After years of being stuck on the sidelines, Noire takes charge and journeys across the world while amassing an army of friends along the way in HyperDevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart. In this latest spin-off from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Noire, the ruler & CPU of Lastation , finally gets the chance to star as the lead character in her own game and takes things in a different direction with this chibi-styled alternate universe strategy RPG.
As we’ve seen several times before with the HDN series, this game takes place in an alternate world/dimension, which shares many of the things that make up the Gamindustri you’ve seen before. However, in this world, known as Gamarket, Noire is seemingly the most powerful of the 4 CPUs, being able to easily beat Neptune, Vert and Blanc in battle. While on track to control all of Gamarket with her armies and generals on her side, Noire is tricked by a familiar face, who causes noire to unwittingly change the world in an instant, leaving her share energy diminished and Lastation weakened and abandoned by former generals and citizens.
As the player, you take the role of a faceless random passerby, who Noire soon appoints as her secretary after he briefly helps her in her temporarily weakened state. Together, along with the other 3 CPUs, you set out in order to find your former generals and unite Gamarket by investigating and occasionally beating up anyone who stands in your way. The plot is fairly straightforward , which you see in the event scenes between battles, but most of these are spent on introducing and developing the myriad of new characters who make their first appearance in this game, with the main story taking a back seat to the character interaction scenes.
In Gamarket, the regular side characters of the main series like Compa, Iffy and co, have been replaced by a new range of characters, each representing a particular game series like Dragon Quest, Street Fighter or Metal Gear Solid. Many of these characters you’ll meet during your journey, where you generally end up encountering a new character, fighting them, then have them join you as an ally (usually followed by welcoming the new team member with a fanservice-y event scene, as to be expected, of course). As with all of the other games in the series, you can switch between the original Japanese audio and the English dub for the character voices that accompany the event scenes, but I generally leave it on English audio since that’s what I’m accustomed to and the performances are done quite well for the 4 main characters. The voicing for the other characters are generally ok, with only a few instances where I found the dub voice to be annoying due to a particular character’s speech patterns.
When I first heard that the game would be a turn-based strategy RPG, I assumed it would simply follow a single template set by other games in the genre, like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. But, after getting through a few battles, it quickly becomes apparent that HD Noire brings several unique elements to the table, making its game play and battles stand out from the crowd a bit more.
Rather than going into dungeons or moving around on a world map, all of the battles are chosen from the mission HQ, where the oracle, Histore gives you a briefing on the scenario setting up each battle. While several of these battles require you to just beat all of the opposing forces, there may also be additional or alternate conditions thrown in, which you must complete to achieve victory. This could be anything like rescuing a character located elsewhere on the field, defeating a number of enemies, collecting some items scattered around the playing field, and so on.
Many of the playing fields you fight on also have special features or gimmicks which make them different and will require you to plan an effective strategy by taking these aspects of the surroundings into account. Things like switches, moving platforms, hazardous floors, pitfalls and even mounted armaments will have you planning your next move and placing units carefully to utilize the environment features and avoid leading your units into harm’s way. I thought these elements helped to mix things up a bit, so that you aren’t just constantly making a bee-line to the enemy every time and make the battles feel a little less repetitive.
The large range of unique and interesting status effects that can also pop up also keeps you on your toes as you could suddenly be frozen, turned into a 2d pixel character or even become a wobbling block of tofu. Although, the sheer number of different things you’ll need be aware of when planning your next move can occasionally tend to pile up and look a bit overwhelming, since you’re thinking about where to place your units in addition to where the enemy is, what status effects they could possibly inflict, what hazards you’d need to watch out for and more.
An extra level of intricacy comes into play when considering elemental affinity of your characters against enemies and treasure boxes on the field. I think It’s fair to say that there is a lot more going on than what’s just visible at first glance, so being able to take all of these aspects of the battle situation into account helps to devise a winning strategy.
The Lilly System from the main HDN games also appears in HD Noire, which you use to power up your units and boost each others skill attacks in battle. When a character attacks, those in the surrounding spaces will support her by giving them a peck on the cheek, accompanied with a brief cut scene. As you get further into the game, using the lily system is a great way to boost your attacks and build up ‘lilly points’ which you need to perform each character’s special attacks as these can help deal a devastating blow to the enemy forces.
By building up the relationships between characters in battle, you an further increase the effectiveness of particular parings of characters to give you an edge over your enemies. I found myself using this in my battles fairly often later on in the game as its a good away to increase the effectiveness of your attacks and quickly gain enough Lilly points to use multiple characters’ special attacks on some of the harder boss enemies.
In your downtime between skirmishes, you can hang out in Lastation, where you’re able to create and buy items, burn game discs to enhance your characters’ abilities, or, retire to the basilicom to enter ‘Sim Noire’ mode. Here, you (acting as her secretary) assist Noire with responding to the various requests from the townspeople. By responding with suitable answers, your relationship with Noire can improve, which then unlocks some small event scenes.
You can also buy furniture to decorate the inside of Noire’s room by spending points you accumulate from purchasing items at the store. If you’re a big fan of Noire and want to get as much character interaction scenes as you can, this mode might briefly give you what you’re looking for, but otherwise you don’t really need to progress through Sim Noire in order to enjoy the main game.
As the series’ first attempt at a strategy-RPG style game, I think it gives quite a good experience whether this is your first or 50th SRPG. The multiple aspects of battle are introduced in stages early on, in a way that allows you to get acquainted with each feature before the next set is brought into play, while each mission provides something different and gives you the opportunity to come up with multiple ways to tackle the scenario depending how you plan your strategy. I also thought that the leveling of characters and the difficulty curve was more forgiving than the main series, greatly reducing the need to grind levels to get through certain parts of the story. Although, some more aggressive AI could probably have been a good addition for players looking for a more challenging experience, since most of the time they enemies simply stand still until one of your characters has entered their attack/movement radius.