Super Neptunia RPG (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at

My passion for the Neptunia series is something I don’t exactly hide. Since discovering Re;Birth1 in 2015, I’ve been hooked on the self-aware, fourth wall-breaking happenings of Gamindustri through the ages. With this latest entry scrapping the fantastic 3D battle system I’ve come to love, as well as the third dimension as a whole, does this game do enough to stand proud among its predecessors, or is it riding on the series name alone?

Being the first taste of fresh Nepticious goodness since Cyberdimension Neptunia in 2017, the good folks at Idea Factory International prepared a trailer to get you back up to speed with the main cast. Though I find them really quite unforgettable, it’s something I recommend checking out if perhaps you’ve only played one or two games many moons ago. For somebody new entirely to the series wanting to start here, it also provides the bare essentials for you to pick up much of the self-referencing throughout, but realistically I would recommend giving Re;Birth1 a shot before diving in here. As a remake of the first game in the series, you get a fuller introduction to the larger world and its inhabitants, providing a solid foundation of understanding you’ll be grateful for the further you get into Super Neptunia RPG.

Super Nep starts in a way completely unsurprising to me, packed with self-aware humour and the overused trope of an amnesiac protagonist, the ever-idle Neptune. Waking up in an otherwise-abandoned house by an unknown group demanding taxes, she soon joins this definitely-not-shady crew and proceeds to assist in their definitely-above-board activities. Hijinks ensue, Neptune takes far too long to realise she’s with the bad guys, she finds the other goddesses also without their memories, and they all come together. The overarching plot to me isn’t anything special, but I find it rarely is with this series. From game to game you come to understand each character, their motivations, and their actions, and through this knowledge you garner expectations, the game taking these and playing with them. Neptune is motivated by food and lacks any form of common sense. You expect her to do stupid things, but these activities are constantly warped and mocked in such a way as to remain amusing. Just as you think something is a little too predictable, the game either throws a curve ball or acknowledges the fact with a fourth wall break or something similar. At its core, the story, the charm, the humour; they’re all the Neptunia you know and love. The game has an incredibly warm sense of familiarity, starkly contrasting with the playful amnesia of the game’s cast.

While some things remain the same, others are quite clearly different. Perhaps the most obvious of these differences is the genre shift, dropping the third dimension in favour of a beautifully hand-drawn 2D platforming environment. From a solely visual standpoint, I was blown away starting the game for the first time. The world full of such vibrant detail, I felt inclined to stop and just take it in from time to time. Even looking back through screenshots, I find myself appreciating the designs all over again. It’s stunning—at least when it’s still. While each character, each background, each graphic; while each are so carefully and lovingly crafted, the gameplay holding them together is not. Super Neptunia RPG is a game lacking polish, and it isn’t something you’re likely to pick up on until you’ve played it.

Jumping into the world for the first time was an interesting experience. Once the initial environmental awe passes, the first thing you’re drawn to is movement. From a functional standpoint, the game controls fine. You navigate 2D areas, jumping and dashing your way through generally simple but fun platforming challenges. The controls are largely satisfying, but confuse me in the inability to use the D-Pad, especially given the analogue stick’s digital use. There isn’t a gradual speed increase, you’re either moving in a direction or you’re not; I can’t understand why the D-Pad isn’t available as a control scheme when it is so clearly better suited to the task. Moving past this and looking at movement itself, you begin to realise the game isn’t quite as pretty in motion as it is when you were taking in the sights. Though I can acknowledge this as a minor critique, I found movement animations far too snappy. With no transition from stationary to moving or jumping, these so frequently used actions feel jarring and unrefined. These are things you get used to after playing for a little while, but I find it an incredible shame that the player should have to get used to them.

Past the initial tutorials and into the city of Lastation for the first time, you start to find the game opening up, NPCs scattered around to talk to and accept quests from. A completionist at heart, I wanted to try everything I could; if there is a hunting quest among these, I always like to be clearing them naturally as I progress instead of having to come back later specifically for it. To this end, I talked to everybody and accepted everything. One quest wanted me to hunt an enemy, another wanted me to donate money, another find some items, and another talk to some NPCs. Everything felt relatively standard and by the book, something that isn’t necessarily a bad thing so early in the game. The dialogue and snippets of backstory for each NPC wanting my time kept me engaged and eager to seek out more to do, at least until I finished my first quest. Where each NPC will say a few lines to introduce their request and have something to say while you’re in the middle of it, completing it simply replaces their dialogue with “…”. Every NPC that has a quest; it feels as though the more I progress, the more the world is drained of life and charm. It’s fine, it’s minor, but adding a single repetitive line of “Thanks for helping me!” or even despawning the NPC, physically draining the world of life, would have felt more natural. I did enjoy the quests I could complete, but going back to the raw feeling of the game, it feels as though little consideration was put into their delivery.

