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Developer: Compile Heart Publisher: Idea Factory International Platform: PS4 (PS VR enabled) Release Date: May 8, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Developer Compile Heart is seemingly never fully satisfied with any of their mainline Neptunia games. While there is certainly precedent for it regarding the technical and gameplay mess that was the original PS3 Hyperdimension Neptunia title and its significantly improved (and formerly exclusive) Vita remake Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth several years after, the necessity of all the remakes afterward becomes murky at best. Contrary to its confusing original name, and even more misleading VR pun, Megadimension Neptunia: VIIR is neither exclusively a VR game nor magically the seventh main entry with a roman numeral styled naming convention (despite how it may feel like so at this point) but rather a remake of Neptunia's fourth mainline entry that debuted on PS4 back in 2016. Promising dramatically overhauled gameplay systems, improved visuals, and other fine-tuning, does Megadimension Neptunia VIIR provide a happy ending to one of the series' more divisive entries or should one simply give up daydreaming on the prospect? Weirdly enough, the very first thing one views in the game is actually a VR headset-intended-- but still fully playable without--- series of cutscenes which are completely new to this remake. Through this it essentially establishes, in an unapologetic shattering of the fourth wall, that the "player" themselves is able to choose between going through the main role-playing game itself or the much more mundane VR-encouraged features in which you can optionally subjugate yourself to listen to the ramblings of CPU goddesses Neptune, Noire, Blanc, or Vert with the occasional "yes" or "no" affirmations from the player. You can probably guess how much time I spent with the latter... (very little). As for the main RPG itself, it is obviously the most substantial portion of the experience that even breathes a somewhat intriguing change in context with the VR features as the main story progresses. Admittedly, I never played the original version of Megadimension Neptunia VII but reportedly its biggest annoyances were that the gameplay systems were not very intuitive; like an overly complicated combo system in battle or other grating annoyances over time like constant random encounters on the world map. Anyone that played it in its original incarnation may be pleased to hear that neither of these features is a factor this time around in Megadimension Neptunia VIIR. That said, for better or worse, the series is seemingly back to being quite mindless with its more menu-driven battle system, which is also very easy to exploit. I found a very quick routine in abusing the newly added counter abilities (which basically wastes an enemy's entire turn) or spamming strong special moves rather than doing anything particularly strategic or creative regarding its combo mechanics. This is only emphasized further by the main story's cakewalk difficulty and how little effort it requires to be overleveled throughout since normal equipment can have generous experience multipliers applied to them. It is honestly a good thing the difficulty is so breezy (yet for the wrong reasons) considering the aggressive amount of gameplay monotony it has throughout. Everything from bosses to dungeon layouts are recycled constantly throughout and this pretense, unfortunately, goes into hyperdrive during the game's true end in particular. For reference, the final boss is reused twice... and it's basically a palette swap of a boss enemy that is regurgitated nearly five times earlier in the story. Don't get me started on the dungeon recycling that somehow sets a much worse reuse precedent. The series has always had glaring repetition issues but, for some reason, it becomes even more insulting when the main characters themselves point out how tired they become of it. Here's a pro tip about self-aware gameplay humor -- It doesn't work when you handle your own gameplay recycling worse than the games you attempt to poke fun at. Megadimension Neptunia VIIR unsuccessfully tries to disguise this blatant padding in the form of three bizarre, disjointed story arcs. The first story arc is easy enough to follow with a (deserved) emphasis on the newcomer Uzume, however, the storytelling takes an especially weird turn in its second act, which re-contextualizes the world itself. Basically, the player switches between the CPU Goddess leads of Neptune, Noire, Blanc, & Vert; all of whom have self-contained story arcs that focus on eventually confronting the parody characters that represent Square-Enix, Capcom, Bandai, and Konami. While this leads to some occasionally humorous quips in the script, in a gameplay context, however, this means that the goddesses pretty much never have more than one to two party members with them at any one time. As an extension to this problem, the bland reused dungeon treks become much more obvious and the combat system itself comes across as very limited until very late in the third and final story act that finally gives access to its huge playable cast. Even though I would certainly struggle to say the storytelling approaches being anywhere near cohesive, or particularly decent for that matter-- Megadimension Neptunia VIIR's storytelling does manage to be a fair amount more endearing than the sum of its many rough, plodding parts. It mostly achieves this, despite all odds, narrative feat through its approach to characters. Because the storytelling so frequently splits up the party it actually gives individuals who barely justified their existences in prior games, like the CPU Candidates in particular (or little sisters of Neptune, Noire, & Blanc), the surprise opportunity to become much more likable. The several new VR segments also give a formally underutilized character, who is somewhat of an early spoiler, in original VII a more prominent role (despite how vapid many of the early scenes are), which is a nice touch as well. Yet, far and away the biggest character standout is certainly Uzume, who almost feels out of place because of it. In a series where most of its heroines are defined by their tropes like Neptune and her fourth wall breaking jokes or Noire and her tsundere attitude, Uzume is far more thoughtfully handled as a character who sees a lot of genuine development. Of course, it can be more than difficult to recognize this considering how Megadimension Neptunia VIIR not only has several shallow "fanservice" bathing scenes but an incredibly obnoxious amount of breast size jokes throughout which makes it more than safe to say the writing frequently misses its mark for humor in spite of some earnest attempts at character development it sneaks in every now and then. Megadimension Neptunia VIIR seems to struggle giving much incentive to long-standing fans or even newcomers to really try it out. It is an enhanced release that had the misplaced focus of streamlining certain gameplay and cosmetic rough edges rather than taking a stern look at