"...this game does what the Neptunia series is best at: having fun with its cast of characters."
I am probably one of the few reviewers that likes the Neptunia series for what it is. It's not for the usual reasons of story or gameplay, but because it's a series that has fun with itself. Whether it's fighting against the eternal villain of gaming that is piracy, taking cracks at free-to-play gaming, or learning to work alongside third-party companies, the series' mantle is having a fun time. If you're familiar with the series, you have probably already heard of 4 Goddesses Online. It's an MMO that the characters play in-game during their spare time, and fans of the Neptunia series have wondered if perhaps they might see 4GO expanded on in some way. Perhaps a Neptunia MMO? This year, we got it in the form of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. It's not an MMO, but it behaves a little like one.
The 4 CPUs (Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert) are taking a break from their usual goddesses' duties in their countries and playing together in an MMO instead. The MMO, 4 Goddesses Online, recently released a new build for the game, and the CPUs are invited as beta testers alongside their sisters. Their objective is to save the world of Alsgard from the impending threat of the Demon King Jester by gathering four Sacred Treasures that will allow them to summon the four goddesses that created the world to quell the threat. The CPUs and their sisters are named the Chosen Ones that have the ability to summon the goddesses.
In a series with some pretty unique story premises (like shooting a zombie movie in the middle of a zombie outbreak), this is the best they've got for the setting? Nothing in the story of this MMO goes beyond other games involving a group of heroes facing off against an evil god. However, since the CPUs and their sisters are just out playing a game, it's lighthearted in tone, which suits the series, in my opinion. While it was nice to see a more serious story develop in Megadimension Neptunia VII, in a parody series like this one, I believe it's best not to take things too seriously.
Cyberdimension Neptunia is an action RPG with the UI of an MMO. There is your basic combo which restores SP, and every other way to attack is through the use of skills. One of the few real skills to master is countering. If you block at the right time when an enemy is about to hit you, you take no damage and counter right away. The other thing to learn is breaking an enemy's guard. When the enemy's Guard gauge empties, they're stunned for about 10 seconds and take increased damage. This is when you buff yourself and throw all your best skills at an enemy to beat it. This is the primary way of defeating the game's bosses, who aren't particularly difficult. Unfortunately, this game rolls back the standard attack combos you used to be able to perform in previous Neptunia action games. While you could say this game behaves more like it's supposed to (MMO-style), the previous action games also mixed in skills with basic combos and felt better to play due to strategic combat depth — they played more like Warriors games, with attack patterns to match.
Another unfortunate part of this game is that there aren't a lot of playable characters. There are the four CPUs, their sisters, and the four goddesses that you unlock later in the game. That's only twelve characters total for a series that usually has at least 15, not even counting the goddesses' CPU forms. They even tease you with multiple characters from past games that are there but only NPCs in this game. There isn't even a DLC option to make them playable, and I would have spent money on that.
This game suffers the most in the way it controls. The camera can be a bit of an issue. When the camera is showing an object in the foreground, it doesn't make the foreground transparent/translucent as most games usually would. In one forest area, foreground trees would get in the way and obscure my view of what was happening. When you have to keep an eye out for enemy attack patterns, this made combat difficult. This game also throws in some minor platforming, but the jump controls are awful. There are a couple of locations where you must jump to reach platforms, but controlling yourself in the air is really slippery. If you attack in the air, you stop dead in the air and launch your attacks. While this is useful for mages (since they have the mages step forward when attacking on the ground), it makes it impractical for a melee user. It only makes the aerial controls more awkward.
There is a multiplayer mode in this game where you can complete quests with other players over the Internet. However, when I tried pairing up with other players, I couldn't find anything. Granted, I did play a couple of months after release, but that's still a mode in this game that it seems you won't be able to play unless you pair up with friends.
One of the things that I always look forward to seeing with a new Neptunia game is the new artwork that the series' artist, Tsunako, comes out with. Her background art is incredible, and when it comes to creating moe character art, she is one of the best. They have made improvements to the in-game character models thanks to the changeover to Unreal Engine. However, due to the engine change, and Compile Heart and Tamsoft's inexperience with Unreal, the game suffers from frame rate dips and motion blur. The game runs at 60 FPS for the most part, but if there are too many things happening, the game stutters.
The Neptunia series usually has some pretty forgettable music besides the opening and ending songs, but there are some pretty good tunes here. Themes like "Deep Godly Path", and "Blue Requiem" add an air of tension when exploring some of the dungeons, and some of the field music, such as "Like the Wind," is good to go along with your expeditions. It's nothing too special, but it's a nice compliment to the levels. You can listen to any of the music from the 'Minstrel' menu in town. If you listen to the Japanese dub, like me, all the voice actors are back to reprise their roles. A few of the English dub voice actors, notably Noire's longtime voice actress Erin Fitzgerald, are not present due to the 2017 voice actor strike.
If you don't already like the Neptunia series, you will probably be hard-pressed to like this game. It's a pretty typical action RPG, with a ho-hum story. However, as a Neptunia fan, this game does what the Neptunia series is best at: having fun with its cast of characters. For once, these characters are taking a relaxing break from the toils of their daily life and not worrying about getting thrown out of their country by evil forces or thinking about how to best serve their citizens. Gaming has always been one of the great pillars of the Neptunia series. It's just a shame the gameplay in this particular game isn't the best.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.