The History of Neptunia: Megadimension Neptunia VII

After a series of remakes and spinoffs, Neptunia fans were starting to get hungry for a new “mainline” installment in the series. It was already very apparent that “canon” was intentionally not a particularly strong part of the Neptunia series, since this allowed newcomers to jump into the games at any point — and indeed this remains true to this day. But still, if nothing else, longstanding fans were keen for a new game that went back to the series’ roots of being a pure — if somewhat quirky and offbeat — role-playing game.

Enter Megadimension Neptunia VII from 2015, the first entry in the series to jump headfirst into what was, at the time, the “next generation” — in this instance, the PlayStation 4. Incidentally, if you were wondering, “VII” is pronounced “vee two”, because the game was intended to be a direct sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (hence V-2 or V-II) but it’s also a bit of a visual pun: counting the three Re;Birth games as well as the original releases of the mainline Neptunia RPGs, Megadimension Neptunia VII was the seventh entry in the series, hence VII, which is 7 in Roman numerals.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

The ditching of the “Hyperdimension” prefix was an acknowledgement of the fact that the series had been jumping around between different dimensions and alternative timelines quite a bit up until this point — the “Hyperdimension” was just one of these in-game realities (the one depicted in mk2/Re;Birth2 and the beginning of Victory/Re;Birth 3, to be specific) and also very likely a joke on how many video games were released and rereleased several times on multiple platforms with prefixes like “Super”, “Hyper”, “Mega” and suchlike — see Capcom’s numerous versions of Street Fighter II in particular for just one example.

“Megadimension” also refers to the fact that Megadimension Neptunia VII unfolds in three of these dimensions, implying that the “Megadimension” itself is something of a multiverse, and the other, previously named dimensions occupy their own spaces within it. Specifically, in Megadimension Neptunia VII, we visit the Zero Dimension, the Hyper Dimension and the Heart Dimension, with each of these corresponding to the three distinct “episodes” that make up the entirety of Megadimension Neptunia VII.

Megadimension Neptunia VII is a much more ambitious, large-scale affair than previous Neptunia games, and this is immediately apparent from the outset. The opening story in the Zero Dimension depicts a much darker setting than we’ve ever seen in the series, depicting the seemingly futile battle of new character Uzume Tennouboshi (personification of the Sega Dreamcast) against the Dark CPUs that have all but eliminated humanity from her home dimension. This setup also happens to introduce one of the noteworthy new mechanical additions to Megadimension Neptunia VII: battles against giant foes, which work a little differently to the game’s regular combat system.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

After clearing this initial episode, the bulk of the game returns to the Hyper Dimension for a satirical story that looks at the troubled times that come with a generational changeover of hardware, and how third party support has, with each passing new console generation, become increasingly important for the platforms to thrive.

To that end, a variety of new characters are introduced, each personifying various Japanese game companies such as Square Enix, Capcom, Bandai Namco and Konami. In true Neptunia fashion, the character parody the companies they represent not only in terms of visual style, but also in personality and character traits — and, as usual for the series, it doesn’t hold back when it comes to light-hearted ribbing about certain more notorious, perhaps less desirable traits of these companies.

For example, B-Sha, the character representing Bandai Namco, is obsessed with making money to an unhealthy degree — a rather on-the-nose criticism of the company’s tendency to accompany new releases with a flood of unnecessary DLC such as level boosts and consumable item packs for titles like those in the Tales series. K-Sha, meanwhile, representing Konami, has distinctly yandere tendencies; this reflects the company’s increasingly erratic behaviour in the 2010s, as it seemingly ditched beloved franchises such as Silent Hill, Castlevania and Metal Gear Solid in favour of its pachinko business.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

We’re also introduced to Adult Neptune, whose existence is justified by the series’ core concept of dimension-hopping. There’s the slight sense that the Neptunia team weren’t quite sure what to do with her in Megadimension Neptunia VII, but she’s since gone on to appear in a number of other Neptunia games, and is also set to be the main star of Neptunia GameMaker R:Evolution, the next entry in the series after Sisters vs. Sisters at the time of writing.

Uzume also has some delightful references in her character design and personality. The fact she battles using a megaphone as her weapon and has a tendency to shout excitedly in her human form is a reflection of how notoriously noisy the Dreamcast’s GD-ROM disc drive was, and the contrast between her tomboyish nature in human form and her distinctly more “girly” personality in goddess form feels like a reference to how Dreamcast advertising was packed with grit and attitude, yet the most well-regarded parts of the system’s game library consisted of highly cheerful “Sega blue sky” arcade titles.

The story is actually highly enjoyable throughout, so we won’t spoil the details of it here. It feels like a noticeable step up in ambition from the previous Neptunia titles — kind of like it’s the big budget movie to the previous games’ single-cour anime series. The soundtrack certainly reflects that, also, with some of the best songs from the series originating from this installment.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

It also features one of the best implementations of the series’ combat system. While loosely based on the previous titles’ turn-based mechanics that allowed free movement and the unleashing of combos and special attacks, all the systems in Megadimension Neptunia VII have been tightened up significantly. It’s very satisfying to play, both in terms of overall game balance and the way it simply feels to play as a result of the combination of its mechanics and aesthetics, and to this day many Neptunia fans regard it as a real high point for the series.

The aforementioned giant foe combat restricts character movement somewhat, adopting an almost board game-esque approach where characters can move to specific “spaces” around the giant enemy. In this way, you can position characters strategically, allowing some to “tank” damage while others deal damage from the sides and behind. It’s a shame that this system hasn’t been used again since Megadimension Neptunia VII, as it was a good addition — and accompanied by some fantastic boss music.

Notable additions to the gameplay outside of combat include building mechanics on the world map, allowing you to connect locations together via roads and upgrade the facilities in town. Dungeon exploration is enhanced considerably with larger, more varied and interesting environments as well as a new Hidden Treasure system that tasks you with accomplishing specific objectives during exploration in order to acquire unique goodies.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

Some of the most delightful optional parts of the game are found in the form of the bonus dungeons on offer. The first of these is based on the notoriously difficult ’80s platform game Spelunker, and introduces a variety of unique mechanics that make this dungeon incredibly challenging (and deliberately frustrating) to explore.

For example, mirroring the tendency for early ’80s platform game heroes to be completely incapable of taking any fall damage, this dungeon causes you to lose a life — yes, the homage even goes so far as to limit your number of lives — if you fall any further than about ankle height. There are also traps and obstacles everywhere, all of which will cost you a life if you clip them even a little bit. It’s incredibly annoying but also massively addictive — and completely optional, so if you do find it infuriating, you can just skip it completely.

Elswhere, there’s a dungeon that pays homage to classic ’80s dungeon crawlers such as the early Wizardry and Might & Magic games, placing you in a wireframe maze and disabling the game’s usual automap facility. Here, you’ll have to either make a map yourself or rely on your own sense of direction to clear the dungeon, because the game certainly isn’t going to help you out. Again, this is challenging and can be frustrating — but it’s one of many signs of how much love, care and attention was poured into Megadimension Neptunia VII.

Megadimension Neptunia VII

Megadimension Neptunia VII remains one of the strongest installments in the series to this day, and is a title that most fans would recommend without caveats. It’s best experienced in context as part of the whole series — but if you only play one Neptunia game, perhaps to just see whether or not you gel with the game’s distinctively energetic sense of satirical humour, then this is the one you should play.

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Pete Davison
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