(PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Katy Ellis

"Is that your 'please punish me' face?"

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is a hard-sell. It’s what reviewers like to call ‘a niche title’, meaning a game that the majority of PlayStation 3 owners will pick up and then swiftly put back down. Set in a land governed by gaming tech, it's the third instalment in the Neptunia JRPG series, a franchise which bases its narrative around the Japanese gaming industry and the console war.

With such an endearing concept, it’s a great shame that the metaphor is only skin-deep, with references to Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and SEGA taking the form of overtly personified characters, and monsters that look like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Moogles, and other well-known industry critters. But, while it may not offer a grand critique of the industry, Victory does provide JRPG fans with the occasional games-culture reference, such as the CPU (goddess and creator) of the Leanbox nation (Xbox) dealing with a console factory suicide strike, linked to the 2012 threat at a Chinese factory owned by Microsoft, and other snide quips in the alternate dimension about the superiority of Sony's CD-ROM technology compared to Nintendo's outdated cartridges. When visiting Lowee (Nintendo), you can even listen to the heart-breaking sorrows of a certain ‘Maryo’, who sighs, “I’m getting tired of saving her time and time again."

The story itself begins with the protagonist, Neptune, CPU of Planeptune and known in her HDD form as Purple Heart, coming to a sudden realisation that due to her sheer laziness and neglect of all CPU duties, she has de-levelled back to level one. During the prologue, Neptune is transported to an alternate dimension of the Gamindustri world, which reverts back in time roughly to the introduction of the first PlayStation in the console wars. In this dimension, Neptune is no longer the CPU of Planeptune, as the exasperatingly ditsy, yet secretly sadistic Plutia has taken her place. Neptune soon discovers that although all of her CPU friends have counterparts in this retro version of Gamindustri, none of them seem to remember her, and so our protagonist must build up relationships with the neighbouring nation CPUs, such as the tenacious and hard-working Noire of Lastation, and convince them to join her party. Along with the issue of being stuck in an alternate dimension, Neptune must also take down the evil Seven Sages who are planning world domination, in addition to Rei Ryghts, the inept leader of the anti-CPU campaign.

The game's art style comprises of a colourful blend of 2D anime-style cut-scenes and a rather half-baked 3D setting during combat, dungeon, and boss sequences. When brawling through dungeons, the framerate is sadly inconsistent, and has an awful habit of blurring the backgrounds when the party leader runs.

It must be mentioned that the characters in the title are extremely over-sexualised, especially considering that the majority of the cast must be in their teenage years. Most of the characters are dressed in Lolita-style attire, and often test the boundaries with their unsettling erotic language and overt girl-on-girl sexual references. Victory is crawling with fan service, from the disconcerting bath scene, to the provocative gestures of a certain HDD form CPU. However, the game is not necessarily tarnished despite this over-sexualisation; in fact, it often brings a much welcomed element of humour into the story, often in the form of cringe-worthy innuendos and sexual references.

While there is a sizeable amount of dungeon-crawling, level-grinding, and repetitive questing, the majority of the gameplay sees you scrolling through reams and reams of text. In fact, 60 per cent of the 40 or so hours it will take you to complete the game will consist of reading absolute drivel about slippers, cleansing earwax, and naps. While it's clear that a huge amount of work has gone into the localisation, you can’t help but feel that the 20 minutes of dialogue that you just read could have easily been condensed into a three minute scene. Because of this, at many points in the game, it can feel like you’re playing a visual novel, rather than a combat-centred JRPG, as each small portion of dungeon gameplay simply leads on to another 40 minutes of scrolling text cut-scenes.

This is a great shame, as the combat sections are fantastic and truly rewarding. By infusing a turn-based battle system with a tactical element of character positioning and movement, the game succeeds in offering an engaging battle structure. For example, if you position a party member between two or more monsters, you can achieve multiple strike combos and take down several enemies at once. However, while grouping your characters together may provide you with an advantage during your turn, once the enemies attack they also have the ability to hit more than one target if you haven’t set your party members far enough apart. Enemies will also work together, healing each other and congregating into strong formations in order to take you down. To counter this, you'll gain combat skills, some of which are utterly bizarre!

