Megadimension Neptunia VII for PC (and the whole Neptunia series to a lesser extent) – An Emerald Review – September 2016

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Hah! You can’t say I put another Hyperdimension Neptunia game on this column! See, see!? It’s MEGAdimension Neptunia, biiiiiig difference guys!

…there’s no difference. It’s the fourth game in the mainline Neptunia series. The third Neptunia game I’ve featured here. My life is a lie, I have no life. I could be catching up and playing other worthwhile JRPGs I haven’t played through yet, I could be playing classics like Chrono Trigger, Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy VI, hell I could be catching up on stuff like Mass Effect, or all the Zelda games I haven’t played.

Nope. Gotta play that JRPG series with near-constant repeating assets, cringeworthy gaming references, lazy anime titillation bait for straight guys like me, and lesbian innuendos set in a little-effort visual novel interface. Gotta get those overblown flashy animations in battle that I end up skipping over for time anyways. Gotta get those waifu wars underway.

God dammit, why does this series have such an unending, titanium grip on me? A part of me feels dirty every time I play a Neptunia game. I think a part of me likes that.

SO. Megadimension Neptunia VII, a turn-based JRPG by Idea Factory and Compile Heart. The VII isn’t supposed to be 7, it’s actually V-2. As in, vee-two. This is more confusing than when Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed didn’t come out for the WiiU. Seriously Idea Factory, what the hell is with the naming conventions? You’re getting to be as bad as Kingdom Hearts.

Alright, for those who haven’t seen my previous two entries, your typical Neptunia game follows four goddesses (known as CPUs in this universe) who represent the four main gaming console companies in the vast continent of Gamindustri (Ha. Get it? Gamindustri? Game industry? Christ this is so hamfisted).

You’ve got Neptune who loosely represents Sega, Noire who loosely represents Sony, Blanc who loosely represents Nintendo, and Vert who loosely represents Microsoft. There are also their younger sisters, who represent the handheld consoles for their respective companies; Nepgear with the Sega GameGear, Uni with the Playstation Vita (and PSP to lesser extents), and the twins Rom and Ram for the Nintendo DS line. Vert, desiring yet not having a little sister, is commonly played for laughs. They all rule over their respective nations – Neptune rules over Planeptune, Noire is in charge of Lastation, Vert takes Leanbox, and Blanc watches over Lowee.

All of the allegories are, if you couldn’t tell by the repetition of the word, rather loose, however. Their personalities can provide a somewhat humorous commentary on the games industry, but for the most part, the personalities are their own creation and, in my view have little to do with the actual companies and more to do with filling a niche or trope. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. You can see by each one’s appearance what they wish to appeal to – of course Blanc would look more like a kid if she’s supposed to be representing Nintendo, and of course Vert would look voluptuous, showing that Microsoft marketed the Xbox line a lot on how consoles weren’t just for your kids anymore. Of course Neptune’s the loopy, happy go lucky one with Sega, as a lot of their games (especially Dreamcast-era) could be colorful and strange in a quirky way, and Noire looks like her getup could be straight out of one of the many Sony JRPGs that they tended to have a focus on.

Is the Neptunia series deeper than I’ve given it credit for?  Oh god, what rabbit hole have I begun to travel down into? Let’s try to focus on this game in particular, instead.

So, this game actually does center around the Dreamcast-era of things, to the point where the new CPU introduced definitely gives off the cool outside they tried to market back then for the Dreamcast, while at the same time holding in a peppy, colorful inside that was the commonly strange and colorful Dreamcast library and…

…this is the part where I realized this was turning into a full review. Once I got here, I cut this part out from my monthly update and put it into its own section.

Okay, okay, back on track. You’ve got Dreamcast girl, known here as Uzume. She’s actually part of a different dimension that our usual protagonist Neptune gets sucked into and subsequently trapped in. This particular dimension is absolutely annihilated, with its only residents being Uzume, a horde of monsters, and your usual antagonist by the name of Arfoire trying to exterminate the rest of all living things as per usual.

