There are a lot of RPG’s in store for the year 2016, and getting ahead of the pack in terms of release date is none other than Megadimension Neptunia VII. Despite the misleading title, it’s not the seventh game in the main series. Rather, it would’ve done better having been romanized as V2, as it’s the direct sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (or V for short). Then again, this is a series that inserts random semicolons into its titles, so at some point you just nod your head and go along with it.
The build up to this game is an interesting one, as HDNV set the standard for the rest of the series to the extent that the Vita remakes completely scrapped many of their original gameplay elements to more closely mirror it. And considering the leaps and bounds that had to be made to get to that point, we could expect something just as revolutionary to come from the fourth entry in the main series, right? Sadly, this iteration of the franchise plays it safe for the most part, for all the good and the bad that entails.
The narrative of Megadimension Neptunia VII is divided into three distinct story arcs that are loosely connected. Things kick off with Neptune and Nepgear stumbling upon a broken Dreamcast that pulls them into another dimension. This dimension is one where the world is in shambles and only one CPU remains: Uzume (Orange Heart). Together, the trio tries to save what’s left of the world while trying to find a way for the heroines to return home. The second arc marks the appearance of a group called Gold Third and their attempts to conquer the CPU’s and their respective nations. And finally, the conclusion of the trilogy brings things to a close and pulls everything together.
While I didn’t enjoy the overall plot nearly as much as the previous game, there’s still plenty of humorous dialog and video game industry references to crack a smile throughout the entire adventure (I still can’t believe they designed a character based on Seaman). I think much of it stems from how disjointed it feels. Each third of the game has its own title screen, which goes to show how much this entry was designed to be three separate games smashed into one. I’d almost say it would have been better as three different releases if I didn’t hate episodic titles so much. I did like the fact that there’s a certain point where you can pick a character and play from their point of view, especially if your favorite happens to be someone other than Neptune.
The one thing that becomes immediately apparent as you start the game is how much better the engine runs. The character models do look marginally better than their PS3 and Vita counterparts, but the fact that they can run through the world at a consistent frame rate is much more impressive. Many of the areas that Neptune and friends explore are new to this game too, though the ones that were copied and pasted from other games didn’t escape my notice. You may have had me experiencing deja vu at one point in the past, but you can’t fool me with dungeons I’ve completed dozens of times before, Compile Heart.
The English voice actors reprise their respective roles, though the new characters were well cast. The option for Japanese dialogue will be released as free DLC, so while I don’t have a basis for comparison, at least the option will be there for those that want it. Japan has numerous other DLC offerings, such as characters like God Eater, so hopefully those will be offered too. The soundtrack borrows a lot from prior entries as you might expect, but seeing as how much of it is utilized in familiar areas, it’s much more forgivable. The new stuff is pretty good though, particularly the battle theme and the new areas.
Rather than instantly transporting you to your destination, Megadimension Neptunia VII makes you travel routes from one place to the next. And in some cases, you’ll be required to build these paths going to and fro by way of spending credits. Sadly, this new addition offers nothing of value and is actually a source of aggravation. Having yet another thing to spend money on is one thing, but you now have to contend with random battles along the way, most of which being of the weak enemy variety. And since you don’t automatically heal after leaving a zone, you’ll find yourself running back to town quite a bit, fending off beasts that don’t offer any sort of challenge and are seemingly just there to slow you down.
At least the combat still holds up from the other titles. As before, when you encounter an enemy out in the wild and come into contact with them, you’ll get tossed into battle. Your characters are positioned around the map and on your turn, they have to be moved within striking range in order to initiate combos. Monsters no longer have to have their guard broken, however. This meter has been removed entirely, leaving you to focus primarily on launching your hardest hitting combos. On the flip side, enemies (particularly bosses) have been given much more HP to compensate, so don’t go in thinking fights will go any quicker. Other previous combat abilities return as well, such as HDD transformations and skills. You have the option to run from battle, but it rarely works, so I hope you go into every fight prepared.
