Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia
First published in issue 212 of HYPER magazine.
To laugh or to get angry; to let it pass as just following certain anime conventions or to be disgusted by the blatant sexism that sees well-endowed girls who look and sound 11 get exploited by the camera – I don’t know how I feel about Hyperdimension Neptunia.
Actually, that is a lie. I know exactly how I feel about the game. I feel disappointed. I feel uncomfortable, and most of all I’m annoyed that of all the Japanese games that could have been given an Australian release, it had to be this one.
The premise of the game shows so much promise: four goddesses, each the embodiment of a console (Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, Sega Neptune) are at war with each other over the land of Gameindustri. Much of the amusement and humour is drawn from references to the games industry as we know it, and while the game pokes fun at genre conventions and character representations (“Breasts are symbolic for both my maturity and fertility. The size of my bust equates to my aptitude as a goddess!” says the goddess Green Heart, while showing so much under-boob it’s a wonder they haven’t reached her knees), they are often done without purpose or reason. The game relies too heavily on the player’s existing knowledge of other games in order to entertain us, rather than an engaging story, clever use of dialogue and woven in gaming references, and gameplay dynamics that are actually worth playing.
With no worlds or towns to explore, you’re left to wander through uninteresting dungeon after uninteresting dungeon, each one boringly laid out with about as much to discover and get excited about as an airplane lunchbox. Running around awkwardly to a grating soundtrack, your exploration of the dungeon is frequently interrupted by random battles that quickly become repetitive and dull as you find yourself queuing up combos before hitting skip to avoid watching the same battle animations over and over and over again.
The characters are also needlessly irritating, with every female character sounding like a whiny, vacuous child with phenomenal levels of ditsy-ness (“Hello. I enjoy arts and crafts, and I’m good at math. I know I don’t look it, but it’s something I’m quite proud of,” says Compa, THE DITZ). The representation of females as stupid and shallow is offensive, and the level of fan service is discomforting. Case in point: almost every cut-scene involves an image still of a girl in a compromising position – the camera then slowly moves to and zooms in on the part of the screen that features the most crotch and holds it there. In an early scene, Neptune gets bandaged by Compa, but the bandages have only strategically covered parts of her breasts and crotch, exposing sufficient side-boob and EVERYTHING ELSE, all while we can hear the sound of her squeals. Every time Compa falls over, the camera also ensures we get to see what colour her knickers are (white).
Is this all a joke? If so, is it meant to be funny? Because rather than take a meta approach and be intelligently self-reflective and humourous, there appears to be a strong undertone of “Hurr…videogame references…durr…” and the kind of sexism that is simply too prevalent in a lot of Japanese anime. It’s gross. And while it could be funny, it’s just not. When all is combined, the interesting idea that showed so much promise falls flat on its white knicker-covered arse and stays there, waiting for the camera to zoom in.