with those ideas. Everything feels completely sophomoric and bare bones in this game. Nearly everything is driven by menus; doing any of the aforementioned activities doesn’t lead to additional gameplay. For instance, rehearsal, recording, and practicing are all options that will usually boost stats, but they aren’t activities–they only lead to seemingly random outcomes (positive or negative).
As such, the game doesn’t feel rewardingly complex in the slightest. But all of this might be a moot point of discussion anyways, because the simulation aspects seem to be a secondary interest here, anyways.
As you look at the picture below, do you have any ideas what that secondary interest might be!?
Yes, Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection seems to be more of a vehicle for the slightly inane prancing around of barely-of-age girls. It’s an interesting conceit for a game, sure, but for one example there’s an awkward relationship meter in the game. Why is there a relationship meter that exists between you (the “manager”) and your chanteuse? There was one instance in a playthrough when I (again, as the “manager”) clearly stuck my hand in the girl’s pants. I’m not a business expert, but I don’t think that’s how this works.
Unless Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection exists to show me that this is how it works?!
I’m not condemning that kind of whatever outright, I’m just illustrating my point that this isn’t Football Manager 2014, or realistic in any way imaginable. In fact, most of the results seem to be completely random. Most actions performed in the game–again–are nothing more than menu options followed by cute animations, and it never feels like there’s any strategy involved. You build up stats (to a degree), but there isn’t a noticeable difference in any of these situational outcomes. It feels like there’s an arbitrary roadmap to success that Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection seems wholly unwilling to give up.
This lead to a very mad-dash play style. Since results felt completely random, it was easy to haphazardly choose menu options just to see what would happen. Remember when I said that the activities “usually boost” stats? All of the options should ostensibly have positive results, but every so often something bad will happen (like a stage accident or a poor turnout at a promotional appearance) that will decrease the stats.
It would be like fighting a monster in any other JRPG to gain experience, but instead the monster made fun of your shirt, so your overall ratings decreased after the battle. You know what should happen, but for some inexplicable reason, it doesn’t. Given the randomness in Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection, I could never once look at the screen–with its multitude of options–and know precisely what action should be taken to boost stats.
Which, again, is the kind of thing that points to this game being all about a look. People–developers and players–should realize that games can choose a hyper-stylized aesthetic and still have substance. It’s never too late for a series; maybe a sequel could be more fully-realized. The original Senran Kagura Burst looked like a breast fetishist’s wet dream come true, but it still showed promise as a competent brawler, and its sequel is said to focus more on combat, story, and an expanded bestiary.
Could anything realistically be added to Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection to make it more interesting? Elevating the gameplay to… well, anything at all besides trivial menu options would be a grand addition. But there’s a balance to be had, and a game like this could easily run the risk of being a jumbled mess like Conception 2 or a Sugar Ray album.
The uniqueness of Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection was enough to pull me in, and in a weird plug-and-play, mad scientist kind of way, I really enjoyed seeing what combinations of activities produced favorable results (again, in the most academic of senses). That novelty quickly wore off, though, and the seemingly random nature of virtually everything quickly became frustrating. It’s not that it’s unimaginative, but it’s not robust, either.
But most importantly, we got this game. We got this game in the West, and it’s a fascinating look at a genre that’s really taken a hold in a certain part of the world. And anything that broadens the horizons is a step in the right direction.