+Controls are straightforward and welcoming to all new players
+Party system is easily learnable and allows for quite a few different party make-ups
+Multiplayer is a blast when a party can be formed
-Story based objectives can be hard to follow and can be confusing for players to track.
-Framerate dips are extremely problematic during missions on Logi Mountain
-Side-quests are extremely predictable but must be completed multiple times.
For nearly five years, I’ve been almost seemingly obsessed with the Neptunia franchise. In recent years, however, my fandom has begun to fade away due to the lack of interest I’ve had. Not because the games aren’t good, but rather because the games had begun to wander down the beaten path. The games had begun to grow stale, the humor had done so as well and it had truly seemed that our favorite troop of women had finally begun to run out of steam.
This time around, it seems that the team Tamsoft has decided to do something completely new. They’ve ditched their original graphics engine in order to use something entirely new: Unreal Engine 4. For a company such as themselves, Tamsoft has done a lot in order to ensure their game could be as beautiful as it is. In truth, it was a much-needed overhaul from what the series had previously been.
But this time, even combat has been overhauled. We’re no longer seeing turn-based RPG mechanics. Rather, we’re now getting a glimpse of an action RPG, one that’s ready to take on a more kinetic pace than what the series had previously seen. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s slightly plagued with some technical issues we must discuss, which unfortunately means that our review is going to be nitpicking a bit.
One of the opening pieces is odd enough as it is and can take play. The game instantly notifies you that you are prohibited from sharing the software illegally. Something I don’t think I’ve ever come across outside of reading the proper documentation that came with my games. Right from there, we’re given a glimpse at an immediate “Loading Data” sequence, which involves what you would imagine: A loading sequence with flashy numbers that move across the screen while we float through cyberspace.
In truth, I had thought my game had broken due to how long it took for the game to officially let me begin playing the title itself. During this time you actually get to go through every single one of the studio logos, but even then, you still have to watch this screen as the game itself loads, which takes a few minutes on its own. Sadly, once this one is complete, you still have to sit through another one, which sees character sprites dancing about. Once completed, you’ll finally be introduced to the game through its opening cinematic, which in turn directs you to the games start menu.
The most daunting thing about all of this? It does this every time you start up your game. Sadly, even with a 1TB HDD at 7200RPM or even my Samsung 256GB at 6.0 GB/s, I still found my load times clocking in between 3 and 4 minutes. Just as one would expect, the game does this as its loading every bit of the game before it starts. Let alone is it loading the game, it’s even prepping every inch of the world itself. I’m actually going to blame the games new engine with its rather high-resolution assets, which one could easily assume is to allow high-res scaling on 4K TVs. Unfortunately, the game – even now – isn’t optimized well.
I’ve noticed frequent framerate drops in some of the game’s zones such as the Logi Mountain where framerates would tumble downwards and struggle to keep up with everything going on. But there’s more to discuss than these irritations. There’s still plenty to the game we have to even mention within the game.
As one would expect, the game puts our four CPU Goddesses in the hot seat once more. Players will once more become reacquainted with Noire, Vert, Blanc, Neptune, and their little sisters once again. Their adventure this time sets them forth on an adventure as they began to beta test a new online game called 4 Goddesses Online – a title that had previously existed within this games universe as Vert is quite well acquainted with the series itself.
As one would expect, each of the protagonists has created avatars that represent them, and thus each of the ladies has assigned the roles they will play. As one would expect, Neptune would take the role of a paladin, Blanc a priest, Noire a Black Knight, and Vert as the enchanter for their team. In the opening minutes of the game, we get to explore the fantasy land of Alsgard and we’re given our introduction by the lands guardian spirit Bouquet who sets the pace of how the story will unfold and how the game’s world came to be.
In the game’s world, for all intents and purposes, the Four Goddesses left the Divine Realm and created the planet, which left the ladies to take their vow to protect it. In turn, Leanverde, the Tree of Life within the game, gave the domain its own magical power. Unfortunately, having done so, an even evil force began to emerge and thus threaten the domain itself.
As always, there’s always someone around who is up to something sinister. An evil invader known as the Demon King Jester now threatens Leanverde’s existence as he tries to steal its magic essence. Before the four Goddesses returned to the Divine Realm to recover, they left Sacred Treasures containing their blessings. Just as you would expect from the typical JRPG trope, these women just happen to be the ones to save their new games world, they are the “Chosen Ones” as any anime or movie would say.
As a fan of the series, since it launched, there are a few minor key changes to it. One of the biggest is that both Noire and her pal Vert have both been given new voice actresses. Sadly, this is one of the problems with an Englished dubbed series. Just sometimes contracts end and the next thing you know, a voice actress has been replaced by another. Luckily for us, none of the actors have changed in the Japanese dub and it remains rather solid. If you don’t mind playing with a Japanese voice track, this is highly recommended and it’s highly suggested to play your game this way.
