Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 Review

(Image: http://diehardgamefan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ReBirth_1_Coverart1.jpg)

For those who don’t know what Hyperdimension Neptunia is, it is a series of JRPGs with sort of a visual-novel aspect, that focuses on being a giant parody of video games in general. The majority of characters in these games are named after Japanese gaming companies or consoles, or gaming terms and jargon. The world is called Gamindustri and the 4 nations that reside in this world all refers to the 3 main consoles: Lastation (Playstation), Lowee (Wii), and Leanbox (Xbox). The odd nation out, Planeptune, sort of refers to Sega though as 2 characters: Neptune and Nepgear, are both named after Sega consoles. There are plenty of references and parodies of video games in this series such as Mario, Metal Gear and Pacman. As it is a JRPG it also has factors that you would expect in many other JRPGs such as fanservice, recycled assets (repeatable dungeon layout, repeatable enemies with different colours / palette swaps), and a “supposedly” deep and intricate storyline.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is the remake or “rebirth” (get it?) of the original Hyperdimension Neptunia that was originally released on the PS3 back in 2010. Re;Birth 1 was developed by Felistella and published by Compile Heart. Idea Factory was the distributor for Japan and Idea Factory International was responsible for the localization.
The original game was not well-received by both gamers and professionals due to its unpolished gameplay, graphics and frame-rate issues, lots of recycled assets (eg: repeating dungeons), music, and use of fanservice. Despite all these cons, it managed to sell and gain enough popularity to warrant a 2nd (mk2) and 3rd (Victory) game of the series (and eventually a 4th coming onto the PS4), a few spinoffs, several manga and light novels, and an anime adapation.
Rebirth 1 fixes ALOT of problems the original had by providing updated graphics, fixing frame rate issues (it’s still there but not as noticeable), story-telling (more character events, new scenes) and gameplay, by using and recycling assets from the previous released games (mk2 and Victory). As such, for those who have played these games before will realize that fact. However the game also has some new stuff including new music, more in-game cutscenes and slightly new game features.
LONG REVIEW AHEAD!!

Story
Rebirth 1 starts off the same as the original: A great war called the Console Wars has erupted in the land of Celestia. Our 4 goddesses (known as CPUs) are duking it out realizing that the war could go on forever as they are all equal in power. A mysterious entity suggests to focus their target onto 1 goddess to spice things up and the target… is our protagonist Neptune / Purple Heart. As a result of losing the fight, she is banished from the group and is sent down from Celestia to the actual world of Gamindustri where she gets amnesia. She does learn that a mysterious being named Histoire is trapped somewhere and needs to be unsealed from her tome. Neptune eventually meets up with Compa and IF, our 2 deuteragonists who agrees to help her out. With their help Neptune hopes to find her memories back, free Histoire and ultimately save Gamindustri (although she doesn’t realize this until later on in the game)
The game does shift away from the original storyline, adding in new events in-between, introducing the other goddesses earlier than usual and them being more involved. There are also new characters introduced in Rebirth 1.

While I love the idea of Gamindustri and the nations portrayed after the consoles, I personally did not enjoy the storyline from the original because I felt it was slow and not much happened in-between events. Although that could have been because I ignored the majority of their sidequests and events, and just focused on the main story events. I’m hoping in this Rebirth that I will get to enjoy more of the storyline this time by looking out for these extra events.


(Image: http://www.tech-gaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Hyperdimension-Neptunia-ReBirth1-QA-6.jpg)

 

The majority of the story and dialogue is told in a visual novel-esque format, in which the game or the characters on screen describes what is happening rather than using in-game models or cutscenes. There are a few in-game cutscenes though, for the more important events and rather using the traditional 2D anime-style cutscene, Rebirth 1 uses in-game models instead but with a emphasis on visual effects.
Fanservice is present in this game, and is common between the games in this series. Some of it comes from the amount of bare skin the CPUs show when they are transformed, some comes from their chest area and there are a few event images that can be classified as fanservice. And to add the extra tip, there’s also animation in some of them. Guess which part of the girls’ body they decide to animate?

Gameplay
Rebirth 1 is a console-type JRPG. As such it has features seen in other RPGs, as well as attributes unique to the game and series:
– In this game you don’t get to explore towns or on the world map, only dungeons. The world map and towns are done via menu selection. You can shop, take on quests, create new discs, and talk to various NPCs for advice and new items.
– Discs are sort of like an customizable accessory. By collecting chips, you can add and change various abilities into these discs that makes your characters stronger such as regeneration, more exp or money, and reduced damage against certain types of monsters. Certain combinations will make a more powerful disc while other combos will make a bad disc with low or negative effects.
– Sidequests affect the “shares” gained and loss by the various nations. These shares affect the CPUs‘ stats in battle and possibly affect the endings(?) you can get.
– A “remake” system is implemented in this game. By collecting “plans” and gathering the right materials you can synthesize new items, find new optional dungeons and change various factors of each dungeon including new monsters, items and extra gold / exp.

