With the success of the Neptune franchise, Idea Factory and Compile Heart has been expanding the franchise by making various spinoff games for the Playstation Vita. While I was disappointed with Neptune Idol PP, I had high hopes for Chou Megami Shinkoku Noire Gekishin Black Heart since it was a full-featured strategy RPG with Noire as the main heroine. Does it live up to expectations? Let’s find out.
The story of Genki Noire Black Heart takes place in a world similar to the “Gaming Industry” called the “Game Market World”. The four goddesses like in the previous games are fighting to win control this world. Noire had an advantage and almost won absolute control. Sadly, a mysterious woman snatched it away from her when she stole all the share power. With Noire lacking strength, a mysterious boy saves her from the monsters. After Noire got saved, he becomes her secretary. From there, they set on an adventure with Neptune, Vert and Blanc tagging along in order to recruit other military commanders to save the Game Market World.
Compared to the last spinoff game, Genki Noire felt more like a full-fledged RPG than a spinoff game. While the humor is similar to Mk2/Rebirth 2 with the characters making various references to gaming franchises and even gaming in general, most of the story was enjoyable. I liked how some of the characters that are based off various gaming franchises get introduced throughout the story. While I enjoy most of the character designs, I have a feeling that there were too many characters (besides the goddesses, there are 18 commander characters opposed to 8 Maker characters in the main series) that most of them didn’t get much involvement in the story, especially the ones that gets introduced in the 7th chapter.
While the player gets to see a short scene where Noire spends time with the commander that she defeated along with the optional scenes at the mega hotel. that is about it. To me, I would rather see a slightly smaller cast so that they would get developed more opposed to having a bigger one. I felt that this aspect of the game was a lost opportunity. Even so, most of these characters are fun to play with and some even have good support moves (like healing and stat boosting), which make it easier to beat harder enemies.
As for the actual game play, while the strategy role-playing aspect is good, I felt that the gimmicks or rather traps and obstacles made the game harder than it seems. While some of it is creative, I felt that having them makes the game somewhat tiresome since you have to waste turns just to avoid the fire or other traps along with obstacles. Meanwhile, enemies can pass through them without any penalty. I feel that the enemies should abide by the same rules so there won’t be any fake difficulty. Aside from that, the game is enjoyable without them except for the last chapter where you have to go through 4 tediously long maps in one go (you can save in-between) before reaching the final boss.
Another aspect of the Strategy Roleplaying gameplay is the Lilly Boost system, which can be helpful when the member is near others in the party. This system allows you to reduce the amount of skill points used for skills, enables a party member to execute her most powerful move, swap party members (besides the leader or characters tied to an event) and for goddesses, to transform. While the kissing scene shown before the skill is there mostly for novelty and can be disabled, I find the Lilly Boost feature a unique aspect of the game since it makes it easier to boost up party members and use a character most powerful attack. At the same time, it makes Lilly rank grinding more tedious, especially for the fact that you have to use skills near them to raise these stats. Given that Noire has to have a Lilly Rank of more than 70 for each character in order to get the True Ending (and a secret ending if you unlock the good and true endings), you will be there for a while. However, the disc making system can help quicken this process.
As for other features in the game, there is an item development feature, which works similarly to the Remake System in the Rebirth remakes. It allows you to make and/or unlock certain items with ingredients you collected. Also, there is Sim Noire, which is an optional part of the game that allows you to buy new furniture from points you collected, upgrade the room, answer requests and spend time with Noire. This feature generated a lot of controversy in the fandom over the self-insert character referred to as “The Secretary (秘書官).” To me, he plays a minor role in the main story and most often than not, he is non-existent in some scenes. Regardless, you will get items and discs every time you upgrade the room. In short, there is an incentive to finish it.
While Chou Megami Shinkoku Noire Gekishin Black Heart has some flaws that make the game tedious to play at times, it’s the most enjoyable out of the three spinoffs. On top of that, the gameplay time to first completion for this game is comparable to an average Japanese RPG (the game took about 60 hours including the time for me to understand what they are saying). To me, I felt that this game gives the most value for the money compared to other spinoff games, which are noticeably short since one can beat it in 4-8 hours and costs 5800 yen. Even so, I can’t say that this game is perfect, but overall, it’s a decent Strategy RPG that could have been a bit better if they had a slightly smaller cast and resolved a few issues I have with the gameplay.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Creative use of the Lilly system, good character designs, enjoyable story, decent gameplay for the SRPG aspect.
Weaknesses: Too many characters in the cast (which makes the character development besides the goddesses feel shallow), enemies does not follow the rules (regarding traps and obstacles) the player has to follow, Last Level stages and Ending requirements are a bit too tedious. ¶