Normally, when one thinks of an updated title — especially with RPGs — the expectation is for it to arrive several years later on a platform that differs from the one it originally debuted on. However, if there is one company that doesn’t stick to normal conventions, it’s Compile Heart; so it’s only natural that it would shatter such expectations by creating Megadimension Neptunia VIIR — an updated version of a game that debuted on the PlayStation 4 in 2015.
And I’ll be honest here: the announcement for Megadimension Neptunia VIIR was the first time I was ever legitimately upset with Compile Heart. I have no problem telling you that its games have been an occasional source of irritation for me over the years, but I’ll at least admit that the games themselves always made sense.
It’s more than just an update with VR functionality
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR, on the other hand, didn’t.
Since it was unveiled in March 2017, the main thing the developer said would set this game apart from its older incarnation was the VR. Sure, there were going to be some new gameplay features, but VR was always the focus. And if that’s the case, then what could this game possibly offer to someone who doesn’t care about VR and already beat the first iteration?
Much to my surprise, quite a lot.
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is more than just an update with VR functionality: it genuinely feels like a new game. So new, in fact, that with everything that the developers have done with it, it’s actually easier to list all the things that remained untouched between this game and the original Megadimension Neptunia VII.
Actually, I’ll do just that:
That’s it. If you’ve played the original VII and notice something missing from this list, then that’s because it has been altered, revamped or even removed. This was something that I became increasingly aware of as the game progressed and I couldn’t help but gain an increasing level of appreciation for it. As any Neptunia fan can tell you, this is a series that can be tracked by the improvements it’s made over the years. And now, here we are in 2018 and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR stands as testament to those improvements, representing the series at its best.
From the very beginning, VIIR uses its highly-marketed VR functionality to do what it does best: break the fourth wall. However, it doesn’t settle for merely breaking it — the wall gets straight-up annihilated. In the opening tutorial, Histoire actually appears in your virtual room, talks to you as if you’ve already beaten the game and proceeds to tell you how to make use of the room’s various features, such as inviting the various goddesses to your room.
And come they do, more than happy to talk with you about almost anything. They’ll comment on your room, talk about a variety of topics and even ask for your input about current events in the story. This goes beyond the fourth wall. These girls aren’t just making references to you as “the player” in-game, they’re having conversations with you as an individual outside of it.
Quality of Life additions make VIIR unquestionably superior to the original
Honestly, I couldn’t help but find myself enjoying the VR scenes. I didn’t gain some newfound affection for the medium as a whole and its not like they added anything of lasting value, but they were decent enough and I can understand why Compile Heart was so excited about it.
That said, I still wish the other facets of Megadimension Neptunia VIIR got more attention beforehand, because the developers incorporated a good number of QoL and technical additions that make VIIR unquestionably superior to the original.
Most importantly, there is no manual save feature anymore — everything is done through autosaves. There are a handful of instances where the old method would be preferable, but it is still a net positive: being forced to leave a dungeon midway due to real life issues is now a thing of the past, as is losing progress due to a fight going south or the game crashing. On the technical side of things, the game runs at a constant 30 FPS, as opposed to the 60 FPS before, but there are no longer any lag spikes, meaning that you can finally walk through Jingu Sakura Park without the game’s framerate going to hell.
Such additions (other than the 30 FPS) were good to see, but it wasn’t until I actually got into the meat of the game — exploration and combat — that I truly began to appreciate Megadimension Neptunia VIIR as its own game and not just a simple update.
The differences between exploration in VIIR and VII are minor. Really, there’s only one worth mentioning: all your active party members are on the field at once. However, this one change was pretty significant for me, as I always thought it immersion breaking to only have one character on the screen when up to four can be active in battle at any given time. Where did they? I can see reserve party members hanging around in a pocket dimension, but it must be tiring for the active ones. More than anything else though, it’s cute to watch the older goddesses roam around with their younger sisters in tow; doubly so in the case of Blanc with Rom and Ram.
