“Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory” Review

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Well, it’s here. Victory. Anyone who remembers my mk2 review (no one remembers because no one reads this) will know that I had great expectations and high hopes for this game. Did it live up to them? Well…

Gameplay: 10/10 – Again, a perfect score for gameplay. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. I’ve always rated this series high on the elements I include in this section. The game’s main systems (world navigation and combat) were lifted from mk2 and improved upon. I mean that’s what sequels should do, right? Improve? Because that’s what this series does. So let’s cover them in that order. World navigation is the same as it was in mk2 with a bit of tweaking. In mk2, you had a big world map with various icons indicating the cities and dungeons. It’s the same in Victory, but instead of having everything on a giant world map that required scrolling to get across, it’s all broken down into smaller areas that are accessed from a larger world map. For example, if you wanted to go Lowee, or a dungeon in the Lowee area, and you were in Leanbox, mk2 would have you scroll across the map looking for the area you needed to be in and you’d have to scan around a bit before you found it. And let’s face it, the mk2 map could get a little too crowded. In Victory, you simply press circle to back out of the Leanbox map, choose Lowee from a full-screen map (there’s a nice little menu you can access with the d-pad if you want that can be faster if that’s your thing) and then immediately locate your destination on the Lowee full-screen map (or use the menu). It may sound like a bit more of a hassle, but when everything is very cleanly displayed all on the same screen, it’s a lot simpler and more efficient. It’s also pretty much a necessity. mk2 had four general “landmass” areas and the little DLC island near the bottom. Victory has the same four areas, as well as three new continents and mk2’s world map as its own area. Having twice as much stuff means it has to be broken down some. I think they found a great way to do it. Now for combat. Combat is the same as it was in mk2 with one exception: EXE Drives. These are super attacks that eat up a community bar for your party that gets filled by dealing damage (or initiating battles by hitting an enemy with your weapon). They take anywhere from one to four sections of the bar and deal extremely high damage. They’re not quite game-breaking, though. They’re powerful, but the game does take them into consideration for bosses. Many bosses have enough HP to last against a full set of these (however many there are would be based on how far you are in the game) and will even have regen to offset the overall damage while keeping things trucking along for your regular attacks. I think they’re a nice touch that you can choose to abuse or not, but abusing them still doesn’t remove the challenge of the game. In fact, it makes it a little bit tougher. Remember how Neptune Break literally broke the game in the first two games as SP attacks? Neptune Break and attacks like it have been moved to the EXE Drive list this time, making it impossible to spam them over and over, creating a much more balanced game. There really aren’t any other major changes to combat. The sub-systems for combat have been greatly improved, though. For example, in mk2 you had to set up your combos by choosing attacks that had certain costs, and your base attack had a cost based on its attack type (e.g. wide area attacks had a higher cost). This pretty much kept me from using larger-area attack weapons at all because I felt like it was limiting my ability to combo and pull off the combo finishers. Victory only applies this cost limit to setting your attacks, not executing them, so you’re free to use any weapon type you choose without having to worry about it impacting your other attacks. Additionally, the combos are no longer based on certain combinations of attacks and are now free to use at the end of a combo, as long as your EXE Drive gauge is filled enough to execute them. (These will vary in activation costs from one to three bars, but will not drain the gauge on use, so you can use them as many times as you want once you hit the right number.) You can set any four of them that you want by assigning them to the face buttons. As you can tell, “customization” is still the key word of the series combat. All of the other systems from mk2 are still in place. You have your Lily Rank/Partner system, the free-roam battles, enemies are placed in the environment instead of activated as random battles, etc. The biggest change to the game was the addition of the scouting system. This system allows you to send scouts out to dungeons for a small fee to discover things. They can find and bring back items or credits, discover Lost Places (which don’t do anything, but are tributes to certain games and count toward a trophy), discover dungeons (each area has 2-3 secret dungeons with good loot), and alter the existing dungeons by changing up the kinds of items you can find at harvest points or replacing the boss monster with one of two different stronger bosses. I absolutely adore this system. It’s probably the best addition the series has seen. There’s so much you can do with it and I love having that level of control. Setting mechanics aside for a bit, the story is a true return to form, placing Neptune back in the lead role and shifting the focus once again to the CPUs. The candidates are all there, but only Nepgear really gets a starring role. The others will join near the end of the game in two of the three ending routes. They’re all fully featured and their DLC outfits from mk2 (maids, cosplay) are included in the game. You better believe I decked out Uni in her cosplay outfit as soon as I got her. The game returns to the more lighthearted tone of the first game. mk2 was fairly lighthearted, but there was always that “potential end of the world” plot looming. You also won’t find anything as depressing/aggravating as the infamous Conquest End here. There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the new characters are a lot of fun, too. I really appreciated all of the antagonists here, where in mk2 I didn’t care for a few of them (Judge, Magic, sorta didn’t like Trick, Arfoire wasn’t even really a character, etc.). If I had one complaint, it would be that Pirachu came back but Linda/Underling didn’t.

