The Sony PS Vita has always been the butt of jokes when it comes to the amount of games that it offers. Often times, the perpetual commentary is realized whenever news and articles about the console handheld is released. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the Sony PS Vita offers games that are fun and definitely worth your time. One such is Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart, a tactical feel-good RPG that’s challenging and offers a lengthy adventure.
Hyperdevotion Noire is a spin-off of the JRPG, Hyperdimension Neptunia. Instead of covering the purple-haired Neptune, it showcases the more popular (according to polls) pig-tailed tsundere, Noire. The game is a parody of gaming and pop culture, with the script frequently paying homage to known game consoles and tropes. Hyperdevotion Noire is also set in its very own universe and is no way connected with the others in terms of storyline. However, it still offers the same quirky, funny, and sometimes, very suggestive characters.
A World Asunder
Noire is a CPU, not the one inside our computer, but one that’s in-charge of a city state. Her adventure starts with her being tricked by a mysterious lady to release her ‘shares’, an important resource that measures one’s power in the world of “Gamarket”. Resolving to take back what’s hers, Noire vows to find the lady and unite Gamarket against a common unknown enemy.
Hyperdevotion Noire has a story that’s simplistic in nature but one that definitely packs a punch. It’s not that great, but it works. What patches it into a smooth running pipe are the characters that Noire meets; her entourage that she befriends as she goes on about her quest. Generals and other CPUs ally themselves with Noire, and with it comes banter and conversations that has a high possibility of making one laugh.
As per previous Hyperdimension titles, this game also features an all-girl cast (with the exception of one). Given that this is a JRPG that’s filled to the brim with numerous parodies, expect an experience peppered with suggestive terms, innuendos, and other qualities innate in Japanese anime culture. Given that I often play this game in public, I did have some experience of acting like a weirdo, hiding the PS Vita against the prying eyes of those sitting beside me.
The player’s intervention in the world of Gamarket is done via the main hub of Lastation. It is the only city present in the game and the only one that can be “explored”. Instead of the typical 3rd-person exploration, navigating the city is done via a point-and-click method using the touchscreen or the directional keys. In Lastation, the player can check various shops, decorate Noire’s home in exchange for her loving favor, and have some small talk with the other characters. The game also gives players the chance to craft items out of loot for additional benefits in combat.
Lastation is also the place to seek out missions to progress the campaign or undertake skirmishes for grinds and loot.
Before you think about it, the game is neither a dating simulator nor does it have anything similar to offer.
Tactics maketh man, errr woman…
Hyperdimension employs an approach reminiscent to that of Final Fantasy Tactics and similar bread-and-butter tactical RPGs. Combat is done in a map divided by square grids with varying ground types and height. The player is often times challenged with battlefields peppered with grids that damage or afflict the characters with adverse effects. Ground height is also a concern as it significantly affects abilities and movement. However, they can be scaled via a character’s innate ability or with box platforms lying around the game map.
Part of Hyperdimension Noire’s charm is its diverse offering of battlefields. For story missions, seldom did I encounter a rehashed map. Each battle offers a unique environment, traps, and paths, challenging the player each time. Such feature is a big deal as it shows a lack of laziness on the developers part.
Objectives vary and is not only limited to the “destroy all enemies” kind of thing. Some missions implore the player to defend valuable resources from the enemy’s onslaught. Other times, the player must collect trinkets scattered across the map while taking into account the opposing team’s movements.
To better explain the gameplay, I’ll start by narrating each step in a typical battle. The fight begins with the player choosing a number of units from a large stable of characters and assigning a leader. Each General/CPU has her own unique role, abilities, and equipment. When designated as the leader, each one provides unique passive perks that affect the whole team such as adding 15% HP, an extra movement point, and damage, among others.
As the battle begins, the player has a turn of his/her own to manage movement and actions. Each character can move and do one action at a turn. This segment is where the player can choose locations to place them and possibly attack enemies or support teammates. Orientation should also be taken into consideration as flanking conditions are present in the game, increasing chances of hitting whenever the rear or sides open for attack.
A multitude of status effects add spice in the game’s already colorful presentation. There are the standard ones like confuse and paralyze. And there are also weird ones like Tofu, which turns characters into that delectable soft protein source, making her more vulnerable to attacks.
Whenever a character uses a skill, given that there are others allies in her immediate vicinity, a ‘Lily Boost’ occurs. Taking advantage of this boost reduces the amount of SP points that a skill requires. It also fills up the ‘Lily Point’ bar for ultimate moves. On the visual side of things, it shows the characters giving each other a friendly kiss on the cheek.
If in a pinch, the player can make use of CPUs’ Hyper Drive Divinity (HDD). In this form, the main heroines wear skimpier attire but have their stats all boosted up. Each attack on opponents hurt and they are more resilient to damage. This mode also gives them abilities to surmount height and terrain disadvantages as they can fly and move further. Like all good things, they too have their limits. HDDs can last only three turns before the CPUs revert to their original form.
Each sortie can be as short as ten minutes or even as lengthy as forty-five. The game employs a one-shot quick-save method which can only be reloaded once.
Battles end when the victory or defeat conditions are met. If the player wins, experience points are rewarded to all members regardless if they were absent in the battle.
Characters are depicted as 2D animations in conversations. They are not static, showing minute movements during exchanges. In combat, each one is represented in chibi with their field presentations deformed and short plastered with the standard large eyes.
Music is on a loop, but changes depending on the scene and whoever is involved. Each conversation is voiced-over. Overall, there’s nothing much to complain about the game’s audio.
The good thing about all of these is that the game also provided the means for the player to re-watch each cut scene and conversation. Inside the ‘CPU Hotel’, one can readily access unlocked music and video. The game can be played with the original Japanese voice-over if you prefer to have that one instead.
If you’re old enough, fond of tactical RPGs, and have a PS Vita, be sure to get this game. It offers a bang for the buck experience with its lengthy storyline and large offerings of side quests. I did clock 20+ hours in playing this one and it just shows how a “mobile” game can garner a large amount of your time and attention. It makes use of the traditional approach of tactical RPGs and in someways added a semblance of uniqueness to it. Everything works and I haven’t encountered any bugs or errors in my whole playthrough. The plot is not something to look forward to but the constant introduction and interaction of characters makes it worth the while.
Needless to say, it is definitely not for everyone. The suggestive themes, constant breaking of the fourth wall, and sometimes NSFW images (though it does not contain nudity), may not be one’s cup of tea.
Overall, this game is one that managed to make me laugh, play like a little boy, and sleep late. And that simply tells on how this game tends to suck one in. Get this one if you have a PS Vita. It is definitely worth it.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is available only in the Sony PS Vita.