Feels Like A Step Back Compared To The Previous Game
May 2, 2013
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory once again follows the exploits of the series' namesake, Neptunia. After the events of mk2 she's become complacent and in an amusing fourth-wall breaking twist, shirks her duties to the point of de-levelling back to Level 1. One thing leads to another and Neptune ends up in a parallel universe of sorts where it's the 1980s and the console wars are just beginning.
Victory's story is easily one of the game's highlights. Like the previous two titles, Victory plays heavily on the video game culture ranging from consoles and handhelds to various gaming tropes. In particular, the localization is absolutely hilarious as it very frequently takes jabs at the game's characters, major events from video gaming's history and even the previous Hyperdimension Neptunia games.
Victory also has some fun with one of mk2's running gags revolving around that game's protagonist, Nepgear. Gamers and reviewers didn't think she had much of a personality and liked her sister Neptune more than her, so in Victory they basically destroy the fourth wall in an attempt to fix this with the game's characters making that blatantly obvious.
Of course, with this being a fan service game, the breast and moe gags that were present in the first two games are present here once again. The former tend to occur when the female leads change into their "HDD" forms, where in battle they gain more power but outside of battle their more adult and voluptuous appearance takes full advantage of the more revealing clothing they are wearing. The latter occurs when they're in their normal tween-ish forms.
Most of the time these gags are humorous, if somewhat overused at times, but there's one scene in particular that gets pretty close to crossing the line. Without revealing too much, during one scene the girls in their HDD forms initiated a group bath, but the actual bathing takes place when they revert back to their normal forms. Granted the scene in question doesn't get into graphic territory, but it's still somewhat disturbing to say the least.
Sadly the gameplay is where most of the disappointments in Victory occur, as Compile Heart for some unbeknownst reason decided to revert back some of the improvements made in mk2. The battles use the same system employed in mk2 (and the developer's recent title Mugen Souls), which allowed each character to move freely in a given radius during their turn and launch either a series of combos or special attack if they were within range of the enemy.
Unlike mk2, however, the AP system has been replaced with a more limiting CP system. This allocates a set amount of points for the character to use as they wish. The problem is that each character has only one series of combinations that are the best in any possible situation, so if you aren't a glutton for punishment there's no reason not to use that combination over and over again. This is something the original game fell into and it's rearing its ugly head again in Victory.
The battles aren't helped any with the game's bosses having extremely potent HP regenerating abilities. Instead of being a battle of wits, boss battles essentially turn into a numbers game as there's no possible way to win if you aren't at whatever arbitrary level cap the boss requires to overtake its healing abilities. Granted, levelling comes pretty quick in Victory, but it feels like a chore when the narrative is pushed to the side because the game requires more grinding to progress on.
To further complicate things, Victory also fails to fully utilize some of its more unique aspects and often times require the player to go extremely out of their way to get any worth out of them. One instance is the game disc system which is used to create custom equipment by mixing together various game attributes found throughout Gamindustri. Players can acquire those discs either by increasing their side-quest ranking (more on this later) or tracking down and defeating specific monsters.
The problem with the latter approach is that it requires using the game's Scout system which only comes back after entering and exiting a dungeon to pass time for the Scouts to finish their work. And when you do have the monster show up there's a chance the item might not even drop upon their defeat. Making any real use out of the system requires a ton of grinding and isn't that much fun at all.
Going back to the quests, the implementation itself isn't really a problem as its your normal fetch-and-hunt variety common to most Japanese RPGs. It's the fact that the rewards aren't usually that useful and the game doesn't let you know where to find the enemy as it assumes you know where and how to fight it, most of the time tying into the Scout system that was discussed previously. When the game puts up a roadblock because of this it's a shame because the narrative, discussed earlier, is pretty decent.
Graphically Victory is both good and bad. The frame rate is improved over mk2's, but it reuses a lot of its predecessor's assets from the artwork, enemy design and in a few cases the same exact dungeons. This is the same for a lot of the music as well as many of the same tunes from mk2 are re-used in Victory. Thankfully NIS America's English dub is held to the same standards as the localization, although like most of the publisher's games with Japanese voice acting, the dub is only partial so if you don't want silent sections you'll have to stick with the original voices.
Victory's tagline is a little bit misleading. While it isn't anywhere near as bad as the original release was, the game feels worse than last year's predecessor. Compile Heart is a smaller developer so nobody is expecting perfection with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, but it feels like they took one step forward and two steps back in some aspects. Thankfully the story, as long as you're part of the segment that enjoys its material, outweighs the bad but for gamers at large this might not be the victory you were hoping for.