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Megadimension Neptunia VII Review - An attack this grand can miss by pure chance.

Megadimension Neptunia VII Review

Rating: 4,4
An iterative improvement in the series, but the mechanics are still more flash than substance. The story is also an improvement in writing, portraying vindictive villainy while believing in saving everyone.
Developer:Compile Heart
Publisher:Idea Factory

Each game in the Re;Birth series marginally improved on the previous. However, they all suffered from repetition and recycling. Megadimension is a major overhaul that makes it feel like a full-fledged upgrade rather than simply a tweaked version of the previous game. Also note that the "VII" in the title is not the Roman numeral for seven, the V stands for Victory and the II is the Roman numeral for two. Re;Birth3 is a remake of Victory I, so Megadimension is the next game in the series. There are references to the events of Re;Birth2 and Re;Birth3, so it is useful to familiarize yourself with those stories before getting into Megadimension.

Gameplay

The gameplay is fundamentally the same as the previous games. To summarize, it is a turn-based action game about managing a party, exploring dungeons, levelling up, and acquiring better equipment and outfits for your characters. Combat is all about optimizing your actions to take out enemies in as few turns as possible, which requires balancing upfront damage, performing weaker attacks to invest in stronger attacks via a combo meter called the EXE Gauge, and keeping everyone alive.

Turn order is not static and is based on the wait statistic of each action taken, with some actions incurring a longer wait than others. When dealing with multiple enemies, it is important to focus your attacks to take out one enemy at a time as quickly as possible because leaving enemies alive gives turns to the enemy to inflict damage on you. It is also important to revive any incapacitated party members immediately so that you have more turns, or at least waste the enemy's turn attacking the character you just revived so they don't take out another character.

Modified attack system

The attack slot assignment system works a bit differently than the previous games. There are no more command points to limit the number and quality of attacks in an attack sequence, but you cannot repeat the same attack in a turn. The number of attacks of each type and the maximum number of attacks per turn is restricted by the weapon you have equipped. This is further complicated by the varying areas of effect of each weapon and the varying damage of each weapon, forcing you into trade-offs between attack radius, damage per hit, and number of attacks per turn.

You want weapons with more attacks because you want to finish off an enemy as quickly as possible without wasting the next character's turn. Having more rush attacks in a turn is important for building up the EXE Gauge before the next character's turn so you have at least one EXE point to use for transformation or an EXE Drive. Of course, the more attacks, the longer the wait, but the benefits of more attacks outweigh the wait by a long shot. Since you don't have to worry about exploiting guard break windows, manipulating wait is not that useful anyways. Overall, it is a sub-optimal system that renders the vast majority of weapons pointless. It is a shame too because different weapons have different models and I would like to use weapons that look nicer, but are less practical.

Attacks are direction sensitive. You inflict more damage when you attack from the side, and even more from behind, so you should try to get behind enemies before attacking as it can mean the difference between killing off an enemy in one turn. However, enemies know this as well and will often try to circle around you to attack your back. A quirk with the system is that it detects attack direction by comparing the direction the enemy is facing compared to the direction your character is facing. Because you can aim your attacks, attacks have area of effect, and enemies have generous hit boxes, it is very much possible to get back attacks by standing beside the enemy and just attacking in front.

No more guard breaks

Unlike the past games, there are no more guard points and guard breaks. This removes a tactical element of the previous games, where it was useful to pay attention to the turn order and plan your turns such that all of your party members could unleash their most powerful attacks one after the other to exploit the guard break before the enemy recovers on their next turn. Now, the turn order is only useful for deciding whether to attack or heal to absorb the next attack. The amount of strategy needed is already limited, and without guard breaks, combat is pretty much just spamming the most powerful attacks.

In its place, there is a "parts break" system. Attacks are direction sensitive, and certain enemies have parts that can be broken off by focusing your attack on a specific side of the enemy where the part is. Certain bosses are resistant to damage until you break the parts that protect them. Others have parts that enable certain attacks, so breaking them prevents those attacks. However, enemies cannot recover broken parts, and with the exception of very few boss battles, parts don't confer that much of a difference to the point of making or breaking a battle. Often, you will end up defeating your opponents before breaking all of their parts, so it comes off as a gimmick.

Since there are no more guard breaks, there are no more guard break attacks. Instead, they have been replaced with "standard" attacks which are a middle ground between rush and power attacks in terms of number of hits and damage. Normally, there would be no point to using standard attacks over power or rush attacks, but in order to encourage you to do so, a combo system has been introduced. Like the past games, you assign individual attacks to slots to determine which attacks are available at which point in your attack sequence. However, each attack can be turned into a guaranteed critical hit if you meet the condition stated in the attack description. The conditions are set up so that you need to use a mix of standard, rush, and power attacks, since you are looking at conditions such as "Previous attack was standard" on some power attacks. You will want to focus on combinations that use only standard and power attacks for raw damage while reserving rush attacks for building up the EXE Gauge. Only number of attacks matter for rushing, so you don't need to worry about combo traits for rush attacks. Also, the weapon you have equipped determines the type of the first attack, which can affect your combo trait setup.

Formation skills

Formation skills are available before EXE Drives. These skills are co-ordinated attacks by multiple characters that require you to position your characters so that they form a line, triangle, or square around the enemy, which can potentially hit many enemies in one attack. Because the EXE Gauge is cheaper to recover than SP, formation skills are useful for conserving consumable resources early in the game when you cannot afford SP recovery items. To make effective use of formation skills, you will need to adjust your character starting positions in battle so that your characters start spread out, since your characters have a limited movement distance per turn and you don't want the enemies to move and ruin the positioning.

By mid to late game, opportunities to use formation skills efficiently are limited as area-hitting normal attacks, SP skills, and EXE Drives are cheap and effective. It is further complicated by the requirement for all characters involved to be in the same transformation state (Regular, HDD, or Next Form). This requires you to either de-transform, which wastes the EXE point you used to transform in the first place, or spend EXE points transforming the other characters, in which case you might as well just spend the turns to kill the enemy conventionally.

Positioning multiple characters and enforcing transformation state are just not worth the hassle when you have characters who can throw out area of effect EXE Drives that inflict more total damage per EXE point spent than formation skills. Most formation skills cost at least two EXE points, but they don't do twice as much damage as EXE Drives that only use one point. They also use the turns of all characters involved, but they don't incur as much of a wait penalty as EXE Drives.

Speaking of formations, enemies have a wider variety of starting formations compared to the previous games. Sometimes, they may be bunched together. Other times, they may be spread out on the fringes. It seems like a small thing, but it helps make each successive encounter feel less repetitive because you have to consider the geometry of your attacks and how to efficiently take everyone out.

Triangle Formation Skill Formation skills can be used to take out multiple enemies in one turn, but you need your characters to start spread out so they can move to the flanks. Party Formation To make effective use of formation skills, it is advisable to space out your characters. Characters at the edge are also in a better position to flee battles you don't want to waste time with. Attack Combo Setup Different characters have different attacks that have different combo traits that lead to different mixes of attacks. Neptune's attacks have combo traits that let her use all power attacks efficiently, but this is not the case for other characters. Back Attack From Side This is considered an attack from behind.

Mega-boss battles

There are now special boss battles where you fight against a giant boss while your characters stand on floating platforms. You cannot use normal attacks and can only use SP skills to do damage and build up the EXE Gauge, but SP regenerates. You can jump to various platforms surrounding the boss, which is very important to do because the boss is so big that its attacks will hit everyone on the same platform. Platform positioning is also important to set up formation skills, while SP skills that hit many times is effective for building up the EXE Gauge.

The first battle took me back at first because the boss just does so much damage, but the trick is to stock up on healing items. Items are more effective than healing skills at that point and anyone can use them to heal themselves. This means it is best to spread out your characters immediately and not worry about being separated. It also demonstrates the pointlessness of healing skills. Once everyone is spread out and self-healing, the battle just becomes a matter of hitting the boss until it dies, using a formation skill when you have the EXE points.

As it nears death, it starts using its unavoidable mega attack. On my first attempt, it dropped two out of three party members while leaving the third with a sliver of health. Unfortunately, with only one turn, it was not possible to heal up and revive everyone, especially when everyone is spread out, and the boss decided to do the mega attack again on its next turn because enemies have no limits beyond the random number generator. It is possible that the boss doesn't use the attack at all, which makes the battle easier on a different run.

Speaking of random number cheese, I encountered an incident in Blanc's sub-chapter where you start off alone and have to fight three Delusion Rabbits. Because Blanc has low agility, she starts last, so she gets hit by all three rabbits before she can do anything. The problem is that Blanc has low magical resistance, and since the enemies' choice of attack is diverse and randomized, there is a chance they will all use magical attacks. I got unlucky enough that they just spammed their magic attacks, so I started the battle with half health before I could do anything and I had no healing items or any way of getting some. I wasted a turn using a physical damage resistance buff that was useless against the magic attacks, I killed one on my second turn with an SP skill, and then died on the third turn. In hindsight, I could have just focused on spamming SP skills and played the attrition game because killing enemies reduces the total amount of damage they can inflict before your next turn. But on my next attempt, the enemies only performed physical attacks and did zero damage because of Blanc's high physical damage resistance, so they were a breeze to beat.

