Never would I have thought that I would fall in love with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series after the abysmal first installment. It was such a heavily flawed game, falling into monotony as I was practically required to grind for EXP. Somehow though, I couldn’t stop myself from purchasing Re;Birth1 on the Vita, and becoming completely infatuated with it. It’s such an interesting series to follow seeing as how it evolves with each recurring title — it’s almost exemplary of the phrase, “from rags to riches.” It’s not often that a series of games with such seemingly low production values and niche appeal could attract such a large audience as it has. Megadimension Neptunia VII is nowhere near perfect and far from being a PS4 best seller; and yet, each game is an enjoyable RPG experience with a setting and characters like no other–this one being no exception. It adopts such a parodic nature, one that captures the gaming industry to a tee and makes it its own. The characters may be a tad one-dimensional and the writing incredibly self-aware, but what other game or series acknowledges itself as such? Just Neptunia.
Each game in the Neptunia series takes place in the world of Gamindustri, home to various goddesses dubbed CPUs who preside over nations representative of the major gaming industry superpowers. Each CPU is tasked with governing and protecting their nation from any evil or monsters who would see to do the world harm, while maintaining their people’s’ faith.
While the title may be overwhelming, Megadimension Neptunia VII is actually the fourth installment in the console line. If you feel you wouldn’t be able to proceed due to a lack of understanding or having not played the prior games, the game takes on the role of informing the player (almost always directly) of past events and trying to be as newcomer-friendly as possible. It’s a nice change of pace to see an RPG series that doesn’t take itself too seriously and Neptunia VII excels at it. For example, the story in the game is split into three separate scenarios which exist within their own dimensions and games within the game itself. Pretty crazy, right? Not only that, but each chapter offers a unique experience, albeit a bit formulaic in its pace, but they never really grow tiring…just a bit repetitive in its plot devices. It’s very common for you to have to fight a horde of enemies or a boss that you will no doubt see and fight again in the near future (almost always a recolor or plot-relevant character), so don’t expect to have your mind blown by any twists in the narrative. That being said, it’s worth mentioning that the story is presented in a visual novel format, so if you’re not accustomed to reading a multitude of dialogue boxes and staring at portraits of anime characters that blink and breathe, oftentimes for around 10 minutes straight, then Neptunia certainly isn’t for you. I myself have built a tolerance for VNs and easily found the story segments the highlights of the game, but that really differs from person to person. Fans of JRPGs should feel right at home, though.
Where Neptunia also breaks the traditional JRPG trend is in its combat. While it remains turn-based, the game also focuses on positioning your characters in an effective manner and balancing buffs, skills, attacks, and the various other options given to you in battle. It’s been a while since I’ve found myself struggling with a game, be it that Neptunia VII is either difficult, or that recent RPGs have been on the easy side; regardless, the game will offer a challenge and have you thinking out your next move with the utmost caution. It’s not as easy to grind for EXP as the handheld or PS3 titles, and there are certain elements introduced that keep you from abusing the systems, such as no longer recovering HP or SP from leveling up (a mechanic I heavily relied on in Re;Birth1). Because of such changes, Neptunia VII introduces a new layer of strategy that is otherwise nonexistent in the other entries. I’ve found myself deliberating over my next move quite often, something I never really did in my experience with the other games. Finding the optimal position in order to take advantage of an enemy’s weak points or making use of my party’s group skills is no easy feat, but battles are incredibly satisfying because of it. It’s certainly the best playing Neptunia game to date, and as a fourth installment, the changes made were necessary and keeps the game from becoming too monotonous.
I certainly wouldn’t be able to tell you what differentiates the portable titles from VII in terms of its graphics. Having to preserve its anime aesthetic, there’s not much room to improve and being so low-budget, it’s doubtful the developers even can as they are now.
What surprised me the most about Neptunia VII was the soundtrack. While it shamelessly uses the same tracks from prior games (with no variations whatsoever), the new tracks heard in battle and in certain areas are among the best. It was amazing to hear what sounded like a trance battle theme during a normal encounter as opposed to the tiresome song heard in prior entries. There seems to be greater talent put to use in almost every department of the game and its design, and the OST may as well be the testament to such a claim. This may be the first Neptunia game where I’ve debated buying the soundtrack — it’s just that good!
This may seem controversial, but I earnestly believe the Neptunia series is on its way to becoming something great. Megadimension Neptunia VII breaks away from the formula and crafts a tale that had me laughing quite often, and gameplay that had me on my feet and scratching the back of my head in bewilderment over my next move. I’m glad this game is in my library, and that there may be future titles coming to the PS4 in the near future. It may get hate for its cutesy anime aesthetic, but it’s still a fun and good game.
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