Noire kicks out Neptune as star of the game in the latest spin-off of the Hyperdimension series, Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart. This title, the first ever strategy RPG in the series thanks to Sting, Compile Heart, and Idea Factory, takes place not in the traditional setting of Gamindustri, but rather an alternate universe known as Gamarket.
As with previous Hyperdimension titles, the four CPUs, Noire, Vert, Blanc, and Neptune, are duking it out for control of shares, which gives them power. Noire leads the country of Lastation, Vert is the leader of Leanbox, Blanc heads up Lowee, and Neptune is at the head of Planeptune.
The story begins with action as Vert, Blanc, and Neptune all gear up to face Noire. Since they’re all CPUs, you may think that the three would likely be able to take down the heroine of our story, leading to a sort of revenge plot as Noire attempts to regain power and strike back at her foes. If you think this, however, you’d be wrong, as Noire manages to easily defeat the other three at once.
Unfortunately, a familiar face soon shows itself and tricks Noire. Through her actions, all of the CPUs end up losing most of their power, and their generals become scattered. Noire, overwhelmed with guilt, is attacked by a simple monster, but can’t summon up the strength to fight until you, a nameless, faceless guy who becomes her secretary, show up and help her regain her courage.
What follows is another game full of references to both classic and modern videogames. Enemies will be based on characters from familiar franchises, and you can expect, as with the other Hyperdimension games, plenty of fourth wall-shattering gags. If anything, Hyperdevotion Noire actually takes it a step farther, as all of the generals you’ll face are actually personifications of Japanese gaming franchises. Examples include a female Solid Snake-like character, a girl with a certain red and white umbrella, and even characters representing Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, who, as you may expect, have a rivalry going on.
The story can feel rather thin at times, but for me the characters (mostly) made up for it.
You may see that Hyperdevotion Noire is a strategy RPG and think, “Oh, so it’ll just follow one template that one of the other popular games in the genre set, such as Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics.” If so, you’d be both correct and incorrect. While the battles themselves are set on a standard grid, Hyperdevotion Noire brings several unique elements to the table.
Instead of venturing into dungeons or moving around on a world map, every one of your battles will be chosen from the mission HQ. Here Histoire, the oracle, will give you a briefing on the scenario leading up to each battle. Many will require you to simply wipe the floor with your foes, however others have alternate conditions and special features thrown in. One early story mission, for example, had a stage filled with bombs, cannons, and rigged floors. The cannons were powerful, but could only shoot in a straight line (although the explosion would hit one square to the top/bottom and left/right of where it fired), and the rigged floors would instant stop your character as you fall into a pit, ending her move.
The bombs in question were set to explode in 15 turns, meaning that you have to destroy them and the boss in that time. The first time I played, I simply focused on the bombs, thinking that if I was able to destroy all of them, I’d be able to take my time with the boss. How wrong I was, as turn fifteen passed and I lost, despite having disarmed/destroyed the bombs.
Another stage requires you to hop on a train and smack a switch in order to get to the other part of the map. You’ll need to plan your moves carefully in situations like these since, in the train example, you can be surrounded when you’ve hit the switch and take some significant damage.
There are also a lot of status ailments you’ll need to watch out for. Some examples include being infected with a virus, being turned into a 2D pixel version of yourself, or even being turned into a hunk of tofu.
In battle, your characters will also gain benefits from activating skills while near each other, thanks to the series’ Lily Point system. If two (or more) characters like each other enough, then you can set them by each other and utilize their skills. Not only will this give a slight reduction in the skill cost, but, if they like each other, your acting character will get kissed, further increasing her power and giving you Lily Points, which can be utilized for special attacks or to transform your CPUs into their super powerful HDD forms.
In battle each character has a unique style, with each one fights about how you would expect, considering. The Final Fantasy rep can basically summon Bahamut, for example.
Outside of battle, many of the features present in the other Hyperdimension titles remain, such as the ability to create game discs and items. Once developed, the latter can be bought at the store, and the former can provide (depending on what you burned to disc, of course) significant advantages to your character in battle.
The final thing to mention in gameplay is the “Sim Noire” mode. This mode has you helping Noire fulfill requests (you are her secretary, after all!) and renovating her bachelorette pad. If you answer requests correctly, your relationship with Noire will become stronger, giving you more scenes with her.
The items you can purchase for Noire’s place are purchased via Credits. These are obtained by spending money in the shop and buying items, roughly equating to a 10% (an item that costs 2000, for example, will give you 200 credits to spend on Noire’s place). The furniture can even talk once it arrives, and can give you some helpful advice. In addition, you can pick up some decent rewards for taking part in the Sim Noire mode.
The game’s maps aren’t really anything to write home about, unfortunately, and the sheer number of status effects may turn a few off.
Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is not the perfect strategy RPG by any stretch of the imagination. It does have some fanservice, which can deter some players (and even lure in others), and while many will find the gameplay to be solid, others will find it to be sluggish (due to the variety of hazards and status effects).
Despite its flaws, however, the engaging (if sometimes paper thin) story, gameplay (I’m one of those that found it solid), characters, and overall presentation makes Hyperdevotion Noire a solid entry into the strategy RPG universe. Be warned, though, that it seems to be a rather “Love it or hate it” kind of game, so if you’re doubtful, you may want to borrow or rent it first.
Final Score: 4/5