The MoeGamer Awards 2018: Best Girl 2018

The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards that I’ve devised in collaboration with the community as an excuse to celebrate the games, experiences and fanbases that have left a particular impression on me in 2018. Find out more and leave a suggestion here!

Well, if you’re gonna do “best boy” you’ve got to do “best girl”, haven’t you? And there sure are a lot of wonderful girls to choose from across the games we’ve explored together over the course of the last year.

Those of you who know me well, however, will know that, biases be damned, there’s only one lovely lady who was ever going to win this, given the year’s Cover Game lineup. But just to be fair, I’m going to say that her winning Best Girl this year will preclude her from winning this or any similar award in subsequent years, regardless of whether or not I cover another of her games. Gotta give the others a chance, after all.

And the winner is…

Official art

Nepgear

love Nepgear. Like, legitimately love her. Whenever someone asks me who my “waifu” is, or simply who my favourite character is, my thoughts always jump immediately to Nepgear.

She’s the character who, more than any other in my gaming career, I wish was real. I’d love to hang out with her, play games with her, admire her technical aptitude and listen to her woes. The way I feel about Nepgear is not even primarily a sexual or physical attraction thing — though to be sure, she pushes many of my own personal buttons — but instead a feeling that she’d just be a delight to have around. And, in itself, being inspired to feel that way is testament to the solid characterisation in the Neptunia series in general — not just for Nepgear here, but for all the characters.

Let’s rewind for a moment on the off-chance you, dear reader, are unfamiliar with the Neptunia series and the installment we covered this year, Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online.

Official art

Compile Heart’s Neptunia series made its debut in 2010 with a PlayStation 3 title that had a somewhat tepid critical response, but attracted sufficient interest from fans of anime-style RPGs to warrant the company making numerous sequels and spinoffs ever since.

The series was originally conceived as a means of personifying the absurdity of the rivalry between Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sega. Title character Neptune is intended to represent the cancelled Sega Mega Drive/32X hybrid console of the same name, while Noire stands for Sony’s PlayStation platforms, Vert for Microsoft and their Xboxes, and Blanc for Nintendo.

Second installment Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 was effectively a “reboot” of the series, canonically unfolding in a different dimension but incorporating the same characters with some important additions: their younger sisters. Said younger sisters were all intended to represent the handheld consoles that the main cast’s “companies” had put out over the years — as such, Vert, representing Microsoft, did not have a sister, and Blanc, representing Nintendo, had twin sisters intended to allude to the dual displays of the DS platform.

 

Fanart by Helvetica Standard (Twitter)

Nepgear is Neptune’s sister, personifying the Sega Game Gear. And she’s designed as a complete contrast to Neptune in a variety of ways. While Neptune is chaotic, wild, childish and a bit dim — a rather on-the-nose mockery of Sega’s mishandling of its hardware business from the 32X era onwards — Nepgear is polite, sensible and very intelligent, but also riddled with neuroses such as a low sense of self-esteem and a belief she might be “boring”. The latter is a running fourth wall-breaking joke about her being the main character in mk2 — she spends much of the subsequent games’ narratives being concerned that she had to fill Neptune’s shoes as the lead protagonist, and that in the process she didn’t live up to her sister’s chaotic nature and the expectations of the audience.

Thinking in abstract terms, Nepgear’s mental health issues could be seen as a representation of how the Game Gear failed to make as much of an impact on the games industry as the Mega Drive did; while it had its fans, its numerous flaws such as its poor battery life and its limited range of games meant that it failed to make a significant impact on the market Nintendo’s Game Boy had cornered at this point in history.

Taking things in a more “in-world” context, Nepgear clearly loves her sister a great deal, but is frustrated by her incompetence. Neptune is supposed to be in charge of a country (“Planeptune”), much like her peers, but frequently goofs off to see her friends, play games and just generally piss around. Nepgear often ends up taking on a lot of the work — something she doesn’t resent her sister for by any means, but almost certainly wishes was organised a little differently.

Fanart by Rhapsofree (Pixiv)

In Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, we’re given a rare opportunity to see the entire extended cast not “at work” as they are in most entries of the series, but well and truly at play. The concept of the game is that they are all beta testing the latest release in a series of popular MMOs, and as such they’re free of “commitments” in the outside world while they play. The lack of any great world-threatening disaster means that there’s a pleasant shift in tone, particularly in the early hours of the narrative, as everyone involved just has the opportunity to have fun, hang out with friends without having to worry about anything, and just “be themselves”.

In Nepgear’s case, this provides her with the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with her best friend (and Noire’s sister) Uni; the pair share an intimate connection that has been strongly implied on several occasions by this point to cross a line into romantic feelings for one another, and 4 Goddesses Online makes this even more clear than in previous installments. Deciphering a coded message from Uni to Nepgear in the early hours of the game reveals a delightfully heartfelt message that leaves you in little doubt as to whether this pair are “just friends”.

One of the nice moral messages in 4 Goddesses Online is delivered by Nepgear. She and her friends take the time to enjoy a “hot springs” event, and the group find it enormously relaxing to just spend some time together, even though it’s just a virtual world they’re hanging out in. Nepgear notes that she believes situations like this — and the subsequent enthusiasm they bring for getting together in “the real world” — are “a healthy relationship for games to have with society”. And she’s absolutely right.

So why is Nepgear Best Girl? Well, simply because she’s so relatable and pleasant to be around. I feel her pain in terms of low self-esteem, “imposter syndrome” and worrying that people might find you uninteresting, but I also enjoy her being around. She maintains a cheerful outlook on most situations despite the anxiety she clearly carries within herself much of the time, and that is, quite frankly, rather inspirational to me; I wish I could cope so well with such things!

Also she makes a badass (and SUPER CUTE) mage; she and Uni carried me through most of the latter half of the game. So you gotta admire the girl from a mechanical perspective even if she isn’t your type!


More about Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.

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