The wait is finally over. My long overdue review of the third installment of the Neptunia series of games is here. How does the third game in the franchise outdo the improvements made by the second game? Did it succeed in surpassing it? Let’s find out as we take a look at Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory.
-I made several comparisons to the prequels in this review.
-Since V is the longest game in the series so far, the review will also be a long and detailed one.
–Important parts of the review are in purple text.
Oh and in case you’re itching for some more Neptunia text goodness from yours truly, here are the reviews of the prequels:
Length: Long (45-60 hours, depending on how much you enjoy the cutscenes)
You know what amused me about this game before picking it up?
1: It was the first Neptunia game that was for sale in one of my local game stores. I had to order the other two online.
2: This game got the most attention of all the games. It was probably due to both curiosity about how a series like this lasted long enough to get a third installment and hardcore critics who want to continue the meme of bashing every Neptunia game in existence, a fact that the game itself is aware of.
3: The game’s success in Japan was enough to spawn 3 spin-off titles for the PSV and an anime adaptation.
Plot Summary: After foiling ASIC’s plans and defeating the Deity of Sin a second time, peace reigned and the CPUs began slacking off, especially Neptune. After a bizarre encounter with a meek adult woman rallying an anti-goddess group, Neptune is sent back in time to an alternate dimension/past timeline of Gamindustri (Video game industry) based around the 1980’s era of video gaming. There, Neptune meets a girl claiming to be the goddess of Planeptune named Plutia (Pururut in Japan) and Noire. Thus, Neptune’s adventures in time begin as she faces a new evil in the Seven Sages and teaming up with familiar, yet somewhat different allies. Oh and since this Gamindustri is based around a timeline before the Gameboy, the CPU Candidates do not exist in this dimension, thus making the present CPU Candidates’ roles (except Nepgear) in the story incredibly minimal.
Neptune/Purple Heart: Has not changed much but has become surprisingly more responsible and is the voice of reason whenever the other girls get out of control. She still represents the cancelled Sega Neptune.
Noire/Black Heart: Past Noire is just as tsundere and socially inept as her Future self but she becomes cockier and more boastful when transformed. She represents the Playstation One.
Blanc/White Heart: Past Blanc is similar but more sensitive about her initial loneliness and becomes slightly more sociable than her Future self. However, her CPU form is equally vulgar and verbally abusive. She represents the Famicom (Japanese NES).
Vert/Green Heart: My dearest Vert’s past self is SLIGHTLY less of a hardcore gamer than her Future self but her addiction to gaming, yaoi and pride in her nearly perfect body are still present. She represents the XBOX.
Plutia/Iris Heart: Her absent-minded personality surpasses Neptune’s. She speaks slowly, is possibly lazier than Neptune, cheerful, kind and remotely friendly to all the people she likes. However, when angered, upset, annoyed, requested or just when she feels like it, she turns into the sadistic, merciless, physically playful to the girls she likes and nearly fatal to her foes, Dominatrix CPU of the alternate past Gamindustri’s Planeptune, Iris Heart. She is based on the also cancelled Sega Pluto.
Since the game takes place in an alternate dimension, some fan favorite “Maker Characters” like 5pb, NISA and Gust do not return. On the bright side, IF, Compa and Falcom do return along with some brand new DLC “Maker Characters” like Tekken-chan and Mages (5pb’s replacement).
V’s story narrative is a combination of N1’s comedy over seriousness and MK2’s more serious tone creating a more humorous game than MK2 but still pertains said game’s seriousness in the more dramatic moments. As for which story is better, it depends on the player’s tastes. Some fans prefer MK2’s story over V’s and vice-versa. Myself, MK2’s story has some parts that were done better than V’s story and vice-versa, meaning each story has its good and bad sides but neither one is better than the other. For example, while I do like the Seven Sages more than ASIC, I do have some qualms with the way some characters were treated in V compared to MK2. Heck, there are even some Neptunia fans who liked N1’s story most of all.
Like the prequels, V’s story won’t change the history of storytelling. It does a great job of telling a story that will keep players interested (provided they have an open mind). It also surprisingly tackles some serious subject matters during the story (without being too lighthearted) that I won’t spoil for the sake of spoilers.
With the narrative returning to N1’s comedy over seriousness, the humor in V is possibly the best in the series. Besides the vintage video game and anime references (some that definitely made my jaw drop from utter amusement), there is also more meta-humor, 4th wall breaking, references and jokes about the prequels (Because of this, playing the prequels will help make the jokes funnier), jokes about the game itself, jokes about the fanbase, the critics, society and much more. They went all out with the writing in this game is what I’m saying.
V’s graphics, while receiving minimal improvements, are the best in the series so far. Also the 3D cutscene models were replaced with the superior 2D art of the first game and were even given movements and multiple expressions. So while the 3D models were an interesting experiment, the 2D models reign supreme.
You can choose to either use the 8-Bit Neptune cursor to click on the citizens to hear what they have to say or view events, or you can switch to MK2’s List version where you simply select what you want to do.
Dungeon Exploration remains the same as in MK2. The only additions are the girls can now jump and flags that determine which new monsters Scouts can find based on their position. More on Scouts in a bit.
Another addition are the Challenges. These are all extra stat changes for accomplishing simple tasks, like jumping many times, how much damage a girl has given or taken, how many times she has recovered HP or even how long she has stood still. Speaking of jumping, be prepared to hear the same three voice clips for each girl every time they jump.
