Game Review: Megadimension Neptunia VII

Game Review: Megadimension Neptunia VII

Since its launch, the Nintendo Switch has become a haven for JRPGs of all kinds, from AAA blockbusters to more niche titles that still stand out in their own way. Megadimension Neptunia VII falls under the latter, and considering that I owe it to the Neptunia series for being my gateway to the world of niche JRPGs, I was undoubtedly excited to see a main series title (and arguably one of the best ones) finally debut on the Switch. But just how well does this port on Nintendo’s hybrid console hold up?

A Brief History Of Gamindustri

For those not in the know, the Neptunia series is an anime JRPG-visual novel hybrid by Idea Factory that is chock-full of meta commentary on JRPG tropes and the gaming industry as a whole. I mean, the setting of the series (for the main series titles) is literally called “Gamindustri”, and comprises nations called “Lowee”, “Lastation” and “Leanbox”… well, you probably get the point by now.

That being said, the history behind the series is interesting enough to warrant a quick mention. While most people are familiar with the Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth main series trilogy which takes place before Megadimension Neptunia VII, they are actually remakes of an original trilogy, which had a lukewarm reception at best. The improved Re;Birth trilogy, along with its release on the very much accessible Steam, helped bolster the series’ popularity into enjoying a cult classic status.

Three Dimensions, Three Stories, And Tons Of Waifus

Megadimension Neptunia VII (which, by the way, stands for Victory-2 and not 7) takes place after the events of the third Re;Birth game, with the overarching story split into three inter-connected story arcs taking place in a different dimension each. The narrative in the Neptunia series usually takes the backseat in favor of gameplay and fanservice, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this entry had a heavier focus on the plot.

In this game, the world of Gamindustri is currently undergoing a tumultuous period known as the CPU Shift, where dissent towards the leaders of the four nations of Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox and Lowee have begun to emerge. Just before the titular protagonist Neptune and her younger sister Nepgear can begin preparing for the upcoming struggles ahead, they find themselves spirited away to another dimension called the Zero Dimension. A hellish landscape that bears an uncanny resemblance to their own home, it is here that the pair has a fateful encounter with newcomer Uzume, who also has the transformation power of HDD Mode that Neptune, Nepgear and their allies possess. And the stakes begin to escalate even further when an enigmatic group calling themselves the Gold Third emerges in their home dimension, with the intent of usurping leadership of all four nations.

While the narrative this time round could be said to be much lengthier than previous entries in the series, it is the characters of Megadimension Neptunia VII that, yet again, really make this game shine. The usual shenanigans and wacky interactions between the returning characters is present, like Neptune’s pudding obsession and Noire’s tsundere side, but the new characters get lots of screentime as well, with the second story arc exploring each of the Gold Third’s stories individually and giving all of the members enough time for character development. Uzume, who is the focus of the overarching story, is also one of the more complex characters in the series’ history, and without divulging spoilers I’ll just say that her character arc left me quite satisfied.

All in all, Megadimension Neptunia VII has definitely raised the bar for the series’ writing and characters, and I hope future entries can maintain, if not surpass, that standard.

“Nept”-Gen Gameplay…?

If you’ve played Idea Factory’s Fairy Fencer F on the Switch before, you’ll pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into. The game’s story is conveyed through visual novel-style cutscenes, with cute waifus illustrated by the talented Tsunako delivering lines of dialogue that is sometimes interspersed with amazing CG illustrations, some of which really make full use of the privacy of the Switch’s handheld mode for several… naughty reasons. You’ll understand when you see them.

The core gameplay loop, however, sees players exploring various dungeons and fighting monsters and the occasional boss, much like in a typical JRPG. Dungeon designs have always been a sore spot for me when it comes to the Neptunia series, and while some of them do look pretty, like in previous entries of the series most, if not all, of them are merely corridor mazes with the occasional warp and/or jump puzzle added in. There was one dungeon in particular that had such a confusing jump puzzle layout that I found myself having to refer to a guide to clear. I do hope that future entries will start to improve in this aspect because their lack of innovation can be a huge turn-off.

