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Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection

gaming advance, box art, neptunia, producing perfection, vitaThe Hyperdimension Neptunia series is a role-playing game franchise intended to parody the game industry. Each of the main characters, known as CPUs, represent one of the three consoles of the previous generation: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii, with the main protagonist Neptunia depicting the unreleased SEGA Neptune. Supporting characters are inspired by development studios and publishers, and the world itself is unsubtly named Gameindustri. There are elements of self-awareness, but it’s a series that sometimes crosses the line between parody and imitation. Producing Perfection might be one of those things.

As a spinoff, Producing Perfection strays from the standard RPG fare of battling random encounters and defeating dungeon bosses to progress the story. Rather, the title instead belongs to the visual novel genre–a game genre that exists almost exclusively in Japan. Players must work with one or more of the protagonists to turn them into a popular idol. Yes, it’s an idol management simulator.

Publisher: Tamsoft, Compile Heart
Developer: Idea Factory (JP), NIS America (EU)
Genre: Visual Novel//Idol Management Simulator
Platforms: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: June 20th, 2013 (JP); June 3rd/6th, 2014 (NA/EU)

With the recent appearance of an idol group known as MOB48 (a play on AKB48), the four CPUs of Gameindustri are finding that they’re losing their shares. In order to regain them, they decide to become idols themselves. Assuming the role of a player named character, the player is summoned from their bedroom into the world of Gameindustri to manage one of the four of his choice.

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This isn’t one of your standard silent protagonist fares.  The player character thinks and responds, but has a bland enough personality that many players will be able to project themselves on to him. If you’re familiar with any anime ever, and you probably are if this game interests you, then you’ll know what to expect from him. The player character can be a real push over.

As a visual novel, the vast majority of a player’s playtime will be spent reading text-heavy dialogue exchanges between the characters of the game. Occasionally, the player will be offered a choice which might impact one of the stats of their selected idol. Fortunately, there is some charm to the dialogue and it can be entertaining; although, some scenes occasionally go to uncomfortable places. Fans of the series will likely find the long dialogue exchanges engaging, as Neptunia’s quirky sense of humour remains in this spinoff. Producing Perfection likes to reflect and make fun of itself, pointing out the silliness of idols or using the new perspective to further joke about RPG tropes. Unfortunately, similarly to its predecessors, some scenes blur the line between parodying the subject matter and replicating it. Characters also do not develop beyond their one-dimensional stereotype, and the lead protagonist’s quirky humour may be grating for some; although, players can just select an alternative character to manage.

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Most of the player’s interaction is through this menu screen. Except in English.

Players manage their idol through three different methods. The player can train one or more of the idol’s five attributes to improve their performance in a concert; however, the exact value that their attributes increase is based on guts. Guts can be increased by participating in work events and social activities. If the player pushes their idol too much during training, they will become too stressed and lose their guts. Essentially, the aim during the visual novel section of the game is to balance guts and stress to keep the maximum uptime on training. The idol’s number of fans can also be increased by participating in events, which can increase the size of the concert venues. Selecting any of these options will progress time forward by a day, and there is a set amount of time before the game is over. There is little for the player to do here beyond selecting the activity for the day. Occasionally, there might be a choice which will provide another bonus or penalty to stress or guts as the story progresses, but most of the weak week player interaction will boil down to “Training or Event?”

The aim of Producing Perfection is to obtain the most shares in Gameindustri, within a set period of time. This can be done by having the idol participate in concerts, which most resembles gameplay and clearly draws from the title’s RPG roots. Players will prepare their idol in costume and select one of five tracks for them to sing. They must also prepare stage effects, which resemble abilities in an RPG, including damage-over-time style abilities. These affect the audience’s excitement, to a limit of 200%. The more excited and larger the audience is, the better the result at the end of the concert. Players can also reposition the camera and transform their idol into HDD mode to further affect excitement. Ultimately, the concerts are kind of easy and require very little effort from the player to succeed. There just isn’t actually much to do between stage effect cooldowns.

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At some point in the game, players will be given the option to manage an idol group with their idol in it.

As a whole, the title requires very little from the player. The stars of the show are the CPUs, and it’s reflected in the gameplay. While it is thematically apropos for the player to be sidelined, this results in the player seeing everything the title has to offer within the first hour or two.  It appears that more effort has been put into the visual novel side of the experience, as players are able to romance each of the idols and obtain multiple outcomes. It just so happens that there isn’t very much meat on the title’s bones otherwise, and the underwhelming size of the track list–of which all but one track has been released before–gets repetitive rather fast, much to the detriment of the replayability the title strives for. The idol simulation just interferes with what fans of visual novels might consider a good visual novel title.

It’s clear that Producing Perfection is simply just a spinoff designed with fanservice as it’s main goal, and it probably achieves that very well. Unfortunately, the bare-bones nature of the actual idol management simulation leaves an underwhelming and forgettable experience at the expense of what the game actually is. It’s a title in the wrong genre, and would have probably been better served as simply just the dating game that it pretends not to be.

Videogame reviewer and student videogame developer, located in Scotland. Founder of the Gaming Advance blog.

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3 / 5 stars