Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection (boy, is that a mouthful) is an idol simulation game for the PlayStation Vita. Compile Heart, the game’s developer, is about as niche as you can get for the Western audience. But for some reason, the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise has been somewhat successful outside of Japan. The series is a parody of the actual video game industry, and each goddess, totaling four, represents the various consoles that have appeared in the market. Each goddess is the leader of their nation in the world of Gameindustri (yes, it’s actually called that), and in Producing Perfection, they must strut their stuff on stage and take up the life of an idol. Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection features a bright and vivid art style, likeable characters, and a comedic approach to storytelling, but the gameplay lacks some serious substance, and chasing the true endings is a huge pain in the butt.
Much like in my everyday life, the main character in Producing Perfection is planning the perfect video game marathon. In this preparation, the character is magically sucked into the world of Gameindustri, and must choose to manage one of the four goddesses in their newly discovered quest of becoming the top idol in the world. The goddesses have just recently lost their popularity to the idol group MOB-48. These villains don’t really have a leader, or any real goals that make them worth defeating. They exist solely to progress the story along, and give the player a very lenient goal during progression.
Neptune, the goddess of Planeptune, is the face of the series, and in Producing Perfection she serves as the not so serious beginners guide to the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise. Her story plays out as if it’s the player's first time traversing through the title, and her personality is incredibly goofy and contagious. She’s designed to be annoying with the way she speaks and carries herself, but eventually she grows on you the more you assist her in her idol duties. This is true for the other characters as well. Once you play through their story for the first time, each characters quirks, characteristics, and personalities become apparently different but likable. The simulation side of things is pretty simple for those who don’t have much experience in these types of games.
As the idol’s manager, you must travel to the four nations of Gameindustri to collect the shares that have been amassed by MOB-48. The overall goal is to collect enough shares to become the number one idol in the entire world. Doing so requires that the idol raise her stats in practice, so that when it comes time to perform a concert, she has a greater ability to work the crowd. The player can collect shares by working in the various nations of Gameindustri. The jobs available range from a small ad campaign, but can also involve setting up an event or even forming a group with another idol. Creating groups pools together the shares of all the idols within the group, and once this becomes available in the game, it’s the easiest way to become the number one idol.
Outside of the simulation portions of the game, there are also the concerts that are somewhat interactive. This is where the game begins to show the lack of substance in the gameplay. With how the game is structured, and the fact that it revolves around idols singing on stage, you would expect the game to be similar to a rhythm title, where the songs are scored upon player timing and input. But Producing Perfection only allows the player to control minute sections of a concert. You select a song, but there are only five to choose from, a stage, costumes, and lastly stage effects. The stage effects are used whenever the crowd begins cheering for the idol, and they help increase the score of the performance. However, this is done by a simple button press. The rest of the concert has the player moving the camera around and watching the idol on screen, over and over. Compared to other rhythm titles, it’s almost hard to place Producing Perfection into the same genre. You can get an “Excellent” rating for a concert, and barely pay any attention to the screen. It is clear Compile Heart wanted to focus on managing and interacting with the idols instead, but some sections of Producing Perfection have almost no real gameplay to them. This makes the title tough to recommend considering you need a minimum of eight playthroughs to complete all of the unlockable true endings.
Multiple endings in a game can be a pretty good mechanic to encourage players to explore the game further. Rather than completing the title once and being done, developers provide numerous routes and endings that will keep players coming back for more. It can also lead to gamers being tied closer to the experience. The more time you put into a game, the greater chance it can have a lasting impact on you. However, to pull something like this off, the multiple endings have to be structured in some sense, and this is where Producing Perfection becomes a pain in the butt. Each of the four goddesses has a completion percentage that can be maxed out doing various activities. The main problem here though, is that there isn’t a master list, and some of the requirements are completely unknown to the player. Each idol must have her story completed at least twice, and if you end up with a completion percentage that is missing a few points, there is no way to tell what you missed. Even when utilizing a guide, the game is still too tedious and frustrating. For a supposed relaxing idol simulation, the lack of structure here really hurt the experience.
Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection is the beginning for a series that will likely see multiple entries on the PlayStation Vita. With a remake of the first game on the way, Producing Perfection gives players an easier entry into the series for newcomers. Although the gameplay is sometimes too light for its own good, the relaxing nature of the experience, and the likable cast of idols makes the experience worth trying to some degree. Producing Perfection is such a unique title however, that most gamers will probably want to pass over this experience to something with a little more substance.