With the Western release of Vita title Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, a character-centric idol management game-cum-dating sim-cum-visual novel based on Compile Heart’s popular RPG series, I thought it high time we took a closer look at the game’s cast.
And, since Noire — also known as Black Heart — is indisputably my favorite member of the cast, I figured there was no better place to start. I’m not the only one who favours Noire, mind; such was her popularity in Japan that she recently got her own game: a Vita-based, Sting-co-developed strategy RPG spinoff of the Neptunia series that looks like being a lot of fun. There’s no news of a Western release of that game as yet, but in the meantime, we can enjoy hanging out with Noire (and her friends, I guess) in Producing Perfection.
But who, really, is Noire? Well, let’s ponder that.
In case you’re not overly familiar with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, here’s the gist: the games are set in a realm known as Gamindustri, which is split into four nations named Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox and Lowee. Each of the nations is presided over by a goddess (known in the English translation as a Console Patron Unit or CPU) and, as of the second game in the series, their younger sisters (known as CPU Candidates).
Noire is a textbook tsundere, regularly spouting the sort of things you’d expect to hear from such a character. (“Idiot! Pervert! D-don’t misunderstand!”)
Each of the goddesses — and, by extension, their nation — is based around one of the main console manufacturers and their hardware. In the case of Noire, who we’re focusing on today, she embodies Sony and its PlayStation brand, with her younger sister Uni flying the flag for Sony’s portable systems the PSP and Vita. There are actually several incarnations of Noire throughout the series — Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is regarded as a reboot of the series, while Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory mostly takes place in a parallel universe — but they are, in many ways, similar enough to be considered together.
Personality-wise, Noire is a textbook tsundere, regularly spouting the sort of things you’d expect to hear from such a character. (“Idiot! Pervert! D-don’t misunderstand! I-it’s not like I’m doing this for you or anything!”) Somewhat abrasive, aggressive and ambitious on the surface, it would be understandable for your first impression of Noire to be that she just wants to push everyone away and be by herself, but little tells that become increasingly obvious as the games’ stories and the goddesses’ relationships with one another progress reveal that, in fact, the opposite is true.
The seemingly dappy (but actually quite astute) Neptune sees through Noire’s façade almost immediately after they meet, quickly taking to poking fun at her by calling her Lonely Heart and drawing attention to her apparent neediness any time she comes to visit. It’s never done in a mean-spirited way, though; Neptune is just a light-hearted, cheeky sort of character, and Noire’s over-the-top reactions to any such accusations make her all too easy to bait for a prankster like Neptune.
Noire’s over-the-top reactions to accusations of loneliness make her all to easy to bait for a prankster like Neptune.
Noire is far from being a shut-in, though. She has her own interests and passions — she’s a closet otaku and cosplay enthusiast, not that she’d ever admit that to anyone — and she honestly, earnestly believes that her nation and its console hardware is the best that money can buy. She’s ambitious to a fault and sets enormously high expectations for herself — in the process, giving her sister a huge inferiority complex and setting herself up for frequent falls.
The Sony inspirations are, in many ways, obvious. Since the original PlayStation, Sony, like Noire herself, has always been the company that, more than any of its rivals, appeared to be actively pushing forward with technological innovations: CD-ROM in the case of the original PlayStation; the “Emotion Engine” processor in the case of the PlayStation 2; the “Cell” processor and Blu-Ray with PlayStation 3. Likewise, Sony’s handhelds have typically been technologically superior to their peers (most notably Nintendo’s handhelds the DS and 3DS), but always lagging somewhat behind the company’s main, TV-connected hardware, much as Uni is always trailing behind her sister, never quite managing to catch up.
If Noire were a real person in our own world, she’d almost certainly play and love the Neptunia series, but be a little unsure about publicly expressing her love for it.
Likewise, Noire’s otaku interests reflect the PlayStation platforms’ continued popularity with Japanese developers and players — not to mention Western fans of Japanese games. Furthermore, the fact that she doesn’t quite feel at ease with openly expressing this side of her personality — except, as we discover in Producing Perfection, those whom she has allowed to get particularly close to her — reflects the pejorative connotations that the term otaku has in Japan, not to mention the popular misconceptions about many modern Japanese games frequently bandied about in the West. To put it another way, if Noire were a real person in our own world, she’d almost certainly play and love the Neptunia series, but be a little unsure about publicly expressing her love for it to anyone other than her closest friends and confidantes.
PlayStation references abound in Noire’s appearance, too. Her powered-up “Hard Drive Divinity” (“HDD”) mode reflects the changing appearance of the PlayStation platforms over the years — this is particularly apparent in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, where each of the new HDD costumes she acquires over the course of the game represents a new generation of hardware, roughly in line with the game’s exploration of a potted, twisted history of gaming in general. Beginning with a light grey costume representing the PS1, she later moves through a blue-and-black number representing the PS2, a silvery outfit representing the PS3 prototype, and a shiny black outfit depicting the PlayStation 3 as we know it today.
PlayStation references abound in Noire’s appearance. Her Victory costume sees her carrying around a couple of PlayStation memory cards on her belt, along with a PocketStation.
Her Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory non-HDD costume, meanwhile, sees her carrying around a couple of PlayStation memory cards on her belt, along with a PocketStation, on which can occasionally be seen the face of a character that looks suspiciously like Toro Inoue, Sony’s Japanese mascot for the PlayStation brand and PlayStation Network online services. Not only that, but the gold gem on the bow she sports on her chest is remarkably similar to the Sony Computer Entertainment logo that filled the screen with that delicious, bassy, booming startup sound on the original PlayStation. She is PlayStation in almost every way.
But amid all that, and beneath their sometimes snarky, sometimes abrasive exteriors, all the incarnations of Noire from the various games share one thing in common: they’d never admit it, but they truly value friendship and closeness. Noire is practically inseparable from newcomer Plutia in the parallel universe of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, for example, and she latches on to Neptune as a friend in the other installments, sometimes against her better judgement. Likewise, in Producing Perfection, building up your relationship with Noire allows you to see another side to her — a softer side, less concerned with always trying to look like a strong, indomitable force of will; more willing to accept honest, helpful criticism; and more open about the things she loves. It’s honestly quite heartwarming to see her open up so much to the player character in Producing Perfection because, despite her obvious closeness with the other goddesses in the other games, there’s sometimes the slight feeling she tries to keep people at arm’s length.
Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is out now for Vita in North America, coming to Europe on June 6.
Thanks to the Hyperdimension Neptunia Wiki for some of the facts and trivia about Noire.