It’s time to hop back into the world of Gameindustri, as Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is coming soon to a PS3 near you. Compile Heart and Idea Factory have tackled the future, so now it’s time to go back in time and draw on retro systems and games for a new Hyperdimension Neptunia adventure. Neptune’s going into the past of a parallel dimension and I recently got the chance to play through the latest installment’s opening moments.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory opens with a grave situation. The CPU goddesses are fighting one another. Neptune (Sega Neptune), is fighting against Blanc (Wii), Noire (PS3) and Vert (Xbox 360). The other goddesses are openly hostile towards her and claim they’ll team up to finish her off first before beating each other.
It’s once Neptune has been defeated that the truth is revealed. They’e all playing a game together. In the years since Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, the CPU goddesses and candidates have been sitting around, playing video games. They didn’t really go out to do actual work. Which leads to Histoire, the oracle/assistant for Neptune and Planeptune to go into a full-on hissy fit. The other CPU goddess clear out, returning to their respective kingdoms, while Histoire sends Neptune and Nepgear (Game Gear) out to do their jobs again. This involves taking quests at the local guild to make Planeptune safer, stronger and more influential.
The thing is, slacking off has consequences. When Neptune and Nepgear arrive in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory‘s first dungeon, Neptune comes to a shocking realization. She’s only at level one! She swears she was at level 999 last game, then rallies against Nepgear, who’s at level 10. Nepgear may have been slacking too, but she also took some quests on the side.
The prologue I played through was pretty much a tutorial chapter. Before any new game concept was introduced, a few brief “Teach Me Histy” static screens would appear, explaining how Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory worked. If someone hasn’t played since the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, I recommend at least glancing at them, as there are a number of new concepts.
For example, dungeon exploration is now more straightforward and players can rely on the character he or she likes most as the party leader. Any character who is set as leader can search for hidden treasures by pressing square, press circle to jump or press X to launch a symbol attack on an on-screen opponent to start a battle. At the level I was at, symbol attacks always meant Neptune and Nepgear were able to attack first, but apparently at higher levels performing this move can instantly defeat lower level enemies.
However, players will probably want to swap around leaders. See, performing different actions with different characters and reaching certain milestones and lead to bonuses. For example, jumping 10 times will give the leader character a permanent stat boost. Running a certain distance with characters in dungeons, landing hits, avoiding damage, being healed and using skills are other actions that can result in perks. Most often, the bonuses make one character stronger, but sometimes they unlock extra content like images.
What leader you use doesn’t affect the Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory battle system. It’s a fairly straightforward, turn-based affair, though players are able to position characters around the field. For example, it’s Neptune’s turn to attack. Her sword’s attack range is shown in front of her and I’m able to have her run within a certain distance to approach enemies. If I position the range correctly, using the L1 and R1 buttons for tweaking, I can attempt to hit more than one enemy at a time. Once I choose to have Neptune attack with X, I can build a custom combo. Pressing the triangle button will unleash a rush barrage of normal-damage hits that reduce an opponent’s hit points and defense. The square button is a powerful attack that damages mostly HP. A break attack, performed with X, does damage primarily to the enemy’s defense bar. In these initial matches, Neptune wasn’t strong enough to do decent damage with rush or power attacks, so I found it was safer to have her break down a monster’s guard and allow the more powerful Nepgear to finish enemies off once they’re weakened.
Of course, one of the highlights of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is its magical girl aspect. As CPU goddesses, Neptune, Nepgear and some other characters are able to get in touch with their omnipotent side. When they transform, in this case into Purple Heart and Purple Sister, their attack power increases and they’re able to perform stronger combo attacks. This is triggered by pressing R2 in battle when they have enough energy. It’s a move best saved for boss battles, naturally.
Dungeon crawling is pretty similar to previous Hyperdimension Neptunia games, though the locations in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory seem a bit more detailed and offer more variety. The forested and industrial areas I visited with Neptune and Nepgear in the prologue both looked very different from each other and while the forest was fairly straightforward, the industrial section had different areas Neptune or Nepgear could jump into and explore.
Reporting back on missions, exploring towns and shopping is very different from Hyperdimension Neptunia, but apparently similar to Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Icons representing different characters with clever comments populate a town square. Clicking on them brings up their commentary. If a player visits Planeptune’s Basilicom or a CPU Hotel in other lands, they can talk to party members and see extras like TV shows or CG images. There’s also a shop where items can be made from recipes to increase the town’s item shop lineup, a shop to buy items, equipment and clothing and a guild where quests can be taken and reported. As in the other games, players who are stumped should look for a big “Event” icon at a location to advance the story or take guild quests until an “Event” icon appears in town or at a dungeon.
Before I wrap this up, I’ve got to point out two awesome references in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory I’ve picked up on during the opening moments. First, there’s a brilliant Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time reference where Neptune is acting as Navi to Noire’s Link. Second, one of the early enemies players will encounter is a Contract Angel that looks very similar to Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kyubey. The only enemy cuter, so far, is the Kupo Kitty, which looks like a stuffed, tabby cat with Moogle wings and antenna.
The prologue, and hence this preview, ends by setting the stage for the rest of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. One of Neptune and Nepgear’s quests is to deal with an organization that’s protesting the CPU goddesses, saying they’re unnecessary and people should govern themselves. It’s a small group of pretty much only one member at the moment, and Neptune and Nepgear manage to inadvertantly scare her away. Which then leads Rei to encounter a mysterious figure who gives her an unknown power. The next time Neptune encounters her, when fulfilling a quest all on her lonesome, she inadvertantly makes Rei mad and finds herself being dragged into a black hole and sent into a mysterious place and time. She’s in Planeptune, sure, but apparently in this place Plutia (Sega Mega Drive) is the land’s goddess and Noire isn’t even a goddess yet. It’s madness!
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory will be released March 12, 2013. It’ll be slightly less expensive than the average PS3 game, at $49.99. Be sure to visit GamerTell next week for our full review!