Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is the best remake I have seen in a while. That is not to say this game is going to revolutionize the RPG genre since it still has problems. But the collaborative effort from Idea Factory International, Compile Heart, and Felistella turned a boring, run-of-the-mill Playstation 3 RPG into a solid gaming experience that is perfect for the Playstation Vita.
The game presents you with a parody of the ridiculous console supremacy argument that dates back to the beginning of the gaming industry. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and in a world where they still make game systems, Sega, are all represented here as nations engaged in an actual console war. Gamindustri is a land divided into four nations: Lastation, Leanbox, Lowee, and Planeptune. Each nation has a goddess that protects them: Noire, Blanc, Vert, and Neptune respectively. The goddesses fight both physically and for stocks, which are essentially fans. During one of the goddesses’ battles, a mysterious person convinces all the other goddesses to take out Neptune. This results in her falling from the sky and plummeting to the ground, causing Neptune to lose her memory. She is rescued by Compa, an aspiring nurse who partners up with Neptune to fight monsters running amok in Gamindustri. The two friends later meet IF, whose interest in the monster elimination leads her on the same path. A battle happens shortly after with the evil witch Arfoire, who makes it clear she has it out for Neptune. They are luckily saved by Histoire, a powerful and imprisoned being who needs the team to collect the Key Fragments so that she can be freed and restore Neptune’s memory.
I loved the game’s self-awareness vibe and how the characters acted like they were console fans on message boards, referencing everything from superior graphics to hardcores versus casuals. Re;Birth1 is in on the joke, however, the joke is not always funny. The characters are all incredibly one-dimensional and get old fast. Neptune is the determined hero, Compa is the supportive best friend, and IF is the hard headed, but caring warrior. I enjoyed the conversations between the characters, but felt like they got sidetracked about silly things too often and could never be taken seriously.
The original Hyperdimension Neptunia was plagued by an bland battle system. Re;Birth1 switches out this traditional turn-based battle system for a roamable battlefield in which characters move freely within a given radius to attack enemies in different ways. This change makes the game both more strategic and fun. Not only is positioning your characters important, but there is also a variety of attacks at your disposal. Basic attacks branch off into three different types: power, break, and rush. Power attacks deal huge damage and should be used in conjunction with the break attacks which allow you to break an enemy’s guard to do additional damage to them. Finally there is rush. This move doesn’t do a lot of damage, but quickly razes your exe meter.
Exe is brand new to Re;Birth1 and the game is better because of it. It provides more options to go about battling. Do you go for raw damage with break and power attacks? Or do you invest time in increasing your exe meter with rush? If you choose the latter, you will most frequently encounter what is known as an EX Finisher. At the end of a character’s turn, given they have enough exe, the face buttons turn into four moves of your choice that do a significant amount of damage. Later in the game, you are introduced to the equally welcome Exe Drive. When selected, an ultimate move will be performed that is both flashy and powerful. Exe is a great mechanic that adds both depth to combat and moves that are as entertaining to execute as they are to watch.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that this game still has regular RPG elements like using mana to perform special moves, using items, and defending in battle. Goddesses, however, are different and have a unique trick up their sleeves. Each goddess has a Hard Drive Divinity form, or HDD, giving them superhero-like powers and a cybernetic uniform. Neptune, for example, can transform into her alter-ego Purple Heart by sacrificing 20% of her maximum mana. It is incredibly satisfying after getting pummeled in a hard battle to change into a powerhouse and swat enemies like they were flies.
The best part about battles in Re;Birth1 is that they don’t waste your time. Moves are executed almost like they are happening in real time. There isn’t a long wait for the game to tell you that you are attacking or are being attacked as it understands that you already know. This allows combat to flow smoothly and feel engaging from start to finish.
Most of your time will take place in the game’s many dungeons. These act as you would assume, including navigating the area to find items and trying to get the jump on monsters. The dungeons look nice for the most part, but suffer from being undeniably linear. It quickly becomes apparent the game wants to funnel you down a path to progress the story or lead into a boss fight. While there might be slight deviations in the path, they will always lead back or to a dead end altogether. This makes the whole process rather monotonous. By the end of the dungeon, enemies feel unimportant and merely a way to gain experience and currency instead of a threat.
Another large change is the Remake System replacing the former Scout System. Here you can customize the game to your liking, changing the items that appear in a dungeon, synthesizing items to create new ones, and increasing the strength of monsters in a dungeons to name a few. The system is brilliant, allowing you to tailor the game to your liking. It also adds great replayability for previously visited dungeons for the opportunities to find new items or battle greater foes. In addition to the Remake System, new characters have been added to the game. These characters are oddly based on real world video game companies like CyperConnect2 and games like Tekken. Re;Birth1 also brings new music and voice acting to the remake to entice fans of the original to pick up the game a second time.
It is delightful to see a developer take feedback on a game and then fix the major problems with its design. A remake forHyperdimension Neptunia was definitely needed and I am happy to report that Re;Birth1 is a success. This is one to look into for fans of anime girls or someone looking for their RPG fix.Note: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 was reviewed on PlayStation Vita. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.