Naturally, you would randomize the game like this in an attempt to create unpredictable scenarios. However, the vast majority of encounters play deterministically because the variation is often too small to matter and you have plenty of options to negate the impact of variation. It barely changes the decisions you have to make as it becomes just a matter of healing sooner or later. It is only in highly restricted scenarios like the ones I mentioned that randomness has an effect. Once you realize that the game shows you a lot of excess options you don't need, the game is quite easy.

Blanc magic weakness Blanc gets wrecked by magical attacks. The battle has just started and she is already at half health.

Overworld and dungeons

The overworld has been changed so that you have to travel along paths to get to where you want, unlike in the previous games where you just select a dungeon or town and you go there instantly. This introduces random encounters, but I find them to be more annoying than exciting considering there are lengthy animations just to get to the battle itself and you can just flee if you don't want to fight. Having a spread out party is useful for quick fleeing, although fighting every battle is useful to grind for lily ranks. New paths are unlocked by using the route building system, where it costs credits to construct a new path to a newly unlocked dungeon. This also means you should not squander your credits because otherwise, you would have to grind credits to proceed with the game.

Because you can only heal at home, your resources in the field are limited. Getting through the beginning chapter will require you to stock up on health items before venturing out because you are going to find yourself getting worn down by successive fights. SP skills are powerful and can be used to remove threats before the enemies' next turn to reduce the damage they can inflict on you. However, SP recovery items are expensive compared to health items, so you have to use SP skills sparingly. If you had to choose between taking damage or using an SP skill to quickly eliminate a regular enemy, you should just take the damage, drink a healing item afterwards, and save your SP for tough enemies. It also gives you an incentive to avoid wasting your resources fighting everything. Later on, healing and SP become non-issues due to all sorts of options for recovering those in the field at no net cost (i.e. SP regeneration and healing skills).

While there are recycled dungeons, even from the Re;Birth series, the repetition is not as bad as the previous games. The overused factory dungeon of the Re;Birth series is no longer present at all. There are a number of new dungeons to mix things up and more music variety. In fact, the music is on a whole new level compared to the previous games with more dynamic melody and accompaniment while still fitting the cartoon aesthetic. The new dungeons are more complex to navigate, although there is little in the way of puzzles and the later maze dungeons are just a slog to run through. Since you are going to be doing a lot of running around, I highly recommend stocking up on Eject Buttons from the store, which lets you instantly leave a dungeon instead of having to run all the way back to the entrance.

Overworld Map Every node you pass through to your destination has a chance to trigger a random encounter, which is rather annoying for lengthy travels. New Game+ does let you disable random encounters though, which is the developer's passive admission that it is an annoying mechanic.

Characters

While the characters have some differences in how they play, there is little in the way of meaningful specialization and synergy. The only things that mechanically distinguish the characters are area of effect and elemental damage. The vast majority of enemies are more resistant to physical damage than elemental damage, and area of effect attacks let you be more damage efficient with your turns. Focus on those things, and you can handle everything.

NeptuneWeak elemental damage via normal attacks only and her area of effect skills are restricted to high levels. However, she has access to good wide-hitting weapons, which is good for building up EXE Gauge if you hit at least two enemies simultaneously with rush attacks. Her rush attacks hit many times, so she is good for building up EXE Gauge.
NoireDecent area of effect with her EXE Drive, which also inflicts debuffs. However, she has limited elemental damage and her weapons are lacking in attacks and area of effect. She also has poor rush attacks since they don't hit as many times as the others.
BlancHer EXE Drive hits in an area, but doesn't have Noire's debuffs. While she has some ice elemental skills, she has a low INT stat, so they do not do as much damage as her physical attacks. Her main use is for her damage resistance buffs, but they aren't really that useful considering that they cost turns to cast and will wear off after a few turns. In general, buffs would be more attractive if they were permanent for the battle and only countered by debuffs.
VertHas skills and an EXE Drive that hits in a line with wind elemental damage. She also has a useful area INT buff, which improves elemental damage for your party. Her weapons hit in a line in front of her, but it is harder to catch multiple enemies compared to the horizontal-hitting weapons of other characters because her character model gets in the way of the hit box edge.
NepgearHas a physical SP skill that hits in a line, but otherwise weak elemental damage via normal attacks only. Her weapons are weak in terms of number of attacks and area of effect, but she is an effective rusher.
UniA ranged attacker with mid to high level skills that hit in a line or area, but her normal attacks are weak as she often struggles to finish off enemies in a turn. She lacks elemental skills, but she has elemental normal attacks. However, she has a low INT stat, so her elemental damage isn't all that great and dilutes her overall damage. Her choice of weapons are flexible though as she can choose between a close range cone, a long range snipe, and a thin, penetrating line, although the line is more useful.
RomHer normal attacks and skills hit in a decent radius from a distance and are pure elemental attacks, although her SP skills are all ice, and her EXE Drive hits in a radius and inflicts debuffs. She pretty much wipes the floor with everything, although she is fragile due to low hit points and weak physical resistance. She also has healing skills, although she can only heal in a radius around her, which runs counter to the fact that she attacks from range. However, similar to the previous games, healing skills are mostly pointless in combat when you have healing items that anyone can use. You can cast healing skills outside of combat to top up your health before the next battle, and area healing skills heal everyone in the party with a single cast. Since her SP regenerates in combat, it is basically free healing that makes it better than using items outside of combat.
RamSimilar to Rom, but her normal attacks hit a small area, making her a bit less effective. Her healing skills are not as effective as Rom's, but they provide damage resistance buffs at the same time, so they are worth using.
UzumeNo elemental attacks whatsoever and only has an area attack at high levels. However, her SP skills hit many times, which are useful for specific boss battles where you can only use skills to build up the EXE Gauge. She also has decent rush attacks for building up EXE.
IFHas a variety of elemental skills with one hitting a decent radius. She also has wide-hitting weapons. However, she has weak damage resistance.
CompaShe has a couple of area of effect elemental skills and has higher stats than IF, but less flexible weapons. She also has healing skills, but items render them mostly pointless.
Adult NeptuneHas a few area skills, but lacks elemental attacks. She is mainly a fill-in character when you don't have access to the other characters.
B-Sha, K-Sha, C-Sha, and S-ShaB-Sha and S-Sha have some area of effect elemental damage. K-Sha and C-Sha are purely physical, but C-Sha has only single target attacks, making her the worst character. These characters are mostly fill-ins for the later chapter of the game, but they have the best rush attacks for building the EXE Gauge. B-Sha's normal attack hits in a large radius at a distance like Rom, so she is worthy of consideration as a dedicated rusher.

Since you can only have four active characters, I go with Neptune, Ram, Vert, and Rom as my end-game party. I put Vert in between Ram and Rom to make easy use of her area INT buff, especially since Vert typically moves first. Neptune isn't exactly optimal because of her lack of elemental damage, but she is the main character of the series. You won't have access to all of the characters at once until near the end of the game, and the story progression is set up so that everyone will get their spotlight. However, it is still a sub-optimal party system because there are so many characters that most of them end up sitting idle.

A new feature for the four CPUs is the Next Form, which is an additional transformation state after the HDD form. Each transformation costs one EXE point, so you will need to spend turns on rush attacks to fully transform the CPUs. You can only transform once per turn, but transforming does not cost your turn. SP skills while in Next Form have reduced SP cost, do more damage, and area of effects are larger. You also gain access to a special EXE Drive that does a massive amount of damage, but it sacrifices the character's transformation. If the enemy is strong enough to absorb the attack, you will have to spend turns building up the EXE Gauge to transform again.

Once you gain access to the Next Form, you will be deeply disappointed as it is no more effective against the very boss it was supposed to overpower as a deus ex machina power-up. It is best to switch back to the "weaker" Rom and Ram to do any actual damage since the boss is immune to physical damage until you break his cape, which is also immune to physical damage. The alternative is to make use of the CPUs' formation skills because they are mostly elemental attacks, but that means having to spend turns building up the EXE Gauge and making sure everyone is in position.

Shares in this game have been changed so that they act as a consumable energy source for the CPUs. They also have an effect in the earlier chapter as a part of unlocking the true ending. Transformation, use of certain SP skills and EXE Drives, and getting incapacitated consume shares. However, shares can only be recovered by completing guild quests, which means added busywork. Share usage can be reduced to almost free through the scout system, but I say "almost" because even with allegedly 100% reduction, it might on rare occasions use microscopic amounts. It also doesn't completely eliminate the incapacitation loss. But as long as you remember to allocate scouts to the dungeon you will be exploring, shares should not be an issue. However, some major battles where you might be inclined to use more powerful abilities take place outside of a dungeon, so you will have to do some share grinding to recover the loss.

Lily rank grinding

Similar to past games, you gain lily ranks between characters by doing battles. But unlike in past games, lily rank is gained between active characters rather than coupled characters, and characters can also gain lily ranks by supporting each other in battle. Lily ranks grant you access to passive bonuses that each character provides when coupled with an active character. Getting access to all of a character's bonuses will require going all the way up to rank 10, which is a major grind even when you stack on lily rank bonuses. You won't be able to do much lily rank grinding until the mid-game, but once you do, it is a good idea to start as soon as possible. You can even do guild quests as part of the process as the game will give you an opportunity to play with most of the characters. The best way to grind is as follows:

  1. Create a disc with the best lily rank chip you have.
  2. Rank up Nepgear and Compa by putting them in the active party and giving one of them, say Nepgear, the lily rank disc until they reach rank 5.
  3. Couple Nepgear and Compa to stack their lily rank passives, putting Nepgear in front because she has the disc.
  4. Rank up Nepgear with the other party members until they reach rank 5.
  5. Rank up a desired partner by coupling one of them with Nepgear and put the lily rank disc on the chosen character.