On the other hand, the battle system is where Megadimension Neptunia VII really excels in. Like in Fairy Fencer F and the Re;Birth trilogy, players engage in arena-style, turn-based combat where every unit can roam around freely to unleash spells and attacks, with some special techniques even requiring specific positioning and characters to pull off for tons of damage. Boss fights get even more intense, with this entry introducing breakable parts that can change the entire flow of battle, and even an entire new type of boss fight where characters face colossal foes that take up the whole screen and limit movement options. Returning players will definitely love the new transformations that the four main characters receive, which look absolutely stunning and encourage different strategies than before.

While combat is rather straightforward, in typical JRPG fashion grinding is a thing in this game, and sometimes boss fights can have an unexpectedly large power spike that forces players to get back into whacking mobs for higher levels. Thankfully, with the Switch being a portable console grinding can be done on the go, which does make it a bit more bearable. I do feel, though, that having some form of difficulty options would really improve the experience as some people are into games for the story and characters and not sinking their time into tedious grinding. Your mileage will definitely vary here.

There are also other side-activities for players to partake in, such as an entire homage to the classic Spelunker game called… Neplunker, sending out Scouts to retrieve items and discover hidden treasures, developing city facilities, and the usual optional quests that provide rewards and increase the citizens’ faith in their leader. If you’re a completionist, you’ll probably enjoy the additional hours you can sink into all these.

“Pudding” Up With Various Woes

At this point I have said quite a number of things about this title, and even though I’d love to make a strong case for playing this game, which is arguably one of the best in the entire Neptunia series, noticeable performance issues on this Switch port are dissuading me from doing so.

Megadimension Neptunia VII isn’t supposed to be a graphical behemoth like, say, Xenoblade, but during dungeon-crawling and battle segments (essentially the core gameplay loop), the game struggles to maintain a consistent 30 frames-per-second, sometimes even dipping till it resembles a slow-mo scene, and object pop-ins are rather obvious and numerous. And this is coming from someone who isn’t a snob about performance. The game gets a little bearable when docked, but that pretty much defeats the purpose of playing on a hybrid console like the Switch instead of its beefier counterparts. I’m rather concerned as Megadimension Neptunia VII isn’t a very new game–it came out before the Switch was even a thingand it does not bode well for ports of newer Idea Factory titles down the line unless something changes. Thankfully, menus and story cutscenes are at a consistent 60 FPS, but if those somehow managed to get messed up as well that would be rather alarming.

Also, unlike several other Switch ports, paid DLC is still a thing for this rather dated title, and while they aren’t that expensive individually their total cost is fairly significant for a port of an old release. There are some fairly insignificant ones like costumes and joke weapons, but DLC characters are a thing in this game and locking entire characters behind a paywall even after all this while still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Licensing issues also meant that one of the DLC characters couldn’t be sold, although other platforms also stopped distribution of said DLC entirely as well. I managed to snag her on the PC release before the takedown but I can’t help but feel bad for newcomers playing the Switch version who would miss out on her.

CONCLUSION

Megadimension Neptunia VII is arguably the best game in the entire series and a must-buy for fans of unique JRPGs and cute anime waifus, but unless you really do not care about performance issues in the slightest, the Switch port might not be the way to go to experience this adventure. Still, if you do choose to dive right in, you’ll be in for a wacky and memorable JRPG unlike any other.

Pros:

  • A strong narrative that still has the trademark meta humor of the Neptunia series fans all know and love
  • More cute anime waifus than you can shake your Level 1 Wooden Sword at, and lots of amazing (and sometimes naughty) CG art
  • A straightforward gameplay loop that is still rather engaging
  • A fair amount of side-content for those who like that sort of thing

Cons

  • Very noticeable performance issues
  • Paid DLC is still a thing in this port
  • Uninspired dungeon designs
  • Quite a fair bit of grinding, might turn off those who dislike grinding
  • This game has tons of fanservice, if you don’t like that in your JRPG you probably won’t like this game

Verdict: This soup is definitely the best in its niche and has many things going for it, but glaring presentation woes get in the way.

Soup Temperature: 7/10

7/10

A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.