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Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia VictoryPS3 NIS America JRPG Compile Heart Idea Factory Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: March 21, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A review copy was provided by the publisher for this review
Although the cover of the game makes it appear as if this is the fifth (“V”) game in the series, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is but the third in a line of PS3-exclusive JRPGs. First came Hyperdimension Neptunia in 2010, which was continued a year later under the name Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2. Despite this being the third game in a series, it isn’t required to play any of the others first. Still, is it a game worthy getting in on now or should it be ignored?
The answer to this question depends completely on the kind of games you wish to spend your time with. RPG fans tend to track down more obscure titles and it’s fair to say that the Neptunia series is one of them. As these gamers are probably aware, many titles lack the polish of more popular ones. Still, if there are good mechanics to be found, then they’re worth playing. Other times, truly intriguing stories are available only by reaching for less known games. Victory is definitely a game with low production values.
This is readily apparent by simply running the introductory cutscene of the game. It begins with characters engaging in an apparently important battle. As one character is attacked repeatedly, the same pained voice clip plays each and every time. Although other battles in game show a bit more variety, it’s an incredibly simple way to showcase that the game isn’t fussed with trying to be something it’s not. Basically, do not waltz into any Neptunia game expecting Final Fantasy levels of polish.
When viewing it from this perspective, Victory seems to be a pretty decent game. You begin by simply seeing a lot of exposition about the world of Gamindustri and the characters that inhabit it. This should get new players accustomed to the world without ever having to have played the previous titles. From there, Neptune is magically transported back in time - to the 80s. She must meet characters over again in this alternate past, which again acclimates new players, as well as gives the series narrative a new twist.
One reason that Victory, or the series in general, is worth a look is due to the world. Instead of simply being in a medieval, fantasy past or some some space age future, it takes place in a modern/current age fueled by video games. Each of the main characters is herself a personification of a video game home and handheld systems, called CPUs and CPU Candidates respectively. PlayStation, Microsoft, Nintendo, and even Sega are represented. Fans of gaming will definitely appreciate jokes made between the characters that reference the history of these consoles. Unfortunately, some characterizations don’t seem to make much sense, such as Nintendo’s propensity toward being a potty mouth.
At this point both new and old players alike must wade through a fair lot of tutorial screens. Thankfully (or not, depending on your JRPG skill level) these are shown only as still information screens. Most of the game’s complexities are described in simple terms and can be referred back to at any time. Some systems though are left up to players to experiment with to understand fully. Most of the important game elements, such as battles, are easy enough to grasp even with ignoring in-game tutorials.
Battles are taken care of in a turn-based fashion but where you control each character directly on the field. During fights, an enclosed area appears which players move their characters around on. Movement is freeform, although you can’t necessarily move one character tremendously far away in one turn. This element attempts to bring strategy into battles, although often ends up playing out in the same way when you’re only grinding. Some simple strategy examples are keeping characters spaced so they can’t be hit by a wide attack, or positioning a healer in a safe spot. It’s not that deep.
Although your party begins small, players soon acquire a team of up to four characters. Each have their own talents, and in particular, special ultra-powerful moves. One way in which battles attempt to be more complex is that each character has a meter (after it is unlocked). These meters are charged through fighting and once at a certain amount, allow them to take more attacks and make use of a finishing move of sorts. While using extra attacks doesn’t drain the meter, using the special attack sure does. Of course, these moves are such powerhouses that it sometimes becomes less fun to use them even when they’re charged.
Playing through the first few hours of the game is quite easy. It almost leads the player to believe that this may be a rare example of a JRPG that doesn’t require much grinding. Basically, as long as you’re doing what’s required of you quest-wise, everything seems to work out. Of course, this changes the further in you get. Before the halfway point, players will have come across one hit (or close to it) kill creatures which make things quite troublesome. There are even special higher level enemies, but at least they won’t try to attack you. This is possible because players initiate battles through running toward enemies wandering about levels, instead of randomly.
After a while, you’re going to have to grind to survive. Grinding proves the battle system to be a bit more trouble than it’s worth. Despite the bit of fun it does provide, it in no way speeds up the process of grinding. Instead of just hitting a menu in a pattern for each battle, you have to of course move each character into positions for each one, and then commence attacking. The result isn’t hugely damaging, but does make things longer than they have to be. Also, if you intend to get rewarded for playing well, you’ll have to spend a lot of time battling.
Victory isn’t all about the battles, though. In fact, players might be surprised by how much of the game is filled with story as opposed to fighting. As new places to explore open up, so too do new “events”. These events typically trigger a fairly long round of exposition continuing the story along. Sometimes they are silly, other times they are important plot elements. Regardless, there are a heaping bunch of them. Usually these scenes are depicted with still images of characters. On occasion they are voiced, but most aren’t. This is another way which the budget nature of the game’s development is made apparent.
Although I am unaware as to how the original game story progressed, there was a lot of work put in by NIS America to localize it successfully. For the most part, they have done a commendable job. Characters have distinct personalities and say some seriously funny stuff. However, there are points where characters step over the line of what would be expected in a game rated T. Mainly, there are very obvious references to rape and sexual sadism. While these are not inherently things which games cannot discuss, they aren’t handled with much tact here. This sort of humor is probably not set to phase devoted anime fans, but it certainly bothered me.
Similarly, character designs may also be offputting to non-anime fans. The majority of characters in the game are female and depicted in revealing attire. Thankfully, most of the young-looking characters are dressed in cute, but “normal” clothes. It’s when they transform into older-looking versions that their bodies are more obviously put on display. Those who have a distaste for sexualized characters should definitely stay away, but it’s likely that the box art itself works as an excellent deterrent.
As far as anyone is concerned, Victory is a playable game even with its budget status. However, those who played mk2 will recognize that assets were directly lifted from that game and placed here. Many enemies are the same as well as certain songs on the soundtrack. This means visuals were not upgraded from previous versions and still are mechanically the same. The graphics weren’t special in 2010, so you can imagine how underwhelming they look now, even in their anime style. What has been added here is the new story. Because of this, newbies to the series should probably stick with the latest game though instead of going back.
If you’re willing to play an ultimately average JRPG, then Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is as good a choice as any. Thanks to its humorous take on the video game industry, it manages to be far more interesting than some of its contemporaries. The experience is only marred by standard play, average graphics, and some questionable localization choices. Regardless, there are worse games on the market and Victory deserves some attention for its tongue in cheek depiction of gaming.
+ Amusing take on video game console wars
+ Variety of character-specific moves
+ Good deal of extra content
- Real-time battle mechanics cause battles to drag on
- Graphics do the game no favors
- Sometimes questionable localization decisions
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is primarily an average game but is definitely set to appeal to certain audiences.
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