Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1

Release Date
NA: 26th August 2014, EU: 27th August 2014
PlayStation Vita
Publisher / Developer
Idea Factory International / IDEA FACTORY, COMPILE HEART
ESRB Teen, PEGI 12

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a remake of the2010 PlayStation 3 title, centred around the battles of the four CPUgoddesses, each a personification of a game console. The Neptunia series has offered up several games, including a spin-off ‘Idol Simulation’ game Producing Perfection , which we reviewed a few months ago, and Neptunia has even had an anime adaptation.

The story will be remarkably familiar to anyone who’s played the original, largely because Re;Birth takes us back to basics with Neptune (Sega Neptune), Vert (Xbox 360), Noire (PlayStation 3) and Blanc (Wii) battling for superiority. However, darker forces are at work when the maleficent Arfoire arrives, stomping the CPU goddesses into the ground in order to take over the not-even-thinly-veiled-metaphor: Gameindustri. She accomplishes this by stealing precious shares from the goddesses, leaving them powerless and losing the support of their country’s people.

The story is identical but there’s been some nice extras included, which’ll keep hard-core fans suitably satiated. It’s a wacky tale, but it works, largely due to the fact that the game keeps its tongue in its cheek. The typical formula is as follows: Takedown a huge monster, eat pudding, talk about breasts, eat more pudding, moe overload, followed by yet more pudding. There’s no doubt that this game will turn certain players off as it squeezes in as many otaku culture references as possible, adding in every character troupe going and blending it all together, but it really works. The characters are a joy to spend time with, they’re charming, sweet and bonkers. They also sound great in both the Japanese and English language.

Sometimes a remake can seem rather superfluous, but fortunately not in this case. Why? Simply because of the gaping flaws in the original, which allowed us to enter a wonderfully colourful world, and then decided to syphon off all the fun with a gameplay structure that was so hands off it made you wish you were playing Final Fantasy XIII. Yeesh.

With the battle system no longer a mindless affair, it utilises the juicy bits from the sequels and delivers it succinctly into Re;Birth.Battles can become addictive; when you encounter a foe you’ll notice it has two bars, a red bar for their HP and a blue bar for their guard. With smaller enemies breaking their guard doesn’t matter much, as it doesn’t take much to destroy them. But when you’re going head to head with a vicious Dragon, you’ll need to be focusing on breaking their guard in order to take huge chunks out of their HP. The freedom to edit your attack commands and switch between multiple characters during battle means it’s a very diverse and overall satisfying system. The game gives you loads of great special attacks that can be used when you fill-up the EXE Drive Gauge. The gauge fills up by you attacking and receiving damage from enemies, giving you access to some really impressive EXE Drive Skills, which have your characters performing earth-shattering moves on your foes.

The enemies are fantastic, with multicoloured pipes nodding to Mario, slime-like creatures for DragonQuest fans and even a foe that appears as a screenshot, referencing a famous visual novel. All this is great, but there are some issues. The scenery can be quite plain and boring at times, with certain dungeons being almost identical to each other. Also, the difficulty can be quite sporadic, you’ll breeze through one area, while the next will have you beating your handheld into the carpet. This isn’t much of an issue overall, as levelling up can be done easily and even enjoyably thanks to the side quests, but it would’ve been nice for them to get progressively harder.

Side quests become available very early on in the game, giving you a little taste of freedom outside of the main story arc. Each CPUgoddess has their own island, which can be opportunistically liquefied into stock shares, this is where side quests play an important role. In order to beat back Arfoire and snatchback shares, you’ll need to take on quests. When those quests are successfully completed the player will get money, items, and a decent cut, restoring balance to Gameindustri. It’s a refreshing way to amalgamate the two playabilities together. They aren’t anything special in themselves; collect this item, kills these enemies. That said, it’s still a good feeling when you return from an ass-kicking session to see your shares rise and get loot, which you can then use to create new items, weapons and equipment thanks to the new plan system.

There is absolutely no doubt that Re;Birth is a huge improvement on the original, which was an utter mess. It remains a very niche title, but those who are well-versed in Otaku culture will find plenty to like. Battles are fast-paced and stupidly fun, and side quests are enjoyable, although simple. With a fully voiced cast in both Japanese and English, these colourful characters will put a smile on your face throughout the 30+ hours it takes to complete the game, although there is still plenty to be done after you've beaten the story. Nep-Nep has returned better than ever!
A wonderful battle system
Great localization and fantastic cast
Scenery is quite bland and repetitive