Conversely, the difference between combat in VIIR and the original is massive. Honestly, this should have been what Compile Heart advertised the most — the improvements are just that substantial.
Combat has changed significantly
As has been the case since Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, combat is turn-based with an assortment of skills and transformations that takes everything over the top. However, what truly takes things to the next level is the presence of AP, ACP and SCP, which forces players to think more strategically than ever. You no longer are just concerned with properly positioning your characters on the field, you now have to manage a variety of resources to ensure that they’re able to perform whatever actions you require of them at any given moment. Careful planning will make sure your characters are never caught with their skirts down, but recklessness will lead to situations where you’ll need to skip one or two turns just to get those resources back.
And with the presence of Item Skills and Defensive Skills, there are many reasons why you want to be frugal with said resources. With the former, characters can use extra AP in order to combine restoratives with various other items in order to enhance their effects, while the latter allows characters to exchange varying combinations of both SP and AP in order to do anything from performing special guards which both mitigate damage and recover SP, to launching counterattacks if an enemy uses the appropriate attack.
Supplementing these new features is an all-new character development system where players can use points earned through levelling-up or completing an assortment of challenges (like jumping a certain number of times) to further strengthen their characters. You technically have total freedom here, but there are two general rules you need to be mindful of:
- Increase a character’s primary stat to increase her damage output
- Maintain a ratio between a character’s primary stat and secondary stat to prevent her accuracy from decreasing (too much)
Simple. Follow those rules and you’ll have a host of heroines who can hit hard consistently. The game does provide leeway thanks to some equipment coming with extra damage and accuracy modifiers, but that’s not something you should expect to see until later in the game.
There’s a new character development system
The impact these new mechanics have on the battle system can’t be overstated. Unlike in previous entries, no character feels like dead weight. Even characters that felt underwhelming in prior entries have been given a noticeable boost. Compa, for example, feels like a legitimate Combat Medic thanks to Item Skills, while Defensive Skills mean that Blanc can finally taunt enemies and put her tanking stats to good use. As characters who have been around since the beginning, this upgrade has been a long time coming.
That it isn’t to say the combat is perfect though. As fun and visually appealing it is, there are two shortcomings worth noting: speed and difficulty.
As mentioned previously, this game now runs at 30 FPS, and when combined with you needing to input your combos every single time — rather than in the pause menu like in VII — the fast-paced action that Neptunia is often known for occasionally feels like it’s going at a snail’s pace. Allowing players to set a macro of some sort would have been greatly appreciated here.
Meanwhile, the combat is a bit too easy. Notice how in the video my characters were able to transform, buff and even attack in the first turn? That’s what happens when you stack ACP and SCP — battles can end before most enemies get a turn. Unfortunately, this is further compounded by the fact that characters recover all their HP after every fight. Provided they do get their turn, enemies can actually hit quite hard; but the fear of knowing that you can run low on SP or restoratives if you perform poorly in any given fight is effectively gone. It seems odd that the developers would go that route considering that the game autosaves after every fight anyway. Just remove the HP recovery feature and things would be golden.
When it comes to the changes made in Megadimension Neptunia VIIR, features such as combat, VR and exploration are just the tip of the iceberg. There are an assortment of other features that got adjusted in some way or the other:
- Skills are purchased with money (some level/skill prerequisites do apply), allowing you to get some strong ones early if you know what you’re doing.
- Some skills have gained new properties and animations, while some characters have learned entirely new ones.
- EXE Drives are gone, with the respective skills now being treated as high-cost skills.
- Items can be sold directly from the pause menu.
- Guild Quests can be turned in from the pause menu, as well.
- There’s an entirely new set of guild quests where powerful enemies can be defeated in exchange for various items and high-end equipment.
- Two new sets of challenges in the postgame (these can sate your difficulty needs, too)
- Investing in the various nations still expands the shop inventory and grants various rewards, but you’ll need to use items along with money at higher levels.
- Several bosses and the Colosseum have new music.