The audio in the title is a mixed bag. Famous video game composer Nobou Uematsu has done a decent job of creating musical pieces that truly fit with the style of the gameplay, resulting in hyper, sickly sweet electro-pop beats. However, the acting is less inspiring. The Neptunia series has always promoted its inclusion of both Japanese and English voice options, yet after just a few hours, the English dub seemingly vanishes in favour of further reams of scrolling text, with only the sporadic appearance of voice acting from then on. Honestly, we’re not entirely sure whether this is a bad thing, as the English voices are often whiny and infuriating, and the high-pitched squeaks of the Japanese actors aren't much better.

Conclusion

While this may only be a very average JRPG at best, despite all of its flaws and framerate issues, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is absurdly lovable. Redeemed by its cute, static 2D anime sequences, colourful locations, tongue-in-cheek industry references, and rewarding tactical combat, there is a sizeable amount of enjoyable gameplay that can be salvaged from the otherwise disappointing story concept. That is, if you have a spare thumb that you can permanently attach to the square button in order to skip past all of the mundane cut-scenes about slippers, naps, and group bathing. Yes, group bathing.

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User Comments (14)

Epic

#1

Epic said:

I think that the consoles war theme has gone a bit too far with this one xD.

meldarion

#3

meldarion said:

Wow is this the third entry in the series? I laugh about it when I saw the first one and saw that it was about the console war but three entries it is insane. Nonetheless I like how the Japanese manage to do a game about anything while the West is always recycling the same IP's and the same storyline and genres. I like both side of the coin but it is amazing and interesting to see how different the outlook Japanese culture has on games, cartoons, comics card games etc.

Also the fact Nobou Uematsu composed music for this game is an amazing fact always enjoyed the musical pieces the guy produces especially Final Fantasy ones those are the best. It is always nice to see his name written in musical pieces of a game

AVahne

#4

AVahne said:

Hoping they bring all the games over to the Vita. Already sold my PS3 and don't intend to get another one.

SuperKMxAdmin

#5

SuperKMx said:

That was my main issue with the last game, if I'm honest - the dialogue. After loading the game up, I was pressing "X" every few seconds to scroll through waves and waves of absolute drivel. After 15 minutes, I still hadn't actually done anything other than that.

It didn't take long for me to give up on it after that, I have to say.

belmont

#6

belmont said:

Just got the game. I got the platinum in the previous 2 and I plan to do the same with this one.

Valky

#7

Valky said:

I know lots I mean LOTS of friends who love this series, uh now I can see why. Isn't this some kind of interactive anime?

Valky

#9

Valky said:

Yeah and I kinda like the genre, though it's some sort of niche that won't appeal to the majority of people here.

Cirno

#11

Cirno said:

It reeks of nicheness.

However I don't really see why the series are considered all that's wrong with the Japanese games industry. While I have not played the games, it does look like it has some charm to it. Maybe it's the prevyness, I dunno (Even if a fair few western games have had pervy crap it it.)

CanisWolfred

#12

CanisWolfred said:

^The first game was atrociously written and had painfully overcomplicated gameplay, as well as a moe aesthetic that people might find to be too cute and colorful. Overall it's about as niche as humanly possible, which I think some people might find to be a problem with a lot of Japanese games these days.

Anyways, this sounds better than the first game, but certainly not good enough to compete with Ni no Kuni and Tales of Xillia, which deserve more of my time and money.

Jorzha

#14

Jorzha said:

I enjoyed mk2, The fanservice doesn't do much for me. The reason i liked it was because of the awesome battle system and the funny jokes and references in the game. Will play this one some day =P

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