The sixth spinoff game in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series sees the CPUs enter an online world in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. It's been nearly a year removed from Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls, the last spinoff released, and eighteen months since Megadimension Neptunia VII, the last mainline release. Cyberdimension Neptunia also marks the series's first foray into Unreal Engine 4. With a greater focus on action combat than previous entries, Cyberdimension Neptunia provides a fresh take on the Neptunia series, but poor optimization and lackluster gameplay hold it back from being truly great.
Cyberdimension Neptunia follows the story of the four CPUs (Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert) as they play through the beta test of 4 Goddesses Online. Neptunia and friends are backed by a supporting cast consisting of their younger sisters: Nepgear, Uni, and the twins, Rom and Ram; plus other side characters from earlier games: Peashy, Compa, and Tamsoft, to name a few. As the party progress through the story, taking potshots at the likes of Sword Art Online and MMOs in general, there's a pervading sense of charm throughout. The Neptunia series isn't exactly known for hard-hitting storytelling, but it does gaming humor, fourth-wall breaking, and self-referential jokes quite well. Even as Neptune and the rest of the CPUs battle with hackers and cheaters, her lovable idiocy makes Cyberdimension Neptunia a lighthearted game.
Cyberdimension Neptunia also doesn't aim to bog you down with complex systems or battle controls. While it may have eschewed the turn-based systems from previous Neptunia games, the action combat is easy to learn and master. While you can control any one of twelve characters, they all play functionally the same: there's a basic attack, jump, items, a damage guard, plus an arrangement of up to eight skills. Monsters can have up to four elemental weaknesses, and exploiting those weaknesses can lead to a "guard break" status, wherein you do magnitudes more damage while the monster is knocked down. You'll rarely break the guards of regular mobs, but this is invaluable against bosses.
The majority of your time in Cyberdimension Neptunia will be spent navigating through its thirteen different dungeons. There's a nice mix of environments, from forested mazes to crystal caverns, and even though quests might ensure that you run them again and again, I never found myself bored in them. Conversely, in the hub city, you can view skits between characters, buy and upgrade weapons and armor, customize characters, and accept quests. There's a mix of skits with and without voice acting, both adding to the charm of Cyberdimension Neptunia. Much of the story progresses in town, which is a colorful mix of 2D buildings and super-deformed characters.
If this all sounds fine for an ARPG, that's not a bad assumption. Problems start to arise when fighting bosses, which can have hundreds of thousands of HP. Even when hitting seemingly high levels (60+), basic attacks only do 50 damage each, with skills pushing that number in the range of 300-1000 damage. Bosses are really an exercise in mindless button mashing. With few bosses pulling out special moves, and every dungeon packing a punching bag at the end, bosses feel more like a chore than an obstacle. Despite a decent arrangement of enemies in dungeons, there are only three different boss types, meaning you'll be dodging the same attacks again and again.
These issues with boss fights are further compounded by Cyberdimension Neptunia's struggle to maintain a consistent framerate. Even though Cyberdimension Neptunia is the first Neptunia game made with Unreal Engine 4, it's clear that Tamsoft struggled with optimization. Only in rare cases was I able to hit 60 FPS on my PS4, oftentimes hovering around half that, if not worse. While the 3D dungeons were quite large, low framerates reared their ugly head even when I wasn't in battle. The AI struggled too, especially in extended battles, refusing to heal themselves or others even when dangerously low on health.
Cyberdimension Neptunia is also strangely short. With playtime of earlier Neptunia entries easily passing 40+ hours, I hit the credits here at 20 hours, with just a smattering of post-game content left to do. Even still, as the health pools for standard enemies ramp up, the same issues with bosses reappear, and combat devolves into mindless button mashing, no matter the foe. Even with later enemies having unique attributes, like incredibly high defenses or only being weak to aerial moves, you're still just pounding the attack button over and over at the end of the day.
Cyberdimension Neptunia's main draw then seems to be the customization. With unique outfits, armor color palettes, plenty of accessories and more to play with, you can craft the goofiest outfits imaginable. Though dressing up the CPUs has no discernible effect on gameplay, the sheer number of options makes for a fun distraction. It may not draw in new fans, but longtime Neptunia aficionados will likely make use of the cutesy options at their disposal.
Despite the framerate issues, Tamsoft has taken the time to craft good-looking dungeons. While the focus of any good dungeon crawler should be on the monsters you're plowing through, there are some unique touches of flair for each map. A late-game craggy mountain in the "Chrono Wasteland" has glowing blue rings that slowly rotate, and the heart of the Yiear Sea of Trees has a soft, ethereal glow coming from the fireflies and other sprites floating about. The voice acting work in Cyberdimension Neptunia is excellent as always, and while the music isn't exactly memorable, it doesn't offensively stick out, either.
It is worth noting that Cyberdimension Neptunia does come with an online component, a first for any Neptunia game. Similarly to the singleplayer portion, you can accept quests, and adventure through the dungeons. These quests have more complex objectives than their offline counterparts and are far more difficult. As I was playing prerelease, there was no way for me to test the connectivity or find anyone to play with, but it's a nice inclusion, nonetheless.
While the use of Unreal Engine 4 and the PS4 may have been a good chance for some innovation in Cyberdimension Neptunia, there's this pervading sense of wasted potential. As charming and heartwarming as it may be, Cyberdimension Neptunia can't quite escape its dull gameplay, unfortunate framerate issues, or surprisingly short runtime. It may be some time before the next Neptunia game, but let's hope Compile Heart can learn from the mistakes made here.
Our Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online review was conducted on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
Even new technology and online features can't save Cyberdimension Neptunia from being a dull, forgettable experience. There are trappings of a good game here, and while the tone is consistent with other Neptunia games, Cyberdimension Neptunia's execution leaves much to be desired.(Review Policy)
- Charming Tone Throughout
- Customization Allows for Creativity
- Appalling Framerate Issues
- Core Gameplay is Dull
- Surprisingly Short