First-Rate Fan Service
I’m going to tell you this straight away; Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is very much underselling itself. Based on the name and most of the PR it’s gotten, you would assume that it’s your standard Megadimension Neptunia VII with some VR scenes added in, and a nice, fresh coat of graphical paint slapped on top of it. You wouldn’t be wrong. This game does have VR scenes (obviously), and it does look nicer than its original counterpart, but it goes beyond that. Far beyond that. Almost everything about this game has changed in at least one way or another. Combat, leveling, Scout deployment — even the story — almost nothing about this game escaped some kind of renovation. And I’m happy to inform you that, despite how scary this cornucopia of changes may sound, VIIR‘s overhaul has done nothing but make it better than the original Megadimension Neptunia VII in nearly every way. And, as such, it will primarily be those changes that this review will focus on.
A True Histoire-ian
There’s a very good chance that, if you’re playing VIIR, you’ve also played VII. And that’s precisely why this game throws a meta commentary-filled curve ball at you from the very beginning. Rather than diving into the whimsical world of Gamindustri straight away, you instead begin in… your bedroom. You’re your own character this time around. You even have your own name — Player (because you’re a nerd, not because you’re suave). But it doesn’t stop there As the Player, you have a unique power which allows you to interfere with other dimensions — a power which you have already used to help Nep & co. out in VII.
VIIR, however, you’re not using your powers to save Gamindustri. Instead, you’re playing a game based on it as sort of an “interactive history”. Yes. You read that correctly. You’re playing a video game where you control yourself playing a video game. And the characters that you helped in VII come visit you in VIIR. Remember when Inception jokes were popular a handful of years ago? Well, those may come back thanks to the first five minutes of this game’s story.
Introductory Nep-ception aside, the rest of the game is pretty much what you would expect. The actual “game” plays exactly like VII did, once again treating players to a narrative of Nep-ic proportions which, in all honesty, is just as enjoyable the second time around as it was the first. The story begins with Neptune finding a mysterious-looking device which transports both she and her sister Nepgear into the Zero Dimension — an alternate version of Gamindustri which has been completely destroyed, leaving only monsters and its resident CPU (and closet valley girl) Uzume Tennouboshi behind.
Despite what you’re led to believe, the entire game doesn’t take place within the Zero Dimension. At least a good 50% or more takes place in the Hyper (“regular”) Dimension — most of which occurring after the Zero Dimension shenanigans. One of the more amusing parts about VIIR‘s story is that it features perhaps the most blatant example of putting the cart before the horse that I’ve seen in a video game (although it probably does that on purpose). End-of-the-world scenarios and alternate dimension are usually, you know, kind of endgame-y. Then again, Neptunia‘s never been one to do things by the book (and that’s what makes the series so great).
Same Dungeon Flavor, Great New Look!
Outside of an impressive graphical overhaul, VIIR‘s dungeons have largely remained the same. Much like its predecessors. VIIR is a tried-and-true dungeon crawler meaning that the game’s many dungeons are where you’ll be most of the time. Honestly, though, I’ve always felt like calling this game a “dungeon crawler” was a bit of a stretch. True, by definition that’s what it is. Most of the gameplay consists of you making your way from one dungeon to the next, beating up monsters and snagging sweet loot along the way, but it’s very whimsical about how it does things. It’s more of a… I don’t know, “dungeon crawler-lite”? None of the game’s dungeons are terribly long and, with the exception of a few, are all very straightforward. There’s also not an overwhelming sense of urgency with VIIR like there is with other, more traditional dungeon crawlers. It’s not a bad thing, mind you. I think that a more lighthearted approach to gameplay complements the overall tone of the game perfectly. It’s just something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a “hardcore dungeon crawler.” Which, if this game interests you, you probably aren’t.
What has changed, however, are the a la carte explorers that you can send out to survey the world for you. Scouts. I’m talking about Scouts. If you’ve played VII, then you already know what I’m talking about. As you play through the game, you can amass a number of quirky secondary characters (almost all of which are parodies of other things) which you can send out to survey dungeons. They’re incredibly useful. And, from what I remember, they were also kind of complicated. Scouts had their own set of ambiguous stats which effected things like their success rate, or how much money they could find. Well that’s no more. Instead, VIIR‘s scouts tell you upfront what they do, and how successful they’ll be at it. It’s much easier to level up Scouts, too. For those who haven’t played VII, Scouts may seem a bit supplemental and unnecessary. But for you VII vets out there who understand how crucial these walking memes are, I can all but assure you that you’ll be so much happier with how streamlined the process is in VIIR. In the sake of fairness I’ll warn you that Scouts in VIIR have lost the ability to grant dungeon bonuses (like EXP boosts), but a newly introduced mechanic that I’ll talk about later basically nullifies any complaints I have about that.
