Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Review (PS3)
When I started playing Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, I wasn’t expecting it to be great, but I wasn’t expecting how awful it would actually end up being. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is a JRPG with a story that is a very satirical and loose interpretation on the console wars, with tons of boob jokes thrown in for good measure. Characters lead realms within the game world that represent each of the major console manufacturers. Events within the game, such as the introduction of ‘Lastation’ (PlayStation) stealing shares away from ‘Lowee’ (Nintendo), and the online network of Lastation being hacked mimic real world happenings between the consoles. While it sounds intriguing, it mostly falls flat on its face.
The game is made up of a hell of a lot of text based exposition. The ‘cutscenes’ consist of little more than a 2D image of the characters that are speaking on the screen, while you get to read what the characters are saying. Sometimes you’ll be graced with the characters’ grating voices, which really may make you wish you were going back to just reading their dialog. These scenes make up about 60-75% of what you’ll be doing in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, largely because the characters annoyingly interrupt each other and what should take 30 seconds lasts 10 minutes instead. This doesn’t happen just once or twice. Every scene follows this formula.
Somewhat to its credit, the game is aware of its own annoyances, and even has one scene where the characters talk about mashing the X button to get through the boring stuff, and another responds that she would rather skip the whole button mashing thing by just pushing square to skip the conversation. Fortunately, this is how I discovered that I could use the square button to speed through conversations. I can appreciate when a game is self aware and makes fun of its own shortcomings.
The characters are not deep or interesting. Don’t expect to get incredible backstories and tales of forgotten love in Nibelheim. It’s not going to happen. Instead, you get very shallow characters who all either aggressively hate each other and have to make snide comments at every opportunity, or characters who are dimwitted and make really aggravatingly idiotic comments on a regular basis. This is when they are in their normal ‘tween-age’ forms. Things do get a little bit more awkward.
Each character has the ability to transform into their HDD mode. In battle this results in a more powerful form (more on the battle system later), but more often than not the HDD forms are utilized during cutscenes to take seemingly innocent underage girls and transform them into hyper-sexualized legal aged adults, especially one character in particular. Now I’m no prude in any way, but some of the blatant innuendo and sexual references that they are constantly throwing around this game had me blushing and feeling pretty awkward, especially when carried over from the HDD forms to their younger versions. I won’t go into details, but the game features a ‘group bath’ scene that was initiated by the HDD personalities, but carried out once they were back to their normal underage selves. There are more than a few times that the sexual sadist character commits what can only be construed through the text as aggravated sexual assault against your own party members for no good reason.
Alright, so the story is laughable, the characters are aggravating, and the jokes range from juvenile sex humor to aggravated rape jokes, but what about the gameplay? Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory’s hub worlds are menu based. You will not be able to walk around to shops or quest givers. You simply select the area you want to go to from a menu system. This takes you to yet another menu to buy items or accept quests or watch another godawful dialog based ‘event’. The same principle applies to selecting which hub world or dungeon that you want to go to. If you select a dungeon, you are taken to the game’s first of two three-dimensional areas, the second being the battle screen.
Graphically, the game feels like it could have been a cheaply handled HD remake of a last-gen title. The maps are dull and lifeless and each realm’s similar areas repeat map patterns as well as environmental assets to make up the design. So the forest area in Lastation looks identical to the forest area in Lowee, and the cave in Planeptune is nearly the same thing as the cave in Leanbox, etc. Numerous times upon entering a new area I would think that I had been there before because it had the exact same map layout. Controlling your character in these areas feels very abrupt, clunky and lacks finesse.
In a lot of cases, in order to advance the convoluted story, you must do random quests assigned in the hub “world” (again, a glorified menu) that have nothing to do with where you are going next in the story, especially early on in the game. These quests consist of either hunting a certain number of monsters or collecting a certain number of items and then returning to the hub area to turn it in. If the next step in the story doesn’t require a random quest, it simply consists of going to another place on the map where you are thrown into further text based exposition as detailed above, or a boss battle that you will find you can’t beat without a couple more hours level grinding.
The battle system is the only redeeming quality about this game, and even it is nothing to write home about. It is a turn based battle system, with characters allowed to move within a certain radius on their turns, and specific moves requiring a certain proximity to enemies or allies to perform them. The battle system is not so deep that you have to strategize with a single healer, magic user, attacker, etc. All characters seem pretty much capable of doing everything and most early battles consisted of just mashing the attack buttons against enemies with a couple of healing items thrown in here and there. Victory requires grinding, seemingly more so than most RPGs do. I would battle every monster that I would come across and still find myself needing to do an hour or more of level grinding at nearly every mini and major boss battle just to have a shot at winning. The further into the game I got, the more interesting and deep the battle system got with added elements and party members, but it wasn’t until I was 15 – 20 hours in that I was able to find it enjoyable.
The save system in Victory is save point based within the dungeon maps, or simply done from the menu in one of the hub world areas. The problem is that there is no autosave system and there are no checkpoints. I found myself over three hours into a play session and got myself into a pretty dumb fight with low health and nothing to heal with. I watched as each of my characters fell in battle and I lost three hours of progress. This happened on numerous occasions and the game does not remind you to save. It feels like an extremely dated system and will undoubtedly cause frustration for many. Yes, it was my fault that I had not saved. As a gamer I should be smarter than that, but it is highly uncommon for games these days to not include an autosave system, or a checkpoint when you die at the very least.
I have never played another Hyperdimension game, so I don’t know how this one stacks up in comparison to the others. The game will take you in excess of 40 hours to complete, with a New Game + mode and going for the platinum trophy essentially doubling that. With maybe 15 to 20 hours of my 40+ hours played having been spent actually controlling the characters and fighting battles, the remaining time was spent pointlessly
watching reading/listening to the bickering of bratty girls that have nothing better to do than backbite each other and act clueless to all rational thought. The occasional bright spots shine through but they are few and far between.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is an extremely niche title that most will probably not want to spend their time and money on. If you absolutely must pick up this game, make note of the square button being used to fast forward all conversations and use it liberally. With a vaguely intriguing overall story that never shines through the juvenile and sexual drama and a remotely interesting battle system that gets old due to way too much grinding and lack of variety, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory buries what could have been positive aspects under the sheer ridiculousness, annoyances, and poor craftsmanship of the rest of the game.