The remake system is similar to Victory’s “Scouting” system but much more simplified. I like this changed system as it can promote exploration (chance to find new items and to level up your characters), can provide new challenges and sidequests, and create a higher difficulty in certain dungeons. Of course these are all optional and you are free to just focus on the story events, but it is highly recommended to do these if possible as boss battles are a HUGE difficulty spike compared to regular battles.


(Image: http://www.hardcoregamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/rebirth1_screen_eng32.jpg)

In terms of battles, Rebirth uses a turn-based system that looks simple but has a number of features:
– 3 characters in a party, with 3 more as back-up / support. The supporting characters provide the party characters some passive bonuses and able to help out in battle as well.
– Each character can move in a limited area per turn. This means you can be a little strategic as to what you can do during your turn such as moving your characters up close and focus on 1 or 2 enemies at a time or you can set 1 character to the back and use them as the healer / item user. Depending on the situation you have to consider what you should do or should not do in order to win.
– The EXE Drive gauge determines which ultimate abilities (called EXE Drives) can be used for each character. The higher the number the more powerful, and higher requirement for that EXE Drive. These abilities consume the gauge. The gauge also affects combo finishers called EX Finishers. Again in a similar fashion the higher the number, the more powerful and higher requirement for that Finisher. Unlike Drives, these do not consume the gauge.
– Aside from special abilities and EXE Drives, each character also has 3 types of normal attacks called Rush, Power and Break, and EX Finishers.
* Rush types are the weakest of the 3 but has a high combo count. A high combo count on the same target increases the EXE gauge faster than the other 2, and also increases the amplification of damage the target receives.
* Power types, hence the name, are powerful attacks but with a low combo count.
* Break types focuses more on depleting the target’s GP (Guard Points which is the blue colour bar) rather than dealing direct damage. They are balanced in terms of actual power and combo count.
* EX Finishers are basically combo finishers. After the character has used their normal attacks, if the EXE gauge has filled up they will gain the ability to use an EX Finisher as their final attack before ending their turn.
– Certain characters can transform during battle. This provides them bonus stats depending on the parts they have equipped. While in this form, certain animations are changed and may also have slightly altered abilities and EXE Drives.

Battles are often fast-paced but for the most part are also easy. There are lots of difficulty spikes during the game so it can catch you off guard, especially when it comes to boss-type battles. I personally like this turn-based system as it also feels a bit like it’s in real-time. And it’s fun to watch each character slicing and smashing the crap out of their enemies in style.

Music, Sound, etc.
As mentioned, the majority of music is the same or slightly remixed from previous instalments so it’s all the same if someone has played them before. However there are some new pieces specifically for this game and some of the music overall gives off the fact that you are playing a game, and it feels like you’re playing a game. There’s some 16 bit and 32-bit music, some old-style techno and rock, steampunk, and also the typical dungeon music that sounds bland overall but you know it works. To further focus on that fact, there are some classic retro sound effects you’ll hear like from arcade games or old NES / Gameboy games for example.
The voicing in this game is quite inconsistent. The thing is, it is the same cast from the previous games, but at times you hear voices that sounds off-tone or does not belong to that character. They also added quotes that often do not make sense for that character. It’s overall very questionable as to the direction of voicing Idea Factory decide to go for. As usual, dual voice option is available… and the Japanese voices at least sound more consistent and more natural to their characters.

The music in these games are never great or special; always been average in my opinion. This game is no exception. While they do give that “game-y” feel, I never had a favourite track or two but there are some pieces that are enjoyable to listen to though.
I loved the English voicing direction from the previous instalments of the games but in this game, not as much because some of the characters do not sound like as they were before. It feels a bit forced for some of them and the dialogue / quotes, while they can be consistent and funny, can be cringe-worthy… especially when paired up with that fact about the voices. Despite this though, I still do enjoy the voices in this game… just not as much as before.

Conclusion
Personally I am enjoying Re;Birth quite a lot. It looks good, has some nice visuals, a good battle system (despite the difficulty spikes), fun characters (despite the problems mentioned), and some nice humour thanks to the many references and parodies. There’s a lot of things that doesn’t make the game an AAA title but as a niche JRPG, it’s good enough: For the more adventurous JRPG players or those who don’t mind fanservice in such games or anime. I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10.


(Image: http://gematsu.com)

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One thought on “Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 Review

  1. The Otaku Judge September 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm Reply

    A vast improvement on the original. The difficulty is okay once you unlock the overpowered EXE attacks.

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