Parody is a difficult concept to master, no matter how long you've been doing it. Consistent and even funny parody does not necessarily make it good or thoughtful parody, which is the ultimate problem facing Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. The fifth installment in the Sony exclusive JRPG franchise stays in line with the series' traditions of poking fun at itself and even the game industry as a whole, often in very funny ways, but the core game at the heart of it all is just not as deep or engaging as I was hoping for, which could have really pushed this one over the edge.
Neptunia Victory is not a bad game though; it's a passably average game that could have been a lot more. The world of the game is in a land called Gameindustri and tasks Neptune and her various anime-style scantily clad female companions on an adventure to save their worlds. Dialogue and story progression winds up being 80% idle chatting and banter instead of meaningful or thought-provoking plot development. Clearly the game is not meant to be taken seriously and is actually quite funny in a lot of aspects, but to what benefit?
Instead of using this is a platform to really say something interesting or offer intriguing commentary on the game industry and its denizens (I mean this figuratively and literally in the game) it often just ends up feeling like jokes for the sake of jokes. Let me emphasize a point though: there is nothing wrong with this approach in and of itself, but it could have been more. Nothing about this game is really fresh at all when compared to past entries in the series and it does nothing truly innovative.
Hefty criticisms of the overall narrative approach and game structure aside, it is in fact quite funny. Furthermore, the combat system has its moments of entertainment as well. At its foundation, the game performs under a typical turn-based combat system, but you have control over your character between turns. This is important for placing them on the grid and positioning your attacks, because they deal damage and affect zones in front of the character, as opposed to targeted enemies.
Environmental designs and character models when you're actually roaming around the world and engaged in combat look extremely lackluster. I don't want to go so far as to say that they look like they might be taken out of a late-gen PS2 game, but they might be taken out of a late-gen PS2 game. This is all the more noticeable when your special attack sequences engage and you see some beautiful particles and animations sweep across the screen in a dramatic fashion. It's not really a good idea for the graphical quality and artistic consistency of your game to just feel...off, which I fear is mostly the case here.
NIS America was kind enough to supply me with the soundtrack for Neptunia Victory and while this particular genre of music is not my typical choice of music necessarily, I found myself enjoying it for the most part, both in and out of game. Voice acting is hit or miss, as is often the case with games like these, but it's essentially what you'd expect for the most part. I wasn't particularly fond of any of the characters per say and I felt like their portraits during dialogue were extremely static and lacked emotion - which is strange for a JRPG. Usually characters seem overly exaggerated at all times, especially in a game as "satirical" as this one.
If you're a fan of the Hyperdimension series, this is plenty of content to devour that falls in line with a lot of the things you've come to expect out of the franchise. It doesn't really do anything new and it doesn't really use its satirical stance in a meaningful way, which disappointed me. Everything in the game works the way it is supposed to and it will supply you with that console-JRPG fix that I know lots of people are after, but don't expect much more out of it than that.
This review was based on a physical review disc for the PlayStation 3 provided by NIS America.