As soon as you enter an area, you have access to most if not all of its available quests, regardless of whether you can actually complete them at the time. An early example of this is a quest given by a mother to find her four children and tell them to come for dinner. The game places three of these children in hidden but accessible locations, providing a small platforming challenge in a safe area, as well as encouraging you to explore the city. It feels as though the quest should be beatable given how it’s setup, the final child visible on the roof of a building. It feels as though there should be a way up there, like the game is trying to show you a neat trick or have you find a secret exit to the roof. None of this is the case, you’re just expected to return once you’ve gained the ability to jump higher. It’s frustrating in how it completely ruins an otherwise fun quest for me, having wasted my time in trying to beat it. Other examples of this I didn’t mind quite as much, such as a quest that wanted me to locate a book in an area I hadn’t discovered yet. Something like that at least hints it’ll be a while until you complete it, but clarity is something the game would have significantly benefitted from. Having quests appear as you acquire the items to complete them, or even saying explicitly you don’t have the right tools for the job, it’s as though the player is just expected to know as if they had a hand in creating it.

This lack of clarity is spread across many aspects of the game, leaving me quite frequently confused. First you have the game’s loading times; they aren’t fantastic, but as a whole they aren’t a dealbreaker. Where I find fault is in the ‘unmarked’ loading times, where the game doesn’t give you a loading screen, freezing in place while it does its thing—and this isn’t some infrequent occurrence, this is for the pause screen! I’ve timed myself waiting up to seven seconds for the screen to load, all with no feedback or progress. Granted it only appears to be the first time the game is paused upon loading a new area, but again, this is the kind of thing that should have been seen at some stage of testing. Perhaps worse than this are the game’s forced-choice selection boxes, giving you the illusion of free choice in the worst possible way.

Where games usually want you do make a choice, they either don’t give you a choice at all, or add some kind of dialogue to warp Option B into Option A. The original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games used the latter of these options well, taking the opportunity to poke fun at your bad choice before putting you on track for the right one. Instead of this, Super Neptunia RPG simply doesn’t allow you to select the incorrect choice. At the start of the game, a defeated Doggoo wants to join your team, and you’re given a choice as to whether you want to allow it. I thought this meant I might encounter enemies at certain milestones that would join me to diversify my party or even provide skills, but when I couldn’t move the cursor off the “No” option, I couldn’t tell whether it was a bug or just incredibly poor design. I continued playing the game irritated with myself because I thought I had managed to screw up somehow, in complete disbelief the game would pull something like that. Only later when an enemy was actually recruited to provide you with a higher jump did I notice the cursor once again locked in place, this time on the “Yes” option. It’s bizarre and quite frankly a horrible design choice. Add to all of this an intimidating UI of small text and questionable navigation and you have a ball of frustration to work through before you can really find the appreciation for the story and characters that actually have a chance of keeping you hooked.

Combat in Super Neptunia isn’t a complicated affair. With each party member stood at a cardinal position, you select which character you want attacking by pressing the matching face button. X for the top character, A for the right, and so on. Each party member is assigned a single skill, with each skill being either physical or magical, and some also being elemental. The system is surprisingly interesting in how it encourages you to mix things up and be prepared for any assortment of enemies. In addition to this, you have four formations available, each one allowing for a different skill to be equipped. With the option to change formation mid-battle granting access to a new set of skills, on paper you have a genuinely interesting system. In reality however, what you have is an incredibly simple button masher. 

Straying from the series norm of turn-based action, battles in Super Neptunia play out in real time. As you wait, you get AP, which can then be burned to use skills. If an enemy is weak to the skill type, you’ll recover some AP after attacking. The depth of the combat system suddenly feels inconsequential when the battles begin to drag. With skills taking far more time than they probably should to start up and complete, you find yourself leaving battles on fast forward, mashing whichever attack is best suited against the enemies. There’s nothing to really motivate you to pay attention; even if you get low on HP, you can just pause the game and use a recovery item, these usable almost-instantaneously and with no AP cost. There are the makings of a fun system here, but are ultimately lost like so much of the game in minor frustrations and inconveniences.

I could go on and on about this game but really it boils down to this: Super Neptunia RPG isn’t something I can recommend to the vast majority of people, but it’s not to say there isn’t a good experience to be found. If you are patient, willing to overlook questionable design choices, and have the stamina to endure button mashing through almost every encounter, there’s a chance you may yet see the light. You might appreciate the classic Neptunia wit, the fun and well-dubbed cast, the beautiful scenery, and the ups and downs of the game’s story. If you think you’re that kind of person, I encourage you to pick up the Re;Birth trilogy while they’re on sale, and wait for this to fall below $20.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s