By most accounts, the original Hyperdimension Neptunia was in need of a makeover. While sequels mk2 and Victory improved upon the 2011 original’s flaws, developer Felistella was busy remaking the combat system, rewriting the story, and improving the graphics and music. The end result is Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, a game that gone through more tangible change than Lil Kim.
The Four Goddesses start by finding themselves locked in a seemingly never-ending battle, called the Console Wars, for rule over their world, Gamindustri. No one can gain the upper hand until they all agree to gang up on Re;Birth1’s hero, Purple Heart. As Purple Heart falls down into Planeptune (her territory), she transforms from the CPU form Purple Heart into the more normal Neptune and once discovered, comes to the conclusion that she’s lost her memory.
Amnesia is a frequently used cliché for many protagonists across every form of media, and Neptune agrees with you. When she’s not too busy enjoying generous helpings of delicious pudding, she’s breaking the fourth wall to acknowledge clichés, remind players the story has been rewritten, and complaining that she’s not getting enough shine as the main character of the game. Re;Birth1’s writing is as quirky and charismatic as its main character, and clever dialogue between characters will make you laugh audibly at how ridiculous they can be.
It’s good that the rewritten story contains so much witty banter because the actual plot is paper thin. It essentially boils down to trying to get Neptune’s memory back and saving the world. You can dig as deep as you want into the metaphors Hyperdimension Neptunia presents, though. Each of the four CPUs (Goddesses) command their own lands and they represent different seventh generation consoles. Once you figure out which is which, you can derive additional layers of humor from their chatter.
Having never played or seen the original PS3 version in person, I’m unable to compare the dialogue and graphics changes, so I’m taking publisher Idea Factory International’s word for it. Re;Birth1 is not going to blow anyone away with its visuals, remade or not. The soundtrack was reworked as well, but I am not a fan of many of the tracks in Re;Birth1. I found the music that plays while on the world map especially grating and had to turn the BGM volume way down. Re;Birth1 has decent voice acting, but it suffers from Ni no Kuni-itis; some dialogue is voiced, some is not and it’s hard to tell when you’re going to get it.
The original’s method of travel has been completely scrapped in favor of a point-and-click world map system. Players can visit each of the four territories when they become available to bring up a menu for shopping, side quests, and a few other options. Dungeons are made available as the story proceeds, and players can now use “Plans” to unlock additional dungeons and customize their experience. “Plans”, added in for the remake, are essentially a crafting system for weapons, items, and dungeons. If the player has the right items, they can toggle items appearing in dungeons and make enemies stronger or weaker, amongst other things. It’s a clever, simple system that gives the player some control over an otherwise rigid setup.
Once inside a dungeon, the player can move in an open map space to find items and face enemies that are wandering the map. Re;Birth1 is kind enough to give very strong enemies a slightly different icon on the mini-map so players don’t run into enemies they’re not strong enough to face. These strong enemies also will not pursue you, so encountering them is usually intentional – I encountered a few by wandering into their path and was quickly met with a Game Over screen (which is easy to find yourself looking at, so save often). Strong enemies aside, Re;Birth1 is more difficult than its colorful art and ditzy characters would lead you to believe. I found that I had to grind out a couple levels before any boss fight to stand a chance.
Combat has seen a major overhaul for the remake. Battles are still fought with a three-person party and enemies have HP and GP (Guard Points). Once an enemy’s guard is broken, they receive much more damage than normal. The player’s normal attacks are now divided between Power, Rush, and Break. Power attacks deal the most damage, Break attacks deal less HP damage but more GP damage, and Rush attacks deal little damage but will up the player’s EXE Drive Gauge faster. Filling up the EXE Drive Gauge allows players to use EXE Finishers and EXE Drive attacks. Finishers add an additional attack to the end of the normal four-piece combo, while EXE Drives are special attacks that use up the EXE Drive Gauge to deal massive, Final Fantasy VII Omnislash-type damage. The Four Goddesses can also spend 20% of their max MP to transform into their more powerful CPU forms to boost their stats. It may seem like a lot, but it’s all explained well and easy to get the hang of – a refreshing change from the original’s unbearably complex systems (I watched some videos).
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is a perfect example of a remake that’s actually remade and the relatively small area maps make it a great option for quick gaming sessions on the Vita. The soundtrack is a bit rough, but the witty writing and improved gameplay (and in-game volume sliders) make this a journey worth taking. Be a hero; help Nep-Nep put a stop to the Console Wars and save Gamindustri.
Available on Playstation Vita
Pub: Idea Factory International
Buy: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (Amazon)
Full disclosure: Approximately 42 hours were spent playing this game to completion.