|Title: Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory|
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Release: March 21st 2013
It is time once again to set out with the girls of Gamindustri on another grand adventure. For those unfamiliar with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series,Victory takes place in a world called Gamindustri. This world is a spoof of the game industry that we know here in the real world. The world is divided into four regions, with each representing a different console, and each of these regions is ruled by a CPU goddess that represents one of the various consoles in the industry. Lowee is Nintendo, Leanbox is Microsoft, Lastation is Sony and finally Planeptune is Sega. Yes, folks, in this world Sega is alive and well in the console game. The entire world is a humorous take on the console wars and one of the best settings for a story that I have ever seen.
The story starts out with Gamindustri seemingly at peace, with Neptune and Nepgear of Planeptune lazily spending their days goofing off with the other CPUs. After finally being motivated to get some work done, Neptune runs into a strange woman giving out pamphlets that say the CPUs are all evil, preaching a CPU-free world. Using a mysterious power, the woman teleports Neptune to another dimension – Gamindustri’s alternate past, where only two nations exist at this time: Lowee and Planeptune. Upon entering this world, Neptune realizes that here she is not Planeptune’s CPU—or a CPU at all, for that matter. Instead, a laid back girl named Plutia is Planeptune’s CPU. From here, Neptune sets out to regain her CPU powers and find a way back home.
The graphics have not changed much from the previous entries in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, as the brightly drawn cel-shaded models are still present here. I have always felt the character design in these games was solid, and this one is no exception. Neptune and all the other girls are still looking fine. There is nothing overly impressive about the way the dungeons look graphically. However, they get the job done, with each locale faithfully represented. The outdoor levels are brightly colored with greenery, and the cave levels are made to feel like the dark and damp caves that they are. Enemy design is about the same as the last game as well, with the models not really changing very much, not to say they really needed to. The bigger enemies like Dragons and Dolphins are still here and accounted for, as well as the smaller enemies series vets have come to expect, like Bits and Dogoos.
One thing that has vastly improved with Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is is the frame rate. Integral parts of the game, like walking around on the field and almost all of the battle animations, are smooth as silk now. They were fairly choppy in the last game; while this issue was not really game-breaking, it is nice to see it addressed and mostly resolved. There may be a slight bit of slowdown when some of the crazier special moves are used, but it only lasts for half a second at most, and is mostly caused by lots of damage numbers flying about.
This series is not well known for its music, but I have always felt that it lends its qualities to the atmosphere, even if it isn’t the part of the game that stands out the most. The futuristic beeps and tones in the songs, along with some heart pounding guitar riffs in some of the game’s battle music, fit right in with overall style of the game. There are also some lighthearted and fluffy tracks for scenes when the gals are just goofing off. The sound effects haven’t changed a whole lot over time, and you still get the same slash and gun effects as the earlier games in the series. As with most NISA games, dual audio is available in this one. I have to say the publisher’s dub work is top notch as always, but Japanese audio is totally an option for you purists out there, however.
Series vets will find that the action-oriented gameplay hasn’t changed very much from mk2, with only a few tweaks added here and there. The game map is now divided up by region instead of just one big map, similar to the first game in the series. This is a slight change from mk2, where the entire map was all on one screen. From each region’s map, you can access the capital city and the dungeons located in that region. You can also hit the circle button on the PS3 controller to quick travel between regions. This menu will also show you if there are any events occurring in the various regions, so you won’t have to hunt them down at random to get the story to progress.
From within the menu in each region’s capital, you can talk to the local NPCS as well as use various other services, such as the shop, the CPU hotel, item development and the guild. The CPU hotel is where some of the character events occur, and you can also check out the cutscenes and CGs that you have collected and unlocked thus far. Item development is where you take the drops your fallen foes have given you to make various items, such as weapons, armor, clothes and accessories. Most items will appear in the shop once they have been made, and there are many items you will have to make enough of to go around. This especially helps out when you make recovery items. The guild is where you take quests, which include things such as gathering items and killing a certain number of monsters. You will be given items and some cash for completing quest as well. Sometimes you will have to complete a quest to move the story forward, so you need to check here every chapter. This will also move the world shares around, which reflect how much influence a nation will have on the game world. The shares are not as important as in previous entries, but you will want to keep an eye on them. You are also given a quest rank this time around, and the more quests you do, the better your rank will be, and more quests will open up for you to do.
The dungeons are about the same this time around. You still travel around in a third person view with enemies in plain sight, and you can slash your foes on the map for the first attack. You can still scan for hidden treasure, and the game still marks all of the gathering points on the map for you. The developers have added a jump button this time around, and there are some places where you will need to jump up on ledges to find treasure and such. Making the girls say something every time they jump is overkill, seeing as you will be doing this a lot for the challenges, but I will touch more on this in a minute. One thing they did fix is that the monsters in the dungeons will now respawn without the use of an item; this drove me crazy in the last game, having to run in and out to get the monsters to respawn if they did not drop me enough items for a quest or if the game did not spawn enough enemies in for me to finish a quest. Also, in the previous game, if you were a much higher level than the monster you were battling and you struck them for the first attack, it would kill them instantly. This was a pain when you were trying to go back and do a quest. This is still an option that you can use in this game, but you have to turn it on from the options menu.
