Welcome to the world of anthropomorphised games consoles - where the console wars are real, and game machines are all anime-style women. Join Neptune, based on the retro Sega Neptune (a combination of a Mega Drive and 32x that never actually got released), and her sister Nepgear, based on the Sega Game Gear, as they fight yet again to stop a diabolical evil!
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That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind MegaDimension Neptunia VII - one of the weirdest Japanese role playing games you'll ever play - and, considering the competition, that's saying something. A game that feels like a mixture between a visual novel, and a role playing game, with dungeons to explore, and battles to be fought, punctuating lengthy story driven cutscenes, the story here is as convoluted as you might imagine for a game that has a number as high as VII in its title - but it also means the game has both depth, and a substantial length, with loads to explore in the unique universe you find yourself in.
Conveniently, the game itself is split into three parts - which certainly helps makes things that little bit more digestible. Each section has a separate storyline, but the stories are all interlinked. However, that does mean there's quite a bit of jumping between dimensions, which can give you a bit of a headache when trying to connect the dots of the timeline of events that occur throughout the game!
In the first part of Megadimension Neptunia VII, the game opens in a decidedly normal way - when Neptune and Nepgear find an old Dreamcast console on the floor (as you do…) and decide to take it home with them. Finder's keepers, I guess! But before they can even say "SEEGGAAAA", a mysterious power awakens within the console, and opens a portal to an alternative dimension, known as the Zero Dimension, sucking them through, to begin the adventure in a bit of a "Wizard of Oz" kind of style.
The sisters are originally from the world of Gamindustri (located in the Hyper Dimension) where Neptune watches over the nation of Planeptune as the main CPU (Console Patron Unit). The other lands in Gamindustri are Lowee, ruled by the CPU Blanc, Lastation which is under the rule of CPU Noire, and Leanbox which the CPU Vert is in charge of.
It turns out the Zero Dimension has been destroyed by Dark CPUs - essentially a dark goddess - and the sisters must find their way back to their own dimension with the help of Uzume Tennouboshi, the human embodiment of the Sega Dreamcast. Eventually, the sisters manage to make their way back to their own dimension - however, there doesn't appear to be a way to get back to see Uzume again...
In the second part of the game, we're introduced to Gamidustri's other leaders, Noire, Vert, and Blanc, and a load of other side characters, each one with their own bright and elaborate cool/cute costume and unique personality.
The story here is that the the three CPUs have been overthrown from their positions and been replaced by a group called the Gold Third. What we liked most about this part of the game was that we got to play as each of the CPU leaders as they get to know the respective Gold Third member who has taken their place in Lastation, Leanbox, Planeptune and Lowee. Bonds are formed and strengthened, friendships made, and more trouble occurs…
And finally, in the third storyline... well, anything we tell you about this would be a spoiler. Let's just say it ties in with the first two nicely.
If you're coming to the series afresh (as we were), one of the first issues you'll hit with MegaDimension Neptunia VII is that it seems to assume a lot of prior knowledge of the series, its characters, and its world. With nothing in the way of an introduction (or "previously on"), while you soon pick up who Neptune and her sister are, they often talk to us (yep, they actually aim some of their dialogue at us, the audience, like we're at a live event!), as though they've met us before.
The areas you can explore in the game are all either towns and hubs, where you can rest, interact with characters, and further the storyline, or dungeons full of monsters that you can battle your way through, earning experience as you go, and getting stronger. If you're quick, you can even sneak up on a monster and get the upper hand - but if you don't pay attention, they could do the same to you. In our experience though, more often than not our sneak attacks back fired on us, and the enemy still managed to take the upper hand…
The fighting in the game is explained with a handy tutorial, which we were grateful for, as it's a pretty unique system. Rather than standing on the opposite side of the screen to your foes, and facing off, you can actually move around freely during the battle, before choosing your attack. You start off doing simple turn based moves against the monsters you come across on your travels, but are quickly introduced to combos, special skills, formation attacks (which involve positioning the members of your team around the enemy in just the right way to perform a powerful team attack!), along with other useful fighting techniques.
Formation attacks require you to fill up your EXE bar (shown on the top right of the screen) to a certain point, which will happen as you perform normal attacks. Once it's full enough, let it rip - and then fill it up again to use another one.
The special attacks, meanwhile, use up SP (which we assume stands for Special Points?), indicated by the blue bar on your screen. The stronger the attack, the more SP it will cost - and when you run out, you'll have to resort to using normal attacks, which you can use an unlimited amount of times.
Whichever moves you use, though, the battles against the lesser enemies are key to your progression through MegaDimension Neptunia VII, as not only do you earn XP, letting you level up and grow stronger, but you'll also pick up items that enemies drop, which you can use for crafting.
Letting you make potions that restore a character's health or SP, scavenging items for crafting will make your journey through the game a lot easier - as we quickly learnt. Almost straight away, we found ourselves ending up in important fights with not much SP to spare - and using an SP restore potion to get in that one powerful hit can make all the difference. Of course, you don't have to rely on crafting. We've also found many a potion lying apparently abandoned throughout the areas we explored in the game - some are simply sitting there for you to pick up, but others require you to smash up a few crates to get to them. The option to jump can also come in handy, but we were almost driven crazy by Neptune's repetition of "Boing! Like a Kangaroo!" every time you do so…
Another way to replenish your items and find some new gear is to actually buy them of course, but in the long term, it's a better idea to craft your own, and save your money for other things, such as investments! Yeah, we know, that sounds a bit 'Wall Street', suits and briefcases and all that, but it's actually quite fun.
This interesting side task opens up once you complete the first storyline, and allows you to develop the cities, dungeons and lands of Gamindustri to make them more prosperous. You can sink your money into three different categories, Commerce, Industry or Public Relations. Each one gives you different perks - boosting Public Relations will earn you extra items, for example, so it's worth having a play around and try each one to see what you get from them.
You also get to send out scouts, who check out the dungeons you haven't yet been to in order to find out information, like where any hidden treasure might be located. They also discover new dungeons for you, meaning extra places to explore and level up!
In all, MegaDimension Neptunia VII is a great Japanese role playing game, with voice acting and characters that we absolutely loved! Although the storyline was quite complicated, and we think it might help if you have played the previous games, but it certainly isn't a necessity - and there's nothing else quite like this out there. In the mean time, we'll be playing it again for the alternate endings (of which there are three), and the extra weapons you unlock for completing a playthrough - meaning this is definitely worth a play in our books!
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4