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Megadimension Neptunia VII (PlayStation 4) artwork

Megadimension Neptunia VII (PlayStation 4) review

"The CPU Goddesses make the jump to Next-Gen, but has it really improved?"

The Neptunia franchise is already approaching its five-year anniversary in North America. It was only a matter of time before Idea Factory and Compile Heart shifted the niche RPG series to the next generation of consoles, following its considerable success on previous-gen Sony hardware.

Megadimension Neptunia VII picks up sometime after the events depicted in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. You'll find references to supporting characters from previous installments who don't make an actual appearance here, but otherwise, you should have no trouble keeping up with the plot even if you're a newcomer to the series. In a nutshell, the world of Gamindustri is in the midst of a transitional time known as the "CPU Shift Period." The primary CPU goddesses that keep the world in balance are transferring their power and titles to the next generation. During the process, they're vulnerable to rumors and and corporate sabotage and campaigns, much as consoles are during hardware transitions that take place here in the real world.

Megadimension Neptunia VII (PlayStation 4) image

During this critical period, series protagonist Neptune (who is based loosely off a defunct Sega console of the same name) discovers an old game console, with a signature orange swirl decorating its lid. Following some mechanical mischief, both Neptune and Nepgear (the lead candidate of Planeptune) are sucked through a vortex and arrive in Zero Dimension. All of the alternate dimension's inhabitants are gone, except for two characters: a fish-bodied, man-faced denizen of the sea (Umio) and a dreamy CPU with wanderlust that goes by the name of Uzume Tennouboshi. Together, they all work to travel back to the world of Gamindustri, but they wind up creating a trail of havoc and destruction in the process.

Neptunia VII's second of three main plot arcs hinges on the four established CPU characters, and a challenge from series newcomers Gold Third. This is a group of four high-powered antagonists that each represent a pillar of Japan's gaming community: S-Sha (Square Enix), B-Sha (Banpresto), C-Sha (Capcom), and K-Sha (Konami). The new arrivals overrun the familiar protagonists in a surprise encounter, which scatters them across Gamindustri. During this particular arc, the various four heroes then face off against a foe that hails from the Gold Third. It's one of the more interesting segments in the overall campaign. Each CPU has her own moment to serve as the lead protagonist, and the stories develop nicely before they merge into a strong finale that could ultimately spell doom or salvation for Gamindustri.

Throughout much of Megadimension Neptunia VII, the party is scattered to the four winds, crossing paths only for brief interludes before separating once again. If you've enjoyed building teams with strong synergy in previous games in the series, you'll be disappointed to find those elements mostly put on hold in this case, at least until the story's final arc. Often, you'll have to get by with only two or three party members. A New Game+ mode does exist and will let you form parties out of whatever characters you wish, even if the plot wants them to go somewhere else, but that's no use on your initial run.

Megadimension Neptunia VII (PlayStation 4) image

The Neptunia series is known for its turn-based combat, which has been tweaked this time around so that it flows more smoothly than normal. Signature weapons now have a number of associated slots, which fall into one of three categories: Rush, Power, and Standard. When a weapon is upgraded or swapped out for another, attributes may change, so that players can create custom combos consisting of as many as five moves for each character. Leveling up a character will also unlock new skills that fit one of these three archetypes, while also providing bonus traits that could boost attacks when certain rules are met. Requirements are fairly straightforward, rarely deviating from terms such as "Previous attack was Standard" or "Haven't used Power." If you slot them in an effective order, they will immensely increase the damage a character inflicts in battle. It's quite the intuitive system.

Character-specific moves now work off a new EXE gauge, which fills over the course of a battle when Rush and Standard melee attacks are used. The gauge serves as a font of power for many powerful skills, actually, including CPU transformations. Formation skills are also available when an enemy is surrounded, and they allow party members to chain unique attacks that quickly turn the tide of battle.

Party members have been tweaked, as well, so that team diversity is more easily managed. Series veterans Compa and IF no longer are overshadowed by their CPU companions when it comes to combat potential, and can easily keep up with their companions. As I ventured through most of the extra dungeons, I found myself relying quite heavily on Compa. If nothing else, her magic attacks and area-of-effect heal capabilities prevented my party from meeting an untimely demise.

Megadimension Neptunia VII (PlayStation 4) image

One thing that hasn't changed is the repetitive nature of most dungeon designs. To say they share similar themes would be putting it mildly. A lot of them make only a cursory effort to distinguish themselves from one another. In some locations, a familiar layout might be mirrored or dressed up in a new color palette. Elsewhere, a teleporter might lurk in a different corner of the map than usual (the Golden Summit zones, which are home to the Gold Third characters, are the most notorious offenders). All too often, I found myself retreading similar ground, unable to tell one dungeon from another as I tracked down precious loot and sought out hidden bosses.

Since Megadimension Neptunia VII is the first title in the franchise to grace a next-gen console, I was also disappointed by the sheer magnitude of recycled assets. An abundance of palette swapped monsters is nothing new to the series, but I had hoped to see some new foes beyond the usual assortment of dogoo (Neptunia's take on the slimes you see in games like Dragon Quest, with added dog ears and a tail) and mechanical weapons. Oh no! You had better watch out for that giant squid with a drawn-on mustache!

The game does shine, though, when you turn your attention to the cast and their interactions. CPU goddesses and their partners have individual quirks that spring up constantly over the course of the story. The series' "tsundere" character, Noire, is finally at odds with a character even more obsessive than she is, thanks to the introduction of K-Sha. Such interactions help to alleviate the doom-and-gloom story of a dimension on the brink of destruction, as do side stories that are littered with lighthearted comedy and more than a few Internet memes.

Thanks to pacing issues and an awkwardly shifting narrative, not to mention the regular retread of familiar content, Megadimension Neptunia VII could be a difficult sell to newcomers. Those who have stuck with the series from the beginning are likely to enjoy themselves a fair bit more, however. The Neptunia series has always held a certain charm, and even though the gameplay and narrative have difficulty consistently matching that, there's an argument to be made for lighthearted RPGs like this one that don't take themselves too seriously...

Gregarious's avatar
Freelance review by Kai Powell (February 05, 2016)

As an aspiring FGC contributor, Kai has earned enough tournament accolades to earn the title 'Eternally Second'. When not pouring his heart out over covering the games industry and running a corporate games store, he also spends his mornings at a ramen-ya

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