Full disclosure: I’ve never played the Hyperdimension Neptune series before this entry. While I do enjoy JRPGs and anime, everything about this particular series kept me from trying it. I’m not a fan of the moe art style, nor the idea of human personifications of video game consoles. Having played this one, I feel like I owe the series an apology.
For those who’ve never heard of or played the series, it is set in a world called Gamindustri (no, really). There are four countries representing different gaming consoles. Gamindustri itself is a reference to the Video Game Industry while Lastation comes from the PlayStation 3, Leanbox is a play on the Xbox 360, and Lowee, in itself, is a direct reference to the Wii. Planeptune is an exception since it is a reference to the Sega Neptune that was scrapped and didn’t see public release. Each country is ruled by a CPU, which is essentially a cute girl with super powers and weapons for protection. The main character is Neptune (essentially the never-released Sega console as an upbeat girl) and the games follow her and her friends on different adventures satirizing the gaming industry and what happens in it.
This entry to the series has 3 stories, each serving as its own chapter with a unique title. They do start to tie together in the third one, but each works as a standalone story. There sadly is no option to choose which one to play, but given how the plot(s) unfold, it makes sense that they are presented in the order played. The plots are all done in a visual novel style, meaning you more often than not are watching talking anime girl portraits with text to follow the plot. (While this isn’t bad, more and more games in this genre have been taking this approach.) This, coupled with the sense of humor and drama, make this a very Japanese game to experience. What I mean by that is if you really do not like anime-style plots and humor, you will not be won over by this one. It is a game truly meant for JRPG fans.
The controls are simple to grasp, due in part to the numerous tutorials throughout the opening sections which walk you through all that you need to know. The gameplay is mainly built around exploring dungeon-like areas and engaging in battle with enemies while searching for story events. During battles you’ll be able to move around within a given area and using the characters on your team you’ll be able to attack with the granted powers/moves. Of course with any RPG game such as this franchise you’ll, unlock some pretty sweet attacks later on. This game includes some new “modes” for the main characters so they’ll do much bigger and amazing attacks. Essentially, the modes provide a vehicle for transformation of the character into more powerful forms. While exploring the dungeons you’ll sometimes return to areas you’ve already visited–it would be helpful if the map gave a better clue where you were supposed to go. I’ve had a couple moments where I died due to taking a wrong turn and using up my items in several fights I didn’t need to engage in. I could have avoided these deaths with a better marked map.
Overall the combat is pretty fun, with a mix of turn-based and real-time play. Once a character’s turn comes up, you can move them anywhere within a certain distance of their start point, allowing you to make maximum use of their skills and weapons. In their attacks, the CPUs can use multiple combo types that can be preset in advance, and choose how to switch moves on the fly during a fight. In addition, position in the battle can unlock co-op skills that do massive damage. Throw in the use of the HDD forms (essentially super modes that the various girls can assume) and there’s a lot of versatility in the combat.
The game graphics are bright and detailed in the 2D art work, and the animation in combat is nice, with the environments having lots of details. The voice acting is both good and funny, although some sound effects do get overused. There’s a lot that some people won’t like about Megadimension Neptunia VII in its storytelling and art design. As I mentioned before, it won’t win over anyone who isn’t already a JRPG fan. Regardless, the game is a lot of fun, with enjoyable combat and a lot of laughs for those who like poking fun at the game industry. You should definitely give it a try and have a good time.