“Ooh, looks like you started a new game! Think any game reviewers won’t get this one!?”
Only two short years since the series first debuted, the third title in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has been released. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is the direct sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and is said to finish the story started in that game. The game once again puts the spotlight on series’ protagonist Neptune as she seemingly goes back in time to the days when the console war between
Sega Planeptune and Nintendo Lowee was raging on. With a new plot, character renders, musical talent and an overhauled battle system, the game seems to have a lot going for it. But is it all truly enough to give players a great new experience, or is this series simply jumping the shark‽
The story begins with the ongoing console war as the four CPU including “Purple Heart” Neptune, “Black Heart” Noire , “White Heart” Blanc, and “Green Heart” Vert continue to duke it out. With inspiration to cause a game changing event, three of the “Goddesses” form a truce and go three-against-one with Neptune being the odd woman out. Chances are this all sounds vaguely familiar. It is almost an exact reenactment of the now non-canon original game. The feeling of nostalgia quickly fades away however as it is revealed that the CPU aren’t fighting at all, rather they are all “peacefully” sitting at Neptune’s house and playing a game themselves. Talk about a real Inception moment there.
As Neptune whines about losing the game, her little sister, as well as the protagonist of the previous game, Nepgear arrives. After some story narration filled with throwbacks to Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and other fourth wall breaking comments, the plot once again finds its way the Purple Sisters. The Oracle of Planeptune (and for all intents and purposes Neptune’s babysitter)
Histoire Histy appears and begins one of her infamous lectures then proceeds to kick out the girls telling them to get some work done.
Half motivated and half aimlessly, Neptune wonders around Planeptune. Before Neptune realizes what is happening, a strange dark energy engulfs Neptune and everything goes black. The next thing she knows, she’s in the air falling (again). She ends up landing in a strange place not unlike her own Gamindustri. However Noire seems to have no idea who Neptune is while a new girl named
Pururut Plutia reigns supreme as CPU of Planeptune. As Neptune does her best to figure things out, the plot thickens as a band of pirates known only as the Seven Nutmegs Sages appears.
Story has always been hit and miss when it comes to the series. Great characters and jokes have always been there, but the overall plot has always turned up lacking. The first game mostly revolved around 3 separate scenarios that made you jump around making it hard to get too into any of them. Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 had the opposite issue on the other hand. A solemn and serious story, particularly the early portions, gave the characters a greater purpose than that found in its predecessor. The use of clever jokes found however were few and far between. In this third attempt, it seems as though the developers have found the balance between plots and jokes.
From the very get-go, you can tell that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. The girls constantly poke fun at the plot, cliches, and even other games and anime. Where it seemed as though the previous game all but forgot about the console war, this game once again compares them to their real world console counterparts. Without spoiling too much of the story, the game does span several years during the console wars. From our perspective it begins with the Sega x Nintendo rivalry and progresses to the beginnings of PlayStation and Xbox. In addition to rivalries, the game also has a strong focus on the use of piracy and its many forms found in the history of gaming. Villains Arfoire and CopyPaste for example even have names that are play on words related to such acts.
If you’ve played any of the games before, you should be quite familiar with the leading cast. Neptune is a spunky, sarcastic, and obnoxious little ball of energy that would always rather take a nap than do any work. Noire is always a hard worker but has problems being honest with herself. Blanc is normally quiet but goes berserk when pushed. Vert is the big sister of the group, even though more often than not she is busy immersing herself the world of MMORPGs. Then there is Nepgear, the former main character who seems to live for the sole purpose of making sure that Neptune remembers to eat, sleep, and even breath.
New to the series is the other Planeptune CPU, Plutia. Usually she is just as laid back as Neptune and is also an enthusiast of naps. When she transforms into Iris Heart however, things get scary. She is a complete sadist and quite the pervert as well. While she is certainly a valuable ally to have in battle, everyone fears this transformation and will do just about anything to keep Plutia from using it. Times when Iris Heart is doing her best to abusively charm with Black Heart, Purple Heart surprisingly plays the straight man and does her very best to escape Plutia’s wrath. Or even worse, her lust.
