Irrespective of allegiance, we’ve all witnessed the console wars. From the days when Nintendo and SEGA contested store shelves, all the way to the triple pronged struggle of the current generation, it’s something that, as gamers, we’re all familiar with. This eternal war is at the heart of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 – a PlayStation Vita remake of the original PlayStation 3 title, where the Goddesses protecting their respective platforms must cast aside their differences in order to save Gamindustri.
You play as Neptunia, the CPU Goddess of Planeptune, one of the world’s four realms. After losing a fight with one of the other ruling Goddesses, she finds herself suffering from amnesia, and lost in a strange land. However, with the aid of Compa and If – representations of the game’s developers – the ragtag crew venture the lands of Lastation, Leanbox, and Lowee in search of clues relating to her identity. Alas, as with all RPGs, there’s danger lurking in the background, and it’s not long before the crew happen upon mysterious game discs which are shepherding nasty monsters into the world.
Given the already quite obvious video game parodies, you may not be surprised to learn that there are a handful of real-world references stuffed into here – but the reality may actually exceed your expectations. From characters representing famous developers, dungeons named after flagship titles, all the way through to a feline PlayStation 4 monster, this title really covers all of the bases; rather than breaking the fourth wall with a wrecking ball, it’s clear that it’s not even there to begin with – and that’s a big part of the appeal.
Likely to prove more divisive, however, is the sheer amount of text, as this game unfolds in an almost visual novel-esque fashion. There’s no lack of budget, as most scenes in the game are voiced surprisingly well, but there are some sections without acting – even during the main plot. Fortunately, the dialogue is witty and includes further references to game and anime culture. Meanwhile, the main cast are well developed, all with differing personalities to spice up the relentless gabbing.
There’s not an enormous amount of animation to keep you entertained during story sequences, but characters do move – perhaps, most notably, in the chest area. It’s the anime-esque facial expressions that really steal the show, though, adding that extra little bit of feedback to the vanilla dialogue. It’s worth adding that all of the talking segments are labelled clearly during dungeons or on the world map, so you’ll never find yourself getting caught off guard by an unexpected boss battle or monologue.
When you aren’t being talked to death, you’ll spend your time in dungeons battling demons. If you walk into enemies wandering around the map, you’ll deliver a swift blow to their head from the off, allowing you to take the initiative. As with most RPGs, some grinding is involved, but thankfully you’re not left alone. You can, for example, take up a slew of quests on the main map, which turn out to be more than just tacked on chores. There’s not an enormous amount of variety, but if you partake in the item gathering and monster herding, you’ll always find your character at the right level for any impending boss encounters.
And it’s in combat that you’ll glean the most meat from the release. You can move freely when fighting, giving the skirmishes a bit of depth. Different weapons have unique properties, such as a spear which only hits enemies in a vertical line. As a result, you’ll need to think carefully about your placement in order to inflict the most amount of damage, but also be careful of clumping your characters together so that your party doesn’t get obliterated in one single strike. It’s this simple but effective risk/reward dynamic that will keep you on your toes.
There are plenty more personalisation options, too, as basic attack options can be modified in the menu, allowing you to customise every segment of your attack chain. Moreover, there are break attacks that can destroy an enemy’s shield, allowing you to dole out more damage, as well as rush moves which raise the EXE gauge. With better techniques becoming increasingly expensive to use, you’ll need to focus your characters on key areas in order to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your party at all times.
Of course, when the going gets tough, the tough get, er, skimpy, as all of the CPUs can transform into their Goddess forms on occasion. This not only changes your chosen character’s appearance, but also provides some massive stat boosts, which are required against some of the gruelling boss encounters. It’s here where you’ll be thankful for your aforementioned EXE gauge also, as building this up allows you to perform super moves, which are perfect for finishing off your foes. These specials will remove entire segments from your gauge, but deal massive amounts of damage.
And yet it’s the remake system that really makes this game stand out from the crowd. Using plans that you collect throughout the campaign, you can kind of modify the title like a cheat cartridge. Not only can new weapons, items, and aesthetical goodies be used to adapt your appearance, but you can also tailor the experience to your tastes. You can, for example, strengthen or weaken enemies, and even adapt areas that you’ve visited previously in order to nab new loot that you may not have found on your first visit.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is a light hearted RPG that allows you to shut down your brain, without ever losing its challenge. This makes it an excellent entry point for genre or series newcomers, as even though it’s based upon an older game, it’s been completely overhauled to feel modern and fresh. While the plot itself may make you ponder whether the Goddesses care more about pudding than the people that they are meant to be saving, it’s silly enough to keep you entertained. And if you’re fascinated by the idea of system warriors uniting to save an interesting interpretation of the games industry, then this is one console war worth getting involved in.