Last year’s Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, the second game in Compile Heart and Idea Factory’s Hyperdimension Neptunia series, made some significant steps toward distancing itself from its nearly unplayable predecessor, mostly in the combat department, but that didn’t halt it from being a generally tasteless, ultimately forgettable JRPG experience. Rather than building on the selective improvements of Mk2, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, round three of the anime-style computerized heroines’ constant squabbling and haphazard adventuring to protect the dwindling market shares of their pun-ridden world, Gamindustri, opts to remain quite stagnant throughout its roughly 40-hour main campaign. Visually, Victory is the trilogy’s strongest entry, but not by much, intermittently displaying noticeable upticks in framerate during key animations and cleaner approaches to its environmental designs. Yet the myriad bouts of aimless dungeon-crawling, fetch quests, and level-grinding all come with little incentive to continually press on through the boundless tedium, and the oversimplified alternations to the battle system quickly diminish the welcome complexities Mk2 attempted to introduce.
Victory’s narrative is an interesting spin on the kind of offbeat storytelling this series has exhibited, and it’s a shame that other aspects of the game couldn’t follow suit. Lead protagonist Neptune, CPU guardian of Planeptune, finds herself vacuumed into a time portal in the midst of a building skirmish between rival municipalities Leanbox, Laststation, and Lowee. She’s promptly transported to the year 1989, the dawn of the popular gaming age, in a strange, joke-centric universe that mysteriously mirrors her own realm. This unstable alternate cosmos is in immediate danger of being compromised by a scheming assemblage known as the Seven Sages. Of course, it’s up to Neptune and company to put a stop to the foul devices of any and all digitized evildoers, if they can by some means cease their seemingly unflappable bickering long enough to do so.
Two central exercises comprise the bulk of Victory’s playtime: hustling through compacted dungeons and wading through countless elongated scenes of Neptune and her collaborators verbally sparring with one another. These dialogue sequences aren’t necessarily poorly written or voice-acted, it’s simply that they drag on ad nauseam, and eventually the topic in question and the already lackadaisical progression of the plot come to a complete standstill at the expense of the player. Neptune and her band of girlishly pixelated paladins are likable in minimal doses, but their unsophisticated demeanor can become wearing after prolonged exposure.
In comparison to Mk2’s layered assault mechanics, Victory’s gameplay is uncomplicated to a fault. Standard turn-based role-playing engagements are the norm, with various unexciting movement, grid-mapped strike ranges, multiple hit bonuses, and effect enhancements thrown in for not-so-good measure. Each party member possesses a trio of core offensive maneuvers that can be spliced to compliment your personal preferences, with flashy CPU transformations being the ultimate manner of vanquishing your enemies. These blatantly ostentatious conversions are where Victory swaps logical functionality for gaudy fan service, supplying wide-eyed gamers with catchpenny cleavage in favor of a memorable method of routinely winning battles. There are bountiful satellite options and side quests tacked on, like assigning support characters, scouting missions, and massive monster-bounty hunts, but there’s really no reason to partake other than to appease the never-satisfied completionist within.
Somehow Hyperdimension Neptunia has always managed to get away with its brazenly pedophiliac, yet no less hysterical, risqué proclivities, but Victory’s ecchi shenanigans often fail to tickle the funny bone. Perhaps it’s because the game reverts back to the original’s fluffy Teen rating rather than maintaining Mk2’s well-earned Mature, giving its heedless immodesty a tangible limit by default. This is also true of the overall package itself, which, by refusing to continue the franchise’s listless journey from trashy to tolerable, unwittingly represses any prerequisite cultivation before it can forge a propitious path.