Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a third person hack and slash title from Compile Heart and Tamsoft. Like other spin-offs in the franchise, it has its own story that is separate from the main series. This collaboration happens to be the first Neptunia action game to appear only on modern consoles and not on handhelds as well. Naturally, this means the developers had the potential to do much more with this entry. As such, I was curious to see how the team handled this title.
*Review key provided by publisher. Limited edition purchased by reviewer.
The plot of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online starts out simple enough. The four Goddesses of Gamindustri have allowed their likeness to appear in an upcoming MMO. In recognition of this, the company making the game has offered them access to the game’s beta testing. Meanwhile, their four little sisters have gained access as well through a contest. After meeting up, the eight form an unofficial guild and go through the main story together.
As an NPC explains through quite a lot of exposition, a demon king once terrorized the land. The Goddesses eventually sealed it away, but two powerful minions are working to bring it back. It is up to the “chosen one” to gather four sacred treasures to revive the Goddesses, subdue the minions, and put an end to the demon king for good.
However, since this is a faux MMO, there is more to the story than that. Other people are playing the game and they all have their own goals. While some simply want to be the first to clear the story, others have more nefarious schemes in mind. These plot threads develop slowly over the course of the game, and when they finally steal the spotlight, the story becomes rather engrossing. The plot twists are really nothing new, but the game handles them very well and the result is quite enjoyable.
As with the rest of the series, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online has a fairly lighthearted tone. Early on, many of the jokes are not just common in similar works but have also seen heavy use throughout the Neptunia franchise. Still, these gags tend to rely more on the delivery and reaction than the setup, so they continue to be somewhat amusing. As the story goes on, quite a few new gags pop up. These range from rather ridiculous puns to parodies of stories with similar settings. Conversations often lampoon gaming culture in general as well. While they are not incredibly funny, these jokes are not terrible either and they help give the game a fun atmosphere.
Although the game works as a standalone title, characters from past games show up in side events. While the main cast work on tackling the game’s main story, these folks have adventures of their own as they enjoy the game in their own way. Other NPCs may not have events of their own, but they still have lots to say about their experiences in the game. Additionally, every character has a profile card that provides more insight into their background. While there is not much to them, these little touches help make the game that much more enjoyable.
In Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, the cast have created their own characters to use in the MMO. They still resemble their “real world” selves, but they have taken on new roles. Naturally, this means new outfits. From Neptune’s bright, beautifully ornate paladin armor to Ram’s colorful ninja ensemble, every new outfit looks absolutely gorgeous. As players progress through the game, they can find additional apparel and alternate colors in shops and chests. Each character can only wear clothes meant for their class, but there is still a fair amount of customization available here.
Aside from clothing options, players can also use accessories to modify the appearance of their characters. As with many Tamsoft titles, the game has a rather robust system for placing these items. Players can resize and move accessories around wherever they want using a fairly simple system. In addition to changing numbers to set how far an object is from the point of attachment, there is a new mode that allows players to move objects in relation to the camera. Players can change the attach point to ensure everything moves the way it should in relation to the character. The game also has options to alter the movement of accessories and attach them to other items. Every now and then an object’s attach point will randomly reset, but that is easy enough to fix. I am usually a fan of these things and this one is the best yet.
The levels Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online are relatively large. To help ease the burden on the console, the game only loads enemies from two sections of the map at any time. This can result in some noticeable frame rate drops when crossing a boundary that causes enemies to appear, but they do not last long. The environments themselves have a style that feels appropriate for the characters that inhabit the world. Still, there are times when the foliage can get in the way of the camera.
The game feels as though it is lacking enemy variation. Not only do the same models show up in multiple locations, they often have the same skin. There are actually a decent number of different foes, but seeing the same things in so many places gives the impression that there are fewer than there really are.
For the most part, enemies do a decent job of telegraphing their attacks. Many of these skills follow unique animations, so players who have seen them in action before can easily discern how to dodge them or when to block. Moves that share the same tells at least have the same timing. These visual cues work well enough and help keep the game feeling fair and fun.
Not many songs in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online feature the usual blips and bloops from previous entries in the series. Instead, the game focuses more on orchestral tracks. In addition to grand, sweeping pieces, there are a few tracks that combine classic instruments with more modern elements. Most of the music seems fairly generic and not particularly impressive, but it still sounds fairly pleasant overall.
The English vocal cast has a new Noire, and unlike Vert, her new voice actress sounds nothing like the previous one. Unfortunately, Noire does not have much presence within the main story. Since the game lacks English voice acting during side events, this means her new actress does not get much of a chance to show how well she can handle the character’s tsundere nature.