While lily rank is shared between two characters, lily rank bonuses from both characters do not stack and it only counts the character with the highest bonus. This is why there is no point using both Nepgear and Compa to rank up a couple. Start off with increasing the lily rank between Blanc and Ram because Blanc provides physical and elemental damage resistance that would go well with Ram's low physical resist and lower elemental resist than Rom. Uzume is a good partner for Rom due to her physical resistance, but you need to grind all the way to rank 10. S-Sha is a good character for Vert because of her regeneration and elemental defense. IF is a good partner for Neptune because IF provides increased critical hit chance (useful for skills since you cannot guarantee critical hits on them) and you can swap them if you need more elemental damage. Some of the characters can add stun on hit, but the chance is so small that it is not reliable. Some characters can nullify specific status effects, but such effects are very rare. Paralysis is the most debilitating, but as long as you have items to cure it when needed, it's not a major issue.

Party Coupling Neptune, IF, Ram, Blanc, Vert, S-Sha, Rom, Uzume This is the party setup I have settled on. Support requests give your characters improved stats and you can select either offense or defense support. Rom and Ram are fragile and do a lot of elemental damage, so defense support is better for them.

Scouts and hidden treasures

A new scout system replaces Stella's Dungeon from the previous games. From any town, you have the option to go into a scout interface that allows you to send out a number of scouts to any of the dungeons you have unlocked. Scouts spend the displayed amount of real time at a dungeon, ranging from several minutes to half an hour, after which they will report back to town to give you stuff. They may find credits, materials dropped by monsters in the dungeon, additional scouts, optional boss monsters, optional dungeons elsewhere, hidden treasure conditions, or come back with nothing at all. In addition, they provide passive bonuses to you if you visit the dungeon they are assigned to, such as increased experience points gained, so you should remember to allocate your scouts to where you will be exploring.

Unlike in the previous games, hidden treasures can only be found by scouts. Even then, you have to perform certain challenges to actually make the hidden treasure appear for you to pick up. These challenges include things like kill all enemies, pick up all regular treasures, or perform a number of consecutive symbol attacks (i.e. start battles by attacking enemies from behind) without being spotted. The consecutive symbol attacks is the hardest because there are a number of ways you can violate the condition and require you to start again. Being spotted at any time is one, accidentally running into enemies is another, and whiffing an attack will also nullify the sequence. The easiest way to do it is to find a small enemy who only sees in front and pauses regularly. Stay behind it, perform the symbol attack, flee the battle, then do it again, and it will count every time. It is harder to do on larger enemies because their hit boxes tend to be huge and unpredictable.

Each scout has stats that affect their ability to find stuff for you. You can level up your scouts using the rare Energymate items, with higher levels requiring more per level. However, some scouts do not improve as efficiently as others. Some scouts get improvements to most of their stats, but some do not improve at all. You are not given any information about what stats will improve before you spend the Energymates, so it is pure trial and error. You have to save scum and try everyone to see who gets the most benefit.

What exactly each stat does is not explained. Fortunately, someone else has done the testing and written a guide on this. When it comes to levelling up your scouts, you want improvements to HP, Judgment, and Action because there are only a limited number of new dungeons, monsters, and treasures to find, but scouts are useful in the long run to help you grind materials you need for guild quests and crafting. While you can manually grind for materials, I don't recommend it because the drop rates are awful for the effort spent even if you stack on drop rate bonuses. Trying to farm up materials to complete certain guild quests by manual grinding will take forever, so leave it up to scouts while you do more worthwhile things.

Generally, you want to have two scout groups. One has all of the passive bonuses you want for the dungeon you want to explore, and the other purely for grinding materials and finding treasures because they have only negative bonuses that will counteract the positive bonuses of your main group. However, there is no feature that lets you group scouts for easy selection, but you can select all idle scouts by holding down right on the d-pad, and you can recall all scouts sent to a specific dungeon. With this, it is possible to keep your groups separate by recalling scouts from one dungeon, mass selecting the recalled scouts, send them to another dungeon, and repeat for the other group. It's not the most user friendly system, but it works well enough. It is also better to not stretch your scouts too thin since the more scouts you have in one location, the higher the chance you will find what you need.

Scout system screen Managing scouts is busywork that gives you the false impression of productivity by automated multi-tasking because getting the materials you need is still a grind. Drop rates for manual grinding is low to compensate for this system, so you still need to use it.

Item development

The crafting system has been expanded from the previous games, except you won't be able to do much crafting until near the end of the game because so many things require materials that you can't get until then. There are a few things you craft early on with materials dropped by enemies or gathered by scouts. Once crafted, you can purchase any number of them in the store. However, you won't be able to unlock the vast majority of stuff by the end of the story. The development system is made for post-game grinding, as there are tons of things that require obscure materials that are not accessible throughout the most of the game. The game does not provide any reverse lookup feature on materials, so you need to manually browse the enemy bestiary to find who drops what you need.

When possible, I would recommend grinding the materials to develop the Forbidden Twig, which is a consumable item that respawns all defeated enemies instantly. This is useful for guild quests that require you to kill certain enemies a number of times, so you can save time by respawing them with Forbidden Twigs. You can also use them for lily rank grinding. The second area in the Lastation Golden Summit has a lot of enemies that spawn in a tight space, so you can kill and respawn them over and over again.

The disc development system is similar to the previous games, but it is still the same idea of crafting an equipment item with bonuses of your choice. To put it simply, you want physical or elemental damage resistance depending on a character's weakness, dark element resistance since it is fairly common, and SP regeneration to make SP skills cheaper to use. There are also secret combinations that give you an additional bonus, although you will need to look them up in a guide. Most of them are not worth it since they require chips that don't give you useful bonuses, which negates the extra bonus. Also, you can format a disc and try a new combination without sacrificing the installed chips, although you will have to format to upgrade your chips when you find better versions. It is a hassle since you will have to manually remake each disc you made earlier rather than have an auto-upgrade feature. Overall, it is not a balanced system due to the sheer number of low-utility chips that provide bonuses under very specific circumstances you likely won't bother caring about. It is just too much of a hassle to create different discs and swap them out just to resist specific elements.

Investment

The game also introduces an investment system. At each town, you can spend credits to upgrade three areas: commerce, industry, and public relations. Commerce gives you access to more items in the store, usually in the form of additional outfits for your characters, so it is not worthwhile early on. Industrial gives you access to more development options. But since you require rare materials to actually develop anything, it is not worthwhile until the end-game. Public relations gives you items or scouts, as well as increasing each nation's shares, so it is the best thing to invest in from the beginning.

Public relations also unlocks Nepstation events where you have an opportunity to gamble for a weapon and to do a quiz that tests you on certain details of the game, most notably details of the characters' physical appearances. Getting correct answers on the quizzes will reward you with items. If you get all questions correct for all town where you can invest in, you will be rewarded with one million credits, so it is a good idea to follow a guide for answers. However, you can only do this once per playthrough, so it is not the best way to farm credits.

Here's a tip: max out public relations for Uzume's Hideout when you are able to. This gives you access to a unique equipment set called, "Delphinus", where each part is worth fifty million credits. I recommend selling the shoulder piece while equipping the set on Rom, since the shoulder only adds strength and she is a pure magic user. This gives you all of the credits you need to max out investment everywhere and make credits a non-issue. Playing through the game on a New Game+ will let you get another set since investment is not retained.

Neplunker

There are two special platforming dungeons called Neplunker, which are based on the 1983 Spelunker game. These are the most frustrating parts of the game, although they are technically optional. Basically, you have to navigate an obstacle course of enemies and environmental hazards to reach the end of the levels to get unique treasures. You have a limited number of lives, you have limited time, and touching any hazard kills you. Entering into combat with enemies does not cost a life, but it incurs a time penalty regardless of whether you fight or flee. You can find power-ups that increase your movement speed to dangerous levels, give you more time, or give you an extra life.

There are a number of problems that makes these dungeons infuriating to play. There is a nonsense and inconsistent rule of dying if you fall from a higher ground to a lower ground, resulting in a lot of trial and error. Sometimes, you can fall a slight distance. Other times, you cannot even fall one centimetre, so even the bumps and inclines on the ground can unintuitively make or break a jump. There is the need for precision maneuvering, jumping, and positioning on platforms, but movement and camera controls lack precision, making it hard to be consistent. You have to test and practice what does and does not work for every section. If you lose all of your lives, you get a game over and have to load your game, so make sure to save before attempting it. You should also bring Eject Buttons to quickly leave the dungeon, especially after getting to an optional treasure behind a difficult obstacle.

