The latest addition to the PlayStation 3 exclusive Hyperdimension Neptunia is now available in PAL territories, returning players to the world of Gamindustri for a third time. Introducing a handful of new regions, dozens of new characters and a refined battle system, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is almost certain to please fans of the franchise, but beyond that it may well have trouble convincing newcomers to join the tongue-in-cheek pastiche of the videogames industry.
The videogame begins with an overly long winded explanation of the world in which it resides. Clearly designed as a bridge to bring those new to the series up to speed with veterans, it instead acts as a barrier for entry. These are the characters, this is the world, these are the mechanics you will use for your entertainment, make a bunch if decisions of which you have no idea what the outcome will be, and forty minutes later you may begin the videogame true. Not exactly the best start to what is inevitably a complex experience, but those already enamoured with the series will love the ability to explore many of its new additions before even taking part in any real action.
Once past this initial hurdle plays will be given the opportunity to take on a few quests from the Guild, located in the Planeptune, which is essentially the hub for much of the videogame. Offering respite, a shop and an in-game location to which videos and other optional extras Pleneptune is the core location in the first realm players visit. A trio of fetch quests that take players to a relatively unchallenging environment lead to the crafting system; an aspect of Hyperdimension Neptunia and it’s sequel that received significant acclaim.
Here in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, the system has been very much simplified. In fact, it’s been scaled back until the point where it’s little more than a basic menu system: items you have the recipe for are on the left, necessary ingredients on the right. If there are enough ingredients to make the required item, hit the button and it goes straight into your inventory. More items become available through progression, but relatively speaking the only time you’ll need to pay any attention to it is when a quest demands that you do or a new combat item is available.
The combat system in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory looks similar to that of the critically acclaimed Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but it actually bares resemblance to the GameCube’s Tales of Symphonia in practice. Players control their team in accordance with the turn meter in the top right or the screen, moving them into position and lining-up an attack via the box in front of them while ensuring their rear is protected. From the very start of the videogame players can execute combo attacks, learning how to structure a guard break and subsequent blows through trial-and-error, but also execute SP Skills. Unique to each character, SP Skills can have a variety of additional effects – area damage, elemental bonuses etc. – but all deposit massive damage upon the heads of your foes. SP Skills are of course limited, dictated by the corresponding meter. The stronger your SP Skill, the longer the gap between uses.
The visual quality of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory maintains a high standard throughout, light-hearted and jovial just as you would expect of a pastel shaded anime design. Even the huge, screen-filling enemies maintain an air of approachability, with many of the special effects during combat showcasing some wonderful use of lighting and fluid animation. The story is mainly delivers through cutout sequences with just a few short animated videos to highlight important events. Coupled with this entirely reasonable graphical presentation however, is a frequently ludicrous localisation effort. The use of English voice actors is sparse and oddly placed, almost as if the localisation team intended to makeover the entire videogame but an our of budget prior to finishing, and those reams of text often feature some hilarious idiosyncrasies: what exactly does ‘my legs are snoring’ mean?
Those already involved with the Hyperdimension Neptunia saga will surely forgive Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory’s many flaws in favour of spending more time in the world of Gamindustri, however newcomers will keenly pick fault with the videogame. The oppressive introduction, the hundreds of lines of poorly localised, unnecessary dialogue and information text, the overly repetitive sound bytes and largely vacant environment: these are all elements of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory that make it feel like it’s burning the last remaining ashes of a well worn template. It’s a reliable RPG formula, but next to No no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory feels positively archaic.