For a game with such a wacky premise - a bunch of humanoid personifications of game consoles go on an adventure through a games industry inspired world - we're pleasantly surprised to find the Hyper/Megadimension series has picked up enough of a fan base to still be going, some eight years later. While the first game may have been a bit disappointing, the outrageous exploits of heroines Neptune (an anthropomorphic take on a never-released SEGA console), Iffy (based on the game's Japanese publisher Idea Factory), and Compa (Compile Heart - the team behind the game) are nothing but endearing, and as time has gone on, the games themselves have caught up to be thoroughly decent role-playing games too. Their latest adventure? Yet another trip into a different dimension with Megadimension Neptunia VIIR.
The first thing you should know about Megadimension Neptunia VIIR, pronounced 'V-two-R', is that this isn't actually a new game - it's a remake of 2016's Megadimension Neptunia VII, with added VR scenes (with Playstation VR headset support) and a few other tweaks thrown in for good measure.
As is always the way over in Neptunia land, Megadimension Neptunia kicks off with the aforementioned lovable idiot Neptune and her long-suffering sister, Nepgear, accidentally getting sucked into an alternate dimension - the Zero Dimension - via an old forgotten console that is definitely-not-but-obviously-is a Dreamcast. Here, they meet another character, the amnesiac Uzume Tennoubushi, who's the sole surviving human in a desolate, apocalyptic world that's being terrorised by a huge giant named Dark Purple. Together with her devoted band of weak and feeble monster-folk, she's been trying to slay the beast so everyone can live in peace - and being the generous types they are, Neptune and Nepgear offer to lend her a hand, uncovering mysteries about the world, its inhabitants and Uzume's past in the process.
From there, a series of traditionally bizarre events unfold, involving talking fish, interdimensional bug catchers and kidnappings to name but a few, packing in all the same sheer randomness, references and general silliness the series has become known for, garnished with the obligatory shower scenes and boobs-comparisons we've come to expect. And - we say this as a straight woman - it's all great fun.
Between story scenes, Nep-Nep and her cutesy crew of oddballs spend most of their time heading out into the game's maze-like dungeons, beating up the Neptunia-standard enemies of giant robots, Mario Bros.-esque pipes, and Chocobo-inspired birdies to name but a few. Battles are fairly standard turn-based affairs, with you and your enemies taking it in turns to swing swords, sling spells and defend against attacks, although there's a handful of new tweaks to the familiar formula this time around too.
Each turn, characters have a certain number of 'action points' (AP) to expend, and whether you're putting together a combo of different attacks (with each stage chosen manually from a list), using special skills, or consuming a healing item, every action costs points. Defending is now the defacto way of ending your turn, and costs no action points to perform, although you'll also unlock variations that let you absorb incoming damage or ready a counter to retaliate in time. Position your party so that they encircle an enemy, and you'll also have the option to unleash a powerful team move for massive damage, while certain enemies give you the option to focus your attacks on a specific body part or piece of armour, knocking parts off to make them easier to defeat.
New 'Giant Battles' crop up from time to time, and see your party facing off against an oversized enemy across a battlefield of floating islands that conveniently encircle your foe. These battles are fought entirely in your party's transformed states - a series staple form that all goddesses can take that makes them more powerful and durable, with access to special moves and attacks. Moving between the floating islands, you'll want to position your party as best as you can to avoid the huge foe's massive area of effect attacks, which threaten to knock large chunks off your health. However, as the more spread out party are, the less likely they are to be within range of your healing spells, it can be a bit of a double edged sword, with these battles requiring plenty of balancing of risk and reward. That being said, it is worth noting that Megadimension Neptunia VIIR isn't exactly the hardest game going (VIIR heals your party completely between battles for starters) - and, if we're honest, its general lack of challenge is one of the things we like about the series.
But, for a game that's pushed its VR content as much as Megadimension VIIR, it seems strange that the feature feels like so much of an afterthought. VR is limited to a handful of scenes, and a headset is entirely optional - those who don't own one can simply play the segments as normal, without a screen strapped to their face, without missing out on anything whatsoever. Dropping you into a virtual room with one of the Neptunia ladies, you'll get to talk about insects, books and video games, share sweets and have heart to heart chats, for a few minutes at a time. Every now and then, you might get asked a question you'll need to answer with yes or no by nodding or shaking your head (or using the analogue stick if you're not playing in VR), although your choice doesn't have much of a bearing on anything.
Needless to say, the VR sections certainly feel pretty tacked on, especially when it comes to the scenes that crop up periodically during the course of the main story. Here, you'll get to spend time getting to know an alternate dimension version of everyone's favourite purple-haired doofus, Neptune. Except there's no explanation about who she is, why she's wearing different clothes, nor her significance in the Megadimension story (she doesn't crop up until quite a way through, despite many VR scenes beforehand). In fact, none of the VR scenes reference Megadimension's story in the slightest, seemingly existing in some kind of independent world where everything is cream puffs and MMOs, which does make it all feel a bit disjointed.
Still, thanks to its madcap cast of characters, light-hearted story and easy-to-pick-up battles, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR is another great little instalment in the games industry parody series, and one that's well worth picking up if you haven't already. However, for those that have already played through the original Megadimension Neptunia VII, particularly if they don't own a VR headset, it is a bit of a hard sell, as so much of the game is the same. With largely the same story, characters and gameplay as its predecessor, double dipping is unnecessary when all you really get is a handful of short VR-specific scenes.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4