Although the original Hyperdimension Neptunia managed to garner a large enough fan base to receive sequels, spin-offs, an anime series, and even a few manga series. It accomplished this by having a memorable cast of characters, unique setting, and some of the best humor you can ask for in a JRPG. Unfortunately the first game also has aged poorly due to its gameplay mechanics so Idea Factory chose to revamp the game with not only updated gameplay but a number of other features in the form of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1. However were they successful in making the first game worth playing again?
The story of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is very similar to that of the original game though there are some notable differences here and there. I cannot go into further detail as it would spoil some aspects of the story, but for the most part the beginning remains the same. The story takes place in a world called Gamindustri where the world is protected by Goddesses.
These Goddesses are called CPUs and each one governs a certain region. White Heart rules Lowee, Black Heart governs Lastation, Green Heart protects Leanbox, and Purple Heart leads Planeptune. These four Goddesses are constantly in battle with one another over the Console Wars, trying to obtain the most Shares, the amount of belief their followers have in them, in order to become the true Goddess.
The battle has been deadlocked for quite some time, until a mysterious voice suggests that the group teams up to eliminate an opponent. After doing so, a young girl named Neptune falls from the sky and crashes into the ground where she is saved by a young nurse named Compa. Once she awakens, Neptune realizes that she can only remember her own name and nothing else.
In a journey to help Neptune recover her memory, it is revealed that not only have monsters begun to spawn across the land but faith in the CPUs has been on a constant decline. In an effort to learn about her past and track down the source of these events, Neptune, Compa, and a new ally named IF must travel to each region to learn the truth, encountering new allies and enemies in the process.
Those who are familiar with the Hyperdimension Neptunia series likely know what to expect as far as the story goes, as it is an almost always light-hearted, full of gaming parodies, and jokes. Even the most dramatic moments are broken up by Neptune not taking anything seriously. Of course the amount of pleasure someone will take from Neptunia’s brand of humor depends on if they enjoy the colorful cast of characters, but those who do will have a blast. One change that can be mentioned is that there are some guest characters from the original that have been removed and instead new ones such as Tekken have been put in their place.
Outside of the visual upgrade which we will talk about momentarily, the biggest changes to Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 come in the form of the game’s battle system and dungeons. Where the first game featured a different but overly complicated battle system, Re;Birth1 takes many of its features from Neptunia V. As players explore a dungeon, where they can now jump and search for hidden items with every character, they will encounter enemies on the field where they can be attacked ahead of time for an advantage in battle, called the “Symbol Attack” in the game.
Once players enter battle they will be limited to only three characters, but players can partner these three fighters up with allies who can be swapped in at full health at any time by sacrificing a turn. In these turn-based battles, each character will have the opportunity to move within her range of movement and also attack an enemy, preferably aiming to try and target more than one at a time.
Once the player begins attacking an enemy there are three different ways to unleash a combo. There are “Rush” attacks that do a small amount of damage but raise the player’s EXE Drive meter, Power strikes that deal large amounts of damage but are generally one hit, and Crush moves that do a medium amount of damage and serve to break through an enemy’s guard, allowing the player to deal extra damage if said guard is broken.
The aforementioned EXE Drive, once filled to a certain point, allows the player to make use of EX Combo Finishers to deal additional damage without reducing the gauge. There are also various SP skills that can be performed, uncomplicated item usage, HDD transformations for Neptune and other Goddesses, and powerful EXE Drive attacks that deal large amounts of damage with a cinematic flourish but deplete the EXE gauge.
Outside of the battles players will be spending time completing quests for the Guild and visiting the main cities on the World Map, this time without any limitations, and reading what is happening in Gamindustri. New to this version of the game are Plans that allow players to use ingredients to create items and equipment that will then be sold in store, as well as change various rules in the game to customize their experience, such as making enemies weaker/stronger etc. and the Disc Developer system that allows players to provide various buffs to characters.
One thing that players do have to be prepared to deal with is some grinding and frequent saving. There are many times where players will encounter a boss that, even with the best equipment at the time, can wreck your party. This isn’t helped by the fact that some bosses are fought twice in a row, with no recovery period forcing the player to fight back to back. This means that not only do players have to plan accordingly with recovery items, since Compa will have difficulty maintaining the team’s health on her own, but also grind levels so that they stand a chance.
Visuals & Audio
Usually when a game is taken from the PlayStation 3 and put out on the Vita, the game’s graphics take a small hit, but considering when the original was released and the advances made since then, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is a significant graphical improvement over the original. Not only do character models appear more detailed and more customizable than before, but the various enemies you encounter and environments are better detailed.
Everything looks incredibly sharp on the Vita’s screen and the various character portraits have been given a small but noticeable improvement by including small movement and more expressions. It is worth noting that there are some issues with the frame rate dropping, but this problem happens rarely enough that it is barley an issue.
Despite the shift in publishers, the English voice cast from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has returned to reprise their roles to great effect as each character has just as much charm as they originally did. For those who wish to choose the Japanese voice track, the option is also available from the get-go. The game’s background music works well considering the nature of the title and there are some very enjoyable battle themes mixed in with the standard offering.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 takes an old game that has fallen out of favor with fans, and probably should be avoided by newcomers, and revitalized it into a great JRPG. With improved graphics, a number of new and revamped gameplay mechanics, and a humorous storyline filled with game references and populated with a great cast of characters, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 offers a unique experience that works well on the Vita and will charm any RPG fan that has an open mind and a sense of humor.
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