There is no denying that the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has been a huge hit for Idea Factory and Compile Heart. Their quirky role-playing game series has spawned over 10 titles (including remakes and spinoffs), an anime adaptation, and a spinoff novel. That’s insanely impressive when you consider that the first game came out less than 6 years ago.
Finally, the series has made its PlayStation 4 debut with its latest main entry: Megadimension Neptunia VII. While the name change may seem a bit strange at first, it seems fitting once you find out that Idea Factory’s latest installment spans several alternate dimensions. This isn’t new to the series, as Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory dealt with the subject of dimension hopping ad nauseam. What is new, however, is that the core game is split off into three different stories, each with their own names and title screens.
The first one gamers will get to experience is Zero Dimension Neptunia Z: Twilight of the Desperate CPU. This dimension has series protagonist Neptune dealing with a completely different world than the Gamindustri that has been seen in previous entries. Humanity has been almost entirely wiped out by a giant foe, and it’s up to Neptune and a mysterious new friend to make things right.
That opening story lasts for around 6-8 hours, and largely serves as a tutorial. The game starts to open up mechanically in the next chapter, titled Hyper Dimension Neptunia G: The Golden Leaders, Reconstructors of Gamindustri. This story arc has players choosing to go through any of the four main characters (Noire, Vert, Blanc, or Neptune) as they try to find out why none of the citizens remember who they are. Each character’s story does a good job of fleshing out different plot details, and by the time you finished all four you’ll have a much better idea of what is going on. Finally, the game’s third story, Heart Dimension Neptunia H: Into Legend, ends up wrapping up everything and ties all the events together.
It’s a surprisingly strong narrative from the series, even if there is still way too much fluff dialogue in between story beats. Sadly, though, it’s about the only surprise you’ll find in Megadimension Neptunia VII. The core gameplay is very similar to Victory, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some new tweaks have been added, though, including a new formation attack that requires the party to be positioned in specific ways, and unique boss battles against giant enemies that have players flying around a large battlefield.
These new battle systems are a nice addition, but none are a real game changer. The turn-based combat is still merely fine, and not memorable. Fans will feel like they’ve seen everything the game has to offer before, and that’s because they largely have. The real knock on Megadimension is that everything surrounding the actual battles feels incredibly dated. Maybe its fatigue from the series having so many installments in a short amount of time, but exploring the same exact caves that were seen in the first game just isn’t cutting it anymore.
In fact, a lot of what is new in Megadimension Neptunia VII doesn’t make it feel like a fresh experience, but more of a chore to play through. The revamped world map has players spending money to access story-essential locations, and encountering random battles while traversing. Both of these are just small annoyances, but they add up during such a lengthy RPG. All of the other mechanics that have been in past game are once again present, so there are plenty of quests to go on, lily ranks to grind out, and items to develop. This is largely a by the numbers sequel that does little to change things up.
While it may not be apparent from looking at the screenshots, one of the biggest upgrades from past titles is in Megadimension‘s visuals. That’s kind of a backhanded compliment, though, as it still looks a full generation behind graphically. While previous games were comparable to PlayStation 2 titles, VII has brought the series up to PlayStation 3 quality. It’s far from impressive, but at least it isn’t as hard on the eyes as past installments. Everything from character models to level backgrounds are more aesthetically pleasing, and the enemy design remains as one of the series’ strengths.
What makes playing through Megadimension so frustrating is that the series is repeating the same mistakes that we’ve seen in past installments. The same archaic save system is in place here that only allows players to save at predetermined save points or on the world map. There is no auto-save, either, which makes it ridiculously easy to die once and lose hours of progress. Having to replay portions of the game over again is never fun, especially when you die while grinding (which you’ll have to do quite a bit of). I’m not sure why the series hasn’t implemented a modern save system yet, but holding onto dated gameplay mechanics is not helping these games at all.
That isn’t all that’s familiar, though, as the series’ penchant for completely inappropriate and creepy fan service is back in full force here. It only takes a few minutes for three of the game’s heroines to get undressed and take a bath together. It almost feels like a self parody at this point, but considering it happens several more times throughout the game it’s actually just maintaining the disappointing status quo. This is made even more disturbing by the fact that a future version of one of the characters appears early in the game, and everyone comments how much they’ve changed as an adult. No, not in personality, but in bust size.
As you can probably guess, that character also gets promptly nude in yet another bathing scene. The characters are both likeable and well-written, so they deserve to be treated with more tact. They’re already beloved by fans of the series, so why constantly demean them and treat them as sex objects for no reason? If there are any positives towards the game’s treatment of its own heroines, it’s that it doesn’t go quite as far down the deep end as Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory did. Still, I wouldn’t exactly call that progress.
Megadimension Neptunia VII is a highly disappointing offering from Idea Factory. The series has failed to evolve over many installments, and never fully realized its vast potential. From forcing players to endure hours of grinding to still using an archaic save system, the same problems found in past efforts are just as prevalent here, which makes this a tough game to recommend.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 exclusive, which we were provided with.
There was hope that the Neptunia series would finally fulfill its potential on PlayStation 4, but sadly that hasn't happened. Good ideas are still tarnished by poor execution and disgusting attempts at fan service.