Title: Dimension Tripper Neptune: TOP NEP
Developer: Idea Factory, tiny cactus studio, WSS playground, Frontier Works
Release Date: January 20, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Genre: On-Rails Shooter, Bullet Hell
The Neptunia franchise has dabbled in several genres with varying results. From simulation titles to third-person shooters, fans have experienced no shortage of mixups, for better or worse. Now, the series has taken on the task of attempting the rail-shooter genre, a self-explanatory gameplay loop where players shoot incoming enemies across auto-scrolling setpieces. This game, Dimension Tripper Neptune: TOP NEP, is comically brief yet instilled with qualitative art direction and enemy design, providing a memorable, satisfying experience.
The most significant downside to this new Nep adventure is the length because, since, as I mentioned, it is brief. However, its brevity is likely shorter than what the average Neptunia fan may be expecting. There are five stages with one boss battle each, culminating in roughly 15ish minutes of gameplay. With that being said, that factor alone makes it apparent that this spinoff is designed explicitly for replayability. Achieving high scores is the ultimate goal here, and with such a digestible playtime, the prospect of enacting another playthrough can be enticing.
Thankfully, the impressive enemy design makes the expectation of replays all the more enticing. Their design is matched with unique movement and projectile actions that make getting through each level gratifying. Players can only freely move across the screen, shoot their own projectiles, or slash. Slashing is a mechanic best utilized for foes charging toward you, though its hitbox range can be frustrating during the first few playthroughs.
Further, players can pick up coins throughout the stages that gradually fill a bar on the bottom right of the screen. When filled, the character whose icon was depicted will appear to provide a temporary helping hand. These other characters grant more projectile damage, though I wish they had more individualized gameplay traits. Regardless, it’s a neat reward for being cognizant of the constantly moving locales.
As one would expect, the enemy design grows gradually more intense throughout each of the five stages, eventually pushing the player’s skills. Still, the bosses are, unfortunately, rather underwhelming. In fact, I find the basic enemies in later stages to be more challenging than the bosses themselves. These stage-end battles are just too simple in execution for them to feel threatening although they do emit fair telegraphs and behaviors propagating pattern recognition. Still, I do believe the difficulty could have been heightened just a bit, so these factors coalesced into greater victories. There are two selectable difficulty levels, Normal and Hard, but the latter merely removes the sacrificial point retry option.
The art style and soundtrack are memorable through their delightfully crunchy and old-school beats. I couldn’t help but passively admire the endearing bit-ified versions of playable Older Neptune and the various other CPUs and Candidates. They’re rather cute. The enemies are also notably charming, making the stellar graphical design stand out more for how incredibly momentary this title is. The tracks, while few in number, are equal parts thrilling and addicting to hype yourself up in the heat of battle. The boss theme, an arrangement of a particular franchise battle theme, is especially noteworthy for its induced exhilaration.
Dimension Tripper Neptune: TOP NEP feels like an appetizer of a full game, but it’s a damn tasty one. Boasting five defined stages, well-designed boss battles, and remarkable sound design and art direction, this on-rails shooter is an experience that can be easily enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike. Still, more incentivization for replayability aside from reaching higher scores would’ve been appreciated. Moreover, simply having more content would have been ideal since 15-minute playthroughs can be a tough sell, even when accounting for intention. Still, at least at the end of the day, I can say that Neptunia seamlessly stuck the landing for a first genre attempt.
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