On the other hand, Vert has many lines in this title and her English voice actress’s performance is one of the highlights of the game. Vert does a lot of flirting and emoting over the course of the story and her tone always changes perfectly. Of course, the rest of the returning cast put in great performances as well and the new characters also live up to the high standards of the series. This quality voice acting goes a long way toward making the characters endearing and really helps the humor work.
While not having English voice acting for side events is nothing new, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online has a few without Japanese voice acting either. These are rather uncommon, but they do pop up every now and then. The performances themselves seem to suit the characters well enough and there is little else to complain about on this side of things.
Combat in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online takes place in real time. Unlike most games of this sort, characters only have one main attack combination. Other combat abilities come in the form of skills. Each character can equip up to 8 skills which activate with the press of a button rather than a complex input sequence. In addition to offensive techniques, there are also support skills that can heal the party or enhance their damage output. However, skills consume SP. Basic attacks refill the SP meter, so players will have to alternate between the two to keep up their assault.
Of course, enemies have attacks of their own. To help mitigate the damage they receive, every character can block and dodge. If a player blocks just before an attack lands, they will nullify all damage and perform a counterattack. While this is a nice feature, the dodging has some issues. I found that some characters had a habit of moving in the opposite direction of where I wanted them to go. When trying to gain some distance as Uni, she would often jump right up to the boss which is not ideal when playing as a long range class. This was especially problematic as projectiles have a habit of not dealing damage when right next to the target. She would also mix up right and left, hopping into the line of fire. Each character has their own dodge animations and I found that others were a bit more reliable.
Bosses have some troubles of their own. Many perform jumping attacks, and I have had more than one stand on my character’s head. While that did not happen often, I also ran into issues where these jump attacks would result in my character getting stuck inside them. Whenever this happened, I would still be stuck while the enemy jumped in place. The only solution I found was to switch characters, which is not ideal. Swapping characters requires operating menus, and the game does not stop when menus are open. Bosses also have moments where they simply stop moving. While I did not mind getting in some free hits, it is clear that the game was not functioning as it should.
Early on in the game, players gain access to Awakening mode. Activating Awakening causes a character’s stats to increase until the gauge depletes. As players go through the game, they will eventually earn Awakening skills as well. These are powerful attacks that use up three full bars of the meter. However, I ran into a few instances in which these skills would not activate. The camera moved, but it zoomed in on empty space and the attack was never actually performed. Thankfully, the meter remained unchanged as well, so I was always able to try again until it worked.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online feels as though it has a good balance between the characters. While physical skills deal more damage to an opponent’s health, magic is more effective on the break gauge. When an enemy’s break gauge drops to 0, they become immobile for a while and their defense drops. This makes having a team with access to both types of damage ideal. Of course, support skills are helpful as well, and all skills seem evenly distributed across the board. Still, most enemies focus on melee attacks, so those who prefer fighting at a distance will have an easier time with things. Conversely, fighting on the front lines tends to be more thrilling as there is less delay between incoming attacks. If the player falls, the team will return to base even if the rest of the party is still standing.
Outside of battles, players can explore the maps in search of treasure. Each dungeon has a few chests which often contain equipment and clothes, though some only have consumable items. There are also a number of gathering points in every level which act as a renewable source of materials. While players can not craft new equipment, they can upgrade the things they have. In this way, the game encourages people to continue playing in the pursuit of gaining greater power.
In addition to the single player campaign, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online lets players team up to take on additional missions online. Up to four people can form a party, but the game also lets players go solo. Not only will this allow people to continue playing once the servers become less populated, it also ensures players can attempt the less popular quests.
The goal of every multiplayer mission is to slay the bosses at the end. Minor mobs still appear between the starting point and the boss room teleporter, but there is little point in fighting them. While the bosses in the main story have a lot of health, the fiends in multiplayer often have quite a bit more. Since the game does not use bots to fill empty slots, these battles can take a long time without a full team. On the bright side, these quests offer superior rewards.
The chat function pops up fairly quickly. In addition to a text input system, it also includes a decent range of preset messages, so it is easy to communicate with players. However, the system does not show up in the lobby, so it is impossible to tell people to start or get out. The lobbies themselves disband automatically at the end of missions, which can be inconvenient for those who want to continue playing together.
Unfortunately, players who join other rooms will experience quite a bit of lag. While this could normally just be a result of a poor connection, I am far from the only one who has been experiencing this. The game is not so bad when hosting, but for everyone else, the game runs very poorly.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online has some issues. It is not rare to encounter glitches during battle and the combat can be somewhat simple. Still, having to block at just the right moment makes combat in close quarters quite intense, and the skill variety gives the game a bit of depth. Furthermore, the story was surprisingly good. It is nothing too original, but it paces itself well and presents the content in a way that keeps it entertaining. Of course, the pretty character designs and accessory customization system certainly do not hurt. Overall, I enjoyed my time with the game. It is not the best out there, but it is something fun to play between bigger releases.
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