Hyperdimension Neptunia was originally released for the PlayStation 3 on February 15th, 2011. I was working at GameStop that very day, and I remember it clearly because I opened the shipping boxes that the special edition of the game came in. The games box artwork hooked me pretty quickly, but what really caught my interest was the fact that the game was a parody of the video games industry. As much as I wanted to play it, I didn’t get a PS3 for a few more years and never got around to it. But that doesn’t matter now, because the new and improved remake, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, is available now on the PlayStation Vita and holy crap, it’s awesome.
Re;Birth takes place in the world of Gameindustri, a wondrous land filled to bursting with video game references, puns, and really adorable characters. However, it is not a peaceful place, with terrifying (and sometimes adorable) monsters roaming the lands. Sitting atop the world are the four goddesses who reside over the world, all of which being locked in an endless conflict known as the Console Wars, battling far above the planet in a place called Celestia.
The heroine of the story is one of these goddesses, who is knocked out and falls from Celestia to the land of Planeptune. Now playing the clichéd role of the RPG hero with amnesia, she sets forth on a pretty insane adventure to recover her memories, make friends, make some horribly lame jokes, and eat copious amounts of pudding (yeah, she’s kind of crazy about pudding). Enough about that, let’s get to the gameplay.
Re;Birth has a few different elements of gameplay rolled into one, with cut scenes playing out like a visual novel, and battles that are a fast paced and addictive blend of turn based and real time action. The combat actually reminds me a lot of the fantastic battle system from Eternal Sonata. The game has a large over world map that can be easily explored by moving your cursor with the left stick, or by pressing the square button to bring up a quick list of all the places you can travel to, highlighting areas of importance.
Two really cool features that the game uses are the Remake and Plan systems, which allows players to collect and essentially craft weapons, items, and mods to tweak dungeons. You can even create new dungeons altogether, giving the game a great deal of replay value for completionists who want to see and do everything the game has to offer. The game is also packed with side quests that keep you moving from area to area so that even if you play through the same dungeon many times throughout the game you’ll never get bored of it.
With mods that add rare item drops and super strong enemies to dungeons you visited early on and never considered going back to, you’re able to change up any dungeon’s difficulty and contents on the fly, creating entirely new experiences. The Remake and Plan systems and the side quests actually go hand in hand, as completing the side quests will give you the materials you need to crafts new Plans, which can then help you get harder to find items for other side quests. I actually spent hours just going back through previous dungeons to run for more loot, and I loved every second of it.
At the same time, the tutorials that the game gives you for nearly all aspects of gameplay are mainly cluttered charts that can be a bit hard to read and may require multiple readings to understand completely. For example, using the Plan system and quests can be slightly confusing, mainly due to completing quests affecting something called Shares.
Shares are…well, kind of like a percentage showing how in tune the people of each of Gameindustri’s continents are with their particular goddess (Editor’s note: just like Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection). Depending on how high or low these percentages are, certain characters can become stronger or weaker, but this, as far as I can tell, is never fully explained.
Moving onto the battle system, Re;Birth combines turn based combat with real time fighting to create addictive and deep combat that had me looking for more enemies to fight. When you see monsters in the dungeons you explore, you have a chance to attack enemies and gain the first turn in battle by swinging your weapon at them. This opportunity is called a Symbol attack…for some reason. If you fail to gain the advantage and the enemy attacks you first, you will go second.
Battle takes place in a circular arena, where your characters have limited movement distance each turn, so setting up where they’ll stand in order to attack enemies or heal allies is very important. As your characters level up and gain new abilities, they will also gain Cost Points, or CP, to allocate abilities to the four face buttons. Each character that joins you has different special abilities, and there a real sense of strategy to experimenting with their individual CP to find combinations that work well against different types of enemies, or many enemies at once.
You can also unlock awesome finisher moves called EX Finishers, which top off your combos with flashy abilities that can deal huge amounts of damage. EX Finishers can be used in battle by attacking enemies to fill your teams EX bar, and once it fills to the corresponding level of the EX Finisher you want to use, you can use it freely from battle to battle until you leave the current dungeon.
Certain characters, such as the games heroine, can transform into an extremely powerful Goddess form, which can really help in a tough situation. The Goddess forms even have their own equipment that you can change in order to alter their appearance and make them even more powerful, as well as creating Game discs that can make the cost of transforming even less, all while adding more buffs to enhance them even further.
The art in the game ranges from bland, silly, and finally beautiful, with the over world map as well as portraits of the locations you visit looking fantastic on the original Vita systems OLED, while still looking great on the new Vita slim model. Character models are well done too, with new equipment changing the way your characters look, which is a huge plus in my book. Almost every enemy in the game can be linked as a reference to something in the games industry, and it’s actually pretty fun to try and figure out where you’ve seen them before, with my favorite enemy being the “Purr 4”, a PlayStation 4 console crossed with a cat.
Other enemies can seem a bit lame, but I feel like the game wouldn’t be as good without them. There’s also a good amount of fan service thrown into the mix, because every game is just better with it. It actually surprised me the first time I saw it, because I didn’t expect it at all, but I was happy that yet another game for the Vita showed sexual content, even if it wasn’t too explicit.
When the original Hyperdimension Neptunia came out, I remember hearing that a big gripe was the music in the game, with some of my friends saying it was bland and kind of annoying. As I stated previously that I have never played the original game, I do not know if the music has changed at all from then, but I actually hum along to some of the tracks, and always kept the volume on my Vita all the way up.
One thing that made me almost cry tears of joy however, was that you can switch off the abysmal English voice acting for the original Japanese voice work, which is fantastic because if I had to listen to the English voices any longer, I’m positive my ears would’ve started bleeding. There are even little references to games in the voice acting, with characters humming the level up fanfare from Final Fantasy for example. This always put a smile on my face, and I hoped to hear it every time I leveled up.
All in all, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a great addition to your Vita game collection. With a crazy plot, deep customization, and an addictive battle system, this is one you really will get every pennies worth out of and more. Although some of the game can be a bit confusing with the tutorials boiling down to being little more than cluttered charts, once you get the hang of the games many features and options you’ll have a blast.
The Remake and Plan systems are awesome, and raise the already high replay ability level even higher. The story, while being very silly, is filled with nostalgic and modern references to video games and the gaming industry. I can honestly say there wasn’t one moment that I ever thought about skipping the games dialogue scenes. They’re just so entertaining, and I can’t help but smile when one of the characters makes an awesome reference to a game I haven’t played in a while, or maybe have forgotten altogether. I’ll go as far as to call this game a must buy, because I know I’ll be playing this game for a long time to come.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 was reviewed on using a code provided by Idea Factory International. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.