I’m going to go on a bit of a side tangent here. Arfoire sucks. She’s been in what feels like every single Neptunia game as far as I know, and she’s always the antagonist (or at least a main antagonist). Her schtick is always the same, she’s always got the witch thing going on and has about as much reason and agency for taking over/destroying the world as a Power Rangers villain. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind that if she weren’t always popping up in every single game. Skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers for Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, but in that game, at the end, Arfoire is totally reformed and becomes a reasonable being, and then come Re;Birth 3 they had to crop her up again since it’s an easy excuse to do so what with 3 taking place in an alternate dimension. I feel like I was cheated out of character development. Hey, what if that version of Arfoire fought as part of my party in subsequent games? That’d be cool, hell even do it as DLC if you wanted. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Someone pay me for marketing, put me in coach, I’m ready!

And now she’s back in Megadimension here. For pretty much no reason except to have a main antagonist until the final act. Nnnngh, I’m getting sick of this faux-witch lady.

Eventually you meet up with Uzume and travel with her to her base, inhabited by friendly monsters, one such monster being named Umio. Umio is a fish with a man’s face and a luscious voice that doesn’t fit a fish at all. Does this remind you of anything? Any games this could be referencing? Possibly on the Dreamcast? Yes, Umio is a blatant Seaman reference, and believe it or not, this took me hours to even realize, and when I did my head exploded. Say what you will about the folks that make Neptunia games, they certainly know their stuff. You team up with Uzume and a grown-up alternate version of Neptune that appears out of nowhere (quite literally, as she is a dimension hopper) to save the friendly monsters from the evil Arfoire and eventually make it back to your own dimension, yay!

Good job. Part one of three is complete.

This is one of the most bizarre ways I’ve ever seen a game organized before, and the previous ones never did this, but apparently they decided to split this game into three games? Except not because they’re interconnected and you carry everything over into the next game in the storyline? So really the only way it’s three separate games is because each one happens to have a slightly different title screen and…that’s it? It’s odd and it does beg the question of why they didn’t just use standard act markers, but stylistically it caught my attention at least and it was extremely clear that the act shifted. Take it for what you will, I suppose, it’s harmless enough, but just an odd choice really.

And so the second act begins. Everyone is back home now in Hyperdimension, but due to detrimental rumors and an event known as the ‘CPU Shift Period’, the populace is beginning to lose faith in all the current CPUs. It really bugs me that no one really adequately explains what the CPU Shift Period is other than ‘a point in time where faith in CPUs drops’. Unfortunately, they CPU’s power comes directly from people’s faith, so this is a pretty big issue. Neptune, Blanc, Noire and Vert, all of the CPUs, decide to hold a big festival to try to bring some faith revenue their way, with a tournament as the culminating event. Of course, no one stood a chance at the tournament in comparison to the CPUs, and the four make their way up the bracket until they all face each other in a four-way free for all.

Then, suddenly four new players enter the arena and challenge the CPUs, the group calling themselves ‘Gold Third’. The CPUs accept this challenge, but essentially get the floor wiped with them, being absolutely destroyed by Gold Third. Afterwards, weird things begin to happen, as though reality itself were bent. Gold towers appear out of nowhere, no one remembers who the CPUs are, and the members of Gold Third are suddenly the rulers of all the nations. This puts our four CPU protagonists, Neptune, Vert, Blanc and Noire, in pretty big predicaments, having been taken down a few pegs.

I’m gonna fast forward a bit through here. You get to control each of the CPUs individually in their own little story of how they travel back to their capitol, find the Gold Third member in charge, have to do menial tasks they aren’t used to for laughs, try to find their little sisters, attempt to figure out what’s going on, and eventually after inevitable confrontation befriend each Gold Third member in the end. The members of Gold Third are B-Sha, C-Sha, S-Sha and K-Sha, (again, great naming conventions, folks) all of which are walking humanoid references to the gaming publishers Bandai, Capcom, Square and Konami respectively, and I personally enjoy them well enough. K-Sha’s got this yandere thing going on with Noire, S-Sha’s thing is that she’s always disinterested with everything (reminds me of a certain someone), C-Sha is really good at hand to hand combat and loves roasting big steaks (Street Fighter and Monster Hunter references, respectively), and B-Sha’s got a rocket launcher and saves the day while wearing a paper-thin superhero disguise.

