Idea Factory and Compile Heart always seem to have a new game in the pipeline that is quickly ported and makes its way overseas and usually these Japan-centric titles have been well received on this side of the globe (here’s an example). Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is the latest title to make its way over to us and this spinoff takes a few creative liberties from the main RPG series that both those companies are known for. Unfortunately, it seems that this adventure is lacking some of the charm and wit that fans have become accustomed to from the mainline Neptunia games.

The game’s plot follows some lucky gamers who are able to obtain an early access key to a popular MMORPG game called ‘4 Goddesses Online’. During their time playing, these players become viewed as the Chosen Ones by the game’s inhabitants to help save the land of Aslarg by going through different quests in order to awaken the Goddesses of Legend and to defeat the Demon King Jester that terrorizes the lands. It’s a very simple plot (especially to those of us who enjoy MMOs) that doesn’t waste any time explaining itself, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online gets to the point rather quickly.

With the story being far more linear than previous titles, it’s far more succinct at introducing the leading cast of characters to the story than other games of the genre. Neptune, Noire, Vert, and Blanc as well as their sisters Nepgear, Uni, Ram, and Rom makeup the playable cast with each having their own special classing and abilities. Other familiar names will also make cameo appearances throughout the world as special shop keeps or NPC’s which adds a nice nod to the franchise and to their lovable cast of characters.

On the surface, it may seem that Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a full-fledged MMORPG, but do not be mistaken as it is only taken the inspiration of the genre for the game’s setting and plays like an action-RPG with hack and slash elements mixed in. Character types and abilities, attributes, enemy types, as well as leveling-up, make up for the RPG side of the game, while most of the functions will be by hitting the attack command. The game does a good job in separating both types of gameplay with other various commands that become necessary in battle, but you’ll be also fighting with the controls while in combat just as much as you fight your enemies. The camera only centers itself through manual means which overlaps with other functions if not done properly. Not only that but if you hit the R3 button when fighting at any time when fixated on one certain foe, the camera will automatically go and pick up the nearest enemy in that given area.

The game does a good job in separating both types of gameplay with other various commands that become necessary in battle, but you’ll be also fighting with the controls while in combat just as much as you fight your enemies. The camera only centers itself through manual means which overlaps with other functions if not done properly. Not only that but if you hit the R3 button when fighting at any time when fixated on one certain foe, the camera will automatically go and pick up the nearest enemy in that given area.

This proved particularly tiresome, especially if you are trying to quickly get from one enemy to the next, but also have to deal with the hassle of spending your abilities rather than targeting the foe you intend to strike down. This could have been easily resolved by having the camera slightly tilted upwards for a better viewing angle of the battle instead of being directly following the back of the characters.

There were instances in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online that the enemies might pin you in a position that you can’t get out of and beat you down with no other option as to wait until your slow and inevitable death. This was extremely frustrating because it would usually happen on ledges or areas with a bit of forestry and the fact you can’t jump or attack your way out of it all seemed more of an issue with the landscaping rather than the game being intentionally hard.

On the other hand, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online does have fantastic AI partners who are far more capable of handling themselves in battle. Depending which persona or class you choose, your partners will be quick to assess the situation at hand and correspond to it with no delay and asserting their roles in combat. The only issues that were noticeable with the partnering AI is the fact that they too may get stuck on ledges and or in crevices areas and may have a hard time responding to, but they are better off dealing with those issues rather than your own player.

The large variety of characters to choose from offers many unique play styles for to choose from. Once again, using many MMORPG tropes, the game will have different classes to play as such as support, tank, and healer which are all present in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. What the game really strives for is making each of these classes feel unique and fun to play without compromising their roles on the battlefield. Every class is valued the same and the enjoyment of the game won’t hinge on if you prefer playing as a tank or a support character.

Focusing on characters, their in-game development and personalities really shine through via their cut-scenes and the amusing dialog between them do bring a few chuckles, the first few times that is. While the main cast of characters do share their funny moments, it ends up repeating itself and the humor behind their banter gets tiring after a time. The constant teasing would be OK if it wasn’t for the fact that they would end up picking on the same person which soon became easy to predict what actions would come next.

Like any good ‘MMORPG’, there will be various stores where you will be able to purchase items, gears, and clothing for your characters as well as quests to be taken up. Many of these are run of the mill ‘kill and collect’ quests which offer little to no challenge to complete as well as no real variety between them. The monsters you’ll be challenged to take down also offer little differences between them, besides simple color swaps which may affect their weaknesses, but other than a few minor alterations, remain the same.

These quests and bosses that lead to the end of the game will take roughly up to 20 hours of play time, which can be considered both good and or bad, depending on which side you like to look at Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. On one hand, it is a spoof of MMORPGs and much more action oriented and so having a game of this length feels justifiable, while on the other hand, it may seem a tad short for RPG goers expecting a full-featured adventure that has you grinding for hours on end.

Personally, it’s the former that makes Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online seem more appealing, as the variety of quests between the game doesn’t vary much and the character interactions and the story that unfolds is a far more pleasant experience rather than seeing the game for what it isn’t as a hardcore grind fest. Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is a game with a simple plot, simple design and a simple focus in mind and does an admirable job in meeting those standards.

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online’s visuals are easily recognizable for fans of the mainline titles from the franchise and its trademark anime-inspired art style works great in this spin-off game. Character models both in-game and cut scenes are drawn fantastically and the opening sequences offered a terrific music number and a visual presentation that was truly top-notch. This is the extent of the positives that the game has to offer as there are other visual issues at hand.

For starters, there are many frequent lag spikes in and out of combat when playing through the different maps. These frame rate drops are sporadic and may occur deep in combat or just by simply roaming around. The game also has a few glitches with the environment that has it disappearing from the screen and reappear later usually accompanied by a frame rate spike. These issues aren’t necessarily a deal breaker by any means but can prove to be a nuisance, especially in the thick of combat with much more happening on the screen.

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online shouldn’t be regarded as a bad game par say. It’s definitely different from its predecessors and mainline titles and that might throw off some longtime players, but there’s plenty of redeeming qualities here too. Its poor controls and frame rate issues do make it a harder sell than the more well-known Hyperdimension games, but it does offer enough rewarding moments overall and a fun take on the genre that anyone who follows this series and the other games of its ilk will definitely want to check it out.

A copy of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.