Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory

There's an uncomfortable dissonance between the way the developers seem to want us to feel about the game and what we're actually feeling as we play through it.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory

Publisher: NIS America
Format: PlayStation 3
Price: $49.99
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
Release Date: 2013-03-21
"Ooh, looks like you started a new game! Think any game reviewers won't get this one!?"

-Neptune, in the trophy description for starting a new game

When you play enough JRPGs, particularly the ones developed by Compile Heart and/or Idea Factory, you start to have to take certain things with a grain of salt, particularly when it comes to the games' treatment of women. The women in a Compile Heart/Idea Factory JRPG look like they're 12, talk like they're eight, and act like oversexed hormonal teenagers. Sure, there is some variance to the formula, but the women/girls in these RPGs are specifically designed to appeal to the loli crowd. If this is not an aesthetic that appeals to you, you have to brace yourself going in, lest you be utterly overwhelmed and revolted by the pastels, pinks, and purples, the baby voices, the tiny outfits, and the hyperactive beat of the musical score. These games are not for everyone. They're not for me, really -- that became pretty clear the last time I tried to review one -- but I do try to go in with an open mind. Niche products are interesting, after all. There's a certain appeal to looking at a product with a very small but very devoted audience and trying to find the draw of that product.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory almost manages the feat of transcending its inherent limitations. Sure, the character designs are... well, they are what they are, the dialogue is full of inappropriate innuendos and shockingly rough language, and the great Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack is like eating one Swedish fish every minute -- fun and delicious for a while, but eventually a sugary headache. But, you know, that's fine. Small doses and all that. Tropes aside, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is good fun for a time with an interesting battle system, a nifty approach to consolidating town exploration, and more industry in-jokes than you can shake an Irritating Stick at.

Still, a few hours in, it feels the need to "go there".

Specifically, one of the characters -- ostensibly one of the "good guys" -- resorts to not-at-all veiled sexual coercion in "deciding" whether or not to help other characters. There is a long, drawn-out conversation, probably ten full minutes of dialogue even when pounding the X button to fly through it, asking what the characters in peril "will do" in order to be saved. One offers her body immediately; the other, forced to compete with the first, offers to "do anything you want, one time". Even more troubling: it's all played for laughs. Of course, they all end up in the bath together after the big battle, complete with the conspicuously-placed bubbles so common in this sort of scene, and apparently have a grand time together, despite one of them continuing to protest. All told, a solid 20 minutes straight of dialogue and exposition is spent on this exchange with the small relief of a (shockingly easy) boss fight to break it up in the middle.

Even as fan-service, this seems over the top, a weirdly mature, utterly uncomfortable girl-on-girl-on-girl loli fantasy that stumbles its way into sexual assault by the time it finishes. Played for laughs. One of the girls even does an impression of a masseuse speaking "Engrish" during the bath scene, just in case the whole thing wasn't offensive enough.

From this point on, there's an uncomfortable dissonance between the way the developers seem to want us to feel about the game and what we're actually feeling. Once you jump into the realm of threatening sexual coercion, the presence of "innocent" little double entendres feels menacing. Once a character jumps into dialogue that could at best be considered culturally insensitive -- in a way that is itself odd in a game translated from Japanese -- it becomes impossible to respect that character as a protagonist.

In terms of pure mechanics, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is not half bad. When the characters aren't busy opening their mouths and promptly inserting their feet, they participate in battles that actually incorporate some strategy. Sure, as with most JRPGs, simply pounding the attack button works in many cases, but in order to keep from wasting healing items along the way, efficiency is demanded. Most weapons have a range that can attack multiple enemies at once, which often means knocking off the baddies before they even get a chance to fight back. Enemies in this game tend to do a very good job of working together, you see, and if left to their own devices, their powered-up attacks can be surprisingly devastating. There are Etrian Odyssey-style overpowered minibosses scattered throughout the dungeons, and there's plenty of loot to dig up in the dungeons as well. The difficulty never feels overwhelming. In fact, I would call Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory one of the easier JRPGs I've played in some time, but you will lose the occasional battle. It's a well-balanced game, to be sure, and while it may succumb to every trope in the book when it comes to the story, it actually manages to eschew the grind for most of the game. Employ a little strategy (and, in some cases, be willing to engage in some lengthy battles), and you can make your way through most of the game without having to repeat the repeatable quests or tool around dungeons looking for random battles.

Also notable is the game's scaled-down approach to towns, a welcome innovation given the amount of dialogue; the last thing I tend to feel like doing after trawling through a town to find an NPC is listening to that NPC prattle on about barely-related recent events. Granted, most players would probably prefer the exploration to the talky-talky, but thank goodness at least one piece of that equation is scaled down. Every person and building in a town is available on a single screen. You can get one-liners from whomever you like, whenever you like, but mostly, you simply have to click on the characters or buildings marked with the handy little "event" marker, and you won't miss too much.

Truly, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is a light, enjoyable game when it's not getting in its own way by trying to find humor in topics that aren't funny.

It would be tempting to throw the more troubling aspects of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory into a box labeled "satire" and not think twice about them. The game is essentially an extended metaphor for the console wars, in this case a rough approximation of the time when Sony was entering the fray with the original Playstation. It would be tempting to call the sexual wordplay, the bath scene, and the cultural insensitivity exaggerations of tropes long derided in the genre, not to mention video games as a whole. That's not what's going on here, though. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is not making a statement. It is light entertainment, peppered with industry in-jokes and cameos, designed to make the player smile. Often, it succeeds. When it fails, though, it fails spectacularly.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.