After all that’s taken care of, you get introduced to two new antagonists of sorts, a ninja robot by the name of Steamax and a giant Gundam-looking robot named Affimojas (good luck pronouncing that one). They’re both uh…hoof, well, they’re both characters, that’s for sure. Steamax, despite being a ninja, seems to get flustered with essentially any attention from girls, acting like your stereotypical virgin supernerd and freaking out whenever anything remotely risque begins to happen to him, and Affi is obsessed with money and blonde busty women. They both share and exchange naughty magazines and memorabilia with each other. I think that’s about the extent of their characters. Steamax gets a little more development when he meets with Uni, but that’s about it.

It’s found out that these two are the ones behind spreading false rumors on the internet, which took the CPU’s faith down a peg, and once that’s found out, Gold Third and the CPUs team up to take them down. A new transformation is unlocked and eventually they beat the bad guys because of course they do, which ends the second act.

…you know, I realize now that as I write this review, I’ve been on autopilot for the past couple of paragraphs. The second act was fine and all, but something about it just seemed like…well, like there was nothing to talk about. Wild changes happened, but they were quickly reversed back to status quo, and the only thing that really changed at all was that we got some new party members. Then, I’m forgetting all the new mechanics the second act introduced.

The game kind of pelts you with a bunch of things at once come act two. There’s this new investment option where you can pour money into a nation to unlock…who know’s what honestly, it’s totally optional and isn’t necessary at all gameplay wise. Then you’ve got this Route Building thing that you never had to do before, where you spend money literally to have access to new places and that’s it, which really seems like an arbitrary way to get the player to spend money that never appeared in previous games. You can synthesize new items with monster drops you’ve collected, but again (with the exception of the crystal that allows you to break boxes) most all of them aren’t necessary or even that helpful on a gameplay level. Scouts can now be assigned to individual areas to find new monsters and new maps, a couple of which are called Neplunker maps.

I think I’m gonna need a hard drink before going into the Neplunker maps.

Right then, Neplunker. Apparently a collaboration effort between Neptunia and a game called Spelunker for the NES. Now, I ain’t ever played Spelunker, and if this is anything like what Spelunker is, I don’t ever want to play it, because Neplunker is the actual worst thing in any Neptunia game ever. So, basically the goal is to get to the end of the dungeon and collect the prize. Simple enough, right? Well, you’re stocked with three lives total, and a limited energy pool expended by jumping or encountering baddies. You have to jump to make it through, that’s part of the challenge.

Oops, did a bat just shit near you? You lost a life, start at the beginning of the area.

Oops, did you brush up on some steam? You lost a life.

Oops, did you just jump and land on a surface that was more than an ankle’s length lower than where you started? You lost a life.

You lost all your lives? Game over.

No, literally game over. Not just for the dungeon, for the whole game. Reload your save file, that shit boots you back to the title screen, mate, same as if your party got wiped.

What really got my goat was the second Neplunker stage, known as Neplunker Zero, where fall damage is so inconsistent that I could fall – not jump, just fall – off a ledge the equivalent of falling into the gutter from the sidewalk and suffer a death, but yet I was asked by the game to make gigantic long jumps onto metal platforms at least half my character’s height lower than my starting bound and somehow that was okay and I didn’t die there? What the absolute hell were the makers thinking? This isn’t fun, this is nothing but torturous guesswork. As far as I’m concerned, avoid Neplunker at all costs. Even with the New Game + power of having it not game over your ass and having longer jumps, it’s still more frustration than it’s worth. Incidentally, why on earth would you lock that sort of thing behind New Game +? Are you trying to be an asshole? Did you creators hate Spelunker as a kid and wanted everyone else to suffer with you, you pricks? Actual worst thing in a Neptunia game, I stand by that.

