Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart is a strategy RPG available to buy exclusively for the PlayStation Vita. Developed by Compile Heart and Sting, the game is published in the West courtesy of Idea Factory International (NIS America used to handle Compile Heart releases, but the companies have since fallen out over a staffing dispute.) Set in the popular Hyperdimension Neptunia universe, this spin-off title sees Noire (aka Lady Black Heart) wrestle the protagonist mantle away from Neptune, which is fine with me. Although I am a fan of the HDN franchise I must say that I find Neptune’s hyperactive antics to be rather annoying. Given the choice, I’d pick Noire’s adorable pigtails and tsundere tendencies over Neptune any day.
Set in the kingdom of Gamarket, which is inspired by the video game industry, Hyperdevotion Noire chronicles the eternal struggle that is the Console War. The game’s opening cinematic sees Noire take over the world after defeating her rival Goddesses (Neptune, Vert and Blanc) in a duel. Her reign as overlord is short lived though, as a gothic chick named Eno deceives the titular character into activating a power sapping crystal. Noire must now reclaim her empire by venturing across the land defeating the rebellious generals who once served under her. Amusingly the enemy commanders in question are all based on video game characters. Lee-Fi for example is the splitting image of Chun-Li, Ein AI resembles a female Tidus and the perpetually hungry Lady Wac is based on Miss Pac-Man.
Unlike the traditional HDN releases, Hyperdevotion Noire is a strategy game not a turn based RPG. Battles are waged atop maps akin to Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. The objective of most levels is to defeat the enemy forces or their leader. Sometimes however you’ll be asked to protect an ally, defuse bombs within a certain number of turns or pick up items that have been strewn across the landscape. The player’s seven (wo)man army is made up of Noire and any recruits she manages to coerce to her cause over the course of the story. Like many games of its ilk, the combatants under your command each have their own unique special attacks, which can be strengthened by um… kissing. Yes that’s right, if you perform a special move friendly warriors within the vicinity will smooch their compatriot – empowering the strength of her attack. If animes with lesbian undertones are your thing then Hyperdevotion Noire is the game for you.
Rather unsurprisingly, given my taste in games, Hyperdevotion Noire gets five stars from me. Much like peanut butter and jelly it combines two of my favourite things – namely HDN’s humorous satire of video games and fun tactical strategy RPG gameplay. It’s a pity that this game is only a spin-off because I prefer both its protagonist and combat system to the lead and mechanics found in the mainline Neptunia titles. Hyperdevotion Noire also gets a thumbs up from me on the visual front. The chibi character designs are adorable whilst the anime images used during the story segments are of a high standard. Some of the cut scenes feature shameless eye candy, but given that the appeal of the game is leading an army of waifus I doubt that HDN’s target audience will be too unhappy about the inclusion of feminist angering fan service.
My only gripe with the game would have to be some of the later levels, were you are expected to emerge victorious from a series of battles. Those particular missions don’t give you an opportunity to save between encounters, which can be frustrating if your team is under levelled. I also didn’t care for the maps that feature high walls. To traverse those obstacles you’ll have to spend several tedious turns positioning crates in front of the barriers, in order to erect a makeshift stepladder. Damn it Compile Heart, why are you making me partake in boring construction when all I want to do is watch my harem smack monsters? Don’t let those minor gripes put you off though. Hyperdevotion Noire offers many hours of enjoyment and is well worth the asking price.