Third time, little charm
The JRPG holds a special place in my heart. Its quirky characters, out of control hairstyles, epic storylines and level grinding appeal to me like no other type of game. However, it’s a hard genre for a game developer to master. Unfortunately, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, from NIS America, misses the mark and leaves the player longing for the JRPGs of yesteryear.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (henceforth referred to as Victory) marks the third return to the lands of Gamindustri. The world is ruled by powerful CPUs represented by Neptune and her friends. Each CPU is a reference to the consoles we have all grown to love over the years. It is an interesting stage for the game to play out on as the writing and characters often hearken back to the consoles they represent. For example in the land of Lastation (PlayStation) there is a character named Snake Hayter who prefers to hang around disguised in a cardboard box. Little bonuses like this are great to see and let you know that the people behind Victory are long time gaming fans. Victory lets you live out the console war right on the screen.
Unfortunately, most of these nuggets of awesome are hidden under piles and piles of almost insufferable text, which is probably Victory’s largest downfall. An interesting premise is quickly forgotten as you are presented with walls of sophomoric and usually unimportant text. There is so much of it that, at times, it felt like an attempt to lengthen the game in an entertaining way, which would be fine – if it was entertaining. At its pinnacle the game breaks the fourth wall to crack a joke about the amount of pointless banter there is, as if to let you in on the joke. The problem is that the joke isn’t funny. It’s bothersome and time consuming.
Accentuating these poorly done text sequences are the less-than-stellar visuals. The characters are presented on the screen side by side for these banter sessions and while they are well drawn and brightly colored, they quickly become boring. There is little animation, outside of the occasion eye blink and chest heave. In the dungeons themselves, the graphics are equally underwhelming. Everything feels very jagged and lacks detail, almost like it’s an upscaled PS2 game and the maps are often just repeated, reconfigured areas that you have already visited. I got the sense that Victory was rushed out, rather than polished up in due time.
The final nail in this unfortunate coffin comes via the game’s quest system. Throughout the game, the player will be sent on various quests, some mandatory, but most not. Usually these amount to nothing more than finding a quantity of a specific item or killing a particular baddie and that is about it. The quest descriptions are about as helpful as a poke in the eye and the rewards are minimal when weighed against the effort. All in all it just feels like another half implemented system that is used to pad the length of the game. Unless they were required to progress the story forward, this system offered no benefit.
One redeeming quality is the combat system. Each character has rush, power and break attacks, which all have different advantages. You get three attacks per turn and can elect to use these attacks in any combination you like. The CPUs also have an HDD mode which can be activated to do more damage and access their unique EXE Drive combos. It is a fairly simple system that actually offers quite a bit of strategy and depth. Combined with a flexible battle formation, the system remained fun throughout the entire experience and was consistently offering new moves and strategies. I wish more of the game offered this attention to detail.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is a game I really wanted to enjoy, but ultimately its shortcomings were too much to bear. It’s not entirely terrible, it’s just not very good either. If you have a deep love of JRPGs and are willing to look past the annoying dialog, mediocre graphics and a throwaway quest system, then there is a fairly interesting story and a fun combat system to experience. However, for the casual or even moderate fan the good is buried far too deep. Although it pains me to say it, I recommend leaving these consoles powered off.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PS3