What the goodness?
When Hyperdimension Neptunia released in North America in 2011, it sought to stand itself out as a commentary on the epic console wars and a scathing inspection of the game industry. The original, which set the four goddess CPUs against each other in a race to claim the most shares of Gamindustri – their world – found itself marred with technical issues, slow pacing, and many missed punchlines. While it failed as a whole, the game did succeed – mostly – in its satirical mission to expose the silly console wars and the frauds driving it, as well as call out the developers that lacked inspiration or sought only blind profit. In 2016, Megadimension Neptunia VII (pronounced Vee-Two) finds itself drolly drowning in its own nightmare.
Megadimension Neptunia VII is a turn-based, free movement RPG designed as an attempt to dissect the game industry satirically. You play as a combination of Neptune, Noire, Vert, Blanc (the CPUs) and their younger sisters (the CPU candidates). Each character represents a real-life console (Noire is the PlayStation, Vert is the Xbox, and Neptune is the scratched Sega Neptune). In Megadimension, Neptune and Nepgear (the CPU candidate) find themselves catapulted into another dimension – one war-torn and on the verge of death. There, they meet a punky young girl known as Uzume Tennouboshi – who I believe is their representation of the Dreamcast. Together, they must find a way to stop the degradation of the Zero Dimension and the ensuing struggle that spans the Hyper and Heart Dimensions. Basically, what you have are three 10 hour segments – each set up to appear as a new game – that combine to make an approximately 30-hour long game.
Megadimension Neptunia VII is split into two parts (gameplay wise). Between exploring dungeons and finding yourself in numerous battles, Neptune & Co. spend 95% of the game time in visual novel style dialogue screens. The set up is not necessarily a negative thing, either, but in the case of Megadimension, I found myself sitting between 30 minutes of dialogue and 5 minutes of dungeon exploring. Of course, as the game progressed, the dungeons expanded and allowed me a little more play time – but there was always a lengthy narrative scene to follow. Unfortunately, this setup really kills the game’s drive. Especially during the Hyper Dimension story, where the game splits into four separate story arcs, I found myself dreading the next segment.
The bright side is that when you were able to explore, the battle system is pretty polished. In Megadimension Neptunia VII, you can control a party of up to four members (with four ‘paired’ members who can be switched in and out). Characters are given turns, whereupon the player can move them around the battle circle – within their movement meter – to defend, attack, use a skill, use an item, switch to a reserve member, or transform to HDD (each character can transform into their more powerful state once the action bar is filled). Combos can be strung together and built off each other to provide power boosts and critical damage, thus making enemy encounters a breeze. In fact, the regular encounters were so simple that, for the majority of the game, I could finish off my battle in a single turn.
But as polished as the battle system has become, Megadimension of course fell into the same, tired trap that its predecessors never escaped: repetitive boss battles. Anyone familiar with the series will know what I speak of. There is never just one of each boss battle. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I’ve battled Arfoire in Megadimension, let alone the entire series. In this iteration, the developers at Idea Factory added a fairly unique huge-type boss battle, only to squander the potential with underwhelming mechanics and ten separate identical battles (each exactly the same against an enemy that looked the same as the last time you pummeled it). And if you could manage to get past that, you’d be left extremely disappointed in the difficulty level. Only once in the game – in the very last chapter – did I ever actually get wiped out. It’s a fairly tough battle, but I ground out about three levels and demolished the scrum (then I was over leveled and smoked the remainder of the game). Not only this, but Rom and Ram appeared to be extremely overpowered, capable of killing just about any regular enemy with the proper skill set-up.
Music in Megadimension Neptunia VII is neither an improvement to the series nor is it new. Those familiar will instantly recognize the same exhausted tunes that they’ve heard for the past five years. Then again, the running theme of the series is repetition past the point of no return. If the entire style of the game remains the same, why not, then, make nearly zero changes to the musical format? As for acting, the voice actors all seem to reprise their roles. Talent like Cristina Vee can be found here, and they do a fine job. The problem isn’t so much the acting as it is the scripting and pacing. It’s troublesome and has been since the inception of the series.
The last and, perhaps, most disturbing aspect of Megadimension (and the series as a whole) is the willingness to prance its characters around in the buff. Obviously, the screens are craftily censored, but just barely. And even so, these characters are allegedly underage (though there seems to be some discrepancy in the translations), so it feels like exploitation, which doesn’t sit well with me or the majority of players. The only thing I can argue in defense of the game – and it’s barely even viable – is that the loli and exploitation vibes are intended as part of an attempt at satire. That’s the only thing I can hope.
Megadimension Neptunia VII takes a refined battle system and squanders any potential it had through overused battles and boss fights. Its presentation is dated and dull and lacks any maturity in scripting. Heck, even the dialogue wasn’t grammatically correct in far too many places, exposing serious transcription errors made on the part of the localization team (I’d be happy to fix them if you need a full time professional). At this point, any obligation I’ve felt to continue the series has been snuffed since I honestly believe that the Hyperdimension series has become part of the problem it once sought to satirize.