Super Neptunia RPG Hands-On Impressions from E3 2018

I’ve lost count of how many Neptunia games there have been. Every time I check in on the series, it feels like there’s always at least three of them being made at any given time. Yes it certainly has Neptunia in its title, but Super Neptunia RPG aims to be an interesting, bold departure from the rest of the series.

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In fact, Super Neptunia RPG is the first one out of the dozens of Neptunia titles to be developed by a western studio. The Quebec-based Artisan Studios hope to bring new life to it with a fresh perspective to change up the entire formula without compromising what fans love about the series.

Super Neptunia RPG makes the transition to 2D; it’s pretty much a platform sidescroller when navigating around in-between battles. In the early E3 2018 demo build, Neptune could summon an adorable pudding creature to use as a platform to reach higher places if jumping once or twice wasn’t enough.

I got a brief look at a reimagined Lastation. It’s no longer a heavy industrial city like in past titles. Lastation now resembles a fantasy town that wears some dark industrial imagery here and there among the comfortable color palette. Neptune could freely run and jump around to move to higher platforms; it felt like climbing up a painting. It was a bit difficult to distinguish which platforms I could stand on because of this, oddly enough. Regardless, there’s a certain freshness to it that does a spectacular job highlighting the stunning background work from Artisan Studios.

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After stumbling out of town, I found myself in the lush forest of Lastation Road. A cute little Dogoo pounced around minding its own business until I had Neptune run into it. I’m not sure if Neptune can whack enemies to gain the upper hand in the final game like in other entries, but this build of Super Neptunia RPG didn’t support it.

Battles in Super Neptunia RPG resemble Valkyrie Profile and Exist Archive at first glance. They now take place on a 2D plane with enemies on the left and your party of four to the right in a diamond arrangement. Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert are assigned to one of the face buttons so its inspirations from Valkyrie Profile are very noticeable.

It’s not entirely turn-based either. Final Fantasy VIII comes to mind when it comes to its semi-active battle flow; enemies will keep on attacking you as you’re fumbling about what you want to do. Characters need action points (AP) to act, but they take time to accumulate though striking an enemy’s weakness will recover additional AP.

The biggest element that surprised me from its combat system is that your characters don’t immediately begin attacking upon pressing the face button they’re assigned. Instead, it seemed like I was queuing up attacks so it’s possible to have multiple party members attack simultaneously - but the window to input commands was unclear to me. There were times when the face button would be displayed over a character’s head and I’d press it only to have them attack much later than I anticipated.

It felt unresponsive but once again, the E3 2018 build of Super Neptunia RPG seemed very early and I’m not quite sure if all the combat mechanics are representative of what’ll be in the final game.

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Character parties can also swap between four formations freely during battle with the L1 and R1 trigger buttons; formations consist of strike, magic, heal, and support. Changing formations will give characters new abilities during battle. Strike deals physical attacks, magic allows them to cast offensive spells, heal replenishes HP among one another, and support has characters buffing themselves up.

There was some confusion on what influenced which formation I’d be switching to. I initially thought it worked on some sort of set order or having a specific character be the front or top character, but there was no rhyme or reason to it in this build. I noticed that R2 was mapped to the Transform button in the controller layout at the booth, but that feature wasn’t available. No worries, since this does confirm that Neptune and her friends will have access to their Goddess forms in some shape or form in Super Neptunia RPG.

Other than that, the rest of the demo was fairly basic and barebones. I explored Lastation Road, found some chests, and fought a few more different enemies. Lastation Road was divided up into several zone areas with cavern structures that led into additional places to explore. There were some heavy-looking armored knights that took longer to take down. I experienced similar navigation issues from the Lastation area in which the game wasn’t entirely clear on where I could and couldn’t go.

There’s still a lot of work to polish and finetune Super Neptunia RPG, but there’s some potential to be had here. I think it’s one of the more pleasing Neptunia entries visually. The new character models and gorgeous backgrounds were the highlights for me. I hope to see a much more improved and fully fleshed out battle and navigation system upon its full release. There’s a lot of neat ideas in this Neptunia entry - it just needs something to really tie it all together eloquently.

Super Neptunia RPG is launching on September 27 for PlayStation 4 in Japan. It’ll come to the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch when it heads to North America and Europe this fall.

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