The Neptunia franchise of games has always bent genres and pop-culture references in interesting, strange ways. There have been a few spin-offs by now that have broken into strategy RPG’s, action-RPG’s, and then the mainline series that focuses on turn-based RPG’s. However, with Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, they have turned the MMORPG experience into a single player or cooperative homage. Cyberdimension Neptunia 4: Goddesses Online takes the franchise you know and love, and gives it a faux-MMORPG treatment, smashing together the franchise staples and things that would be included in an MMORPG.
In Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, the goddesses of Gamindustri are beta testers for a brand new MMORPG called 4 Goddesses Online, so together they decide to test the game out and indulge in a new adventure. You have the choice of playing as one of 12 characters, each with a different class and skillset. If you are playing alone, the other 3 members of your party are controlled by the AI, but if you are playing online with friends, you can have one person play each of the other 3 party members.
Like an MMORPG, in Cyberdimension Neptunia you are able to navigate the Overworld, running, jumping, dashing, attacking, and utilizing a variety of mechanics. However, since this is not a true MMORPG and merely an Action-RPG modeled after one, there are subtle differences in how the game works. Unlike most Neptunia games, Cyberdimension Neptunia isn’t really all that menu-based, so you are given most of the tools you will need to succeed at the start, and it is up to you to carry on from there. The only menu-based part of the game is an overall menu that allows you to set party member skills, change equipment, and adjust your party as a whole.
Combat is smooth, with the ability to lock onto enemies, execute combos, use skills, and move freely to dodge enemy attacks. By locking onto an enemy, you can see their weaknesses. This includes what element they are the most susceptible to so that you can cause status effects as well as deal extra damage. Characters can have two different skill sets and they can be switched on the fly. If you want to have an offensive skill set and then a recovery/support skill set, you can set them up independently. Offensive abilities are split into two categories. Abilities tied to the strength stat tend to do maximum damage, while abilities tied to the intelligence stat do more damage to the break gauge. The break gauge, once depleted, allows you to deal large amounts of damage to enemies quickly, so it should not be ignored.
Similar to other Neptunia games, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online has a quest mechanic. This one is tied to the guild, which dispenses quests. You can take quests from the guild, fulfill them and then report in for rewards. Some quests have no bearing on the story at large, but others will progress the main story, so paying attention is important. By completing a specific quest type called “Certification quests” you can raise your guild rank, providing more difficult quests with greater rewards. There are five quest-types in total. Boss Quests, Monster Quests, Delivery Quests (in true MMO fashion,) Arrival Quests, and Certification Quests.
Boss Quests require you to defeat a boss monster, while Monster Quests focus on defeating a certain number of a specific monster. Arrival Quests focus on you reaching a specific destination. Lastly, Delivery Quests are the standard fetch quests you see in almost every game. You have to gather a specific item and deliver it to the guild for rewards.
The guild, as well as Pierre’s Emporium (where you buy items and equipment), can be accessed from hub towns. There are plenty of other facilities in hub towns (including the bulletin board where you can set up a multiplayer lobby for friends to join you) so spending time in them and preparing for adventures and quests can significant to your gameplay.
It is important to remember that when you buy consumables and equipment, you have to equip them to your character/party in order to use them. Items are equipped by the “item set” menu, and equipment is equipped in the equipment menu. It is important to note that you can also equip a variety of costumes and cosmetic accessories as well. So if you want Neptune to look like a maid with purple glasses, or if you want Vert to look like a Fairy with bunny ears, it is entirely possible. There are also “Gems” which can be equipped and perform a variety of effects like increasing EXP and Bells (the currency of the game) earned, as well as a variety of other important utilities and effects.
As you progress through the world of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, you will unlock something called “Awakening” which is a transformation for your characters that will increase their damage output, as well as provide other interesting benefits. In order to utilize Awakening, you will need to increase the Awakening gauge by dealing damage and defeating enemies.
Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online carries forward the Neptunia franchise’s signature wit, as well as its satirical view of the gaming industry. This time it takes aim at obvious tropes and elements of the MMO genre, as well as online gaming as a whole. As in all the Neptunia games, there is a bit of fan-service, but it is meant more to poke fun at the use of fan-service in the industry to appeal to the male gaze. For that reason, I would say that kids probably shouldn’t play this game, but at the same time I think adults and people old enough to understand the humor will love it.
At first glance it seems like the standard Japanese fare, half naked girls, jiggle physics, etc. If you give it the chance and look a little deeper though, you’ll get a deep RPG experience that takes what is good about MMORPGS and makes them more palatable for a single player or party game audience. It is really interesting how Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online gives you an immersive MMO experience whilst also being entirely offline (unless you are playing with friends that is).
While providing MMO comforts like real time combat, exploration, upgrading armor and weaponry, as well as dungeon crawling; Cyberdimension Neptunia provides single player comforts as well, such as defending and dashing to dodge attacks. With the beautiful graphics that Cyberdimension Neptunia offers, this really feels like a next-gen Neptunia game, while also feeling like a great blending of genres.
I only have a few complaints with Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. The first is that (like all MMO games) you cannot pause the game. While this is fine for an MMO, I find it somewhat frustrating for an action-RPG that is emulating one. Additionally I find the lack of individual party member commands to be somewhat annoying. In games like this, I like to be able to make sure party members fit into a specific archetype. For example, if I have a healer, I want her to be focused on healing. The AI Party mechanics don’t exactly allow for specific roles for each member in the same way that a real MMO party would have their own roles, so it can be annoying.
My last complaint is in regards to the audio. While the voice acting is hilarious, and the visuals of the game are stunningly gorgeous, the sound effects are absolutely obnoxious. I find that listening to the same “Hyah!” noise for 3 hours is akin to waterboarding on my senses, so I often mute the sound effects all together, which cuts off one aspect of the game’s audio.
Overall, I like what Idea Factory has done with Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. In another genre-smashing adventure they have taken what works so well in the other Neptunia games, and pointed them in a new direction. If you are a fan of the Neptunia series, or you like games with self-referential satirical humor, then give this one a try. It is difficult, but it provides a lot of hilarity and action-RPG goodness.
A Playstation 4 Review key for Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online was provided by Idea Factory for the purpose of this review
Note: While the Screenshots are in Japanese, this game can be played entirely in English.