Megadimension Neptunia VII
- Street Date:
- February 2nd, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Sophia Edwards
- Review Date:1
- February 1st, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Idea Factory
- Compile Heart
Digital PS4 version reviewed. This review is light on spoiler content.
After numerous spinoffs and remakes, 'Megadimension Neptunia VII' (pronounced "V2", not "7") marks the first proper 'Neptunia' sequel since 2012's 'Victory.' From Compile Heart, 'Megadimension Neptunia VII' marks the series debut on the PS4.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Hyperdimension Neptunia' is a franchise I've wanted to enjoy ever since the first game was brought to the West in early 2011. Unfortunately, I've ended up disliking every single entry. The games never really boasted any worthwhile gameplay, and while each entry improved slightly, at their height, they've been dull, at their worst, they've been dreadful. 'Hyperdevotion Noire', an SRPG spinoff, was a shockingly worthwhile SRPG, but every other entry has been plagued by a host of awful game design decisions. It's incredibly surprising then, that 'VII' is not only experimental in a welcome way, but also largely successful with what it attempts to do.
The basic story is thoroughly standard fare, the window dressing of the game industry satire (with all of the characters representing consoles or game companies) has never been quite as prominent as I feel it should be. That doesn't change too much here, save for the occasional decent joke, but if the story isn't terribly noteworthy, it is, at least, pleasant and brisk enough that it never really grates. The majority of the characters here are likeable, with the new protagonist for much of the game, Uzume (a parody of the Dreamcast), being more well-rounded than most of the cast in the series. The cast really saves what could have otherwise been a fairly dull game, and by the end of it all, I was invested enough to play through it a second time to get the game's true ending.
The gameplay is where most of the series' improvements shine through. The combat system is very similar to previous entries, a turn-based affair where characters can be moved within a circle dictated by their stats, with players positioning the party to best attack enemies and performing attacks that can place emphasis on hits to build up a gauge for special moves, raw damage, or a combination of the two. It's always been a fairly simple system, and most fights can be handled without focusing too much on the minutia, but there's a decent bit of depth there for anyone willing to look. What Compile Heart has done with 'VII,' however, is make the fights just a tad more tactical, with character positioning now being far more important.
Enemies will have armor or breakable parts that can only be destroyed by attacking them from certain angles. Destroying parts not only increases damage dealt to enemies, but can also net players rewards and rare items. Additionally, characters can perform combination attacks by surrounding enemies, in a system vaguely reminiscent of tri-Ace's excellent 'Resonance of Fate'. The combo attacks aren't quite as important as they could be, but they definitely add a layer of complexity to a system that sorely needed it. Previous games made use of a guard break system, which served no real purpose and only extended combat, but it's thankfully been ditched here, replaced by these more promising ideas. The combat still isn't perfect, and typical enemy mobs eventually become totally thoughtless near the last stretch of the game, but the step forward is absolutely welcome.
It's an oddly ambitious game, in a fair few ways. Originally pitched as three separate games, Compile Heart combined them all into one story for 'VII', and the divide between entries is made obvious, with new title screens for each one and new concepts introduced to make all three feel somewhat distinct. The first part is a solely linear affair, with the third being fairly similar, but the second part of the game mixes things up dramatically, seeing players take control of four separate groups of characters over the same span of time. It's here where the game introduces some of its more interesting ideas, with optional dungeons being frequently unlocked, the addition of a system that lets you invest in towns and improve their stock in shops, items available for creation, and public relations (important for unlocking certain story events). There's also a scouting system, altered fairly heavily from previous games, where you'll send out scouts to any dungeon in the game, leading them to find items, money, and hidden treasures. Additionally, these scouts can provide bonuses while players are exploring dungeons such as increased critical hit rates, higher money drops, etc. It's a fun little system that heavily rewards players who are willing to put the time into it.
It's still a game riddled with flaws, and the dungeons are largely boring and lacking in anything distinguishing. The new dungeons made for 'VII' try and mix things up a bit, with some degree of success, but many of them are recycled from previous games, making their emptiness sting even more. The game's world map, while interesting in theory, ends up being like way to add some filler. The world map only serves to lengthen the game artificially by introducing random battles on the map whereas before fights were typically relegated to dungeons and story events. A new mechanic is added to the game's combat far too close to the end of it all to be useful. Thankfully, though, it's a game that succeeds with new ideas far more than it fails.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The English voice acting ranges from strong to terrible, though Japanese VA is available as free DLC. The music, sadly, is rather bad on the whole. There's a few good tracks in here, a couple of which I'd even say are great, but there are times I wished I'd have just listened to a podcast or really, anything else in the majority of the game's dungeons.
There are three separate endings and surprisingly robust options for New Game+. Top that off with tons of side quests, a minigame based on 'Spelunker', and a Colosseum, and there's a decent amount of incentive to return once you've seen the credits roll.
It stumbles in a fair few places, and it likely won't sway those who aren't fond of the basic idea of the franchise. Overall, however, 'Neptunia VII' represents a strong step forward in a franchise that seemed all too content to stand in place. While I wish it went further with its parody than it ever really does, a sequel that doubles down on the good ideas introduced here could potentially lead to something great.
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