Let’s face it, the real world is so last season. It’s all about the virtual space now, buckaroo. What with all the websites and apps and streaming, the just isn’t any fervour for the actual world. Heck, even fiction is becoming a little predictable. So here’s what we do: We put a virtual world in a fictional world. I know, mind blowing. Who would ever think to have a story about another story? Nobody, that’s who. We’ll make a mint with this. Just need to come up with a catchy name. The game’s got swords in it, obviously, and takes place online. The title should also be, sort of, artistic…
Get it? Because of that other series. Now, if that kind of referential humour doesn’t tickle your funny bone…then you should probably not invest dozens of hours into this latest foray into the realm of Neptunia. Seriously, there is a character called Kiria who is straight up You-Know-Who. Also, he is kind of annoying and sworn defender of the most annoying character I’ve seen in a Neptunia game for a while, keeping in mind there is a character who is the personification of micro-transactions. Her name is Black Cat Princess and she is horrible. Like, in-universe horrible. Like, manipulates those around her in order to see her own shallow dreams through, casting them aside when they no longer serve a purpose, regardless of the obviously fragile emotional situations they may possess horrible. Of course, this is far from the focal point of the game and, honestly, despite standing as one of the central antagonistic forces, she really doesn’t amount to anything. Which is good considering her personality, but bad considering plot progression. Not that that is the focal point either.
So, you may ask, what is the focal point? Well, it’s playing an MMORPG…by yourself. Though a team of four your party makes, you stand alone in battle, with only frustratingly obtuse AI to aid you. With classes all their own, skills and techniques really don’t matter all that much unless you yourself assume direct control of a character. Now, whilst being able to freely change between the CPUs and CPU Candidates on a whim is a nice feature which allows you to vary up your playstyle in the midst of battle, the fact that it is necessitous to effectively utilising characters is…less than ideal. This namely comes into play with Blanc, whose Priest class grants her a number of healing abilities (including one which cleanses status effects that seldom actually appear in the game). Anybody who has played an MMO will, of course, vouch for the benefits of Healers and their tremendous use in boss fights…when they do their job. Should they veer from their duty, they are akin to a rock that is actively making itself heavy out of spite…somehow. Geological mysteries aside, the simple fact that assuming the role of Healer for three less-than-skillful AI is often the most viable strategy is far from encouraging. If I’m going to take a backseat to the action, at least let it be in aid of actual people who are better than me. Although, maybe handing the reigns of damage over to the AI is a commentary on the landscape of video games and the inescapable fact that there is always somebody better than you whose skill will leave you lagging behind trying desperately to keep up with an ever increasing level of difficulty whilst all the while wondering whether or not you haven’t put enough effort into improving or simply lack the inherent skill to do so…I take it back, this game is genius.
In making this game about a game, a certain freedom was self-granted. For every basic MMORPG element, a joke about how basic it is is made. Every obvious villain, every expected story beat, every foreseeable quest is followed by a comedic explanation of why them’s the breaks. Which is nice…from a certain point of view. With the mindset of wanting to simply hit bad guys and maybe hear somebody call Arfoire old, this game is simple fun. However, with the mindset of desiring an intricate balance of MMO gameplay elements and a series of ever difficult quest lines, this game leaves a lot to be desired. Now, to be fair, if you fall into the latter category, you probably weren’t gunning for the game case with cute anime girls in the first place. You also probably have access to an actual MMO and people to play with. Yes, technically you can play online with other real people in Cyberdimension, but you never actually will and even after you try, because you found out it is an easy way to get some are materials, nobody else will actually be there…which is inordinately depressing.
As far as actual gameplay goes, Cyberdimension is pretty simple. Bad guys spawn, you hit them with whatever weapon your current character is wielding, you (hopefully) win. Of course the MMO aspect of skills is also present, albeit limited to four at a time (due to the mechanics of button mapping). Though containing such useful abilities as healing, cloaking weapons in an element and area of effect attacks, they often fall behind simple melee damage when it comes to plausibility. Apart from the ease of hitting a single button for damage, character’s MP Gauge can run itself down quickly on a skill heavy assault. Items can help counteract this, however those not obtained from drops can cost a pretty penny. A limit is also applied to the amount of items able to be held, with weak healing potions capping at fifteen and complete revival tinctures at a whopping two. Though finite, even two chances can mean the world, considering this is one of those titles where the player character losing results in an immediate withdrawal from a dungeon, regardless of how many other characters are battle ready. Whilst a frustrating mechanic on a good day, the fact that you are able to freely alternate between characters makes this infuriating. Losing AI Vert? No problem. Losing whilst playing as Vert? Goodbye, thanks for trying. Heck, you can have an AI faint, revive them, then switch to them, faint as them and then lose. It’s just so pointless. Sure, it adds a level of stress and challenge to bigger fights, but the rest of this game is pretty lax. I mean there is a character who is a cheetah because they cheat in the game…and the game explains the joke at least twice. That is not a place where challenge is born.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a fun game (with a really long name). It isn’t a difficult game, tending to confuse length of combat with complexity. Rote mechanics are poked fun at, rather than being in any way altered and references to similar series act as a shortcut for plot. Still, the Neptunia charm is present throughout the title and, if that’s your speed, makes for a pleasant (if not familiar) time. To put it all bluntly: Neptunia is like Marvel at this point. Sure you can enjoy the latest offering as a standalone, but if you haven’t been invested in the franchise’s various facets for years, you just won’t enjoy it to the fullest…or now what the heck a Malekith is.
4 Goddesses Online, 4 Goddesses Offline