In contrast with its dungeon-delving, VIIR‘s combat has undergone quite a bit of change. Granted, it’s not the same level of change between, say, Hyperdimension Neptunia and Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, but you had best believe that there’s been a major overhaul. The most noticeable change is the inclusion of *dun dun dunnn* AP. I know, I know, not all of you like it. But I ask those of you who might be upset to stop groaning and just give it a chance. Or at the very least just continue reading.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, in the original VII your turn was over after you took an action. In VIIR, however, actions are determined by AP. Nearly every action in the game — from basic attacks to skills to items (which also use something called “PP”) — consume AP, with more potent actions using more AP. AP recovers at the beginning of each turn, with the recovery amount varying from character to character. Due to this new AP system, a character’s turn no longer ends after performing an action and instead must be ended manually (usually by guarding, which costs nothing).
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure how I felt about the AP system being added in at first. It does take some getting used to, and having to manually end your turn makes things feel a little less fluid However, at least in my case, it does become comfortable after you’ve played around with it a bit. It also seems to benefit the player (or is it “Player”?) the further you play. At higher levels you gain a pretty sizable amount of AP per turn which, coupled with the fact that you now regenerate SP each turn, generally makes boss battles sway in your favor and random encounters go by so quickly that you’ll miss them if you blink. Transformations now use AP instead of a collective EXE Gauge as well, which is beneficial to the point of almost being unfair. Make sure to keep an eye on enemy AP. Otherwise, you might get stunlocked for 10 turns in a row and die. Which definitely didn’t happen to me.
Even more different than battles are the characters themselves. Seriously, I’m not even sure where to begin. This part is kind of all over the place. For starters, you now have to purchase your skills in addition to meeting certain pre-requisites (most of which are level-based). This is one of the few changes that I couldn’t wrap my head around. I mean, money seems to be easier to obtain now so I suppose it isn’t that big of a deal. It still feels weirdly out of place, though. On a more positive note, Challenges are way cooler than they used to be. Rather than assigning points to a specific stat based on which Challenge you complete, you now instead receive stat points which you can distribute manually and can re-distribute them as many times as you’d like.
Finally, there’s equipment. Truthfully (and say what you will), I didn’t spend a ton of time with item development in VII. That all changed in VIIR, though. Just in case it wasn’t important enough before, having high-quality weapons and armor in VIIR is essential. Of course, the best items in the game are the ones you make. …Only you can’t exactly determine how they’ll come out. For some reason, IF and Compile Heart added a new mechanic which randomly assigns buffs, and even rarity values, to equipment that you make. On the bright side, the game seems pretty nice about the whole thing. New self-made equips usually turned out to be superior to what I currently had equipped, and the frequent perks to things like EXP and AP gain (no need to worry about Scouts doing that, now!) were also nice. Still, I can’t help but wonder why they would include something so RNG-heavy. Going off of the game’s satirical nature I suppose that you could almost assume that it’s making fun of loot boxes, but who knows. In any case, it’s at least helpful more often than not.
It’s Almost Like I’m There!
Saving Gamindustri is great and all, but sometimes all you really want to do is Waifu & Chill (don’t worry, I cringed at that too). Well, VIIR‘s got you covered with its brand-new VR segments! Taking place in whichever dimension your bedroom is in, VIIR features a generous number of VR events featuring Neptunia‘s four most iconic Goddesses (with an occasional number of surprise pop-ins from Adult Neptune). Really, there isn’t much to say about these. You basically just sit there and listen to Neptune, Noire, Blanc, Vert, or Adult Nep talk to you for a few minutes, answering the occasional question and looking at specified spots if you so choose. You can also customize your room with plushies and Nep-colored furnishings, all of which can be unlocked simply by viewing VR events.
If it sounds like I’m underselling or bashing the VR segments, I promise that I’m not. Despite their simplicity, they’re actually really enjoyable. Neptune(s) aside, it actually feels like you get to see a different side of the Goddesses. Rather than addressing you formally(ish) as they would their own nation’s citizens or with the palpable rivalry they would with one another, you’re spoken as though you were a peer. They talk about what interests them, ask for your advice, and even gradually warm up to you the more time you spend with them. They’re much more down to earth in these scenarios (but not entirely so, no worries!), and it makes the conversations flow more smoothly. I’m not sure how much the average player would get out of something like this, but as a Neptunia fan it was neat seeing a new side to these characters.
Only Kind of New, but Very Much Improved
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is much more than a simple re-release of VII with a few VR events tacked on. It’s an excellent overhaul of a game that was already pretty excellent to begin with, and a title that’s filled with so much fun, addictive, and (more often than not) satirical content — both new and old — that you’d be out of your Neppin’ mind to not pick it up. If you’re a pre-existing Neptunia fan, this game was made for you. Literally. But if you aren’t, well, this game’s still good enough that I’d recommend you check it out anyway.
FINAL VERDICT: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Idea Factory International ; Developer: Compile Heart, Idea Factory ; Players: 1 ; Released: May 8, 2018 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Megadimension Neptunia VIIR given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher