Noire is a consistently popular member of the Neptunia cast, and for a variety of reasons.
For one, she personifies the range of consoles that have, to date at the time of writing, played exclusive host to the games in the series: Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, with her younger sister Uni representing Sony handhelds the PSP and Vita. As such, it’s natural for people to feel drawn to her — though quite a fun little twist in the fact that she’s not the franchise’s main character.
For another, she embodies the enduringly popular character trope of the tsundere; that hard-shelled, soft-centred sort of person who puts up an abrasive, sometimes aggressive front but actually just wants to be liked or even loved.
Fanart by wz shuizha q (Pixiv)
There’s more to Noire than just a simple character archetype, however, and she’s been explored and developed quite a bit over the course of the various Neptunia games to date. We’ve grown to learn about what she likes to do in her spare time, how she feels about her friends and rivals, what her relationship is like with her younger sibling, and how she sees herself as part of the world.
One aspect of Noire that makes her particularly relatable to the sort of people likely to be playing a Neptunia game is that she is a closet otaku and cosplayer. Taking great delight in assembling outfits to depict her favourite characters — including her avatar in Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online — she enjoys expressing herself through the way she dresses, though gets somewhat embarrassed when someone realises that is exactly what she’s doing.
Fanart by muwa12 (Pixiv)
This all ties in with Noire’s personality. She tries hard… a little too hard. She’s a personification of how Sony, over the years, has made great efforts to stand out and be a market leader in its field, not always successfully. Her overly elaborate default dress seen in the early Neptunia games is covered in lace, frills and ribbons and combined with prominently visible stockings, garters and thigh-high boots. Her Ultra Dimension depiction, seen in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory and Re;Birth3, is a little less elaborate, but sets the whole thing off in a different way by exposing her midriff and, again, emphasising her legs with stockings. Noire wants you to look at her; she wants you to admire her, though she’d never admit that, of course.
She’s a proud individual, too, apparently sincere in her belief that her nation of Lastation leads the world in technological innovation and will always come out on top if it comes to a battle of hardware. Her catchphrase in the early games is that she can “only do everything”; pretty much a direct quote of Sony’s ad campaign for the PS3. This attitude reflects Sony’s growing arrogance over the course of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, ultimately leading to the PlayStation 3 initially faltering against Microsoft’s Xbox 360 platform on its original launch — though as we all now know with hindsight, the system eventually hit its stride and Sony found itself back in a very good position as the following generation finally rolled around.
Fanart by KeenH (Pixiv)
In her “goddess” form, Noire — or, rather, Black Heart — becomes noticeably different. Her occasional hesitance and shyness covered up with emphatic denials disappears completely, and she becomes strong, assertive and powerful. In Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, that game’s incarnation of Black Heart (actually a computer-generated version based on Noire’s real-life goddess form) likes to position herself as the “leader” of the group of goddesses, though has three other strong personalities to contend with at the same time.
Black Heart’s depiction in this way represents the PlayStation brand’s ability to come out with heavy hitters that keep people interested and invested in the brand; strong, recognisable franchises that people will continue to enjoy for many years and, in many cases, across several generations of hardware. Sony believes in the PlayStation brand, and Black Heart is a reflection of that.
Fanart by swd3e2 (Pixiv) – be sure to view the full-size version of this one!
Noire and Black Heart’s respective designs reflect the PlayStation in a different way, too: through their physical appearance. Noire’s strong emphasis on the colour black (including her name) reflects the default colour of all PlayStation platforms from the PlayStation 2 onwards, and her outfits tend to emphasise colours and designs also associated with Sony’s consoles.
Her Ultra Dimension outfit features a brooch that resembles the Sony Computer Entertainment logo that was visible on the startup screen of the first-generation PlayStation, and looking closely at her belt reveals a PocketStation. The blue accents on this outfit are also closely associated with the PlayStation 2, which featured subtle hints of blue in various places such as around the USB ports.
Black Heart’s outfit pays homage to the various PlayStation consoles in a more direct fashion. The shiny black number she is typically seen wearing in the Hyper Dimension is strongly reminiscent of the PlayStation 3’s original models, which were similarly glossy and black, while the grey accents make reference to the original PlayStation.
Her Ultra Dimension depiction (seen above), meanwhile, provides an even more obvious representation of the various generations of PlayStation hardware. Since Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory/Re;Birth3 concerns the history of gaming and how things have developed for the various platform creators over time, this makes perfect sense; when we first see her, her outfit is prominently grey like the original PlayStation, while her subsequent enhanced versions reflect various models and prototypes of later PlayStation models.
Fanart by Niwaka Potato (Twitter)
Noire is a beloved character with good reason. She’s smart, she’s sexy, she’s very relatable as a person and, while she likes to think of herself as a voice of reason for the group of Neptunia goddesses, she’s just as fallible as the rest of them, particularly when in her somewhat hot-headed goddess form.
Megadimension Neptunia brought us a new generation of Noire with her new “Next Form” transformation to reflect the latest generation of Sony hardware, and Cyberdimension Neptunia sees all of the goddesses of the series feeling like they’re truly moving on and developing by a significant amount.
Noire and the rest of the Neptunia girls are very much fixtures of the world of Japanese gaming today, and I know I for one hope we have many more years in their company to look forward to yet.
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