There’s always been a little extra depth to the more recent Hyperdimension Neptunia games. Moving characters around the battle field, setting up attack ranges to hit multiple foes. assigning support characters, breaking down defenses, determining when to use EXE skills, and busting out the HDD transformations always required a little more thought than the usual, turn-based JRPG. With Megadimension Neptunia VII, the new alterations and adjustments help make things feel even more strategic than ever. It’s as though even more depth has been injected, despite some things only being slightly tweaked.
Take the combo system. Combo building is a mainstay of the series, but Megadimension Neptunia makes some changes that make creating them easier and help them result in better attacks. To start, combo lengths are tied to the weapon a character is using. Slots will or won’t be open in the Standard, Rush, and Power categories depending on the item equipped. The weapon also determines what the starting attack’s property will be. Suddenly, you have to think more about what a weapon is capable. Stats aren’t everything, and both combo capabilities and range can be just as important.
Once you have a weapon with good combo lengths, it’s also about making sure ones are equipped that have good traits. Each possible attack in the chain can have a trait that will result in a stronger attack or effect if you meet a requirement. For example, one combo trait could say that the previous attack had to be a standard one or not belong to a certain category. In battle, you’ll know if you’re meeting requirements, because its icon will glow in the user interface.
Personally, I like to stick with one type of attack after I commit to mashing a button. So, I’ll make sure the second hit in the combo will ask for either a standard attack, one without a trait, or from a different category, then continue to build based on the attack immediately before it. Is it simplistic? Yes, but since Rush combos are still great for building up the EXE gauge in more challenging fights and Power combos are good for quickly dispatching regular opponents. But more importantly, having combos tied to weapons meant I was more diligent about keeping up with them and experimenting to find attacks that really worked for me.
The formation system also feels like it makes more sense. Formations aren’t new to Hyperdimension Neptunia either, but Megadimension Neptunia VII adds positioning to the mix. In order for a formation attack to happen, you have to meet certain requirements. To start, the two to four characters who are part of it all have to be there. They also have to all be in the same transformation state, if CPU or CPU candidates are involved. Enough of the EXE gauge has to be filled to carry it out, which isn’t a problem if you’ve been using Rush combos. Finally, they actually have to be in position.
Moving around in the field has always been important. By making formation skills rely on placement, it makes you think more about what you’re doing and where you’re doing. If you’re facing a boss, it isn’t just about keeping characters spaced out, so they won’t all be hit by the same attack, it’s also about considering where you want or need them to be in the next one or two turns. Two person attacks only require the enemy to be between the two characters, but three and four person attacks mean forming an impromptu triangle or square.
Especially since the formation skills themselves are incredibly helpful. They aren’t as overpowered as EXE skills in previous Hyperdimension Neptunia games, but they can absolutely turn the tide in a Megadimension Neptunia VII battle. While the EXE gauge isn’t especially difficult to build up, I like to save these for boss fights.
To be honest, there’s only one element of Megadimension Neptunia’s battle system that I didn’t really appreciate. Previous games have had a shield system with opponents. You’d need to break down defenses to really do proper damage to opponents, but you’d always have an idea of how much you were or weren’t doing. This entry does away with it in favor of Parts on bosses. These are noticeable and distinctive pieces of armor or equipment on an enemy that can be destroyed to lower the foe’s defense or keep them from using certain abilities.
In a way I really like it, because the system does have potential. It’s a realistic concept, and the enemy visibly changes once the part has been broken. The party can even get special items from destroying the part. In theory, it’s really cool, but can be frustrating in practice. From the very first boss that introduces it, a zebra monster with “wings” boosting its defense, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t being given enough information to deal with the part. Since there’s no targeting system, you can’t really tell if you’re hitting it and doing the right amount of damage. The only way you can tell if things are going well is if you see yellow damage numbers, instead of red or white ones. It’s a good idea, and one I want to see appear in a future entry, but maybe there’ll be a better way to know you’re doing enough damage.
Megadimension Neptunia VII is yet another example of Compile Heart realizing the series needs to grow and gradually adjusting the battle system to refine things and make them more interesting. The combo system and formation adjustments are both really positive improvements that encourage you to try new things and think several turns ahead when taking on major opponents. Even the parts system is promising, though I think it could use a little tweaking to perfect it. Considering what the original Hyperdimension Neptunia was like, it’s amazing to look at Megadimension Neptunia VII and see how far the series has come in five years.
PlayStation 4 owners in North America can get Megadimension Neptunia VII on February 2. Europe will get it 10 days later, on February 12, 2016.