By Matt Codd
You could be forgiven for assuming that virtual reality would be a big part of Megadimension Neptunia VIIR. It’s right there in the name, after all, and it featured heavily in the game’s marketing and promotional material. This would be the first VR game from Compile Heart—a developer famous (or infamous) for fanservice—so expectations ran high.
In practice, VR is a very small part of Megadimension Neptunia VIIR, and one that feels very tacked on. It’s a separate mode entirely, through which you can hang out with the four main characters of the Hyperdimension universe, with new scenes opening up as you work through the main game. Don’t worry if you don’t have a PlayStation VR—you can see all these scenes in regular view, too.
It’s a neat distraction, and hanging out with your favourite Gamindustri goddess (it’s Vert, you know it’s Vert) in VR is a lot of fun. You mostly just sit there while the character in question talks at you, with the occasional yes or no question for you to respond to by moving your head. Given how much personality and humour each goddess has, though, it’s enough to make these scenes thoroughly enjoyable. (If you’re expecting Compile Heart’s usual levels of lewd fanservice, though, you might want to temper your expectations—that stuff is surprisingly absent from VR mode, for better or worse.)
The far more substantial part of Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is the game proper—a remake of sorts of Megadimension Neptunia VII, which first came out in 2016. Despite the relative newness of the source material, Compile Heart put a lot of effort into improving it for this release, particularly when it comes to quality of life improvements around some of the more arcane JRPG systems.
To wit: save points are a thing of the past. Megadimension Neptunia VIIR auto-saves with impressive frequency—even in the middle of dialogue sequences—so if you need to turn off the game for any reason, you never have to worry about losing progress. That also means you won’t lose much in the event of a Game Over, avoiding a lot of unnecessary frustration.
That said, Game Overs aren’t something you’ll likely see to much of, because characters now recover after every encounter. The battle of attrition you see in a lot of older JRPGs, as a dungeon’s foes slowly pick away at your health and resources. In VIIR, you start every battle at full strength, and that long-term resource management is a thing of the past.
This arguably makes the game “too easy”, and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR would benefit from tougher game modes for people who want that challenge. However, as someone who hates having to manage resources between battles, and who almost always plays on the easy setting, given the choice, I’m very much on board with the change.
Combat mechanics are more or less the same is in the original game, but everything’s more streamlined now. Instead of a movement gauge that slowly depletes, characters can now freely move around within a specified range when it’s their turn. Different commands and skill categories are bound to different buttons, including the D-pad, so there’s one less layer of menu navigation. You can freely set and change attack combos (which serve as your basic attacks) during a fight, and you can use a wider variety of different skills within a single turn thanks to a new Action Point system.
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR’s combat system is definitely one of the most enjoyable I’ve encountered in some time. In true Compile Heart fashion, there are a lot of different systems layered together, but the game is good at introducing them all one at a time and letting you get comfortable before adding new wrinkles. There’s a wide variety of different tools and tactics available, and things like character positioning and party synergy make a big difference. Giant battles are particularly exciting, taking place across multiple levels and forcing you to make decisions about when and how to divide your party. Such was the case in the original game, too, and Compile Heart chose not to try fix what isn’t broken.
On that note, the story is entirely unchanged, and that’s a good thing. Neptunia games are all about ridiculous, over-the-top scenarios and plenty of self-aware humour—the whole series is a parody of console wars and the game industry—and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is no exception. The game begins by transporting the heroes to a post-apocalyptic dimension, and things just escalate from there. Before you know it, you’re swept up in an interdimensional conflict with skyscraper-esque robots, caricatures of Square Enix and Konami (among others), and clickbait-obsessed knights.
The fourth wall breaking and jokes at the expense of the game industry as a whole be never let up, and are a constant source of laughter. And don’t worry, this isn’t a Ready Player One-style “I knew that reference” excuse for humour; it’s a surreal, hilarious satire where you can see the quirks of Square and Enix’s merger personified through an anime character with two people trapped in one body.
At the same time, it’s charming and heartfelt. For all their eccentricities, the characters are all likeable and relatable. They make you care about what’s going on, and get you genuinely invested in a delightfully trashy science fantasy adventure. Like the rest of the series, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR takes all the quirks and tropes of JRPGs and dials the up to 11.
This remake apparently also sports a new graphics engine, though I can’t say I’ve noticed any difference. Megadimension Neptunia VII itself is only a couple of years old, and Compile Heart has always been more interested in bright, cartoonish art direction than cutting-edge, hyper-realistic graphics. The original game looked great, and so does this remake.
In sum, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR has a lot to offer. It’s the same outrageous story as the original game, with the same endearingly oddball characters, but with a wealth of revamped game systems that make actually playing the thing a lot more enjoyable. The way the VR mode was implemented still baffles me—it’d work a lot better at its own standalone thing—and the decision to remake such a new game is an odd one, but this is a wonderful game nonetheless.
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is developed by Compile Heart and published by Idea Factory International. It releases on 8 May (NA) / 11 May (EU) for PlayStation 4.
A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.