Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
Rating: T for Teen
Publisher: Idea Factory and NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart
Console: Available now for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Network
Description: Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory takes place in 1989 after Neptune is thrown into a past version of Gamindustri. In this continuity, Planeptune is a small nation protected by a new CPU named Iris Heart. Lastation is an area connected to Planeptune, Lowee is a traditionalist Japanese-style nation and Leanbox is a military state invading from abroad. As Neptune embarks on her adventure to return to her original timeline, she’ll come across a new group of villains, both old and new to the series, known as the Seven Sages that act as the main antagonists throughout the game.
The RPG subgenre of JRPGs is already a polarizing point among most gamers. The differences in style, story and gameplay between Western RPGs and JRPGs doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room when it comes to more gamers. That being said, within the JRPG circles, the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise is a polarizing topic to say the least. You either love the series or you hate, I have yet to find any kind of middle ground between both camps. In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to be a fan of the series despites its flaws and hiccups. There is something about the quirky, self-depreciating and parrying story that the Neptunia series of games is presenting through itself.
Even though the first game, Hyperdimension Neptunia, did a great job at presenting a fun and witty story, the gameplay left much to be desired and made the game seem off and limiting to some players. When Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 was released soon afterwards, it corrected a lot of flaws that the first game had but still had some lingering issues of its own. Recently, the third game in the series was released, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (developed by Compile Heart, published by Idea Factory and NIS America), and it attempts to find a balance between all of its elements that would make for a winning combination and elevate the series to a true hit status. Unfortunately, Victory does find a balance, it just happens to be between the two Neptunia games that came before it.
When it comes to how the game fairs against its predecessors, Victory falls directly between Hyperdimension Neptunia and mk2. While it certainly is way better than the first Neptunia game, it makes some mistakes attempting to fix things from mk2 that really didn’t need fixing – namely the battle system. While it uses a system similar to that of mk2, it over-simplifies the battle system to a series of limited combos to dish out damage to enemies. While using combos would seem like a great strategy, over 30 plus hours of gameplay, I have used one single combo about 90% of the time because it is the one that seems to do the most damage against all types of enemies – even bosses. And battling bosses is another kind of headache. While boss battles are not entirely difficult or abundant, they are ridiculously time consuming.
It seems that just about every boss in the game that you will come across will heal itself back to full health numerous times before you can finally put it down for the count. Thank the stars that they are not ridiculously hard battles, but what should have ended in two or three minutes sometimes gets dragged on for anywhere between five and ten minutes most of the time. You can limit this time with a good amount of grinding to up your Exp., but that is beside the point; the boss battles just seemingly go on for no real reason.
Since I just happened to touch on it right now, grinding is a great way to go out there and really just power your characters up. Grinding in Victory is a bit of work, but it is not laborious by any means. Most enemies you encounter during the first few chapters of the game will provide you enough Exp. points to level up in a fairly quick time frame. Personally, after a few hours of actual dungeon/level exploring, I had enough strength and Exp. to continue on comfortably and not worry about being overpowered by random dungeon monsters and enemies. If grinding in the game were any more difficult, I could see it as a put off of Victory when you factor in the tedious work you do while fighting bosses. Thankfully there is a fine balance between grinding and unavoidable boss battles.
Another time consuming issue with Victory is the presentation of the story which is very much like reading through a visual novel type game. I was actually prepared for this aspect of Victory having gone through it in the previous two games; but for those ill-prepared for sitting through minute after minute of dialog between characters, this is definitely a deal breaker. And I ain’t kidding when I say some conversations between the characters take their time. In one exchange between Neptune, the main protagonist of the game and series, and Plutia, the CPU goddess of Planeptune of the past, I literally sat there reading the dialog for 15 minutes before the story progressed any further. And then immediately after moving from one point after this, another eight minute conversation began. Let me tell you, if I wasn’t already a fan of visual novel type games, I would have been turned off by Victory during the Prologue.
Those issues aside, however, the character driven story of Victory is one I certainly would not have passed up. In Victory, our heroine Neptune is flung back in time to the world of Gamindustri of 1989. From here, she witnesses the development of the Console Wars from nearly start to finish as she attempts to find her way back to her own time and once again become the CPU goddess of Planeptune. Along the way, she sees and teams up with younger versions of Noire, Vert, Blanc, and Histoire as well as the CPU goddess of the past, Plutia, as she faces off against new and old enemies in the series. The character development between all the character, PCs and NPS, protagonist and antagonist alike, is something that really propels Victory to being a fun and addicting game. I could play for hours just watching the interactions between all the characters. And given how wordy the game is, you literally do just that.
Seriously though, I didn’t think that any more character development was possible in the Neptunia series. It did a great job addressing the motivations and character aspects of each character wonderfully in the first two game that I though any more further development would have to introduce completely new characters all around. But taking the characters back in the past certainly opened up new ways for them all to (hysterically) interact with each other that it really caught me by surprise. I had already developed a caring for the characters in the first two games, but Victory secured my feelings for them throughout the game. And you will get to know your characters by the game’s end.
While definitely wordy, Victory also clocks in at more than 40 plus hours of gameplay. Believe me, aside from some grinding to keep up with the enemies, monsters and bosses, I have played the game pretty straight-forwardly and I have yet to complete Judging from what I have seen of the game and the way the story is going, I think I may have another ten to fifteen hours of gameplay left. This may sound like a lot to some of you, but I welcome a game that offers me such an extended play life. Don’t get me wrong, I like games like Battlefield 3, CoD: Black Ops 2, and Tomb Raider just as much as the next, but their under 10 hours of campaign gameplay really get to me sometimes. So having a game like Victory offer an abundance of gameplay like it does is a very welcome change.
Still, for as much as I enjoyed Victory, the setbacks in time consuming boss battles and simplified gameplay controls really take away from a great and well-presented story. The Neptunia series has certainly come a long way from the flaw filled Hyperdimension Neptunia game in 2010 but it took a few steps back when compared to Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. But even with all that in mind, I certainly did not mind playing through it and I even have the inkling that I may play through the game one more time before I am done. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is not a great game, but given the chance by the gaming base it is targeting, it is a fun and ridiculous romp through a fantasized retelling of the console wars… in its own unique way. B-