The first dungeon is not too bad and the reward is a component needed to craft an item that lets you smash certain dungeon obstacles. However, you won't be able to actually craft it until near the end of the game due to other rare materials needed, so you can put off on doing it. The second dungeon is nasty because a jump in the third area cannot be made without the single use speed boost power-up from the previous area, which if expired, makes the area impossible to complete, especially when you die after making the jump and have to start from the beginning of the area. This means you have to beat it in one go, even though you need to practice the obstacles after the jump. It is better to do this dungeon on a New Game+ because you get a speed boost that will let you make the jump without the power-up, but you will have to toggle it on and off because the extra speed can screw up precision jumps. Then again, you don't need to do it at all unless you care about completion.

Controls

Keyboard and mouse controls are a horrendous mapping of gamepad controls. While you can point and click on the various user interface buttons, there is no mouse wheel support to scroll menus and the cursor is just the default Windows cursor. Mouse look is stuck on inverted axes and you have to hold down left-mouse to actually look around. It is a shame because keyboard and mouse controls are theoretically better for this game than gamepad. Navigating menus should be more efficient with a mouse. Selecting attacks is faster using the 1234 system I used in the previous games since you can use two or three fingers instead of just one thumb. Aiming the direction of your attacks is more precise with a mouse, making it easier to catch multiple enemies in one attack.

While the game lets you aim your attacks with the mouse, you can't do it with area of effect SP skills because you have to hold down the right-mouse button to adjust your aim, but the right-mouse is hard-bound to cancel. Instead of aiming, you just cancel out of the attack. You have to work around this by pre-aiming your character, then selecting the skill, but then you cannot adjust the aim if it is off. You have to use the keys that are mapped to the gamepad shoulder buttons to adjust your aim with SP skills, which is imprecise.

Ultimately, you are better off using a gamepad. But even with a gamepad, the controls are not optimal. Aiming the direction of your attack uses the shoulder buttons instead of the analog stick, which means it requires straining your fingers to micro-tap your aim. Movement and camera controls lack granularity and have a significant dead zone you cannot adjust, making it difficult to position yourself accurately for area of effect skills around your character or doing anything that requires precision, like Neplunker.

Grind and repetition

Similar to the past games, this game was designed for grinding. You are able to skip just about anything except loading screens. The ability to skip attack animations by just holding down the left trigger makes it easy to speed through repeat battles in seconds. It is an absolute godsend feature to save time on grinding and skipping the fancy skill animations that you have seen over and over again. Yet when you think about it, it is a feature designed to mitigate the inherently repetitive nature of the gameplay. The game stops being about the thrill of action and more about slogging through repeat encounters to get access to stuff. However, the grind is largely optional for completing the story and you will be able to gain access to most of the cosmetic items without too much work.

There are optional battles via the Colosseum and Senmuu Labyrinth for high level characters, but much of the game will be rendered obsolete due to your characters becoming overpowered. I also noticed that at very high levels, normal attacks do more total damage than skills. However, if the enemies have high enough damage resistance such as those in the Senmuu Labyrinth, then skills do more damage. The game shows you a lot of big numbers, but it is hard to tell whether differences in those numbers really do anything you should care about. A meaningful stat system is balanced around the number of hits to kill an enemy and the number of hits you can take before dying, usually in the form of damage and hit points being multiples of each other, but the calculations here are opaque. It is helpful to cover a character's weaknesses, such as Rom's and Ram's low physical defense, but beyond that, you don't have to worry about min-maxing.

Regardless, becoming overpowered is a problem intrinsic to linear progression systems. I mentioned this in my Re;Birth2 review, and I will say it again: relational progression is a better system than linear progression. Instead of just getting higher stats and more powerful abilities, you get more options to deal with a greater variety of enemies and situations, much like how in old-school shooters, new weapons let you better handle new enemies, but they don't replace the old weapons. Nothing goes to waste, but some enemies are simpler to deal with than others. Then, you mix up enemy compositions to test your ability to use all of the tools available to you.

Personally, I consider grind to be a sub-optimal method of giving a game longevity. It plays on the gambling mentality where if you just keep going, you will be rewarded, even though it was deliberately designed to be mind-numbingly long and repetitive to stretch thin the reward per time spent and make you spend a lot of time on the game for little benefit. You reach the highest level, then what? The gameplay doesn't change and there is nothing more to do. Linear progression cannot meaningfully go on forever and they throw off the balance depending on how much you grind or do optional stuff, which is why it is a dated system in need of a replacement.

Overall, this game is more broad than it is deep, having lots of disparate elements that don't add much beyond a statistical effect. However, it is still a satisfying game of watching cute characters be total badasses as the animations and visual effects are well done that I watch them again from time to time. It is a major part of what gives otherwise average gameplay enough charm to hold my attention.

Story Summary

Neptune is having a relaxing day in Planeptune, but then she stumbles upon an old, beat-up game console in a back alley that resembles a Sega Dreamcast. She takes it back home and shows it to Nepgear to see if she can fix it. They hear a strange voice coming from it, and upon pressing a button, the two get sucked into a dimensional rift.

Zero Dimension

They find themselves in a ruined, post-apocalyptic city with monsters roaming about. They encounter a girl named Uzume, who is fighting the monsters, so they help her out. Uzume explains that ever since the humans were wiped out, she encountered intelligent monsters who are unable to fight, so she is doing what she can to protect them. Uzume possesses CPU powers, but since there are no people to give her shares through their faith, she needs to use share crystals to transform, which are found in the environment. She also explains that she doesn't remember anything from before the destruction, only that she is the CPU of the nation they are in and a giant being called a Dark CPU is responsible for the destruction. Since there is currently no way for Neptune and Nepgear to return home, they decide to help Uzume fight the Dark CPU.

Nepgear finds corrupted message fragments that provide hints to what happened in this world, but she is not quite sure what to make of them. The party also meets Uzume's main contact with the friendly monsters, Umio. Uzume has an unusual ability to turn her imagination into reality when she enters into a delusional state. It is limited, but she can make convenient things happen. This helps the party power up by being able to absorb share energy from the faith of the monsters, allowing them to defeat the Dark CPU. At the same time, they encounter Arfoire, who appears to be the villain controlling the Dark CPU, but she flees after its defeat.

Umio discovers a hi-tech facility still in good condition, and since Nepgear is interested in technology, he takes the party to see the facility. After fiddling around, Nepgear manages to establish a communication line to home, so they are promptly contacted by Histoire. If they are able to fully repair and power up the transfer terminal, Histoire will be able to open a dimensional portal back home. However, Nepgear has second thoughts about leaving Uzume to fend for herself. After finding the needed components and repairing the terminal, they are interrupted by Arfoire, who is out for revenge using rampaging monsters. This is Neptune's and Nepgear's only chance of returning home, so they barricade the facility and rush to get the two through the teleport. But then, Nepgear jumps off at the last moment, teleporting only Neptune from Zero Dimension back home to Hyper Dimension.

Back home, Neptune discovers that Histoire has performed an action above her specifications and is burned out, so Neptune finds a way to fix her. In Zero Dimension, Uzume, Nepgear, and Umio escape the facility. They get ambushed by Arfoire, but then an adult version of Neptune appears to help the party. After defeating Arfoire, Adult Neptune seals Arfoire into her magical specimen book and they head over to the main settlement of the friendly monsters to catch a break. Adult Neptune comes from another dimension (the Ultra Dimension from Re;Birth3), and she can travel between dimensions using Croire, an AI similar to Histoire, but is more mischievous. However, Croire escaped from her book.

While in the specimen book, Arfoire manipulates the party into feeding her food each of them don't like, which gives her enough strength to break free of the specimen book and escape. They pursue Arfoire, but then find Croire conspiring with her because Croire finds conflict interesting and wants to stir things up. Croire powers up Arfoire, allowing Arfoire to summon another Dark CPU, but the party doesn't have the shares to fight it, so they flee. Arfoire merged with the Dark CPU and is slowly advancing towards the party's base. To defeat it, they set up an ambush, but Uzume's plan fails because Arfoire has enough power to cancel her share energy. They are contacted by Histoire, who has prepared a means of transferring share energy from Hyper Dimension to Zero Dimension as well as send Neptune over. In doing so, they are able to brute force Arfoire's power and defeat her. With this victory, Neptune and Nepgear return home.

Shift period

The CPU Shift Period is a time when people start looking for new CPUs to follow, so bad rumours about the current CPUs start circulating. Neptune suggests that the four nations hold a festival to improve their public relations. At the end, they hold a battle tournament. However, four challengers calling themselves the Gold Third (B-Sha, K-Sha, C-Sha, and S-Sha) appear and defeat the CPUs. With the CPUs weakened, an unknown villain from behind the scenes unleashes a power to rewrite people's memories so that the Gold Third have always ruled over the nations and no one remembers the CPUs.

The CPUs get teleported back to their home nations, so they call each other to figure out what happened. They notice golden towers have appeared and suspect they have something to do with this turn of events. Across all of the four nations, monsters are affected by a red fog turning them into delusionary monsters, and they threaten the local populace. The Gold Third turn out to be regular people who never intended the world to become like this. They are pawns who have been manipulated by a delusionary power, so each of the CPUs befriend their respective Gold Third member and break their link to the unknown villain's power to save them. The CPUs also discover that Arfoire survived and Adult Neptune is working with the enemy.

An organization called AffimaX appears to be pulling the strings, and they managed to steal the Dreamcast console Neptune found. Having captured and interrogated one of their members, the party finds out where AffimaX is based. As the CPUs infiltrate the AffimaX base, the Gold Third stop by at Planeptune because they are concerned the CPUs may be walking into a trap considering how powerful the enemy is to have changed history. Having experienced it first hand, they explain that the powers AffimaX wields are a form of negative share energy that can nullify the CPU's powers, so they devise a plan to counter it. The CPUs encounter the leader, Affimojas, who only did everything for money. However, the CPUs get defeated by his sword, which has a gem that nullifies share energy.

The Gold Third make their appearance and hand the CPUs a special share crystal that combines the power of the Gold Third with the share energy of the CPUs. On activating it, the CPUs are powered up, giving them their Next Form transformation. With this, they defeat Affimojas (by switching out the Next Form CPUs out in favour of Rom and Ram who can actually do damage). However, Affimojas gets consumed by a dark aura, but Neptune is able to use a special attack with share energy to destroy that aura and save Affimojas so that he can be apprehended. That delusionary power is also responsible for people not remembering the CPUs, so with its destruction, the world returns to normal.

Heart Dimension

The CPUs' victory is short lived as a giant dimensional hole has appeared. The CPUs investigate while their sisters stay behind in case something else happens. Inside, they find a horde of Zero Dimension monsters coming, so they hold them off. However, they encounter Uzume who is apparently leading the monsters. She summons a Dark CPU to capture the four CPUs, then vanishes shortly after Nepgear and Uni appear and saw what happened.

Nepgear and Uni report back, but Nepgear cannot believe Uzume would do this. Using the Dreamcast console, Histoire is able to open a gate to Zero Dimension for the four CPU Candidates to go and rescue their sisters. But before doing so, they enlist the former Gold Third members for help. Even though they don't have their Gold Third powers anymore, they are still capable fighters so they join (they still have their Gold Form for some reason). With everyone assembled, they proceed to Zero Dimension.

They check out Uzume's Hideout and find Uzume there. At first, they are suspicious of Uzume, but she acts like the same person she always was and doesn't understand what is happening, so they conclude that the Uzume who kidnapped the CPUs is an imposter. The friendly monsters spotted the Dark CPU and impostor heading to the northeast, so they decide to check it out. A dark version of Uzume shows up and tells them that she has Uzume's missing memories. She demands the Dreamcast console, but the party has no reason to give it to her since she appears to be the mastermind behind everything. They also realize that Zero Dimension is somehow moving through the multiverse and is on a collision course with Hyper Dimension, which will result in Hyper Dimension's destruction.

They pursue her and find her with Adult Neptune. The dark Uzume, later referred to as Kurome (which is a Japanese compounding of "kuro" and "Uzume", which literally means "dark Uzume"), summons a monster to distract the party while Adult Neptune opens a dimensional portal for Kurome and Adult Neptune to escape. However, after defeating the monster, the dimensional portal is still open, so they go in. They find themselves in the Heart Dimension, which is an empty space with a lot of floating debris, pieces of land, and a giant share crystal in the middle. Meanwhile, Kurome senses the party and realizes Adult Neptune deliberately left the portal open, so Kurome sends Arfoire to kill Adult Neptune while seizing the specimen book to utilize Croire's power.

Uzume, Nepgear, Uni, and Umio decide to do some reconnaissance and investigate a nearby dungeon. They find Adult Neptune fleeing from Arfoire, so they protect Adult Neptune and kill Arfoire. Adult Neptune says she ended up in Heart Dimension after searching for treasure with Croire and met Kurome, who gave her a quest to retrieve the Dreamcast console from Hyper Dimension. She had a hunch that Kurome was planning to use the console for nefarious purposes, so she decided to play double agent and make deliberate mistakes to impede Kurome and help the CPUs. She also reveals the location of where the kidnapped CPUs are held.

They investigate and find the kidnapped CPUs who being used to create Dark CPUs. Kurome appears and explains that the real Uzume was betrayed by her people who hated her for what she was. CPUs are born from share energy, created from people's wishes. But somehow, Uzume was not what the people wanted. People feared her power of delusion, so they sealed her away and created a new CPU to replace her. Uzume became vengeful and discovered that negative emotions became her power, so now she seeks to destroy the Hyper Dimension. She was a former CPU of Hyper Dimension's Planeptune, she manifested Zero and Heart Dimension out of her power of delusion, and she erased everyone's memories of her existence. However, a part of Uzume broke off and manifested as the good Uzume who wants to protect the world.

The party has no choice but to fight, but Kurome releases the four kidnapped CPUs who have been brainwashed by Kurome's power. However, Kurome isn't the only one capable of using the power of delusion. Uzume uses her own power to create a share crystal that breaks Kurome's power to save the CPUs. Kurome unleashes one of the newly created Dark CPUs and spawns a bunch of enemies to buy time and escape to Hyper Dimension. The party decides to split up, so the CPU Candidates go after Kurome, while the CPUs fight off the enemies.

The CPUs encounter Croire, who tells them that if they defeat Kurome, Zero Dimension and all of the friendly monsters will vanish. Uzume has a hard time coming to terms with her newly learned past, so she flees and the rest follow her. All she wanted was to grant everyone's dreams, which is the basis of her power of delusion, but people hated her. Umio studied the corrupted messages that Nepgear found, and came to the conclusion that Uzume voluntarily sealed herself to protect her people because her delusionary power went out of control. There were plenty of people who supported her and wanted the best for her, so Uzume accepts herself.

Since the sealed Uzume is overcome with negative energy, the CPUs believe they can avoid killing Uzume while saving Hyper Dimension by purifying the giant share crystal in the middle of Heart Dimension with share energy as Neptune did for Affimojas. However, nothing happens because there is just too much negative energy. Meanwhile, at the Hyper Dimension, Kurome is after the Dreamcast console to release the sealed Uzume. The CPU Candidates manage to foil her attempt to steal it because Neptune's strike did have an effect on her, so she flees back to Heart Dimension.

After everyone meets up, Kurome utilizes Croire's power to speed up the fusion of the dimensions. Kurome fuses herself along with the power of all of the Dark CPUs to create the ultimate Dark CPU. However, Uzume decides to leverage the power of the Heart Dimension share crystal, which is shared between her and Kurome, so if she uses its power, it will weaken both of them. After defeating Kurome, Kurome makes one final call for all of her monsters to charge towards Hyper Dimension. Uzume says the only solution is to destroy her share crystal, which would kill her and destroy Zero and Heart Dimension, so Nepgear and Neptune take on this burden. Afterwards, everyone evacuates to Hyper Dimension.

On the way back, Neptune decides that she wants to save Uzume, so she, Nepgear, and Adult Neptune go back for her while the rest of the CPUs return to their nations to prepare for the monsters. As the party escapes with Uzume, Uzume notices Kurome in the distance, so they pursue her. Kurome explains that as long as there are people with negative emotions she will be revived. But since the Heart Dimension share crystal was destroyed, the real Uzume died and the two are just ghosts. Both Kurome and Uzume use whatever energy they have left to fight. Afterwards, everyone else returns to Hyper Dimension.

Histoire notes the disappearance of Zero and Heart Dimension, but she mentions that people are now starting to remember Uzume. She proposes releasing Uzume's seal because there is a possibility she can be revived. However, because she has been tainted by negative energy, she cannot be certain whether Uzume will take on Kurome's or Uzume's personality. Everyone decides that they will take the risk. Inside the console, Uzume and Kurome fight to become the one who takes control. When the seal is broken, the Uzume everyone knows is back. Zero and Heart Dimension also reappeared to become independent dimensions (so you can continue playing).

Story Analysis

This is definitely the longest and best Neptunia story in the series. It is like a better version of Re;Birth3's story, since both stories are about an old CPU who was hated by her people, so she destroyed everything in revenge. Kurome's motivations are also more believable than Rei Ryghts' since Rei was just generically corrupted by power. However, the writers were on the right track in modelling corruption by having Rei advocating for human rights, hence her name, but they did not follow through on it.

The game is also longer than my summary implies because plenty of screen time is devoted to showing the characters' regular, light-hearted interactions with each other. The second chapter is split into four sub-chapters, each with their own sub-plots to develop each of the Gold Third characters, so I will reference events in those sub-chapters.

Capitalist unity

Megadimension is fundamentally a story about capitalists protecting their properties. The CPUs have an interest in protecting their people because their people are an extension of their ability to create the lifestyle they want for themselves. The idea of "Your happiness is my happiness" is economically rational because happy people produce the stuff that makes you happy. However, it is not absolute because some people do not give you what you want, which means you end up treating them unequally. Kurome said that as long as there are negative emotions in the world, she will be constantly revived, which means there are still unhappy people in a world ruled by these beautiful, altruistic CPUs. In other words, the CPUs cannot satisfy everyone and inequality is just a fact of life.

The CPUs derive their power from share energy, which is generated by their people's faith in them. The concept of shares is an analogue to the concept of market share, which refers to the level of competitive dominance of each producer in a market. As a consumer, you have limited time and money. You need to prioritize and make mutually exclusive decisions of who to buy from, so if you keep giving certain people money for their stuff, you clearly like what they do compared to the alternatives. As more people consistently choose certain things over others, it establishes each producer's market share through democratic vote by wallet. Furthermore, it is not just competition for the sake of competition, it efficiently manages scarce resources by ensuring that only those who produce the most valuable goods have the money to access the resources to produce more. If no one buys your stuff, you have no need to continue producing more, so you will not have the money to continue squandering precious resources to produce inferior products. However, the Neptunia series does not go this far to model shares and merely portrays shares as divine energy that creates a sense of unity.

While the combined faith of everyone gives the CPUs great power, it is not a solid argument for socialism. The primary reason for people to unify is to avoid an even worse outcome that affects everyone, such as total annihilation, not because unity is a desirable thing in itself. Different people want different things, so they cannot perpetually sacrifice their own interests for the group without becoming weary. Once the enemy is defeated, they naturally go their own separate ways to pursue their own separate interests that do not include everyone. There is nothing wrong with this sort of division because people should have the freedom to pursue their own interests, but socialists tend to start conflicts over it because inequality naturally emerges from it. They perceive the fact that some people are better than them as an attack on their dignity, so they feel justified in imposing some form of vindictive control over the successful.

The game makes it seem like having everyone together is a good thing, and from a gameplay standpoint, it is a good thing to have options and to bask in your collection of friends. However, it is only good for you as the player, not for the characters who are wasting their time fighting your battles and achieving your goals, especially the characters who are just sitting idle because you only have four active party slots. You only believe in eternal unity because you see people as pawns for your own benefit.

Socialist villainy

As a villain, Kurome is motivated by a socialist mentality. She sees the unequal outcome between herself and her people, she is angry at the relative privilege due to the fact she was born the way she is, and she believes she is justified in correcting this perceived injustice. The only thing missing is an idealistic vision for society where she thinks she can make society a bigger, more inclusive place for everyone, but in practice, would end up oppressing people because someone has to work and pay for everything, and it won't be her. Disappointingly, Kurome's motivation and plan are nothing more than pure vengeance against the world. She desires destruction with no end goal for herself, which holds back the depth of her villainy.

A deep portrayal of villainy is not dressing up in dark clothes, talking in a sinister voice, and having a mastermind plan to destroy the world for no reason. It is about exploring how a flawed human nature interacts with a fixed reality in a way that can turn an idealistic dream into a nightmare of hypocrisy due to ignorance and naivety. When the world gets taken over by Kurome, Blanc sees the licensing system imposed on Lowee to assign jobs to people as a bad thing, but no connection is made to an idealistic goal like enforcing equality according to socialist metrics and ensuring no one is left behind regardless of their actual contribution to society, which are consistent with Blanc's intent to create "a relaxed, magical, fairy-tale kind of land".

Oppressive systems are not created in a vacuum. They are the result of utter contempt for the outcomes that freedom produces, which naturally leads to a belief in controlling others to correct and prevent those outcomes. Socialists do not consider that unequal outcomes are not necessarily unjust, that the reason you are poor is most likely because you don't do anything people want on a regular basis. They do not realize that people making free choices forms a narrative of hierarchy because choosing one thing over another means you value that choice more than the alternatives. To eliminate hierarchy, you must eliminate choice, which is why socialism has historically evolved into the most brutal fascist regimes. It does not matter what people claim they represent or what they intend, it is what they end up doing by necessity to carry out their vision that determines what kind of people they actually are.

Blanc socialist Lowee Well, that was the kind of nation you said you were going to build. Then they came for you, and there was no one left to speak for you.

Morally clean war

While the CPUs seem like they enjoy fighting with their battle cries and victory poses, they are first and foremost fighting for a normal life of doing the things they enjoy. This is why they find every opportunity to slack off as well as avoid violence against their own people despite their people being brainwashed against them. However, Megadimension's portrayal of violent conflict is too morally convenient. Noire's sub-chapter has her somehow escaping the soldiers looking for her despite her going out of her way to help them against monsters and even after getting caught infiltrating the seat of government. The evil mercenary group in charge of Lastation wants Noire dead, so it is not clear why the soldiers didn't just shoot her when she played hero or when she was finally arrested by giving herself up. It is a convenient way for Noire to maintain a clean conscience despite being a leader of a nation who is supposed to know how to make the hard decisions. She is only able to play pacifist because her enemies are pathetic and cannot scratch her plot armour. Also, K-Sha somehow failed to kill Uni with a fully automatic machine pistol in close quarters despite being a trained mercenary and catching Uni by surprise.

Pacifism in war is dangerous because those you don't kill can be used against you later on, especially when you don't have a jail and the manpower to maintain them in enemy territory. You cannot be sure that enemies will so easily drop their loyalty to their own people and forget about the ideology they fight for just because you showed them mercy. In fact, it may be because of your moral arrogance that they fight against you, that they believe you represent two-faced people who humiliate and oppress while walking away like saints. They also know that if they survive and lose the war, they are not going to be let off the hook. Megadimension's portrayal is especially short-sighted because the CPUs are dealing with an enemy capable of thought control, so any pretense that the soldiers are just ordinary, moralizing people thrown out into the field without any psychological training and selection process is invalidated.

Killing in war is not about sadism, but about doing whatever it takes to survive and win because you have only one chance, so you cannot afford to deal with ifs and maybes. Less-lethal weapons are not reliable, morals do not stop bullets, every enemy soldier is a part of the reason the enemy leader is a threat to your people, you can be ratted out or shot in the back even by women and children, and there are no save games in real life. All you know is that if you kill them, they can't kill you. Ideally, there should be no wars and no need for hard decisions, but we don't live in an ideal world where people have no reason to be jealous of others and start conflicts over it.

A victim's horror

The events of the second chapter represent Kurome's feelings being imposed on the characters as a form of supernatural vengeance:

It is a common theme in horror stories where a haunting reflects the antagonist's revenge against the people and place that oppressed her. Ultimately, it is about communicating to the protagonist what happened in an indirect way because the antagonist's suffering was perpetrated and silenced by the people around her, so she can only communicate by making you feel the sheer horror of what she felt. Kurome is very much like a ghost haunting the world and wants to be set free, but the game makes minimal attempt to have horror elements. The Senmuu Labyrinth is slightly unsettling because it limits your vision in darkness, has hidden passages, and jams your map. However, there is no explanation for what the Senmuu Labyrinth is and it is a completely optional dungeon, which makes it wasted potential.

It is important to understand that inflicting your own suffering on others is not an example to be followed. Being a victim does not absolve you of moral responsibility to not lash out at people, nor does it mean you no longer have to develop yourself and contribute to society. In fact, developing yourself is the best way to forget about your past and put it behind you since dwelling on it is not going to change anything. Kurome does not care that her imprisonment was a moral necessity to protect society from her. She is laser-focused on the fact that people mistreated her for being something she did not choose. She is fixated on the past and completely clueless as to what to do with her life, so all she thinks about is revenge.

What should Kurome have done instead? Since she has the power to manifest an entire dimension, she could have created an actually decent place and allowed people to visit her. Turn your hellhole into something beautiful, show it to others, fight off the jealous barbarians, and everything will be alright. The only kind of people who will come knocking on your door to shut you down because they consider you a threat are socialists. They have no respect for private property and will try to seize control of your work or destroy it out of jealousy. That is what it truly means to be held down by others.

Also, it is not explained whether Uzume's power of delusion is under control and won't be a threat again. You can only assume it is, but how she did it is a plot hole. My guess is that her experience in Zero Dimension helped her mature. Umio explains that Uzume was not always the punk girl that she is. She used to be a super sweet, innocent girl who wouldn't hurt a fly. Only by fighting and surviving the harsh reality of Zero Dimension that she learned to act tough and gain self-discipline. However, she still slips back into her delusional state from time to time, so I doubt she is truly safe. I also find her delusional state to be an overused joke. If it is so embarrassing for her, why does she keep doing it? It is not even taken far enough to reveal something truly embarrassing to admit.

One-sided friendship

K-Sha's story arc is a prime example of socialist thinking. Noire is a scarce resource as a competent, altruistic, and pretty girl. However, Noire devotes her time to Uni, and K-Sha perceives this as an unfair allocation. Under the influence of Kurome, K-Sha perceives Uni as a privileged person for having Noire, so K-Sha feels the only way to get what she wants is to engage in a violent revolution to overthrow Uni and take Noire for herself. A yandere is basically a socialist upset at the current distribution of romantic partners and is deluded into thinking she deserves better. She lacks the self-awareness to recognize her own undesirability and her personal responsibility to become genuinely desirable. She has no empathy to consider that other people want different things and have interests that are separate from hers. She is so naive that she does not realize that her jealous violence will only push her away from the idealistic lifestyle she wanted.

K-Sha will never truly be Noire's best friend because she is only a side character who barely adds anything to the group, and I don't really see much personality synergy between the two. If Noire spends her time with K-Sha, her relationship with Uni, even Neptune will suffer. But let's say that Noire and K-Sha do become best friends. What will happen if another person obsessed with Noire comes along? And another? At what point will Noire have to say "No" and exclude people because she already has enough friends and just doesn't have enough time for everyone? The story does not entertain this possibility, but it is important to consider it if you look at Noire's altruism and think that makes her a model of socialism. You're not really engaging in socialism until you can no longer afford that frilly designer dress and are forced to sacrifice all of your time and energy for everyone. Under socialism, Noire would have to do everything for the weak, throw herself at every lonely man in Lastation, and give up on her dreams because otherwise, the weak would have to give up on their dreams, and they deserve priority because reasons.

Deus ex machina leaders

K-Sha describes Noire as an inherently good person because she is ignorant of decision-making in terms of economic incentive. Her perception of relationships is one-sided, only seeing Noire as a good actor being virtuous to faceless people rather than as someone who benefits from the work of her people and thus has an incentive to protect them. Even then, the CPUs are artificial people created through share energy. They reflect people's desire to be ruled by an altruistic superhuman who can solve all problems and create prosperity for everyone. CPUs are superior people by design, created out of weak people's wishes to be saved from their despair and have the things they are incapable of creating themselves.

In reality, it is all just wishful thinking. Why do you expect other people to spend their time and energy to save you when you will not do it for them? Why should you be saved when there are so many other people who are more worthy of saving than you? Why do you think sharing is other people's responsibility when it is your responsibility to create things to share? If there is a shortage of heroes, it is up to you to take the initiative to be one. If you can't, you are only demonstrating why the world doesn't run on heroes and why you must accept your suffering to avoid an even worse scenario of you becoming a villain.

Worshipping these CPUs and expecting them to save you is basically idolatry. They are not above reality, they are limited in their capacity, they have their own desires and ambitions, and they will let you down as they will never notice you, much less respond to your worthless thoughts and prayers as they fool around in their ivory towers. When you are fixated on such idols, you expect them to do everything for you and you don't develop yourself. It is only when you stop worshipping them and take the initiative to become a comparable hero on your own that they might take notice and reward you. Even in the high likelihood that they won't because someone else has already come before you, you still have to take responsibility to be the person others want to be noticed by. Otherwise, what else is there to do with your life?

The limit of altruism

Altruism only works because it is limited and voluntary. If you want more, you are responsible for earning it or helping to create more instead of imposing your subjective ideas about how much other people should be forced to give you. It is not sustainable to keep giving away stuff to those who do not have the capacity to return the favour, so it only makes sense to give priority to those who can pay for the amount they consume, prioritized according to who can pay the most, which is the basis of free market capitalism. It is because productive people take the initiative to do things and do it better than anyone else that they have their pick of wealth and friends, which is why there comes a point where the plebs have to be told to know their place.

Noire did tell K-Sha that her jealous affection was one-sided and not the kind of relationship she wants. But being the good CPU, she extends a helping hand and allows K-Sha to start over. However, in the ending, K-Sha spreads lies about her relationship with Noire, but it is done so in a comedic way to distract from the serious problem this represents in reality. The cost of being nice to the weak is having to put up with awful people who will suck away your time and energy. Remember, they are weak for a reason. They may seem normal on the surface, but cracks start to show when you look at the decisions they make or even fail to consider.

The more people you take in, the less you are able to help the next person who comes along, so altruism does run out and you will be back to a competitive market of chasing the people actually worth helping to the exclusion of the unworthy. When you have excess wealth, population will just increase until it is wiped out and you are back to a scarce state. Unconditional love is economically nonsense and constitutes a luxury belief pushed by those who are insulated from the cost of carrying it out, but it makes them look like they have the moral high ground. You, the player, can laugh at K-Sha's antics against Noire because you are not the one putting up with it, so you can afford to believe that accepting K-Sha was the right thing to do.

Noire and pervert who wants to sniff her hair It is amazing that these girls are secure enough to not live in fear for their virginity. Noire scolding K-Sha about selfish friendship Know your place, scrub! I pity all of those weak perverts who will never be reciprocated by their beautiful goddess. B-Sha personal responsibility Even if you have talent and parents' money, you will stay weak if you are not honest with yourself and do not work hard to bring out your talent. Stop relying on others and start working for yourself.

Hierarchy of characters

Exclusion is an inevitability and it is visible in the Neptunia series as a whole. Look what happened to the Oracles of Re;Birth2. With the exception of Histoire, they are gone now, only given a passing mention in the final Public Relations investment event for each nation. The Gold Third members will never be on the same level of friendship with the CPUs as the CPUs with each other and their sisters. They will never be major characters in future games because not even the writers have the time to figure out what to do with them when doing so would divert time away from focusing on the CPUs. Even Uzume only gets a cameo appearance in Cyberdimension Neptunia.

How convenient it is for writers to be able to just get rid of people they don't want despite being nice to them at first. If they don't want K-Sha to bother Noire any longer, they can just get rid of her and pretend she never existed. When writers have to rely on convenient circumstances to make infinitely altruistic characters work, you can see why such characters do not exist in real life. When you think they do, they turn out to have limits just like everyone else. You already have four CPUs and four sisters to write lines for, animate, and fit into the schedule of plot events, yet socialists expect you to write another four characters for the sake of inclusion. How about another four? And another? Where do you draw the line of saying this is too much work and dilutes the depth of each character? What if everyone is disinterested in the game because their favourite character doesn't get enough spotlight because of the diluted representation? What if you scrapped their favourite character in order to appease the socialists? You see, because resources are finite, socialism is not really about inclusion, but replacement.

Inclusion is not an absolute and is subject to boundaries and limits to avoid diluting the wealth. However, Megadimension does not portray this in a committed way. Despite her stern speech about mutual friendship, Noire just had to be inclusive of K-Sha to maintain an image of moral perfection, which means the story is written for idealists, not realists. It does not consider that exclusion is a moral necessity because inclusion has an opportunity cost of staying loyal to your existing group and being able to pursue your own goals. However, no one wants to admit to being exclusive because it creates a selfish image. We are bombarded with messages of unconditionally helping people and making everyone happy, but rarely do works of fiction test the limits of altruism, and Megadimension is no different.

In the fictional world, time and resources are completely at the whim of the writer. A character is only tired and frustrated at her responsibilities when the writer decides it. Her mistakes are not fatal because the writer gives her second chances and holds back her enemies. If the writer wants socialism to work, it will work without a solid explanation. If the writer plays it for laughs, it will be played for laughs with no real consequences. But once you look at the meta, and see characters disappeared and events retconned across the series, the dark side of writing reveals itself, like socialists censoring, imprisoning, and killing their opposition to enforce a society of equality and love.

It is ironic that a writer who presents an ideal world of saving everyone ends up being a tyrant silently culling the group of unnecessary, low-value characters. When you cannot be totally inclusive in fiction, why would you think it would work in real life where you cannot undo decisions at no cost? Inclusion is an ideology of treachery because it requires seeing people as disposable novelty items. In order to make room for the new, you must discard the old. The fact that the game only lets you use four active party members exemplifies why inclusion is fundamentally dishonest. You are not actually going to use everyone, and inactive characters do not gain lily ranks with anyone. Once you have established your inner circle, everyone else gets excluded by nature.

Delusional hate

Kurome's delusionary corruption works by showing her victims a dream of a perfect life they want, which creates a dissonance between the dream and reality, which leads to hate towards the perceived causes of not having that dream in reality. Each of the four kidnapped CPUs have an event showing their dreams created by Kurome's power.

When they are released from their captivity, they hate their sisters, or everyone else in the case of Vert. They talk normally at first, but then want to kill as if they were under a spell. They perceive their sisters as the reason they cannot pursue their dreams. Nepgear is smart and responsible compared to Neptune, which makes Neptune feel jealous that she cannot compete to earn people's respect. Uni is inexperienced and cannot handle the job of a CPU, so Noire has to continue being a leader and cannot pursue her dream career. Vert hates the world for not giving her a sister. Blanc has twin sisters created from share energy that could have gone into her breasts. Although, given that the people of Lowee wished for a child-like CPU, it is not clear why she continues to be so insecure about it.

The problem is that there is no reconciliation of dreams and reality. The brainwashed CPUs are restored just by beating them up and overpowering the negative energy with share energy. There is no coming to terms with their limitations, understanding and accepting reality for what it is, and coming up with realistic solutions. There is no realizing a success that differs from what they imagined, but still satisfying in its own way. Uzume's revelation resolves Kurome's hate and has her coming to terms with her past so she can move forward, but I would not say it is a robust way of explaining and resolving hate because it relies on hate being entirely irrational.

Hate as conflict of interest

Megadimension's model of hate does not consider the possibility of hate being justified because it is the target of hate who is being irrational. What if Uzume is guilty because she used her powers irresponsibly out of a desire to build a utopia she doesn't really understand? Afterall, Uzume reverts back to her childish state in the face of remembering her people's animosity towards her because she really is just a child, yet she was in charge of a nation. It would make sense that people would hate her for creating stupid policies that she thought was a good idea because of her ignorance. Kurome's desire to take revenge on everyone would make more sense in this context because they were deliberately preventing her from building her perfect society of love and happiness for everyone. They were apparently full of hate against her noble goals, so she would see them as evil and deserve to be destroyed.

It is incomplete to say that hate is caused by the difference between dreams and reality. It is not wrong to have a dream that differs from reality. Otherwise, people would have no goals in life and no imagination to create things. However, Megadimension portrays hate as a supernatural miasma that can take anyone over, implying that people should be protected from it by preventing exposure to it. It is an overly simplistic way of modelling hate, and it encourages a censorship/avoidance approach to dealing with it, which only aggravates hate because it does not address the underlying issue and is merely a self-righteous dismissal of opposition.

Hate is just a response to having your interests threatened. It spreads because a lot of people have similar interests and want to join the fight. It escalates because people refuse to compromise and resort to underhanded or forceful methods to accomplish their goals, driving people into a corner in which they may feel they have no choice but to resort to extreme retaliation. Resolving hate is about understanding the core of what people want and finding a compromise. People do not hate for the sake of hate, there is always a vision of paradise behind the hate. If you do not understand hate, you do not understand love because people hate in order to protect the things they love. The simplest solution is to let people have their own private space without prejudice to their interests as long as they do not infringe on other people's spaces. That is the basis of capitalism.

Vert make Leanbox great again Careful there, you might attract the ire of the globalists. Planeptune anti-immigration policy Hey! No leaning on the border wall! If we let you in, your people will just produce more babies and expect us to pay for it. Population has to be controlled somehow, and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! Nationalist Uzume choosing to stay in her broken nation Yeah! Fix your own country instead of moving into someone else's! If you won't fix it, who will? Uzume the dictator That's probably why your nation is in such a sorry state and why you will fail again. The quality of a nation reflects the quality of its people, especially its leaders.

The CPU cartel

Unlike in the previous games, shares are not zero-sum between the nations and quests only give shares, not redistribute them. There is no competition between the CPUs since they are all friends with each other, basically making them a cartel dominating Gamindustri. In the real world, it is quite possible for people to own all of the consoles because of console exclusive games, which is an anti-consumer practice because you have to spend additional money on the console just to play an exclusive game even though you already have hardware that technically has the rendering power to play it.

Megadimension makes it seem like having all of the CPUs together is a good thing because they can fight together and be friends, but the reality is that it all comes at the consumers' expense. This highlights the fact that free market capitalism is not perfect and creates inefficiency by nature of being decentralized. The PC platform is open due in large part to the centralized dominance of Microsoft's operating system as the standard foundation for the vast majority of software, not because there is a ton of competition producing nearly identical hardware and operating systems. The tech industry is built on layer after layer of different technologies, so there is value in some level of central planning to create standardized low-level infrastructure that allows easier competition in end-user software.

Meaningless quests

Quests barely have stories to them and exist solely for you as a checklist of things to kill or fetch at your leisure without regard to time constraints, opportunity costs, and competition by other adventurers. Even though there are human guild members like IF, quests are monopolized by the CPUs. There are a few quests in Neptune's sub-chapter that affect the ending and will disappear if you don't do them as soon as possible, but they affect the ending in a non sequitur way because they are just programming flags that enable you to see specific events. As long as you make sure to see all of the events before moving on and unlock the hidden events during the second chapter by checking for and doing quests as soon as possible, you should be able to get the true ending with little in the way of a believable cause and effect relationship.

While on the topic of endings, it is better to go for the normal ending first, then go for the true ending in a New Game+, which allows you to unlock all of the gallery images and achievements. In the final chapter, there are two routes you can choose: one following the CPU Candidates in stopping Kurome in Hyper Dimension, and the other following the CPUs to help Uzume resolve her past in the Heart Dimension. I recommend doing the Hyper Dimension route first, then Heart Dimension route in the New Game+. The route you choose doesn't affect the ending, but the true ending is all about Uzume, so taking the Heart Dimension route when going for the true ending gives you a smoother narrative.

Virtual infatuation

Keeping with the tradition at the end of the story, the characters go as far as directly addressing the player in a heartfelt "Thank you for playing" message. However, despite this game presenting you all of these pretty girls who acknowledge you while wearing nothing but bath towels, the whole thing ends up being an unintentional troll because you are never going to touch them in your life. They put on a show only because you paid money for them, not because they can actually see you and be genuinely interested in you for so intelligently guiding them in their adventures that the developers deliberately designed for you to think you are intelligently guiding them.

Even then, I don't find the bath towels all that attractive because their clothes are a major part of what distinguishes them. In fact, their clothes are more revealing than the towels. Bath towels are crude and exist only to censor, meaning they are ultimately an insult to the viewer. Fanservice sucks because it shows you a glimmer of hope only to snatch it away before you can reach it. The artists will never show you everything because you are not actually worthy. You can only watch these characters from afar, separated by the barrier of your screen. If you try to reach for them, you will only shatter the image and electrocute yourself.

On the bright side, since you are not going to get a comparable girlfriend anyways, this is the closest you are going to get. We create and indulge in these kinds of fantasies because real life sucks, especially for those who lack charisma and money. Even then, real women are influenced by the competitive economics of real life, so do not expect them to be as morally perfect as these fictional characters who were deliberately written like this to fulfill a desire for the ideal. The virtual world lets you experience a dream instead of nothing, to lose yourself in a tangible illusion where you can associate with the best and don't have to deal with the formalities and consequences of real life. It actually reduces the gap between dreams and reality, making you better off with virtual representations of nice things that are difficult to have and maintain in real life. It recognizes the reality that if you cannot get what you want, it is necessary to create it.

Picking a girl

Out of the CPUs, I would say Vert is closest to my style. I am into elegant aesthetics, but I also want a mature character. She is straightforward and secure about herself, making her a good long-term solution. I do think her breast flaunting and in-your-face posing are cringy, but it means she is direct and no nonsense. She is turned on by passionate masculinity, but it means you have to perform well or you might not be good enough for her. She dreams of wanting to be spoiled and treated like a kid, so you have to be quite proactive and dominant in the relationship, but it can lead to an abusive relationship if she expects you to do everything for her.

Noire has elegance, but her stern attitude can make her complicated to deal with. You have to be business-like and professional while knowing how to drop romantic cues. Because she dreams of being a pop idol, she has a tendency towards attention-seeking, but her reserved nature means she expects you to read her mind, so be prepared for relationship drama if you are not attentive enough. Also, her outfit is better off with full leggings than thigh-highs because her skirt is way too short.

Blanc and Neptune are just too immature for me, although Neptune transformed into Purple Heart makes her a decent, more humble alternative to Vert. However, CPUs cannot sustain their HDD form, so Neptune will just revert to her irresponsible, childish state. I suppose Neptune would be interested in a rebellious, bad-boy playmate. Blanc is a quiet reader and writer, so she is likely interested in intellectuals who focus on her sophistication rather than her underdeveloped body. However, proneness to anger is not a laughing matter in real life.

Regardless, the CPUs were created by their people for their people, so they must remain single in order to be fair to everyone. Even if they weren't, they are probably way out of your league anyways. You can like them, but they won't like you because you are not on their level of the social hierarchy. They are wealthy, charismatic heroes leading nations, you are just some socially awkward loser hiding in your room and being infatuated with virtual women. If they existed in real life, they would be going after wealthy, accomplished men who are actually worthy of being male protagonists, not you who is on the level of the background characters who want to molest them. When they won't give you what you want, you have to let them go and move on.

Vert not done justice

While I like Vert's aesthetic, I do see a problem with her writing. Vert's sub-chapter is the weakest as there isn't much in the way of layered plots and heroics compared to the others. You get a plot about Vert becoming a soldier for S-Sha, hunting a Demon King, and following orders with a hidden agenda. Much of her screen time is spent on mundane monologues and reporting to S-Sha because she has no friends until Nepgear comes along. Nepgear was sent by Neptune, who was concerned that Vert has no one to depend on in this time of crisis. Even then, Vert and Nepgear is a rather average pairing since they don't have any complementary personality traits or expertise.

Vert is supposed to be a hardcore gamer and internet poster, which would make her a natural shut-in. She has no sister and she doesn't interact with any of her people, yet somehow Noire is the one painted as the loner in the series. Even Noire's sub-chapter has her going out of her way to protect her people from monsters and gaining recognition. Vert only helps her people after they have been turned into pigs by the Demon King, but gathering the pigs was part of S-Sha's plot to sacrifice them to save her friend's soul who was merged into her body. Of course, it turned out to be big a misunderstanding and was ultimately a part of Kurome's plan.

Why not have a plot involving online interactions with anonymous informants, seeing disconnects between what is reported in the mainstream and what is actually happening, and following trails of information? It is mentioned at different points in the story that AffimaX spreads its misinformation online, which makes this a perfect opportunity for Vert to shine as an internet sleuth shattering the false media narrative. She could have led her people from behind her computer screen, showing off the power of the internet nerds to help discover and spread the truth. She could have beaten Affimojas at his own game of information warfare, but her sub-chapter fails to follow through on it. The given plot just makes Vert come off as the most boring CPU and a weak leader who doesn't have any meaningful relationship with her people.

Final words

It appears to me that the writers are overall left-leaning in their politics. Their portrayal of society and heroism is more idealistic than realistic, and they emphasize collective effort over individual skill, but they still believe in a minimum level of personal responsibility, individual uniqueness, and nationalism. It is important to discuss these things because it is easy to look at all of the nice things in stories and think society should be more like that without critically evaluating whether it is realistic. Stories can be vectors of political propaganda even if it is not the deliberate intent because a story reflects the opinions of the writer who naturally emphasizes the benefits and downplays the drawbacks of their world view to create an echo chamber that indoctrinates you into the magical, "save everyone" thinking of socialism.

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