The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise is one of those franchise that people tend to either really love or hate due to its mix of humor, fan service, and Japanese RPG quirks. Even though there's been quite a number of entries in the franchise released as of late, including remakes and spin-offs, the last true new mainline release in the franchise was all the way back three years ago. So now that a brand-new console is here, it's almost fitting that the series is on the PS4 in a new entry fitting labelled: Megadimension Neptunia VII.
If you've played a Hyperdimension Neptunia game before, you're probably aware of the fact that each entry's central storyline wraps itself around some sort of an allegory involving the gaming industry. Megadimension continues this trend with its new character Uzume, essentially a representation of Sega's Dreamcast console. The game amusingly uses this in effect to talk about the console transition from the current-gen to next-gen systems, as one would expect. And of course, the infamous series heroine Neptune routinely breaks the fourth wall time and time again repeatedly throughout the game to great effect.
Besides being a pun on the increased horsepower of the PS4, Megadimension Neptunia VII's "Mega" portion of its name is derived from the fact that the developers segmented the story into three distinct parts. The first story segment, Zero Dimension Neptunia Z, is centered around characters Neptune and Nepgear as they end up in a post-apocalyptic, desolated wasteland known as the "Zero Dimension".
The second act, Hyperdimension Neptunia G, has sub-stories involving the characters Neptune, Blanc, Noire, and Vert, all of which involve the arrival of the mysterious four-member "Gold Third" group which is aimed at referencing the major video game developers in Japan --- namely Square Enix, Konami, Bandai Namco, and Capcom. Something interesting in this act in particular, though, is the mysterious group known as "AffimaX" which is spreading around rumors and lies to attempt to control the flow of information in Gameindustri, something that should sound familiar to gamers in the present day especially.
And lastly the final act, Heart Dimension Neptunia H, essentially wraps up the lingering questions remaining from the first two acts and finishes off the game's overall narrative. All in all, it's essentially a faÃ§ade for your typical three-act Japanese RPG narrative, but it's still something different for the genre and fits in quite well in-universe inside the Neptunia franchise. Of course, though, this is a Neptunia game which means there's going to be a plethora of puny gaming jokes and fan service galore --- something that Megadimension Neptunia VII doesn't shy away from, so if any of the previous games offended you there's not going to be anything here that'll change your mind on the series.
If you've played Victory, you'll have a pretty decent idea of how the battle mechanics work in Megadimension Neptunia VII. During each character's turn they can move in a set radius around them, choosing to attack, defend, or utilize a skill. What's different in Megadimension is that the combo system got an overhaul, with each weapon having a certain amount of combo "slots" for the three core types of attacks in the game: standard, power, and rush. Standard is your typical attack, power focuses on pure damage, while rush focuses on increasing the hit count.
What's interesting about this system is that depending on the route you link the slots together, you'll gain bonuses such as guaranteeing specific attacks in the chain to being critical attacks every time. I liked this system, as it allowed both "weaker" skills and weapons to still be used depending on the situation, as they could be more optimal than the typical JRPG "looks good on paper" raw power weapon or skill.
The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise has always had some degree of balance-related issues, which Megadimension Neptunia VII carries over. The new weapon slot mechanics help, but there were times when I essentially got steamrolled by a boss. But after gaining only a few levels, said encounter became a cakewalk instead of being a fair fight. The Hyperdimension Neptunia G's story section of the game in particular exemplifies this issue, as it loves to have one character against multiple enemies that deal more damage than you'd expect they should.
Another annoyance is a modification the developers made to the world map system. As in previous titles, the over world map is icon-based, where you pick your next destination from the various options. Now, if this was a typical JRPG and you moved your character in 2D or 3D you'd expect random encounters or visible enemies on the screen. But not in an icon-based menu --- but that's exactly what the developers did here. And to further compound the issue, the player has to re-select their destination following the battle. It makes sense inside the series' in-game universe for sure, but that doesn't make it a good gameplay mechanic.
Outside of battles and dungeon exploration, extras such as side quests, fetch quests, optional bosses and the Scout system from Victory all return here again in Megadimension. Speaking on that last part, for those that don't remember or never played Victory, the Scout system essentially let players send NPCs into dungeons to search for new enemies, items, money, or even find new dungeons if you were lucky enough. Each of their runs takes about 10 real-life minutes, which ticks down no matter what's going on in-game (i.e. battles, cut scenes, dialogue).
What's nice about them in Megadimension is that they'll head back out automatically once they reported back to the town, so unless you want to change their destination you can essentially let them loop infinitely. The only drawback is they can't report unless the player is in town, so if you're stuck in a dungeon they can't return until you do as well. It's still an odd oversight considering how the system was streamlined elsewhere.
Graphically, it's essentially a prettier version of the graphics seen in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. It's not going to win any graphical awards for sure, but it doesn't feel like just simply a PS3 game ported over to the PS4 either, although there were some odd frame rate drops from time to time. The music is decent but a bit forgettable, but surprisingly the voice acting is actually quite strong outside of a few places where the direction was lacking. Sure, parts of it are hammy, but it's to be expected for the series and most fans wouldn't want that to change anyway.
Hyperdimension Neptunia VII doesn't really do much to expand outside of the mold that's been used to create the previous entries in the series, but instead tweaks the formula and expands upon it slightly. It's a good entry point for newcomers to the series as well as for long-time fans of the series, although newcomers should know what they're getting into with the game's focus on gaming and fan-service related content and jokes. But if you were turned off by the previous entries, there's really not much here that will change your mind.
|The new combo slot system lets you get use out of weaker weapons and skills you'd otherwise throw away.|
|The three-part story narrative, while somewhat standard, is still a nice touch.|
|The second act's focus on rumors, given today's gaming climate, was surprisingly relevant.|
|If you were turned off by the previous entries in the franchise, it's more of the same in this latest entry.|
|It's more of a tweak and expansion to the existing formula, so those expecting a major shift due to the move to the PS4 will be disappointed.|
|The over world battle mechanic makes no sense at all and is purely an annoyance.|