Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Megadimensionâ€¦ that isn“t right, is it? It“s some strange error on the box, much like Resident Evil Revelaitons (sic)? Well as much as it might seem like that, it actually isn“t. The longstanding ”Hyperdimension“ moniker is dropped for the first time in the series (no, Hyperdevotion Noire, you loner, you don“t count.) I guess it kinda makes sense, though? Like those mega bundles, Megadimension Neptunia is sorta three games in one. Why sorta? Well, all the different worlds are connected plot wise, but they are also not immediately connected to each other, meaning you can“t travel between them as you see fit.
On one hand, I feel like Megadimension Neptunia VII tries to give us the series“s most complex plot yet. Which hey, I can totally appreciate. The first â€œgameâ€ takes us to the Zerodimension. A world on the brink of collapse, populated by a sole CPU. So naturally most of the game“s chief characters aren“t available. Thankfully this amounts to basically a prologue of sorts, but the problem of having access to the characters we“ve come to know and love. However, once the Zerodimension prologue is over, the problem is hardly fixed, cause immediately after you“re thrust into one of four â€œmini episodesâ€ that limits you to certain small groups of characters. So yeah, we have a more complex plot that revolves around something other than an allegory about how piracy ruins video games, but at the cost of 40+ hours of the game limiting you to three characters at most at a time.
In a game that revolves around personified video game consoles, was anyone looking for that kind of depth, especially at the cost of running around Gamindustri having to repeat the same levels among different groups of characters? Indeed they were not, says I. Other than that, the new characters from Gold Third, B-sha (Bandai Namco), C-sha (Capcom), S-sha (Square/Square Enix), and K-sha (Konami), are all cool additions with hilarious side stories based on the history of the companies they represent.
So, like the plot, the combat system sees some added complexity as well. Mechanics that have evolved slowly in the Re:Birth games are all but turned on their head here. The previous title, Re;birth 3: V Generation ditched SP, adding it to the EXE gauge. Well the two are separate once again, but that isn“t the only change. This time around the EXE gauge actually resets between battles, meaning that you can“t spam attacks until it“s full and save that bad boy and say â€œMake my day.â€ All Clint Eastwood style when a wannabe tough guy rolls around.
The basic nature of attack chains have also changed, somewhat for the better, somewhat for worse. Megadimension still features three different attack types, but because enemies no longer have a guard gauge, â€œBreak,â€ as it existed previously, is replaced with an attack type that“s simply a mix of the other two. How you set combo attacks has changed as well. Before, each attack in the combo had a point value, but this time around weapons determine how many combo attacks can be set for characters. It“s a confusing change as the original combo system remained largely the same for many of the previous titles, and quite frankly I felt like I“d just woken up in an alternate dimension after seeing it. As time went on I started to like it more though, as choosing a weapon based not only on its damage value and attack area, but how it affects the combo system, injects more strategy into the game at the cost of the set-it-and-forget-it ease of combos in games past.
Furthering the changes to combat system, Combo Traits make the order of attacks in the combo matter as each attack has criteria for additional damage based on your previous attacks. This makes certain attacks more useful in conjunction with others so you are encouraged to experiment and change them often, which certainly beats the old strategy of â€œfind the one that hurts the bad dude the most and use it three/four times in a row.â€
But the changes hardly stop there. A key feature added to the game revolves around the ability to break parts off bad dudes like Beatrix Kiddo at the House of Blue Leaves. Early on it isn“t explained much but most tougher enemies and bosses have destructible bits that can break off if you attack them from a certain angle. You“ll want to experiment with this anyway since in this game characters“ positions actually affect how much damage you deal, but hitting them just right can actually net you cool stuff, and in some cases is even required if you don“t want to spend all day on a boss that might as well be a 'Sham Wow.' I“m pretty sure this was meant to replace enemies“ guard gauges but it ends up being more practical and rewarding than the old system ever was.
The Formation system has also seen big changes. Just like positioning can enhance damage and break parks, you“ll also have to specifically position your team to unleash an F-Skill. Basically all these changes make for the most strategic combat in a Neptunia game yet, which I personally appreciate, for for plot reasons mentioned above, you won“t get to experience much of it until much later in game. Oh, and there“s this new thing called NEXT forms for the main CPUs, which are about as much of an afterthought mechanically as this mention of them is.
On the subject of what hasn“t changed. Well. There“s no easy way to say this. Get ready to see the same areas that have inexplicably been around forever. Again. And again. And again. You get the idea. The Re;Birth games have received a lot of flak (from myself included) for reusing so many assets but those were developed back-to-back with little time for implementing feedback, and even if they hadn“t been, their status as remakes don“t lend themselves much to the possibility for drastic changes anyway. With Megadimension Neptunia VII that excuse simply does not exist.
While there are plenty of new enemy models, the same old repeat offenders rear their tired faces yet again in this title. The running gags surrounding Arfoire“s frequent opposition are as tired at this point as actually fighting Arfoire several times a game for the last 145,179 games. Ok, maybe it only feels like there“s been that many, but seriously. Can we give Arfoire a break? For the love of all that is holy? Even a self aware joke about how tedious your mid-boss fights are don“t excuse them after this many games. Hashtag sadface.
Look, I“ve been asking for change in these games since I started reviewing them, but this is like one of those freaky Twilight Zone, Stephen King, M. Night Shyamalan type things where I have all the time in the world but my glasses break while I come home and my family is eating the pie meant to curse an old gypsy and it turns out I was dead the whole time. Basically, "be careful what you wish for" should be a huge sticker on the front of this box because reviewers and fans alike have been asking for changes and we got themâ€¦ but not for what we“d hoped. Done-to-death elements like much of the music, dungeons, and recurring boss battles are still beating that same dead horsebird. I“m surprised there“s anything left of that poor horse-birdy to be honest. And breaking up the game into a series of â€œepisodesâ€ with limited character selection for much of the game is a pretty baffling decision if you ask me.
The changes that have been made though, actually make this title the most strategic and challenging that the series has seen in a long time. And let“s face it, if your game is known for 1) self referential, third-wall-breaking, and gaming industry humor, and 2) gameplay, there is absolutely nothing wrong with strengthening the weaker of the two. Just be careful what you lose along the way, and more importantly the changes maybe you should be focusing on a little more.
+ Trademark Neptunia series humor is back!
+ Huge overhauls to equipment and combat greatly reward players for strategy and planning
- Still many repetitive boss fights and reused dungeons
- Disjointed narrative removes many of the characters from use for too much of the game
- Bath scenes. Plural. Why? That“s all I“m saying.
Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)
Megadimension Neptunia VII may have the least confusing title in the series, but changes to combat and lack of changes in other areas may still confuse players.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher