Megadimension Neptunia VII PS4 Review
You would be forgiven for reading the latest Neptunia title as the seventh entry in the series, given Compile Hearts’ rampant release schedule for these games. However, the VII is in fact meant to be written as “V-2”, in what was probably a playful jab at Final Fantasy VII. The deeper implication, however, is that Megadimension Neptunia VII is the next big evolution of the franchise, which does warrant a cursory glance considering the repetitive usage of assets and gameplay that allows Neptunia to be released in quicker quantity than Assassin’s Creed games.
From the outset, it seems Neptunia VII has quickly earned its claim of being the biggest entry yet, as the game actually contains a total of three story campaigns, to the point that each campaign has its own intro and title screen. This is not to say that the actual content is thrice as big as previous games, but it is nonetheless an interesting concept that lends itself to a bigger variety of story-based mechanics. The first story arc revolves around Neptune and her sister Nepgear, who both previously shared roles as protagonists in their respective games. The two CPU sisters find themselves spirited away to another dimension (wouldn’t be the first time for either of them), a post-apocalyptic wasteland devoid of humans and filled with vicious monsters as well as a literal giant crushing the last remaining cities. Their sole ally in this new world is a tomboyish CPU named Uzume, and the three must work together to liberate the parallel dimension while finding a way back to their original home.
This may be a case of Stockholm syndrome, but after so many sequels and spinoffs, the Neptunia cast has started to reach a certain level of endearing. The rampant fourth-wall winking and embracing of hardcore Anime tropes have become more of a fond routine rather than cringe-inducing. What’s more, it seems the developers have finally learned to scale back some of the pointless drivel that plagued the previous games with hours of cutscenes. Another small mercy is that cutscenes have now been split into segments, where players are given breaks in-between to either save their game or go grind some levels and loot. This is not to say that has reached a new level of written respect: there are still several bits of dialog about favorite and least-favorite foods, pointless and pandering sequences of characters bathing in indoor or outdoor baths, and several more comments regarding the various bust sizes during said bathing sequences. It’s the same old fanservice shtick that the series has stuck to in the past, but at least some steps have been made to make things more tolerable. Extra kudos must also be given to some of the new game-parodying additions to the roster, including a Final Fantasy-homage of a character who directly quotes famous characters like Cloud while also narrowly avoiding copyright strikes for naming a certain breed of horse bird.
The one thing that remains almost entirely unchanged is the game’s visuals. Ever unashamed of their reuse of assets, Neptunia VII includes the majority of character models, portraits, and music that’s been used across all games. On the other hand, it is liberating to finally play a console version of the series that maintains a consistent framerate, something that has long plagued Neptunia across its tour through Sony’s systems (even Omega Quintet, a previous PS4 exclusive, could not escape the framerate woes). It may not stand up to most other competing RPGs, but at least Neptunia VII earns marks for being fast with its load times and continuing to allow players to skip nearly every frame of animation during battle.
While the presentation may not have gotten much of a facelift, the gameplay has received the most additions and upgrades, yet still feels largely unchanged from previous games. As before, engage in turn-based battles while running around various dungeons, utilizing abilities and combo attacks to fend off random foes. The latter has been streamlined even further with visual prompts to let players know which next step in their combo will land a guaranteed hit. Sticking to the suggested order will not only land the hits safely, it will also grant additional stat rewards as part of each character’s challenge list (which also include mundane things like jumping a certain number of times, using certain special moves a certain number of times, defeating enemies without sustaining damage, etc.).
Positioning is now a vital step to success; certain enemies wear armor that protects them from receiving full damage. By positioning characters around the enemy, they can specifically do damage to the piece of armor, eventually destroying it completely. Forming various positions while in HDD Mode (powered up versions of the characters that can be summoned once the accompanying meter fills up) can also result in some Anime-tastic team-up attacks that do major damage.
These new gameplay additions help to give some added depth to the Neptunia series, but the downside is that the game takes a very long time to implement them, and even longer until they are vital. For the most part, enemies are mere fodder that can be taken out instantly with a characters special attack, with bosses putting up the most resistance due to their strong attacks and large HP. The real hurdle becomes managing your party’s SP reserves until reaching the boss, since save points do not fully replenish the party. With SP recovery items costing a rather hefty amount, oftentimes players will have to leave the dungeon, restock, and then head back. Fortunately, everything in Neptunia is quick and streamlined, so this process isn’t as tedious as it could be. Far more tedious is the new world map mechanic; players must know pick a location and follow a set path to reach it, which may result in random encounters on the map. These random encounters seldom feature anything but the very weakest of enemies, and what’s worse is that upon defeating them players must plot their course to their destination after each battle, which makes the whole concept both pointless and cumbersome.
Rounding out the list of features are returning concepts such as Guild Quests (which give rewards for collecting specific items or defeating specific enemies), item and disc development (the former unlocks new items in the shop, the latter yields additional upgrades). New mechanics include Investment, which lets players invest money into each city to include new items and other resources when leveling up the respective parameters. Also new is the Scout system, which sends AI companions to scout the dungeons of your choice. Each scout offers a specific boost while they remain in a dungeon, such as extra EXP, extra critical damage, etc., while they also frequently report back with any new items or hidden treasure that they find.
In the end, Megadimension Neptunia VII can certainly be classified as the biggest and most competent Neptunia game to date, which may or may not sound as impressive depending how much of a fan you are. Ultimately, these games continue to stay comfortably within their limited budgets and fanservice-filled pandering to stay afloat, but it still deserves recognition for steadily improving and delivering an overall entertaining experience while other biannual franchises continue to offer mixed or declining results with each new addition.