The Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise is the biggest cash cow for Idea Factory and Compile Heart by far. Starting in 2010 on the PS3 as a quaint little fourth-wall-breaking JRPG about humanized versions of video game consoles, the series has gone on to spawn anime, manga, mobile games, and tons of merchandise. There’s even been a new game in the series every year since it debuted, but with the wild naming conventions of the series, it’s hard to remember that there hasn’t actually been a main entry in the series in over half a decade.
New genre-swapping spinoffs launch yearly, but the last true mainline entry in the Neptunia franchise was Megadimension Neptunia VII (actually the fourth main game in the series). It isn’t clear when another direct sequel in the hyperactive JRPG series will arrive, but in the meantime, Idea Factory is helping a new wave of gamers discover the series by porting this most recent mainline entry onto the Nintendo Switch.
Admittedly, Megadimension Neptunia VII is a bit of an awkward pick to be someone’s first Neptunia game. After an oh-so-brief introduction to the world of Gamindustri – a peaceful near-future society ruled over by four gaming goddesses – protagonist Neptune and her sister Nepgear are immediately sucked into a destroyed Dreamcast-like console that warps them into a war-torn alternate reality being ripped apart by a gigantic demonic threat. For someone new to the franchise, it might take a little while to wrap your head around the dynamic of the world and the characters, but the fact that so much of Megadimension Neptunia VII focuses on brand new dimensions and characters actually helps make it a little easier to get into.
It also helps that the game makes you feel like you’re always on the same page as the heroes thanks to the fourth-wall shattering nature of Neptune. Every other line out of her mouth is either a jab at generic JRPG tropes or a hilariously casual and brief lore dump. For existing fans, her wit and charm is cranked up to 11 in this game, and for newcomers, the casual way she guides you through the characters and lore is a fun way to get caught up on the ride without reams of droning explanations.
Megadimension Neptunia VII gets just as inventive when it comes to the gameplay, opting for a combat system that’s far more than just a traditional turn-based affair. On a character’s turn, you can freely move around the field within a certain amount of steps, similar to Valkyria Chronicles. Line your aim up with an enemy and you can use the face-button to dish out a variety of basic attack combos, or opt to deliver a powerful special command instead.
As the game progresses, a variety of mechanics become available to you that stack on engaging new layers. Characters can transform into a powerful CPU mode, and then transform again into a new NEXT mode. If every character is at the same transformation stage, you can surround a foe and activate special group-attacks that deal wild amounts of damage. Even characters you haven’t brought into combat can be useful, as you’re able to buddy-up unused party members with active combatants in order to gain some stat boosts. With a lack of a punishing grind and a wealth of customization options and ability choices, Megadimension Neptunia VII is an easy game to get sucked into.
It’s a shame that the Nintendo Switch port has so many issues that hamper the experience. I thought it was odd that the settings menu for Megadimension Neptunia VII gave me the ability to enable or disable Shadows, Outlines, and in-game Effects. I figured enabling these might simply be for aesthetic purposes, but it turns out that activating all of these options drops the framerate by a staggering degree. Navigating dungeons felt like I was watching a slideshow, and combat only ran slightly smoother. Disabling all three effects is the only way to get the game to run at a smooth and consistent framerate, but loading into battles or dungeons still presented brief moments of stuttering.
The game ends up looking on par with other Nintendo Switch JRPGs with these settings disabled thanks to the crisp and colorful art style, but it boggles my mind that they would make these options available to enable when it results in such a wildly choppy experience.
There’s also a lack of some quality of life features like auto-saving or quick saves, which make this slightly less than ideal as an on-the-go JRPG.