New in this entry is the addition of Formation Skills, which are effectively team attacks that require between two to four different characters to initiate. They involve a little bit of setup, but they’re absolutely worth the extra time taken to position everyone. Basically, the area of effect consists of any space between the characters utilized in the attack, meaning you can take out an entire group of foes in one blow. The only downside is every character has to be in the same form (such as HDD) which can be a pain to coordinate.
There are boss encounters introduced as Giant Battles that change the formula up a bit. These involve an extraordinarily large enemy that has be tackled by hopping from one platform to the next in order to avoid being devastated by group attacks. There’s a little more strategy to these since positioning plays much more of a role. After all, if you only have a couple characters that can heal, do you keep everyone together and restore the damage or spread out to mitigate who needs attention? They certainly help mix up the experience, and I’m glad these were added.
There’s no Remake system from the Vita titles in the traditional sense, though Disc Development is still a thing (a mode where you combine discs with idea chips to create stat boosting items). You’ll also earn plans which when constructed using parts dropped from enemies introduce new items into shops that can be purchased indefinitely from then on. There are also collectible Flag Items that alter the game in a similar fashion to the remake titles, so that aspect of that system is still around as well. What about Stella’s Dungeon, you ask? Well, Stella has been replaced by generic scouts, but the basic principles are the same. Send a group to various dungeons that you’ve already explored and they may bring back items or trigger events.
I was a bit surprised to see that the Guild didn’t make an appearance until almost a third into the game. Like before, you’ll gather MMO style fetch quests and kill X number of Y inquiries at the guild of each city you visit. NPC’s based on everything from popular video game mascots and Japanese magazines will offer random humorous quips and useful advice. Just landing in a city will completely heal your party, and while you’re there you can stop at the local shop to restock on items. Not a ton has changed in many aspects of the experience, which leads me nicely into my next point…
I think that folks who have kept up with the franchise thus far will probably enjoy themselves immensely so long as the formula hasn’t tired them out yet. I’m not too proud to admit when a series is getting better and Neptunia certainly has. But because we’ve reached a point where there are so many of these games coming out within the same year, I feel franchise fatigue setting in. It’s like the JRPG equivalent of Assassin’s Creed, another series that really needs to take a year off to come up with more substantial improvements, and then make a return when people have had a chance to miss it. Heck, I’m a huge fan of the Tales franchise, and even that I feel needs to not be annualized. Looking back at my past reviews, I was very passionate about Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. I felt like a wrote a whole novel about it. Fast forward barely three years and even with the new characters and added features, it is starting to become a struggle to say more than “I feel like I’ve done all this several times before.” Megadimension Neptunia VII is not a bad game. It’s actually a pretty good one. But after so many HDN games have come before it, the magic has been lost a bit. A lot, actually. If this is your first or second outing, you’re likely in good hands. If not, then ask yourself how much the experience has to have evolved before investing dozens of hours again. If the answer is on the low end the scale, then you’re in the right place.
Short Attention Span Summary
Megadimension Neptunia VII brings the franchise to the PlayStation 4 with new characters, enhanced visuals, and a few gameplay tweaks. The game runs much better than it ever has in the past, with little slowdown and a consistent frame rate, which is the most substantial improvement thus far. The narrative is a little less cohesive with a three act structure that seems to have very little to do with each other until the end. Fortunately, the dialogue is still humorous and the characters are as outlandish as they’ve ever been. Gameplay additions are minor and in some cases detract from the experience, such as the new Route Building mechanic that forces random battles while journeying from one part of the map to the next. Formation Skills make for a great new addition, however, as do the Giant Battles. I just wish there was a far more substantial shakeup as there was building up to Victory. If you’re not tired of the franchise by now, you should have no trouble diving right in, but those looking for a complete transformation of the formula might want to abstain. Megadimension Neptunia VII is a good game, but it lands much too close in release to a number of other games in the franchise.