NEXT STAGE! by Afilia Saga
If you were able to last that entire song, you’re made of tougher stuff than I. Today’s Under Your Radar is on a game of a genre that has literally never hit Western shores before it. In fact, the only other game of the genre to come westward was a digital-only PS1 import title that was put on the PSN store on the same day as this game, untranslated.
Yes, today we’re covering Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection (or Kami Jigen Idol Neptune PP as it’s known in Japan), a Neptunia spin-off developed by Tamsoft. It was localized for the Vita by NIS America and will probably be the last Neptunia title they ever handle, as the series seems to be handled by Idea Factory International now. And, if so, they sure managed to go out with a whimper.
The game’s plot is simple. 48 generic monsters have created an idol group known as MOB48. Their popularity is taking shares away from the goddesses. As shares are the source of their power, this is a bad thing. So, of course, they summon a producer from another world and force him to make one of them into a successful idol to take back their shares.
Picking whichever one takes you to their country, but the game plays exactly the same no matter which you pick, so the choice is cosmetic aside from the barebones plot elements. The game is mostly menu-based. You have a limited amount of days to make your character the most popular in the world, and you can do things to raise stats and popularity, but you have to watch your stress bar. Hitting maximum stress or running out of days makes you lose instantly. The former is a problem if you’re playing with your eyes closed. The latter? Don’t make me laugh.
There isn’t much to say about the menu-based part of the game aside from the cutscenes that are triggered and needed for 100%. Many of them require bad play to see… which is fine, since this is a very lenient game. Occasionally, though, you’re taken out of the menus to host concerts. Concerts are the single best way to raise popularity, but they only give gameplay in the form of controlling the camera and special effects to make the performance look as interesting as possible. I don’t consider this a huge negative, since this is a very important part of making such performances interesting.
I also don’t intend to criticize the song selection. Sure, there are only 5 songs and you usually want to stick to the one written for the character, but the game ends so quickly that they don’t have the time to overstay their welcome. My main problem with the songs, actually, is that the voice actors aren’t the ones singing it, not even the Japanese ones. Similarly, the 2D art for Uni, Rom and Ram was clearly not done by the series’ artist, as they look different from, say, Nepgear in a bad way.
The biggest issue with the game is its difficulty, or, rather, its lack of it. I have yet to see a single person have difficulty with the game, as the entire thing is too lenient. To win, you must simply be the top idol for one second. This leaves enough potential for a hard game if it weren’t for how the AI opponents are content enough to stay in their own countries doing nothing after maxing the place out.
As such, a player can just max out their own uncontested, then go to any other one and hold one concert to win. Alternatively, if you’re losing bad enough somehow and one of the AI enemies is winning by a lot, simply team up with them (you can form a group of up to 3, and you usually don’t want to) and you win by default. It’s hard to lose.
There are also some pointless extra modes, costumes and the like that are not worth discussing.
I see two types of people buying this game: diehard Neptunia fans and people who can’t read Japanese and want to see what the idol sim genre’s all about. To both of these groups of people, I recommend buying the game only after it drops into the bargain bin and no sooner.
I have no qualms against menu-based games or anything, but this is a bad menu-based game.