Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 Review – Playing on Repeat (Vita)
If you’ve been kicking around PlayStation LifeStyle for long, you know that I am not a huge fan of many of the niche Japanese games that get localized, and specifically that I didn’t think too highly of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. Keep in mind that this review is coming from the standpoint of a western gamer whose experience in RPGs stemmed from Final Fantasy, and has a mild interest in some westernized anime. If you’re the specific market that this game is targeting, then this review is not for you. You’ll probably like the game more, appreciate the tropes and the story, and be less annoyed at the characters.
Let’s catch everyone up. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 (henceforth Re;Birth1) is a remake of the original Hyperdimension Neptunia game, using the engine, battle system, and… actually just about everything from Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. This could easily have just been some bizarro version of that game, with a slightly different story. It’s not only the engine and battle system that are re-used here. It’s environments, art, enemies… you name it. The story is a parody on the video game industry, with lands like Lastation, Leanbox, and Lowee, representing PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo, respectively. The world they all reside in is actually called Gamindustri, so it’s not a subtle parody at all.
The leaders of these regions are known as the goddesses, and you play as the character Neptune, who rules over Planeptune. The best way that I can describe her is as a 12 year old only child, that is way too spoiled. The idea that the leader of one of these regions is so petty and childish seems pretty ridiculous. However, it’s not just one of them. All of the characters are small-minded and immature. The narrative feels like a clique in middle school, with tons of off topic conversations that add nothing but wasted time getting to the exposition of the already thin story. Square button skips right through all of the dialog, for those of you that want to get to actually playing the game instead of voyeurism of middle school age girls’ awkward sexual interactions. Let’s not even get started on their creepy transformations to their adult age “HDD” forms. I was genuinely embarrassed to be caught playing this game while on break at work.
The battle system is surprisingly decent, and perhaps it being on the Vita gave me a better understanding than my time with it in Victory. I was better able to understand the strategic tactical nature of the combat and enjoy it a little bit more this time around, though it really is no different than what Victory had to offer, except that you are limited to three characters. On your turn, you can move your character to strategic locations on the battlefield, depending on how exactly you want to fight. Combined with traditional turn based combat and the ability to customize your combos, this gives battles a wide array of interesting facets.
The problem is that the general dungeon monsters are so weak and easy to fight, you don’t need to practice any kind of strategy. Yet the boss battles have you fighting enormously difficult battles that require hours of level grinding to beat. I fought every battle I could leading up to each boss and it still didn’t alleviate the need to grind before each boss fight. This is when that decent battle system gets dull, as you hear the characters yell out the same stupid catch-phrases repeatedly while fighting the weak enemies to try to level up just enough to get past that boss fight. Nevermind that the story wasn’t intriguing, the game wasn’t giving me reasons to really want to continue on with this forced grind that lasted hours, even after battling every monster I could leading into each boss.
I didn’t play the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, so I can’t compare the changes and how they line up, but from what I can tell, they are quite vast, almost to the point of this being an entirely different game. Bringing the game to the Vita was definitely an improvement and makes the game seem a lot more technically impressive than its previous PS3 counterpart, and I give it extra credit for feeling like it really has a better home here on the handheld. The Vita seems to be getting a ton of localized JRPG games, so the market seems to be a perfect place to bring niche games like this that may not pull in the more western focused audiences looking for experiences like inFAMOUS First Light.
There is a market for this kind of game, but it isn’t me, or most of the people I know. While the battle system is decent, especially when done on the Vita, the parts in between lack any kind of draw to keep me interested. Assets and ideas are reused from Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, which makes Re;Birth1 feel like a remixed version of that title. My experience was weakened by feeling like I had played this exact same thing before and the needless grinding, not to mention that I found the characters to be incredibly aggravating. It’s not my game, but I’m sure it’s for somebody out there.
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