Gameplay: The combat system is similar to MK2’s with a few tweaks. MK2’s SP bar was removed, which was a very wise decision. In V, there is simply an Magic Point meter that is used for both special attacks and HDD transformations. That means the HDD transformations only require one cost of 20% of the total MP, unlike Mk2’s where the player had to make sure the SP meter was above zero each turn as it drained 20% per turn. Basically there are fewer restrictions to transforming in this game. Also the girls transform into their HDD forms automatically before most boss battles, save for a select few.
Another battle feature is the EXE Drive which is used for both combo finish attacks and Super Special Mega Moves that, if abused, could be game breakers…but necessary in later boss battles. Then again, many RPGs, both Eastern and Western, have game breakers.
Speaking of battles and bosses, the game difficulty has been drastically increased from Mk2, perhaps even the first game. How difficult? If you’re not careful even a Dogoo could kill you in two turns. Also the powerful “shot” attacks enemies and bosses had in MK2 that only hit girls that were far away from them, now they use them even at close range and they HURT! So yeah, the baddies are tougher this time around. Also to raise the challenge further (or to make tougher enemies and bosses cheaper), some baddies come equipped with Auto-Regeneration, restoring HP and MP depending on their level. This may turn off some RPG gamers who dislike level grinding.
Let’s continue by talking about the new additions in V. First of all is Nepstation. This has multiple uses, such as some funny headlines per chapter, Walletcrusher Nep segments (A jab “As Seen on TV” infomercials) and MillioNep Quiz. There’s also the end chapter reviews, where some pretty harsh judges rate your performance based on how many quests you’ve completed, how you’ve handled the shares based on the quests and coliseum battles you’ve completed, how many times you’ve successfully used Scouts and how many enemies you’ve killed.
Next up is the controversial Scout System. Basically you send scouts across the different dungeons in the different landmasses and depending how much of the dungeon you’ve explored, the Scout’s level, and the amount of money you paid it, it will either find new items, discover new dungeons or landmarks, alter the currency and enemy types in the dungeon or find a new scout to recruit. Besides certain important bonus events in the game, the hidden dungeons are the second requirement to determine which ending you’ll get in the game. BTW, compared to MK2’s multiple endings, V has 3. The controversy, or rather, annoyance, lies in the randomness of the Scouts and how many times players must load the game before they get what they want from the scouts. Also it is annoying for players who are aiming for a perfect Performance Score and the associated trophy.
Item Synthesizing is back along with the new Disc Development. The discs and tapes can be modded with chips you obtain in the game. The discs and tapes are then used as equipment to boost character stats.
Another great addition is the return of the, absent in MK2, Event Viewer along with a newly added Jukebox. I love jukeboxes/sound tests in games, especially those whose soundtracks I enjoy.
The music is a combination of some tracks from MK2 along with some original songs in V and remixes of past themes. Good stuff. I especially like Plutia’s theme and the Main Menu theme.
I can’t review the game without mentioning some cons. These are mostly minor gripes that did not affect the overall experience but are still worth mentioning.
-I already mentioned some gamers not enjoying the occasional necessity to grind levels or the nuisance that is the randomness of the Scout System.
-V used A LOT of recycling. Color and Palette Swaps are fine but V takes it to a new level. There are several enemies that look identical to one another without any color swapping at all. The name’s changed and the enemy is stronger but there are enemy types that look exactly the same. Next not only do they reuse dungeons from MK2 (which is not that big a deal), but many dungeon areas and layouts are reused several times, sometimes without reversing or mirroring the map, literally making it an exact duplicate of another dungeon in the same area. The dungeons’ short length is no big deal as Kingdom Hearts also has short dungeons but that didn’t stop their games from being popular.
-Next is the lack of voiced English cutscenes. This is nothing new as the prequels also had some cutscenes that were mute in the English dub. The reason being is that the cutscenes in V are close to being as long as Metal Gear Solid and Xenosaga cutscenes. The awesomeness of some scenes are diminished by the lack of English voice acting because, as I’ve mentioned in the prequels, the voice cast of the Neptunia series is really good, especially Melissa Fahn as Neptune who delivered her best performance in the series yet. The JP dubs all have voices except for Nepstation segments.
-Nepgear and another veteran character’s unfair treatment. Without going too long, while Nepgear’s character did receive growth, it was not by choice or the right reasons. Contrary to what some fans had to say about her game and character I liked Nepgear’s quest in MK2 and her growth from a warrior lacking confidence to a true heroine. I am a big Nepgear fan you see. On the bright side, at the cost of her dignity and self worth, she did get some neat traits. I do not feel sorry for Noire though. She’s a tsundere so a lot of what happened to her was well deserved.
As usual when it comes to games dominated by female characters, there’s bound to be some yuri subtext and sometimes canon. V comes 2nd place in yuri content as MK2 is still the most yurirific in the series. To get the curious started, Plutia is a yuri shipper and Iris Heart is 99% gay. I won’t spoil other pairings.
In conclusion: Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is a massive game filled with a lengthy and interesting main story, improved gameplay and a lot to do. I did not even mention the returning coliseum, DLC event quests and new Quest promotion system. While I personally feel the game’s flaws lie more in parts of the game’s presentation, I did mention some other parts that may upset some gamers. The comedy, like all comedy in general, is subjective. As is the case with the prequels and other future games in the Neptunia series, it is a niche title and not for everyone. Personally, while it is not as big and popular as some of the big name WRPGs this generation (like Skyrim or Dragon Age: Origins), the Neptunia series has become one of my favorite RPGs on the Playstation 3. It is not necessary to have played the prequels to enjoy this game but having played them, especially MK2, does increase the enjoyment value. A must have for Neptunia fans and a “worth trying” for the curious.