As the game progresses, the scouting system will open up and you can send out scouts to a dungeon in any area you chose. You will pay a fee for their services, which will start out small, but grow to a larger amount as the scouts increase their level. As the scouts venture forth to the dungeons on the map, they will have various effects: you may get better drops, more cash or experience points, or even spawn a rare monster. Other times, they will find hidden dungeons for you to explore, as well as some of Gamindustri’s lost landmarks or just an item or good ole-fashioned cash. If scouts explore certain areas enough, they might find other scouts to recruit as well.
After completing all the story events for a chapter, you will be given a recap program on the Nepstation TV. Here, the reviewers from “Famitsu” will rate your performance in the chapter. They rate you on the number of quests you completed, shares you obtained, how well you used the scout system, and the number of monsters that you killed. Getting a better score will get you some really nice items to start the next chapter with. There is also a shopping program between chapters where you can score some rare items if you have the bread to buy them and a trivia program as well. The trivia program will ask you five questions about the previous chapter and give you simple items for correct answers.
Getting back to the challenges I mentioned before, completing various tasks in and out of combat will net you stat bonuses and voice unlocks. These task progressively increase each level you complete; for example, jumping 10 times will net you a stat increase of +5 to a stat, where jumping 9000 times will get you +100 to a stat. The voice unlocks usually fall somewhere in the middle of these. Again, having the characters speak every time they jump is overkill, because to max out all of these, you would have to jump 9000 times with each character as a leader. This gets old really fast. The other challenge that was just crazy in my book was the one called “Spaced Out,” where you have to stand idle. Not a problem, right? Well, to max it out you will have to stand still for 5 hours with each character as leader. I know you could just leave the PS3 running and g0 do whatever, but still, that is crazy. Through all of this, the combat challenges are nice, with your characters being rewarded for dishing out damage or helping to heal allies, among other things. Overall, this provides a nice added touch.
Speaking of the combat, it’s pretty much the same as the last games, but with some minor tweaks added to it. You will move your character on the field to place them in range to attack, and each weapon you equip will have a varying range in both length and width. The AP system of the last game is gone, however, and replaced with a simpler rush, power and break system. The rush attacks rack up the hits, while the power attacks drain HP, and break attacks go after the enemy’s guard. You will be given 3 attacks each round to use any of these three attack types. In the combo skills menu, you will be given a choice of all of the available moves for that character. Each time you equip a move, it will use up a bit of the CP your character has, and the amount of combat combinations is virtually endless.
Another tweak to the combat system is that CPU mode no longer consumes SP every round. It takes some SP to change initially, but that is all. Special moves still consume SP like in the previous game; they also have varied ranges and effective areas. The new addition to the combat system is EX moves,which allow you to equip up to four moves to each character. The EX Drive gauge will become available as the story progresses. This gauge fills as you do damage in the dungeon, and it keeps a running total while you are in that area, but it resets back to zero when you leave. As the gauge fills up, you will have access to EX finish moves, which are basically the combo finishers from the last game. Using one of these moves will not deplete your EX Gauge. Should you decide to use one of the EX drive moves, they will do massive damage, but will also heavily deplete your EX Gauge.
The Lily partner system makes its return as well in this game. It works basically the same way it did in the previous game: you will set each of the characters in a battle party and put a supporting character in the back row. Characters placed in the back row can be switched in and out in mid-combat. Depending on how well the characters like each other, different skills and perks will become available. You can increase these ranks by simply leaving them paired together and fighting more battles. You will also be able to perform extra EX moves as well when your ranks with certain partners increase to a high enough level.
The CPU mode canvas feature was only available for Nepgear in mk2, but this time around, it will work for all of the CPUs. This basically allows you to make your own costumes for the girls in CPU mode using your computer. As of writing this review they do not have the blank templates up on NISA’s Victory homepage, but they’re up on Compile Heart’s website. If you use Google Translate, there are some directions there as well. You put the templates into a photo editor that can edit .PSD files, edit them any way you wish, and then reduce the size of the photo. You can then put them on the PS3 with a flash drive, just put them in your photos folder and you’re all set. In the menu, where you equip the CPU parts, there is a canvas option at the bottom, and it’s as easy as just choosing your photo. The fine folks over in the NISA forums made a ton of these for Nepgear in the last game. They already have a few for this game floating around over there now as well, and you can find them here. The later pages will have more Victory costumes that forum users have made.
This is the biggest and best adventure in the Neptunia series to date. The improvements to the combat system and the dungeons make this game shine over the two previous games in the series. I have played over 60 hours of this game before writing this review, and I have already completed the story, but I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of everything Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory has to offer. The amount of customization in the combat, as well as the canvas features, allow for an almost infinite number of ways to play and enjoy this title.
NISA’s very high quality translation and dub work makes the humor of the writing really pop out. I feel as if over the course of these three games, I have gotten to know these girls and their personalities really well. This series have quickly become one of my favorites in gaming due to the uniqueness of the story and setting. This game may not be for everyone; if you are not a fan of anime style games or JRPGs you will likely want to pass on this title. If you are a fan of this style of game, or you love a good JRPG, you will definitely want to pick up Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory as soon as possible.
Review copy provided by publisher.