There are a few phrases and a question come that to mind while playing Hyperdimension Neptunia: Victory, the latter being “did she just say what I think she said!?” Hyperdim—let’s just call it HDNV– is a JRPG from developers Compile Heart and Idea Factory, though not the first of its series. It plays like a visual novel, levels up like an RPG, has the jokes and tone of a parody. It also has the surprising tendency to keep you playing for hours and hours on end.
Set in a world based on video game consoles, a peaceful harmony has settled over Gameindustrie after the great ‘Console Wars’ where each nation and its goddess (called CPUs) were pitted against one another. Since then the CPUs have resorted to spending their days playing games together and sleeping. As to be expected, this peace doesn’t last long and the main character, Neptune, is whisked away to another dimension which mirrors her own. There, she teams up with other CPUs to take on the Seven Sages who seek to overthrow the goddess system claiming the people don’t need to be ruled over, not to mention various rivalries between nations as they fight off suspected invasion. The CPUs have the ability to ‘transform’ in and out of HDD mode – think along the lines of the magical girl genre – their appearances change in age, outfit, and voice gaining increased stats and abilities. One of the most notable differences being the personality changes that come with their more ‘adult’ HDD forms.
There are two things that appear to stand out whilst engaging in the world of Gameindustrie, aside from story and graphics: humour and innuendo. The game’s humour is light-hearted and quirky, often poking fun at and parodying a range of themes from video games to anime and manga to the human condition. To name a few, there’s a box named ‘Snake Hayter,’ a citizen named ‘Maryo’ who changes jobs far too many times, and a ‘rat’ named Pirachu who is a member of the Seven Sages and specialising in pirating games. Breaking the fourth wall is the most common humour type and is implemented cleverly (although constantly) in game, with characters often referring to their screen-time, abilities, plot holes, prior events and more.
As for innuendo, Victory has a lot of it. So much so that it may catch you a little off guard. It is a big component of the game, with one of the character’s HDD forms being nicknamed ‘Sadie’ for obvious reasons. With that in mind, the game has an M/teen rating, so it’s all pretty light-hearted and harmless regardless of how you take it but it’s something to bear in mind, particularly if it’s not really your cup of tea.
As mentioned previously, HDNV plays like a visual novel. The story’s narrative and conversations are told through on screen text, voice acting and images that focus on expression with simple to little movement. Good news is with visual distinction you will know when the game has shifted gears. The world map and various town graphics are done in a 2D chibi form, allowing you to shop, craft items, select quests, maintain shares, send out scouting parties to hunt for treasure and browse various game content. Dungeons and exploration are done in 3D similar to a host of other RPGS. You form a party, pick up items and enter turn-based combat through encounters, events and quests.
As you level up with experience, different abilities and customizable combos become available to you. Like many RPGs, there are times when the difficulty curve increases significantly and requires some grind work to overcome. This ‘exploration’ mode is where you spend a lot of your game time, second only to the story’s narrative.
The only thing that threw me off considerably was the fact that the tutorials lacked any kind of depth or explanation. A lot of the game mechanics such as combat, the ‘lilly-link system’ and how and where to acquire items for quests were left out, resulting in a lot of self-teaching and some online research here and there before finding a comfortable groove.
If anything can be said about the art style of this game it’s that it is cavity-inducing sweet (and so very Japanese, of course). Bright colours, funky designs and cute over-exaggerated expressions are illustrated in both 2D and 3D with a little cell shading here and there. It’s a little mix and match with styles sometimes but it works remarkably well for what the game is, without taking itself too seriously. It should also be noted that the background art, and the avatars of the characters themselves are beautifully done.
Graphically, the 3D component during exploration is a little sharp and average but the game itself animates well, movements are well enacted and fluid. The EXE drive animations are particularly fun to watch.
The game has two audio languages available, Japanese and English. While this is largely a personal preference, I found the Japanese audio vastly superior. Aside from fitting in with the general tone of the game better, the emotions and expressions were conveyed a lot more strongly than in English, which came across as fake and amateurish. In fact it grated on me so much I couldn’t force myself to play with English audio any more than 15 minutes into the game. That being said, it is largely a preference much like the sub vs dub debate. HDNV’s sound track is just as upbeat and entertaining as the rest of the game. Aside from having some catchy tunes, the background music is actually pleasant enough that it doesn’t wear you down even after hours spent grinding.
HDNV has a lot of gameplay to get through, and will require the investment of more than a few hours especially when taking side quests, and other optional objectives into consideration. Not only does it have more than one ending but there is a wide variety of DLC available to enhance the experience. The combination of these aspects leads to a well-fleshed game, but also a very lengthy title. By your third play through it may get a little tedious.
While it is an insanely fun and witty game that can be played even without prior introduction to the series, it can be safely said that Hyperdimension Neptunia: Victory is not a game that will appeal to everyone. It’s unique brand of humour will relate well to a majority of gamers, but the game’s style and characters may throw people off. I personally enjoyed it, and would recommend it to people familiar with JRPGS, as well as anime/manga fans.
AAG SCORE: 8/10
+ Hours and Hours of Gameplay
+ Light-Hearted Fun
+ Quirky Humour
– Tutorials Lack Detail
– May Not Appeal To All
– Conversations Can Drag a Little