Developer: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
Publisher: NIS America
Review Platform: PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network)
Review Copy Provided By: NIS America
Release Date: November 11. 2013
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is filled with buxom breasted anime styled goddesses representing realms allegorizing and parodying the different console brands as they compete for control of the world of Gamindustri. Sexual innuendo and references compete equally with the game industry allusions in the Compile Heart developed title. On the surface it sounds like all kinds of wonderful but Victory is the third game in a series known for clever and intriguing concepts that fall prey to the failure of other parts of the game. With every iteration, Compile Heart tries to fix and improve but even after moving the plot to an alternate dimension and altering key gameplay elements, Victory is a flawed title like its predecessors.
Victory follows the main character of the previous titles, Neptune, as she is somehow transported to an alternate dimension that represents the start of the console wars. Neptune and her realm Planeptune represent Sega. The other brands are alluded to with the realm of Lastation (Playstation), Leanbox (Xbox), Eden (PC-Engine), and Lowee (Nintendo). A majority of the game’s story comes in the form of text-based cutscenes limited to 2D portraits representing the characters speaking. Occasionally these sections will be voiced with high-pitched anime style dubbing. These scenes take up a surprisingly large portion of the game so much so that at one point the characters make a self aware joke about hitting buttons to skip past the boring parts. For those not fans of this style of storytelling, Victory can turn into a slog to get through.
The cutscenes of the game might be more bearable if the characters had a bit more substance to them. Their main purpose seems to be to deliver stereotypical dialogue without any attempt at exposition of the character. For the most part, the references to gaming are both fun and witty but the sexual innuendo that comes later tends to have an awkwardness to it especially when coming from the younger looking characters.
The world of Victory comes in the form of menus that contain even more menus for buying items, accepting quests, and witnessing the lengthy cutscenes/dialogue events. Any actual gameplay takes place in what the game calls dungeons. These are areas that the player can run through engaging enemies. While graphically everything looks pretty nice in high definition goodness, the environment assets are constantly reused and when that is mixed with repeated map layouts, the game ends up with a been there done that feeling filled with blandness.
The combat is focused around turn-based battle system that has free range movement with proximity based attacks and skills on a character’s turn. The characters that make up the player’s party are each capable of handling any role needed leaving the game feeling like there is a lack of strategy… at least starting out. Characters can choose between a heavy attack, a multi-hit attack, or an attack that targets the enemies guard. Combos can be customized with powerful options unlocked as the game progresses and after enough options are unlocked the game truly starts to feel interesting. Unfortunately, that is a long time to wait for fun that could make the first part of the game more palatable.
More interesting and making the game feel a little more pervy is that the characters have a transformation into CPU form that both gives them more power but also ages and sexes them up. The sexual innuendo feels more natural though when the characters are in these forms. Along with combo options opening up after progression, Victory doles out additions to the whole gameplay system such as sending NPCs to scout dungeons that never seem to complicate the game but at least make it a little more fun. .
Progressing the story requires a lot of menu hopping searching for dialogue events and quests to complete. These quests contain some pretty generic unrelated goals like killing X number of these or gathering Y number of those that are very much like something you would find in an MMO. Like many JRPGs, Victory requires a lot of grinding between areas ,plot points, and bosses even more so due to the big jumps in difficulty. The downside to this type of difficulty jumps is that there is no autosave or checkpoints leaving it very easy to lose hours of progress when making a bad decision to attempt a boss while forgetting to save.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory ends up much like the previous titles in the series with a lot of good concepts ruined by poor execution of the player experience. When nearly half of the game is text-based cutscenes with fancy 2D portraits, gamers are going to get bored real fast. But as with the rest of the Hyperdimension Neptunia titles, there is just something in the game that attracts an audience making it very much a niche title. Hopefully if there is a fourth game, Compile Heart will finally get it just right.