fundamentally fixes the core game itself, especially story-wise. Though there are glimpses of fairly earnest character moments sprinkled about, the majority of the time the player is left with an incredibly subpar RPG that tries to poke fun at its genre contemporaries without either the wit or the understanding as to what makes them actually good to earn it. Frankly, with so many better Japanese RPGs that have appeared since 2016, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR feels that much more stuck in the past and tough to justify paying attention to it at all, no matter one how many dimensions it claims to have warped between. Pros + Does a decent job at giving its huge cast of playable characters a proper individual spotlight, even if Uzume easily has the biggest role (as she should because she is far and away the best character) + Big combat gameplay changes and generous auto-saving make it more approachable than its former incantation Cons - Why are there so many re-skinned enemies/bosses and recycled dungeon motifs throughout?! - Cakewalk difficulty and frequently limited character parties make already extremely repetitive gameplay that much more mindnumbing - Lots of jokes miss their mark because of the often trite (and repeated!) fanservice jokes and poor game design decisions they attempt to poke fun at while doing it even worse themselves - Outside of some late main story events, the VR-intended features add very little to the overall package Overall Score: 4.5 (out of 10) Below Average Megadimension Neptunia VIIR proves that even with many gameplay adjustments that players both new and old will struggle to justify giving it any time at all among many better recent RPG options on the PS4 alone Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
Jason Clement posted a article in Monday MusingsMonday Musings is a feature where every Monday, I'll shoot the breeze about what I've been playing and what my thoughts are on various news and events in the game industry. On this week's Monday Musings, I share my thoughts on the state of VR and how the NES Classic Edition has revitalized my interest in some of the classics games of old. Read on below! VR: The wave of the future... at some point VR is something I definitely would like to get into at some point. Surprisingly, it's something I still haven't experienced for myself just yet (maybe I need to get out to Best Buy or some other place that demos it at some point) but I've heard all about what a "religious experience" it is once you do finally try it. One thing that really sold me on it was Jeff Gerstmann and the rest of the crew from Giant Bomb talking about Google Earth VR on recent episodes of Giantbombcast where they were discussing Game of the Year stuff. Of course, Google Earth VR isn't explicitly game-related, but as an experience, the idea of strapping a device to your head and instantly being transported to another part of the world as if you were standing right there and looking around sounds absolutely mind-blowing to me. Even if -- in application -- you're using it mostly for checking out an area that you're unfamiliar with that you might be going to (around the city, for example). The main reason I haven't gotten it yet, then? Price is certainly a factor, and at a time when another new console is soon to release, I'd rather focus what money I have on Nintendo's Switch for now. But more so than that is the fact that PlayStation VR -- the VR platform I'm most likely to buy -- is still in its infancy, as is its lineup (as good as some of the games may be). Eventually, PS VR 2.0 and 3.0 will be a thing (this year will be telling as to how often that cycle will be), and I'd rather wait it out and see how much things improve before taking the leap. Also, there's the fact that -- between PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch (not to mention 3DS and Vita) -- there's just way too much to play at the moment. Adding a VR platform right now would divert ever-decreasing free time away from games that I'm currently trying to play, so I'd rather wait until there's a huge reason to get one that absolutely can't be ignored. That, and I'm still waiting to see how well (and often) Sony supports PS VR. Seeing as how they virtually stopped producing their own games for Vita just two years in, you can't blame me, right? Learning to appreciate the NES Classic Edition Ever since the end of 2016, I've been spending more time with the NES Classic Edition and -- short controller cord controversy aside -- been really enjoying it so far. One thing I'm attempting to do is replay most of the games on there one by one, starting with Super Mario Bros. Now, aside from its legendary status, that game was actually never one of my favorites to play over the years. I always felt that it suffered from "sameness" in that most of its levels largely felt the same, thanks in part to the NES's limitations at the time. Thus, I was never inclined to play it over again and again over the years the same way I would have done with, say... Super Mario World or Super Mario 64. But with the NES Classic Edition, I discovered something interesting: playing NES games with the NES controller makes a world of difference. I don't know what it is -- maybe it's nostalgia talking -- but there's nothing quite like playing Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda with an NES controller. It just doesn't feel the same if you're playing with a Wii U gamepad, Wii remote, or heck, even a PlayStation 4 controller (if you're into homebrew stuff), but playing with that blocky little controller makes the game make sense, like "Yeah, NOW I get it!" Also, that game is a LOT harder than I remember. Mario controls like a tank and once your three lives are out, it's game over (and there are no continues either). NES-era games are definitely unforgiving, but hey, that's part of their charm too! Anyhow, that's a wrap for this week's Monday Musings. I'm attempting to keep things a little shorter after last week's initial post was a bit on the long side. Maybe I'll continue to shorten it next week as well. Like what you're reading? Don't like it? I'm trying to tailor this to feedback, so let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!
Alrighty, so now that PlayStation VR is starting to gain more traction with upcoming games, I was actually kind of surprised to hear that it doesn't have a projected price point yet. Ideally, I would hope Sony could hit somewhere between $100-150, but given the tech involved, I kinda doubt it. Former GP alum Steve Bitto (aka TylerxDurden) thinks it will probably be $299, but says he's a believer in it after seeing it at PSX 2015 this weekend. If it does turn out to be $299, I'd probably have to see some really good games for it first. Also, I'd probably wait till it drops in price. Depending on how much it takes off and what's available for it, of course. If it falls into my price range ($150 or under), I probably wouldn't have much of an issue buying it right off the bat, but the games do need to be there for it too. So the question is, how much would you pay for PS VR? Or are you even interested in it?