So, we finally get to the third and final act. Honestly, I’m just going to speed through, and feel free to skip this next paragraph if you don’t want ending spoilers.

It’s found out that Uzume, back in her dimension, has a dark alternate dubbed Kurome, who embodies all the negativity and hatred she had before her dimension got wrecked, and has been manipulating things from behind the curtains the whole time in the previous two acts. Her goal is to fuse her wrecked dimension with Hyperdimension to…an unknown end because literally no one knows what would happen if that were to come to pass. So basically our antagonist is rolling the interdimensional dice for fun and possibly profit because she’s butthurt that her dimension treated her badly. Except her dimension didn’t treat her badly, and she just remembers all the bad bits without any of the good ones. Eventually everything culminates in an admittedly pretty subdued and underplayed yet epic one on one playable beatdown between Uzume and Kurome, ala ending of Final Fantasy VII. Assuming you got the right ending, everything works out and it’s all happy in the end, with Uzume visiting every so often in Hyperdimension along with adult Nep, all of Gold Third getting along, and even Steamax and Affi seem reformed and are attempting to write a novel of sorts.

What an adventure, am I right?

Honestly, while the repetition of Arfoire grated on me, and while Neplunker is the worst thing this side of Nickelback, I feel they made enough interesting changes to keep me going. The battle’s combo system in particular was an interesting change that, while at first I didn’t like, grew on me to the point that I think I enjoyed it more than the previous entries, emphasizing chaining guaranteed critical hits for added damage rather than wearing a guard meter down before wailing on them like before. I would have appreciated the big flashy EXE moves to do more damage, honestly, because I felt half the time I was wasting it when I could be doing equal damage simply attacking and critting, and a lot of the new combo EXE moves were lazy as hell, many times just featuring a colored explosion without any character whatsoever causing it. Assets were repeated in environments, but it wasn’t quite as egregious as previous entries (or maybe I’m just numb to it now), and to their credit, there were quite a number of new environments now. This game in particular was also somewhat more challenging than previous Re;Birth entries, which were a veritable cakewalk for me, so that was also appreciated. I also really appreciate the characterization they gave Uni (the PSP/Vita character) in this – I felt that most of the protagonist characters in Re;Birth 2 were a bit bland, one-note, and difficult to like, Uni being no exception to this. However, because of this game in particular, she’s become one of my personal favorite characters in Neptunia. I didn’t care for a lot of the tacked-on bells and whistles like the Route Building, Investment and Crafting stuff.

I think that about sums everything up. Umio is Seaman.

Neptunia Games I’ve Played – Most Favorite to Least Favorite

  1. Re;Birth 3
  2. Re;Birth 1
  3. Megadimension
  4. Action Unleashed
  5. Re;Birth 2

For me, Megadimension lands pretty square in the middle. Honestly, if Arfoire hadn’t been given so much emphasis and Neplunker didn’t exist, I’d probably like it more than 1, but I personally have serious issues with both of those. I also want to note that while I still enjoyed Re;Birth 2 a bit, it just wasn’t my favorite at all. It’s not awful for Neptunia standards, just my personal least fave. Truth be told, I really deliberated hard on whether I should give the number three spot to both Mega and Action Unleashed because I enjoyed them both about the same, but there’s a slight discrepancy for game depth that I appreciate in Mega that AU, for as fun as it was, just didn’t have as much of.

I’m sure I’ll be back to dunk my head into the sin pool of Neptunia on the next release. Maybe at some point I’ll tackle Noire’s game. Haven’t heard good things, but I’m the weirdo that likes games I shouldn’t like, so who knows? Maybe I should finally pick up a Vita and play Producing Perfection for the hell of i- oh.

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