Those crazy personified console girls are back but this time around it's time for some time travel. Technically it's a parallel universe but consider for a moment that you're in a world where Lowee (Nintendo) is the only nation and the Planeptune (Sega), Lastation (Sony), and Leanbox (Microsoft) nations are created during the course of the game. That's the past, and I don't care what the characters say.
Most of the protagonists are returning characters with the same quirks as before. The shut-in MMO obsessed Vert, tsundere Noire, and quiet but easily angered Blanc all reprising their roles as their respective countries' CPUs along with a couple new additions to the squad. The most important new character is Plutia who is Planeptune's leader instead of Neptune. A lot of the comedy in this title is focused on the vast difference between Plutia's normal and transformed personalities. Watching the usually cool headed and somewhat ditzy Plutia go all dominatrix on friend and foe alike makes for some pretty interesting reactions if nothing else. The storyline focuses on Neptune's attempts to find out about this new dimension she's been thrown into and find a way back to her own. It's pretty frivolous but it does make for a few laughs. Unfortunately it wasn't enough of a distraction for me to ignore the mind-numbing, grindtastic gameplay.
It's not that the minute to minute battle system is terrible, but there's absolutely no feeling of exploration that propels you forward. Not every JRPG has a fantastic battle system that is always engaging and interesting, but when a game lacks that it needs to offer something else to keep the player moving forward instead. In titles like the Atelier Arland series each new area you visit not only features new sights to behold and monsters to fight, but it offers up new materials to use in your ever expanding arsenal of crafting. On the other hand, in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory often the “new areas” you go to aren't new at all, they're settings you've already visited but with new portions opened up or the geometry simple rearranged. It gets to the point where it feels as though there are only 5 or 6 different areas in the entire game that are reused over and over again.
Another frustration is the sharp difficulty jumps from monsters to bosses within dungeons, which means you'll need to spend a lot of time grinding in order to be able to stand a chance against them. Not in itself too uncommon, but if I take no damage at all from the monsters in a given dungeon the boss should not be able to one-shot me. The only reprieve you're offered is the coliseum, which you can use to grind more easily because your health and MP heal after every battle so you can go all out for each round, although the game will admonish you for not spending more time completing repetitive and meaningless quests if you opt for this method of grinding. One last complaint: I want every boss with constantly regenerating health to die in a fire. Far too many bosses in Neptunia Victory require you to adopt the same strategy every time (namely beat down their guard until you can throw everything you have into attacking). Bosses are supposed to offer up interesting new challenges for you to overcome that make you work that harder for victory; they shouldn't pose the same challenge almost every time.
I'll be honest, I didn't manage to complete Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. After 36 hours of game time and having reaching the 10th chapter I came upon the straw that broke the camel's back - another wall of a boss fight which could only be overcome through yet more hours of grinding. You're looking at over40 hours in order to achieve the really, definitely, super-true ending, and you could spend many more hours than that trying to get the approval of these digital dames for your questing amounts, but I can't imagine why you would do this.
One positive thing I will say about these games is that I truly enjoy the voice acting when it's there. Most of the game isn't voiced, but when it is the characters are often hilarious. Unfortunately the jokes don't come off as well when you're just reading them to yourself, so a lot of the humor is less impactful than it could be on the whole. Visually, Neptunia Victory is similar to the previous two games, which would work reasonably well if there was more variety.
Stepping back a bit from the negatives (I know I'm being quite rough on the game), if you're someone who loved the previous two Neptunia titles then feel free to ignore all of the aforementioned issues because most of them were present in the last game as well. But if you're like me, and you found the concept interesting but didn't really enjoy the grinding necessary the last time around then you're going to enjoy this one even less.
When I first heard about the Hyperdimension Neptunia series I was excited at the prospect of such a strange title actually making it over to the West. Now that I've played my third one I think the idea of gaming platforms personified as girls is really losing its luster. It's a unique concept that allows for a lot of humorous references to gamer culture, but this can only take a game so far. Perhaps it's time that these girls go the way of the Atari.