- You can still recruit scouts to explore dungeons for loot, hidden bosses and other goodies, but you can only send two to any given dungeon at once. In exchange, you can check on their status in the pause menu and their search only takes five minutes.
Among these other features, the one that saw the most adjustments was crafting. The materials you receive from drops, scouting, etc. are still used to create items specified in various blueprints found during gameplay, but what’s new here is that a majority of craftable items are equipment and their stats are randomized. There are some commonalities between weapons with the same name, but the only way you’ll truly know what any piece of equipment possesses ahead of time is if you buy it.
Though entertaining at first, my issue with the crafting system is that it can go south quick. I was all smiles when I made an impressive weapon for Uni that lasted from the middle of the game all the way to the end, but I had little to be happy about when I couldn’t make a weapon for Vert that had even just a few of the properties I wanted. Remember at the beginning of this review when I mentioned instances where manual saving would be desirable? Well, this is one of them. The game autosaves every time you craft something, so you can’t dashboard quit to recoup your losses.
Finally, the story got the most surprising change of all: there’s only one ending — a main series first.
Like before, the story in Megadimension Neptunia is split up into three arcs, each having their own story which meshes together into one overarching narrative. In the first arc, Z, Neptune and Nepgear come across a mysterious console with a swirl logo on its lid, which teleports them to an alternate world, Zero Dimension, that has been torn apart by a gigantic evil entity known as a Dark CPU. There, they team up with a CPU named Uzume has suffers from amnesia, yet is the only one capable of standing up to the Dark CPU and preventing it from destroying the rest of the world. The second and third arcs, G and H, respectively, focus more on introducing a variety of new characters and plot points — all serving to provide further context to the mysteries surrounding Zero Dimension — before wrapping everything up in the final chapter.
Unfortunately DLC doesn’t carry over to VIIR
I came into this game expecting to play through it twice — once for the Good Ending and again for the True Ending; but it turns out I didn’t need to, as I intentionally skipped a scene needed for the True Ending but got it anyway. I had a feeling something was up when the share-dependent scenes in the G arc were unlocked from the start, but I never foresaw something like this happening — especially after playing Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and its remake. I can’t say I’m not happy about the developers going this route though, especially since as much as I love this series, its still hard to play through an entry NINE TIMES. That said, the situation with the shares revealed one of the game’s final two flaws: inconsistencies in the game’s tutorials.
As you might have guessed from this review, the Neptunia series has a lot going on in its games and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is at the top of the list. And to it’s credit, the game does try to explain many of its features to you, but it’s inconsistent in doing so. For instance, I was halfway through the game when I finally learned what “Attribute Change” on certain skills meant (their element changes if the character has an elemental buff active) and I still have no clue what “Slip Damage” means.
Similarly, there is a tutorial for how to increase your overall share capacity, but it doesn’t actually tell you how to increase them. I know it has to be easy since the first time I figured out how to check (press L2 in the pause screen) I was already at 100 percent shares for each nation, but I still don’t know it works. Neither guild quests nor Colosseum battles indicate they contribute like before and nothing else appears to indicate they influence them either.
And the final flaw? The DLC from the original game doesn’t carry over. I purchased every bit of DLC for the original game and I can’t access any of it. I know the cosmetic stuff can be crafted, but the same can’t be said about the weapons or characters. Bummer.
In the end, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is a bit of an odd duck. Never have I seen a company market a feature that adds little to the overall package, yet gloss over other features that improve the gameplay to the point that it can actually stand as one of the strongest JRPGs out there.
Regardless, this is still very much a Neptunia game, meaning that the many who can’t look past the low budget and fan service will miss out. Their loss. For everyone else, however, give it a shot: even with its flaws, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR does not disappoint.
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR
- Available On: PlayStation 4
- Published By: Idea Factory International
- Developed By: Compile Heart
- Genre: JRPG
- US Release Date: May 8th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Don’t let the odd marketing fool you — there is far more to Megadimension Neptunia VIIR than just its VR. Between its quality of life updates, reworked mechanics and enhanced combat, this game represents the series at its best."