HyperDimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (PS Vita) Review
Daniel Weinell / Sep 10th, 2014 No Comments
HyperDimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 has a fairly original setup as far as Japanese role-playing games go, but the implementation could have been better. The story is presented as an endless stream of dialogue with no cutscenes and the gameplay, while fun and dynamic, can be repetitive.
This is the fourth entry in the HyperDimension Neptunia series and is a direct remake of the first game that was originally released on the PlayStation 3. Though it is a remake, much of the dialogue has been rewritten and entirely new dialogue was recorded. Additionally, the battle system was completely overhauled to match the more intuitive system that was used in the sequels.
The Console War is Real
The game takes place in a world called Gamindustri. Four goddesses known as CPUs fight an endless battle known as The Console Wars. The story is a reference to the gaming industry itself and takes any opportunity it can to capitalize on that fact. For example, some of the enemies encountered include a green and yellow pipe named Plum-met, a small pixelated spaceship called Pixelvader, and a ghost named Mr. Clyde–clear references to Mario, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man.
Each land references a major game consoles; Lastation for PlayStation, Lowee for the Wii, and Leanbox for Xbox. The series main character, Neptune, is the goddess of Planeptune, this game’s version of Sega. To drive the point home further, Neptune is literally knocked out of the console wars and falls down to land in Gamindustri.
The game picks up shortly after Neptune has fallen and lost her memory. She begins a quest to help restore a talking tome named Histoire by collecting ancient keys. She is joined on her quest by two girls named Compa and IF, both of whom are references to the companies involved in making the game.
Characters are painfully cute at times, giving each other nicknames like Nep-Nep and Iffy. The voice acting makes this especially grating due to the high-pitched voices and repetitious phrases. It can be hard to differentiate between the voice actors, but thankfully the story plays out with the speaking character displayed on screen. For a game that is so dialogue heavy, it’s disappointing that there are no cutscenes. Any time characters are talking, one or two of them will appear on screen with a text box beneath them. On rare occasions, there will be a full screen action shot, but these tend to show off the hyper-sexualized anime character models engaged in some amount of sexual innuendo.
While the world has a great concept, the story itself is bogged down with long stretches of mostly irrelevant dialogue. The standout moments are when the game is aware of itself. The best example of this is when Neptune levels up and sings the victory song from the Final Fantasy series. Neptune’s memory loss is also a great source of comedy for the game as is her strange obsession with pudding.
There’s a Lot to Learn
The overworld gameplay feels a bit like an adventure game. Various characters can be found on the world map and when interacted with, will solicit some advice or offer up a useful item. However, the main story is very linear. An event icon will appear on the map telling players exactly where to go. In fact, the game holds players’ hands through much of the early sections. As long as seven hours into the game, new tutorial screens are still popping up. It makes it hard to gain any momentum when not all features are even accessible until late into the game.
There are a lot of sub-systems in Hyperdimension Neptunia, but with the right amount of patience, they can be rewarding to use. One of the coolest features is the remake system that allows players to literally change the rules of the game. In a very self-aware fashion, players can collect plans that alter some core aspect of the game. For example, entirely new dungeons can be added, harder monsters can be placed in levels, difficulty can be adjusted, and new items can be added to the store.
Combat is where this game really shines. Battles take place in a 3D space where each character acts in turn. Battles offer many options for players to choose from. There are three main types of basic attacks–one that breaks enemy shields, one that deals the most damage to health, and one that charges up an EXE drive. Once this drive is full, additional special attacks can be used, and later in the game, the drive can be consumed to unleash a very powerful special move.
The goddesses can also transform into a more powerful version of themselves to deal attacks with greater potency. Special attacks deal extra damage, buff allies, or heal characters. The combat system is standard affair as far as RPGs go, but HyperDimenion Neptunia combines those component parts to form a clean and solid combat system. As characters earn experience, they level up to become stronger and unlock new abilities.
That leads into one of the areas where the game falls short: the grind. At multiple points in the story, players are forced to face off against a monster that is too hard for them to handle. It is then that the story slows to a halt while players are forced to replay content, fighting monster after monster until they gain enough levels to beat the boss. This is the standard for RPGs, but in a game that divides its story into long chunks of text and offers very little in the way of true exploration, it becomes an especially tedious task.
HyperDimension Neptunia looks beautiful on the Vita. The frame rate is consistently smooth and the spell effects in combat are gorgeous. Character models look great and are especially appealing to anime aficionados. The world map is presented as a static drawing that looks great and each world has a distinct visual style to separate it from the rest. The soundtrack gives players non-specific video game nostalgia, but the voice acting can be a little obnoxious at times.
Overall, the game is fun and there is a lot to like, but the tedium of the grind combined with the presentation of the story make it a hard sell.
tags: HyperDimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 , Idea Factory , playstation , ps vita , review