Thursday, July 14, 2016

Megadimension Neptunia VII (Nathan Green)

Yup, it’s time to take a look at another game from Idea Factory and Compile Heart's self-referential JRPG series which loves to poke fun at video games and the people who play them. Surprisingly Megadimension Neptunia was the first main series Neptunia game since Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory on the PS3 released in 2012. Anyway before I jump into this review I should state that I am actually looking at the recently released PC port of Megadimension and not the PS4 version that came out last year. With that out of the way lets dive right into Megadimension Neptunia VII.

When I jumped into Megadimension the first thing I noticed right off the bat was the major tonal shift in the story, especially when compared to the previous games. Megadimension's plot is quite a bit darker than previous entries and honestly in a series like Neptunia I found it a breath of fresh air. The dialogue is still very well written with the usual retro gaming references scattered around the place and the game doesn’t lose its personality despite the darker plot which I do like. It’s a good balance between silly and serious and it’s refreshing to see in a game from the Neptunia series.

Now if there was one thing that the devs really tweaked and refined during the transition from Victory to Megadimension it was the gameplay. The battle system has been heavily tweaked in all the right ways and this makes me feel that gameplay wise Megadimension is the most solid of the Neptunia series.
For starters the Guard gauge which was present in Victory and all the Re;birth remakes has been dropped. In previous games enemies would have a guard gauge as well as a health gauge. When this gauge had a little bit of charge in it the amount of damage you could deal to enemies was heavily reduced meaning that in order to deal any substantial damage you had to drop the enemies guard gauge first which caused a guard break. However enemies with their guard broken would have their guard restored by around a third when they had their next turn.
This is made even worse when you take into account that you don't have access to a guard gauge so any damage you take gets lopped right off your life bar which can result in some enemies making mincemeat out of you if you aren’t careful. I could go on further about the problems this system had but basically all you need to know is that it was incredibly unbalanced so having the guard gauge removed in Megadimension is something that makes the game a whole lot more balanced.
A lot of the tweaks that were made to the battle system help to fix the balance issues that were present in previous games and almost all of these tweaks I find useful. Combo setting has been changed up a bit with a system that is far simpler than it was in previous games which also adds an element of strategy to the planning of attacks (meeting certain conditions allows for certain attacks to have extra bonuses thrown on like a 100% crit-rate or 100% accuracy).
Special attacks have been refined and you are now able to pull off special team attacks depending on where your team members are placed (i.e I might have to make a triangle formation around an enemy first before I can use a specific team attack)
Outside of battles dungeons have had a few tweaks as well. The treasure search feature present in victory has been removed (goodness knows why) and you are finally able to use healing skills outside of battles.
Meanwhile the over-world has seen a complete overhaul and now sports a Mario 3 esque design with points on a map that you move between. While moving around the map however you can run into enemies while moving over smaller points.
Overall Megadimension's gameplay is all about the tweaks and refinements. The base JRPG gameplay is still incredibly solid however with battles based on positioning and chaining together combos to deal the most pain. All in all though Megadimension in my opinion is the strongest of the series gameplay wise thanks to the multitude of tweaks and refinements made to systems throughout the game.

Presentation and performance:
Ohboy, now this is going to get interesting.
Presentation wise Megadimension does look pretty good. Environments are incredibly detailed, models extremely well done and environments are far more varied and diverse than they were in previous titles. However there is one gigantic issue present in the PC port that just ruins the whole experience for me and it is the same issue that has plagued basically all idea factory PC ports.
In a nutshell, the performance is completely and utterly abysmal and I mean abysmal. In gameplay I was barely managing 20 frames per second and that was with all the graphical effects turned on low and the resolution dropped as far as it could go.
Now if this was only a problem with my PC then I could understand that as it isn’t really built for gaming. However owners of high end PCs have also reported utterly abysmal performance with the port as well.
Things don’t get any better when I found out that the Hyperresolution Neptunia mod, a mod that let you change the texture rendering resolution in the PC ports of the re;birth games, didn’t work with Megadimension. On top of that there seem to be some graphical settings that the game simply does not let you turn off. They aren’t in the options menu and they aren’t in the config file either so graphical effects such as bloom and reflections are stuck in an enabled state. Not being able to turn off stuff like reflections is especially annoying because you’re stuck in a state where these graphical resource hogs are forcefully turned on and it really kills the experience.
So not only is the game playing like a slideshow for me but I am basically unable to watch any cutscenes because the enormous amounts of lag actually cause cutscenes (and only cutscenes) to encounter audio stutter. Yes, really.
This is my main problem with Megadimension on PC. The game is optimised so, so badly that it makes it hard for me to recommend. Heck even if your PC meets the requirements that is no 100% guarantee that you won’t run into performance issue.
Also speaking of system requirements, LOOK AT THESE THINGS.
To compare, here are the system requirements for Dark Souls 3
Yeah, I dunno about you but those seem like some pretty ridiculous system requirements.
Terrible performance aside the game does sport an excellent soundtrack as well (in my opinion it’s the best in the whole series) which is one of those few video game soundtracks that I actually went out of my way to listen to while I wasn’t playing the game so extra points for that.

Megadimension Neptunia VII on the PC is most certainly entertaining. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll be right at home with this entry. I also think that for newcomers Megadimension is probably the best title to start on. However the one think that stops me from recommending the PC version of Megadimension is its gigantic performance problems. The game is so terribly optimized for PC that it almost makes buying it on pc not even worth it due to how much of a glass cannon the game is with performance. Granted the game is a turn based RPG so it doesn’t kill the experience as much as it would if these performance issues were present with say, a fps but the 20 or less fps I was getting in game coupled with the audio stutter present in almost all cutscenes makes Megadimension on PC a difficult recommendation to people who only just meet the minimum requirements and honestly it’s a damn shame.
If you want my advice then if you have a PS4 and are interested in this game, go buy it on PS4. If you already have it on PS4 there is really no reason to rebuy it on PC and if you don’t own a PS4 and want to get it on pc then proceed with caution especially if your system only just meets the system requirements (and if it doesn’t meet the requirements then don’t even bother to be honest).
In its current state Megadimension Neptunia VII on PC gets a Proceed with Caution
If these performance issues get patched out in the future then I would have no issues with upgrading Megadimension to a highly recommended but at the moment it’s just too much of a glass cannon for me to recommend confidently.
Now I know this review was shorter than my usual ones and that it’s well… a little late. To cut a long story short my sound card died while I was in the process of playing the game and I had to wait until I got a new one before I could get back to playing the game for this review.
PEGI: 16

OFLC: M (Unrestricted)

If you liked this review, please consider supporting us on Patreon.

Game provided for review by IFI. Logo and game screenshots provided by IFI. System requirement screenshots taken by Nathan Green.