It’s time for the first Neptunia game of 2016! Yes, they’re still coming out with these and I’m still playing every single one of them. I really hope Idea Factory and Compile Heart never stop cranking these out. There’s no indication they ever will. Life is grand.
Today we’re talking about the series’ first entry – but most certainly not the last – on the PlayStation 4, Megadimension Neptunia VII, which I suppose could be considered the fourth in the post-reboot series after Re;Birth 1, 2 and 3. I might need a blackboard for this one.
VII (V-2, not seven!) has our usual cast of heroines doing the usual stuff…well, for the first five minutes or so, anyway. It doesn’t take long for Neptunia and her little sister Nepgear to be sucked into another dimension thanks to a mysterious white game console with a spiral logo. You can probably guess which one that is. Given the inevitable fate of that console, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the dimension they end up in is a barren wasteland void of any games or support. Thanks to attacks from the Dark CPUs, giant versions of the girls’ HDD forms bent on destruction, the “Zero Dimension” is in a bad way.
The only one standing against them is new heroine Uzume Tennoboushi, your typical post-apocalyptic badass character. As usual for this series, the post-apocalyptic badass tropes are toyed with. In particular, Uzume’s HDD form Orange Heart proves to be a saccharine-sweet character, the polar opposite of Uzume herself. She provides an interesting foil to the usual cast, who were lacking this particular archetype.
Anyway, the Zero Dimension plot doesn’t last forever. In fact, it kind of serves as its own separate game, including a CG intro and title screen. Five hours or so down the road, though, you’ll beat the “final boss,” the credits will roll…and it’s on to another new “game.” The Hyper Dimension, the series’ primary setting, is under attack from the Gold Third, villains representing developers from Konami to Square Enix, and it’s up to the CPUs to stop them.
VII is broken into three of these segments and each iteration toys with the mechanics a bit more. There’s a segment involving branching storylines a la Final Fantasy VI, for instance. Despite largely being a plot device, the shifts in tone and content help keep the action fresh. Despite this, VII is still a Neptunia game and series veterans are bound to get more out of it; Arfoire returns, for instance, and is promptly greeted with discussion of what a boring villain she is. This one’s laden with fanservice, and as always new players would be better served with one of the earlier games.
As for gameplay, it’s the same sort of combat and exploration we’ve seen in this series for some time now. Dungeon exploration has you running around seeking out items and beating up foes. Combat is a turn-based affair using the same iterative engine that we’ve seen in most of Compile Heart’s RPGs for years now. New features include the addition of position-based combo attacks that provide tons of damage if you’re ale to surround an opponent; there are also new transformations available for the first time in the series. Otherwise, gameplay is largely unchanged since the past several entries.
This is actually one of the more difficult entries in the series. Your new offensive abilities are helpful, but enemies feel more powerful than usual to make up for this. The game loves to set you up with a party consisting of weaker or more defensive characters while your heavy hitters are away doing plot things. You’ll find yourself needing to grind fairly early on, and it’s always a good idea to make two runs through a dungeon – one to grind and dig up loot and a second to avoid monsters and actually defeat the dungeon’s boss. It’s also wise to save often, since some bosses can be a more powerful than you might expect. I actually found this to be a nice change, as the past several games have felt fairly easy by comparison.
In terms of presentation this is actually the best console entry in the Neptunia series. The increased power of the PlayStation 4 means that the framerate issues that regularly plague these games are far less common. You’ll still run into some nastiness every now and then while wandering in dungeons, but combat is silky-smooth nearly all the time. It’s nice. Cutscenes and voice acting are excellent as well, though other than the framerate upgrades this isn’t a big step up graphically. There’s fanservice, of course, so players who aren’t interested in that kind of thing should watch out.
Honestly, hardcore series fans should absolutely check Megadimension Neptunia VII out. It’s easily one of the best games in the Neptunia series thanks to the increased graphical stability and the enormous amount of available content. As usual, new players should check out the inexpensive Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 on Steam, a great introduction to to this wacky series that runs smooth as butter. Vets, however, would be well-served to add this one to their collections.