Megadimension Neptunia VIIR Review – Up Close and Personal
Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Release: 8th May 2018
I like the Neptunia series, I like it a lot. I don´t know why I like the silly repetivity of those games or characters but I do. So the fact the 7th game, which is one of the few I didn´t play yet, was getting both a PS4 overhaul along other things like an optional VR mode. Not only the perfect time to finally check it out but also to spend some time with my virtual Waifus alone!
Given, when I went into Megadimension Neptunia VIIR I expected nearly the same luke-warm story about yet another silly incident. However, the story told in this game is probably the very best of the whole franchise. Split into three parts, each with their own great title and narrative structure, the game tells the adventures of Neptunia and her friends through a huge trilogy of events. First being sucked into a game console to set-up the plot and new characters during the first third to actually do something with them this time around.
Yet, fret not, the base still remains the same, meaning Neptunia and all her other walking gaming references are as silly (or annoying) as ever. They do 4th wall breaks, joke, scream in too high voices, everything the series is known for. Since the cast nearly resembles the whole gaming industry at this point, the arsenal of references grew even bigger this time around. Especially retro consoles, forgotten or beloved, have a really great role in this entry. I always loved it for being stupid fun with a bit brain and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR luckily improves on the “brain part” but remains as funny as ever.
Now, imagine mixing this with a decent plot. Given, don´t expect any amazing writing, yet, I genuinely was more intrigued by the story of this part than in any other one. Especially because of the middle and ending differentiate themselves from the rest this time around. Since Compile Heart divided the experience into three parts, their narrative got more focused as well. Meaning, the 2nd part actually feels like a meaningful middle, where characters gain new traits, new villains are introduced and the central conflict is teasered in a much more coherent flow. Combined with the really great ending, where the villains even switch sides or gain some unseen depths, along with the main cast, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR features some of the best writing of the series. I initially didn´t buy this game fearing it would be Neptunia all over again, which it is, but mixes just enough meaningful, good plot into the mix, that it feels like the biggest jump I´ve seen in quality so far.
What didn´t change a whole lot is the rest, especially the combat system. Compile Heart pretty much copied their previous Neptunia system without many changes. Meaning, we´re presented with the same turn-based system as always. Like I said in previous reviews, I really adore this system, yet, having it in yet another totally untouched formed was somewhat of a disappointment. Otherwise, the mix of real-time positioning and turn-based attacks is a lot of fun, especially for newcomers, since it allows for some easy to understand but deep gameplay.
Surprisingly though, the grinding got removed almost completely due to the difficulty drop. In fact, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is probably the easiest of the series so far, requiring almost no grinding or understanding of the combat. On the one hand, great, this rather dumb “feature” is finally gone. On the other hand, the whole depth this system has to offer basically vanishes into thin air, as the game never forces you to master it through challenging bosses. The whole thing feels kinda wasted.
Considering how important items or armour were in the previous game to enhance your CPUs in all kind of ways, they became more of a fashion item now. Given, I never was a giant fan of having to craft more and more items along the way, often sacrificing beauty for functionality. Now that´s completely gone but with it, the whole RPG element as well, as improving your stats in every possible way makes the game even easier than without. It just can´t nail the golden line in-between, despite the years of development Compile Heart had for it.
Otherwise, the overall structure remained nearly exactly the same. We travel from dungeon to dungeon, kill monsters, level-up and fight a boss at the end. As previously said, the lack of challenge is most evident in those cases. Megadimension Neptunia VIIR feels way more streamlined, which is a great thing when the game structure isn´t interrupted by occasional huge grinding sessions. Instead, bosses and climaxes in general, like dungeons, are lacklustre and I often battled main villains who felt like they were 5-10 levels below my party.
Where more new things were brought to the table is in the “VR” department. Basically, sequences similar to the infamous Summer Lesson VR Game, where it´s possible to interact with your favourite waifus. While not much besides talking or showering them with sweets is possible, just listening to their pretty well-written monologues is entertaining on its own. Even though they all have to be started from the player room, a VR optimized main menu, which introduces some annoying downtime, I still found me more than just a few times in the desire to play some of those sequences.
Graphically too, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR doesn´t do a whole new lot. Certainly, it looks slightly better due to the overhaul. Textures are at a higher resolution, the game runs on smooth 60fps and the loading times are short. Practically, what anyone would expect from having a decent looking JRPG improved for a more powerful generation. Sadly, that´s it if you don´t rock a PSVR headset, which isn´t a requirement, but able to add a whole new layer of weird fun to the mix. Otherwise, it´s your typical Neptunia, more similar to a PC experience this time and with some great CGI cutscenes, I have to say.
Frankly, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR isn´t a whole new experience, especially not for veterans of the series. It´s more streamlined, polished and tighter screws than the other games but is still Neptunia (VII) without many changes. If not for the difficulty problems though, I nonetheless enjoyed the hell out of it. Maybe because I just love the dumb dialogues and fun they bring with them, mixed with a neat combat system but yeah, definitely something for fans!
[A Review Code was provided by Idea Factory International]