No one can argue that the series’ protagonists have always have a great concept design. Each is original yet also ties the character to their respective console, portable system, or company. Series illustrator Tsunako has outdone herself again with the cute Plutia and intimidating Iris Heart designs. Most of the returning characters now have new looks that even surpass their appearances in the previous two games. Unlike the previous two games, this game’s character portraits used in most skits and events appear more lifelike and even breath and jiggle not unlike Compile Heart’s other game Record of Agarest War Zero before it.
Just because the status and cut-in have always looked impressive however doesn’t mean that the in-game renders always have as well. With the original game it felt as if it was made for PS2 with graphics that were ok but were overall rather lackluster in the grand scheme of things. The second game used an inconsistent mix of cut-in art and even less impressive renders when it came to story skits. Nepgear and the other CPU Candidates looked fine, but the returning cast unlockable later in game never looked quite right.
Even as early as the opening cut scene, you can tell that a lot of work was put into designing Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. The cel shaded renders of the characters are surprisingly some of the best I’ve seen and are are up there in quality with beauties such as Tales of Vesperia and Valkyria Chronicles. Unlike these games however, the eye candy can only be said about the characters and not the environment which surrounds them. While there does seem to be more dungeon variety than the previous two games, there are still times you may be displeased with the déjà vu of familiar settings.
While the series certainly has a cult following, there are many who have despised the series since the first game. The main reason being the battle system. Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 had a far superior means of battle compared to the original, however some issues still remained, specifically the requirement to balance your SP and AP gauges. The battle system of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is based off of this system but has small changes that make a big difference. The game ditches the meddling AP system in favor of a newly refined SP system. Instead of needing to gain SP though grinding each time you enter a dungeon, you will enter with a full gauge just as you would in other JRPGs such as Tales of Graces f and Atelier Ayesha that simply decreases with use. With this the series finally seems to have found a battle system that truly works without the risk of frustrating players as before.
As with Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 your characters can free run (within limits) in battle before going on the attack. The difficulty has certainly been raised with Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. You will need to place your CPU in strategic positions not only offensively but defensively as well. Slight variations in your stance can change an attack to a single enemy to one that can hit even three of four. Meanwhile during boss fights, you might find the enemy with either a short range instant kill ability or even one that will damage all of your characters standing too close to the enemy. So you’ll have to think on your feet and make sure that you always have a medic ready with first aid just in case your other characters end up getting wiped out.
Outside of battle you will navigate Gamindustri via a point and click system. Instead of needing to open up a new menu in order to talk to the people of each nation, you can now easily do so straight from the main hubs. New additions such as Nepstation and Scouts will also bring fresh new elements to the game. The Nepstation will actually give you rating based on how well you do in each chapter, giving you extra motivation to do well. Meanwhile the Scout System is something similar to the homunculi found in the Atelier games. They will search for items, gold, and useful information to help aid you in your journey. You’ll want to make sure you try this once you can, especially as it is one of the ways that you are rated via Nepstation at the end of each chapter.
Two words: Nobuo Uematsu. The legendary Final Fantasy composer and his band, Earthbound Papas, composed brand new music for the game. For the past few games much of the music was forgettable. This time around, much of the music has been replaced with new catchier works by the new musical talent. A lot of it sounds inspired by classic games with simpler soundtracks. It does a good job of reminding you of games gone by.
As before, the game features a dual audio option. With this being the third game, it seems as though each voice talent has finally found that perfect voice for each character. It’s especially impressive when you consider that each character has a few different versions of themselves. Noire for example has a slightly different voice between her normal self and the Noire that seems to have no idea who Neptune is. Then there is also Black Heart, her more mature and confident form. It is great to see that each actress (or actor in the case of Lastation Soldier) not only perfectly captures each character, but also has the range when needed.
Only two short years since the series first debuted, and the series has been vastly improved upon. The updated battle system should make fans of the previous game as well as JRPG fans unfamiliar with the series quite happy. The new story does a very good job spanning multiple generations of console wars from Nintendo vs Sega Genesis to PlayStation 2 and the Xbox
One. It it is also filled with all those jokes we’ve come to expect from the series. As much as I love Nepgear, letting Neptune be the main character again was the best way to guarantee an amusing journey. It’s also funny hearing Nepgear talk about her demotion from main character. Perhaps she should go get some tips from Disgaea‘s Laharl? I give Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory 8 Lastation Soldiers out of 10!