Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 Review

By Shawn Collier on September 10, 2014

The original Hyperdimension Neptunia on the PS3 was a bit of a mixed-bag, with an interesting story parodying many of the gaming tropes of the day but with gameplay mechanics that were either unrefined or just annoying for the player to wade through. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 isn't just the game ported to the PlayStation Vita, though. As its name implies, it is a "rebirth" of the original using Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory's gameplay engine and mechanics as a base along with a revised storyline. Is that enough to get people to erase the original release's lackluster memories? To a certain extent, yes.

The overall narrative is a giant parody of video games, with landmasses named things such as Lastation (PlayStation), Leanbox (Xbox) and Lowee (Wii). The overall world that envelopes all of these areas is known as Gameindustri --- just to drive that point home for anyone who didn't recognize it. Each region has its own goddess. The main character you play as, Neptune, hails from the Planetplune region and after a battle with the other goddesses is overcome with amnesia and becomes somewhat of a ditz. There's an overall storyline about a malevolent entity that's trying to take over the world, but the game for the most part tends to play up Neptune's amnesia for comedic results. All in all, you're looking for more character interaction here than a meaty storyline. There is an option to skip past all of the dialogue and get back to the gameplay if you wish, also.

A small note, but as I had stated in my Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory review, this series is known for being a little bit over the top sexually in certain instances. The goddesses' "normal" forms are essentially teenage girls with their "HDD" forms being adult-age busty females. Thankfully, the game doesn't go as far as Victory did with some of its scenes, but it's still not a game you would want to play with people around and instead in the comfort of your own house.

Getting back to the game mechanics, the battle system is exceptionally similar to what was in Victory, except with three characters only. It's a turn-based system where can move your party members to strategic locations to deal better damage and take advantage of the stat bonuses of the area if applicable. The range you can attack is determined by what weapon you have equipped, so certain weapons might be better in certain situations if you want a high combo.

The system is good in theory, but how it's implemented has some issues. Random battles are essentially a cakewalk not requiring any real thought as the enemies die easily, whereas bosses are typically a game of attrition. You have an EXE Drive meter you need to keep filled during battles, but the boss also has their own guard gauge that you need to break to deal better damage.

Adding to this the fact, bosses can and will try to instant-kill one or more of your party members (hopefully not your healer). It all adds up to an uneven implementation that gives players a false sense of security and learning before the game rips them a new one and sends them all the way back to their last save point. So basically, the player needs to grind against weak enemies to overcome an overpowered boss, which is just an annoyance.

One neat addition is the new "Remake" system which the game even pokes fun at the game itself being a remake in the storyline. You can unlock new areas and dungeons as side diversions from the main storyline, but of course as you would expect from earlier in the review you need to --- you guessed it --- grind more to unlock these locations. You almost always have something to do, but there's always something gated off from the player which might feel overwhelming to some players.

Graphically and musically the game is adequate, but one nitpicking issue I encountered was the font choices. The dialogue font is clear and easy to read, but the menu and other miscellaneous fonts are either too small or too stylized for the PlayStation Vita's screen. I get the theming idea they went for with some of the fonts, but if it's too hard to read what's the point?

Final Thoughts

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is by all counts a massive improvement over the original PS3 game, but it's still far from being perfect and tends to stay in Victory's shadow too much to its own detriment. If you're a fan of the series thus far but hated then original or started later on and want to see how it all began, the game's worth a purchase. If you dislike the series or the storyline irks you, there isn't much to sway your mind here. The Vita seems like a better fit for the series, hopefully the next iteration brings more to the table as the basic formula is well implemented.

If you enjoyed Victory, this game is very similar mechanics-wise.
What fans loved in the previous games returns here.
More Nep-Nep.
Random enemies are too easy, bosses can be overly difficult.
The sexualiation of the female characters can be off-putting to some.
Some of the in-game fonts are too hard to read.
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