But that doesn’t take away from the solid performances in the English track. The actresses did a great job getting things underway and they continued doing so throughout the duration of the game. But the game still shows some solid weaknesses. Unlike titles such as Megadimension Neptunia VII or even the spin-off Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls, the game lacks in an overall plot.
While it is a rather fun endeavor, it’s not a campaign you’re going to remember, nor is the story going to help drive the core franchise in any way. As the game does take place in a pseudo-MMORPG, much like .hack//G.U. Last Recode, the games stakes are low, but the drama never quite delivers at times. But unlike .hack//G.U., the story doesn’t stick, it’s not funny and the drama ultimately doesn’t pay off in the end.
I still found the overall plot to be weaker than in Megadimension Neptunia, but it was a relatively harmless adventure. Just don’t expect it to break new ground – not that anyone comes to the series for that as a factor. The fact the story takes place inside an MMORPG means the stakes are low, so the drama hooks are never quite there. But the one thing that sticks out the most outside of the less-than-memorable story is the games change in the graphics engine. While the assets seem rather familiar, it does seem to find itself slightly off from time to time.
Character models seem muddied at a distance and only seem to gain some form of clarity when it zooms in on the party. Sadly, this isn’t the only problem that emerges with the entirely new engine. Frame rate drops are problematic and they are frequent on several of the maps as stated. While graphics have noticeably been upgraded and become quite an astounding treat, it doesn’t mean that the team has quite figured out how to optimize their game with the Unreal Engine 4. Even on a PlayStation 4 Pro, I found the staggers to be consistent on a few maps and I found no resolution to fixing them.
Restarting the console didn’t sort it out neither did uninstalling the game and then reinstalling. When the game runs, it runs great and doesn’t ever slow down in any form. It stays busy and the game truly shines where performance is concerned. Being the game is an action-RPG with online elements, one of the most important parts of the game is going to be its battle system. Just as you would expect, basic attacks are key to the game. They all you to combo and chain together attacks while also building up the chance to chain special abilities into your attacks.
As expected, elemental abilities do come into play and certain enemies do find themselves susceptible to varying types of attacks. The elements they are weak against can expose them to taking critical damage and even a status effect. While it’s easier said than done, it is advised to take your time and familiarize yourself with what abilities you can use and when.
To follow through with the games ideal design, the team has implemented a rather traditional UI that one would expect to see in an MMO such as Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft, and even games such as Ultimate Online. Traditional health bars are on the left and an item bar in the middle with a battle log on the bottom right and a mini-map in the top left.
Being an action RPG, the battle system is fairly straightforward. You can attack, build combo chains, use different abilities, and more. Elements also come into play with monsters being susceptible to certain types. This can deal critical damage and sometimes inflict status effects. The user interface is laid out like any traditional MMORPG. You can see your character’s vitals on the left, an item bar in the middle, a battle log on the right, and a mini-map in the top right corner.
Just in an MMORPG fashion, when enemies take damage, this is accented by the numbers popping up on screen, sound affects singing through the air, and even enemies reacting to each powerful blow. Luckily, each of the skills used feel unique, they feel as if they bare some weight to them. The downside here is they all do come with limited uses as you will need to manage your energy bar by using basic attacks. Sadly, skill unlocks are far and few between as are the quests you will undertake.
Outside going into zones, there is a central hub you’ll become associated with the moment the game starts. Here you will have several options such as a smith who can upgrade your armor and weapons to enhance stats, a shop to purchase items such as potions, armor, and weapons. You can also visit a cathedral where you can get blessings and stat boosts to help you during your adventures.
While this location does sound promising, there is a bit of trouble here and not because it’s a place of information or enjoyment, but rather because it doesn’t hint at where you need to go. Instead of finding your objectives, your completed tasks, and even side quests are hidden deep within the games “journal” that can only be found by going into your “menu” of sorts.
There, the game will tell you where you need to go, how to do it, and what exactly needs to be done. Sadly, this isn’t portrayed the best and for some, this bit of the game could use some work in a future update. bbv While the video clips certainly do guide you where you need to go, they can get hard to watch and unfortunately, this is where information can be lost and did so with me on several occurrences.
While the complaints of the game are minor, there’s definitely a sense of effort and passion put into the game. Unlike the others, it shows that the team had to work harder this time around in order to ensure the quality of the game exists. Because of this, we can only hope that future updates or games are better optimized and can pull in an extra bit of effort to create a highly enjoyable title with a memorable story. However, if you’re a die-hard fan? Then Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is right up your alley and will keep you busy for 20-30 hours.
Our review is based on a retail version that was provided to us by the game’s publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.