Graphics: 10/10 – Perfection. Here we see the improvements to presentation in mk2 with the active model cutscenes (doing what the sprites simply can’t) but all dialog is carried out with the same gorgeous sprites that were present in the first game instead of mk2’s grainy models. The other improvements to mk2 have also been carried over here in greater capacity. Dungeon types are more varied than ever before (with several of the mk2 dungeon types returning but an even larger amount of new, original dungeon types being introduced due to the introduction of jumping), there are an absolute ton of costumes, accessories, and processor units available (including custom textures/skins for ALL characters this time), and there is a whole slew of new enemies created for the game as parodies (including a very familiar-looking anime creature parody). This is exactly what I’ve wanted out of the series after mk2. I knew they could do great things if they combined the best of the first two games and they not only did combine the best things but went above and beyond to make it even better. The visual presentation here is wonderful. Also, did we have jiggle-physics in mk2? I don’t remember them, but I know we have them in Victory. They’re nice.

Sound: 10/10 – I’ll give this one a straight 10, too. We’re looking at a lot of improvements here. There are more music tracks (with some great character themes), what I consider to to be an overall improvement in the quality of the music, and we even have a variety in the town themes. The mk2 themes return for the world we’re used to and there are new arranges of the themes for the Victory world. Different dungeon types have their own music, and the increased variety in dungeons shows off the increased variety in music. Cutscene music can still be a little same-y, but is better and more varied with higher quality. As far as the dub goes, I’m a little disappointed that so little of the dialogue was voiced (and this is a big thing on the NISA forums right now), but all of the battle voices were done and most of the important scenes were voiced, including endings and such. I also noticed that everyone in the main CPU group sounded a lot better this time. I really do think that their lack of screen time in mk2 really hurt them in trying to get into their roles. They sounded much better this time. Neptune’s improved Purple Heart voice (or what I perceived as improved in mk2) comes through here, as well as that great Nep peformance she had in the first game. I also adored the acting for Blanc and Noire, who seemed really comfortable in their roles. Vert hasn’t changed much, but the again I never really noticed her seem to slip in mk2. The candidates are all equally comfortable here, despite three of them having very little screen time. The new characters all sound good, too. Plutia’s VA really nailed the delivery for her lines, especially as Iris Heart. The Seven Sages had great voices, too. I became a big fan of Copypaste because of his line delivery. Everyone sounds great. The Japanese track, of course, is nearly fully voiced.

Overall: 10/10 – This is probably the peak of the series. There really isn’t much they can do to improve on it here. If you like the series for what it is, you probably won’t find anything to complain about here. This game should have been the best of the first two and that’s exactly what it ended up as. They’ve learned what works for the series and have incorporated it into a single package. I’ve heard that this will be the last main game in the series, with future games being more experimental side content than anything. (For example, the announced idol game, Noire’s game, and proposed ideas they’d like to try like an 8-bit style game for Blanc.) I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is then it could be for the best. At this point, I’m afraid that further tweaking of the systems can mess up a good thing. I always hope there will be more, of course, and if there is then here’s hoping for a game that’s just as good or better than this one.

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