Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is the third game in the series, so I was a bit intimidated when I started it up with little knowledge of the previous releases. However, upon learning that the setting is an alternate gaming world of 1989, it sparked my interest in Compile Heart’s latest all-female RPG.
The game starts out with an introduction of Gamindustri. Since most of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory’s setting is an alternate world, I never felt lost in terms of story, although there are references to previous games in the series. Soon after the introduction, I was forced to participate in a 1 vs. 3 battle. I was playing as Neptune in the form of Purple Heart against Green Heart, Black Heart, and White Heart, in what looked like an end-game scenario.
With little help on what to do and seeing the 5 digit HP, I was quick to think: “Oh boy, I’m in for it now.” Naturally, I was defeated pretty badly. After seeing how much damage I did compared to other characters, let alone against three of them, it didn’t take me long to realize that it was one of those fights you’re meant to lose. After starting the game out with an embarrassing loss, the scene changed to Neptune and friends playing a video game. Apparently they were all teaming up against Neptune in a friendly gaming session!
This was when Neptune’s sister, Nepgear, shared a little background info on Vert, Noire and Blanc. They’re all based off respective consoles in Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, while Neptune is based off her own original console. I was expecting more similarities between the characters and the consoles they represent, but I didn’t really see any aside from their primary colors and a few dialogue references.
Once the little party was over, the oracle, Histoire, scolded Neptune and Nepgear for being lazy and told them to get to work. I had no idea what kind of work they did, considering they’re console-based CPUs, so I was interested in seeing what was next. They mentioned several times how the world of Gamindustri has been peaceful, and that was the reason why Neptune hasn’t been working, which got me wondering if that was a reference to the games industry in Japan at the time. Note that Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory was released in August 2012 in Japan, so the Wii U wasn’t out yet, and it was a rather quiet time for consoles.
Soon after, I got a tour of Planeptune (Neptune’s home country,) and it really didn’t have much to offer. It’s a port town with a shop, home and guild. In fact, each town in the game is more or less the same, and I wish they could’ve been a little more different from one another. Key areas were marked with an event icon, making story progression fairly straightforward. After a few scenes and talking to different citizens who all seemed to be fans of Neptune and Nepgear, I was finally able to go out for some action.
First, I had to go to the guild to accept some quests. This would be what work was like for the CPUs. The quests weren’t anything out of the ordinary—defeat X number of enemies, gather Y amount of items. The quests in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory aren’t eventful but they’re easy enough to complete. Now that I’d started on some of them, I was looking forward to my first actual fight in the world of Gameindustri.
Once I was in the forest, Nepgear helped me out with the basics. A lot of it was quite simple and I didn’t feel like they were necessary explanations for the majority of Hyperdimension Neptunia’s audience, such as how to jump and collect items. In fact, jumping felt completely unnecessary for the most part. It can be used to get over small ledges for short cuts, but I never really used it much. However, I did find it quite amusing hearing Neptune shout “Boing!” or “Jump!” or “I’m a kangaroo!” after each jump. To my surprise, I was actually awarded an achievement for jumping after mindlessly running around in circles while jumping.
In line with everything else, the dungeon maps are basic in design as well. They’re also fairly small for the most part. If it weren’t for the amount of enemies scattered everywhere, each dungeon run would’ve taken only a few minutes to clear. In the end, it worked out, as I didn’t have to walk miles if I felt like grinding and it wasn’t too difficult to run around monsters when I was on the run. If I wanted to initiate battles, I could run up and hit them with a pre-emptive strike to initiate battles.
The last game I played with a similar encounter system was Persona 4: Golden, so I was expecting something close to that in how you initiate battles. The problem is that it doesn’t quite feel as smooth at first in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. I thought it would be easier since all I had to do was hit the monster before they could touch me to get a pre-emptive strike, but I found myself missing a whole lot, which ended up giving the enemies the first strike instead. It didn’t help that they’re also very quick at reacting. It took a few more hours of playing the game until I got used to the timing.
After running around and getting used to the controls, I was finally able to enjoy my first fight without being beaten senseless against three other overpowered CPUs. The turn-based combat was really easy to understand, with simple commands such as attack, skill, item and defend. Attacks consist of three variations: heavy attacks which deal more damage, swift attacks that do multiple hits and the Guard Break attacks that are used to break down enemy shields. During the earlier parts of the game, I randomly selected one of the three attacks during all of my fights. It wasn’t until later that I had to strategically select the attacks or use Neptune’s transformation ability.
The reason? Nepgear. Yes, Nepgear was so overpowered, she pretty much did all the work for me, by basically one-hit killing every monster. The enemies were never able to hurt her, as they only did 0 damage whenever they tried. It occurred to me that she was level 10 while Neptune was just level 1, but even then, she still felt a little too strong. I thought it was rather funny that the reason for that was because Neptune had been so lazy to the point that she had somehow de-leveled.
In general, up until this point, I’ll admit that I found Neptune to be pretty annoying. I know that it’s part of her character to be a little slow and loud, but I think it was all that plus her constant usage of Internet slang that got under my skin. However, after hearing her hum the Dragon Quest level up theme when she leveled, she won my heart and all was forgiven. (This was using the Japanese dub option. She hums the Final Fantasy victory theme in the English dub.)
After doing a few quests, I was able to visit the other CPUs and their countries. This was the part I enjoyed most in the early stages of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. Talking to the different citizens of each country was amusing and full of videogame references. There was a cleverly named “Snake Hayter” in Lastation, and a depressed “Maryo” in Lowee repeating: “I’m getting tired of saving her… Time after time again…. I mean we all know it’s a fixed game… *sigh*”
Another scene had a mother and son complaining about how things were nice when Arfoire was around because they didn’t have to buy games. Meanwhile, while Leanbox didn’t use too many obvious Xbox 360 references, but I was surprised by the amount of Boys’ love material in Vert’s house.
Once I was done visiting the CPUs and their countries, the story finally seemed to be ready to develop and Neptune found herself thrown back into the past. By this time, I’d actually forgotten that Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory was supposed to take place in an alternate Gamindustri of 1989. The game didn’t feel as if it was dragging on, but I noticed that the prelude took about 4 hours to complete. Once the story gets off the ground, though, the difficulty goes up along with it. The reason being that you no longer have access to the mighty Nepgear, and Neptune is partnered up with a past version of Noire and Plutia (CPU of Planeptune in alternate Gamindustri). Neptune also isn’t a CPU anymore in this world, so she loses the ability to transform.
I was honestly glad for the difficulty increase, as it actually required the use of skills and healing abilities to beat enemies. The starting skills are simple at first, but as you go on, they get pretty ridiculous (see: Keiji Inafune Ship Attack). The fights not only become more challenging as you go on, but they’re also more amusing with the many skills and enemies you encounter. Also, like its present day counterpart, the alternate past of Gamindustri contains plenty of amusing references of older games and the era. Several of them flew over my head, but the ones I caught brought back warm memories of my earlier days of gaming. That’s what I enjoyed the most in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory.
Food for Thought:
1. There’s plenty of obligatory Compile Heart fan-service, such as the friendly bathing scene early in the game. I’m usually against this sort of thing, but I appreciated that it didn’t ruin the flow of the game.
2. I enjoyed the way the characters interacted with each other. Rather than skipping through the dialogue after reading it, I often found myself sitting back and watching.
3. There’s an item search feature that lets you find hidden items. You won’t find any in the first few hours of the game so I almost forgot about it for the first half of my play time. Be sure to try it out periodically. Once you start finding items, you’ll find much more!
4. Okay, here’s one more quote. “I look nothing like him. I’m not looking after a mansion or anything either!”