Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Game Review: MegaDimension Neptunia VII

RPG; Idea Factory/Compile Hearts; PS4/Steam
I've recently started playing the Neptunia games, having gotten the first three games on Steam during last year's Winter Sale. Now the fourth and latest game in the Neptunia main series, MegaDimension Neptunia VII (For those of you who are confused that's suppose to be V-Two, not Seven) which makes the series' first jump into the Next Generation of consoles. But how well does this series about Video Game culture with this new technology?

The world of Gamindustri is protected by four goddesses, who rule over their nations and collect the faith of their people in the form of Shares. One day, Neptune, the goddess of the nation of Planeptune, finds a strange old game console with a swirl mark on it. But when she brought it home to play some games on it, Neptune and her kid sister Nepgear are transported to a world on the brink of ruin. Now Neptune, Nepgear, and the last remaining goddess in this world, Uzume, must fight to save the fates of three different dimensions.

Anyone who is familiar with the series knows what kind of story the series tells. Neptunia is a franchise where every character is a personification of a video game console or game developer and the story is full of meta humor and gags about the industry as a whole. As such the seriousness of the story often times takes a backseat to humor. With that in mind, the story isn't that bad, it's nothing revolutionary but it's fully enjoyable. The only problem is that while the game does try to get players up to speed about the franchise, you'd still need to know quite a bit about the characters and universe to get started. It's a game for fans of the series first and foremost.

Visually the Neptunia series has never been a graphical powerhouse. 90% of the game's story is played out in visual novel style conversations, with animated portraits of characters speaking to each other using a dialogue box. The artstyle and small details like characters breathing make these scenes look nice. The 3D assets, on the other hand, look like they are awkwardly stuck on the PS3 trying desperately to get on the PS4. They definitely look better than they did on the PS3 or Vita; however, their simple appearance makes for a poor argument about the graphical superiority of the next gen.

On the sound side of things the music is quite nice. The techno influences fits nicely with the "High Tech" look of the world. True, there is no real standout track (except for maybe the CPU theme and the EXE Drive theme), with a vast majority of them just being nice enough to fit the setting or tone. The voice acting is solid with the majority of the cast returning to reprise their roles (with only Vert being recasted). While there are a few awkward line reading every now and then, the Neptunia series continues to have a strong voice talent (besides you can still switch to the Japanese VO).

Neptunia is an RPG series, and VII doesn't do much to change the overall formula. Players go from a hub town (which is only a list of facilities on the map screen) into a dungeon in search of floating exclamation marks that progress the story while avoiding the visual encounter enemies that appear in ALL RPGs these days. Combat, while fundamentally the same, have been refined since the previous game. VII uses a Conditional Turn Based Battle system, where character's turn come up based on their AGI stat and the action they last preformed (more powerful attacks tack longer until the next turn), mixed in with movement and positioning. Getting behind an enemy next more damage and accuracy, and going for multi-hit combos fulls the party shared EXE Gauge faster, which not only allow characters use their ultimate attacks, but also team up attacks and allows certain characters (like the Goddesses) to transform into their powered up form. Outside of combat you have your usual RPG features like Quests and side stories to go on (some of which you need to complete to get the True Ending), but you also have scouts to send out collect money and items from dungeons (and also change the nature of the dungeons like different monsters or more EXP and less Gold) the ability to invest in your towns to unlock special events and unique items, and the ability to create games (which are accessories that give characters different passive abilities depending on the concepts of the game).

However, all is not well with the game. One of Neptunia's greatest issues remain present in this game as well and that is the over use of old dungeons. While VII has several new dungeons to explore, including Stadiums and Arcades, the game also recycles older dungeons from previous games and also reuses the new dungeons for different layouts. Some of these make sense, like the Golden Summits dungeons, but when those dungeons are used again for a different area, then it starts getting boring. I know it takes time and effort to create a new dungeon from scratch, but it gets boring playing through the same Valley Dungeon that been in every game since the FIRST Neptunia.

Did I have fun with VII? Well I pumped in over 100 hours on two play throughs, so yeah I had fun with the game. It's overall a little on the easy side and the reused dungeons and old assets might not appeal to a general audience, but if you are a fan of the Neptunia franchise or is just big on RPGs in general, then VII certainly up your alley. It is the best Neptunia game yet and the series is starting to look like it can hang with the big boys now.

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