Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is strange; there’s no getting around that. It’s a game that takes place in a world called Gamindustri where there are goddesses that correlate to each of the big three current video game consoles, and these goddesses look and act like anime teenagers. That’s usually a downside for me, but Victory admits its decision was a conscious one, owns it, and is able to use the visual style in concert with the writing to deliver some genuine laughs. And regardless of veneer, the reason that I play JRPGs is present in full force here: the battle system is fantastic.
In terms of plot, Victory is pretty thin. Neptunia, the goddess of SEGA’s ill-fated Neptune console is an unmotivated layabout. When it’s time for her to finally get some work done, she discovers that all of her computing skills have atrophied and she’s starting over at level 1. While Neptune is out trying to regain her skills, Rei Ryghts, this installment’s villain, blasts her through a time rift and into the past. In the past, Neptune must forge relationships with past versions of competing console goddesses Noire of Lastation, Vert of Leanbox and Blanc of Lowee, who correlate to the PS3, 360 and Wii respectively.
The writing is good, but be ready, as there is a ton of it. Animated cutscenes are few and far between. Much more often, when the game wants to communicate, it does so like a novel instead of a game. I found myself reading for 20-plus minutes quite regularly throughout the adventure. The scenario is interesting, and some of the games industry in-jokes are neat, but everything seems to drag as soon as the text boxes start coming up.
For every insight into the games industry (I had no idea that Microsoft had faced the potential suicide of many factory workers, for example) and reference that I get (it turns out Maryo is getting tired of rescuing the princess all of the time), there are far more conversations between goddesses about slippers and keeping their ears clean. I found myself mashing the continue button to get to the next round of combat, because I just couldn’t take the mountains of text anymore.
Battle mechanics are where Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory really shines. In a genre full of strategies like “press X until all enemies are dead,” it’s refreshing to play something turn-based and tactical. Positioning matters, relationships between party members matter and spacing matters. If an attack looks like it ought to hit two enemies based on the animation, then it will if there are two enemies in the right places. While it is useful on offense to group your party members together, it’s a detriment on defense, as the enemies can strike multiple heroes at once just like you can.
Their battle routines are good, too. Enemies will work together to heal each other, protect damage dealers with low defense and attack your most prone characters. The battle system is fantastic. Not since Final Fantasy X and Xenosaga Episode 1 have I enjoyed battle mechanics so much.
I wish that I could extract the battle system and put it into a game with either a story that I care more about, or even just a game with less story, because whenever the plot interjects I miss the core game. There’s a lot that could be done with this setting, and it’s clearly doing well enough for sequels, as Victory is the third entry in the series.
The walls of text are a large barrier to entry, but it’s okay to keep hitting continue to get to the good parts, because Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory’s good parts are great. It makes me sad that the presentation will probably convince a whole lot of people to breeze right by it on the store shelf.
Pros: Very fun tactical battle system in which positioning matters
Cons: Mountains of inane dialogue