Do It Over
Remake – a term that is reason for excitement for some, yet an annoyance to others. For the former group, a remake or remaster means a chance to play a favorite game, or a game they’ve never been able to play before, on modern hardware. The latter may be more apt to see these as laziness on the part of the developer, or, more cynically, as a cash grab.
Wherever your opinions lie on the matter, you can’t deny that remakes and remasters have been blisteringy popular in recent years. With console generations lasting longer and backwards compatibility spotty at best, remakes have been allowing gamers to play older games on their newer hardware, adding in some upgrades and adjustments to make these releases more than mere ports (or, you know, justify the fact you’re buying the same game all over again).
Amongst certain gamers, the Neptunia series has become nearly infamous for its use of remasters and rereleases. The first three mainline games have all seen updated rereleases, with the first game even set for a second remake later this year.
These first three remakes, though, saw these games get their releases on new consoles (with PC being a particular highlight). The game we are looking at today, though, is a bit different. As a remaster of the fourth main-line game in the series, this release is also excluive to the same console that the original was released on, the PS4.
Developed by Idea Factory and Compile Heart, and released in the west by Idea Factory International, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR was released on May 8th, 2018, exclusively for the PS4.
A Tale Divided
VIIR once again follows everyone’s favorite fourth-wall breaking anthropomorphization of an unreleased Sega console, Neptune, as she sees to her duties running her domain in the world of Gamindustri. The world is in the midst of the “CPU Shift Period,” essentially some kind of elections to determine who will continue running each of the world’s four main domains.
Neptune, though, couldn’t seem to care less. Luckily for her, she and her sister are whisked off to a completely different adventure when they find an old busted video game console in an alley. Somehow, this console teleports them to another dimension – one that is on the verge of ruin.
VIIR is actually divided up into three separate stories, each presented as their own miniature game. Each section features its own characters, conflicts, and resolutions, but manage to still link together as a single cohesive plot. While I thought this was unusual going into the game, I ended up greatly appreciating it. Many Neptunia games have become repetitive for me in the long haul, and this division into smaller subplots helped make things feel fresh right when each portion started overstaying its welcome.
The first story, featuring the aforementioned ruined dimension, was actually quite intriguing. Featuring some darker story tones and a tight cast of characters, these highlight moments kept me going through the occasionally overbearing meta-humor and anime hijinx the series is known for.
Once the game enters its second story, though, it hits some rough patches. VIIR decides to introduce a calvacade of new characters, dumping them all on you right at this section’s outset, leading to some confusion until these characters get, well, characterization. Thankfully, things get a bit tighter for the third story.
Like most other Neptunia games I’ve played, I would love if the game would tone back the overly-long nonsense conversations and plot points. It’s hard to argue, though, that they don’t add a bit of charm that makes the story more entertaining.
Custom Combo Deal
Like most other Neptunia games, VIIR is a fairly traditional turn-based RPG, but with some focus on tactical positioning on the battlefield. In battle, every character and enemy gets their own turn to move and attack, with each command using up a certain amount of “action points” (or AP) that regenerate each turn.
There is one major change in the battle system made to this remake compared to the original VII. Rather than having to preset each character’s basic attack combos, you now create them on the fly mid-battle. When you engage an enemy with a basic attack, you’re given a list of all the attack skills the character knows, allowing you to create whatever combo your AP and current equipment allow.
While I haven’t played the original VII, comparing to other Neptunia games, I very much enjoy how much more freedom this system brings to combat. Being able to change my tactics on the fly, rather than having to dive into menus between battles, made getting through dungeons feel more seamless. Sure, this system adds a bit more time to each battle as you have to set your combo every turn, but I quickly memorized the button combos that built my go-to combos for each character, and never felt like I was being slowed down by the menus.
One of my favorite parts of the battle system was the game’s formation attacks. If certain sets of characters surround an enemy, you can perform a special attack that uses all three of them, but only takes up the turn of the character activating the attack. They can be a finicky to set up (requiring precise alignment, as well as enough AP and SP for each character), but pulling the off is very satisfying.
These formation attacks are used to great effect during a few of the game’s boss battles. These fights, rather than being just a standard fight against a stronger enemy, instead take place on multiple platforms surrounding massive behemoths. Normal attacks are useless during these fights, forcing you to make use of the positioning system to set up formation attacks, while also staying mobile so you can assist any ailing characters on your team. These setpiece battles were easily my favorite part of the game, and happen sporadically enough as to not overstay their welcome.
If there’s one complaint I can make about VIIR‘s battle system, it’s that it feels too easy. I made it through the first third of the game without even having to use a heal spell; there was no need to since HP and SP are all replenished between each battle. There was no real grinding required, either, as I made it through every challenge the game threw at me by just fighting every enemy that happened to pop up in my way. Some late game fights were somewhat more challenging, but nothing I would consider “difficult.”
Moving into the negative side of things now, let’s step out of the battle system and into another new addition to VIIR: PlayStation VR segments. This game adds in segments that let you put on a PSVR headset and essentially watch various game characters interact with you. If you don’t have a headset (like myself), you can still watch these segments play out on a normal screen. The events that take place outside of the main game are harmless additions, and a bit of fun if you’re attached to any of the series’ characters.
However, the main story mode had multiple required VR segments that happen at random points throughout the story, mostly featuring a grown-up version of Neptune. These segments rarely have anything to do with the actual story, and at worst, they would appear during more climactic moments, completely detracting from them. If these had been optional, it wouldn’t have been an issue, but they quickly became one of the greatest annoyances I had with the game.
The Same Ain’t Bad
Usually, one of the go-to things to improve in a remake or remaster is the graphical presentation, which makes sense as these are games often being brought to newer systems. However, as I mentioned earlier, VIIR is an exclusive to the same system as the games it’s remaking. As I said, I haven’t played the original VII, but based on various videos I watched of it, there’s really no notable difference, let alone improvement.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t look good, though. The character models are nicely detailed and very expressively animated, and the various environments you trek through are surprisingly varied. The character sprites during plot segments, though, still do the weird breathing animation Compile Heart seems to love so much.
One of my favorite things about the Neptunia series is its English voice cast, and I’d say they definitely hit it out of the park once again here in VIIR. Every performance for a main character fits said character perfectly, and at this point, I couldn’t imagine any of these characters with different voices. Random NPCs and side characters, though…I can take a pass on those.
Overall, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is a greatly entertaining game, assuming you’re into anime cliches and have an off-kilter sense of humor. Personally, I still wish the series would lighten up on nonsense and put a bit more focus on its surprisingly interesting plots, but really, I think doing so would break the reason so many are into this series in the first place.
The question is, though, if it’s worth picking up VIIR if you’ve already played or own VII? That one, I’m not so sure. What you’re getting here seems more like an expansion to VII than any kind of remake or remaster, which can make its full $60 asking price (at the time of writing) hard to swallow. While I do like some of the changes to the battle system, the selling point of this release, the PSVR integration, is a cute time-waster at best and an annoying distraction at worst.
Scoring this game strictly as its own release, without any relation to its predecessor, this game could easily be an 8/10. However, knowing that I can pick up the original and get essentially the same experience, on the same console, at half the price, knocks a point off.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by Idea Factory International for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.