Have you ever wished that the console wars were fought between anime girls representing consoles instead of rabid fanboys on the internet?
If that premise sounded as outrageously hilarious to you as it did me, you’ll love the setting of HyperDimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 that throws you into the world of Gamindustri, a high-tech utopia where Planeptune, Laystation, Lowee, and Leanbox (do these names sound kind of familiar or is it just me?) are four countries competing for power over each other in the form of market share, led by their CPUs – the Goddesses that watch over their console regions.
In the world of Gamindustri, everything is either a reference or parody of some aspect of the Japanese game industry. The titular player character Neptune – the CPU of Planeptune, is a reference to the scrapped Sega Neptune and is defeated in the introductory cutscene and sent shooting down to the ground like a comet. This is where you come in, taking control of now-amnesiac Neptune, joined by a growing group of adorable friends as they travel Gamindustri to find hints toward recovering Neptune’s lost memories and defeat the evil sorceress Arfoire that hopes to take over the world by promoting game piracy.
Re;Birth1 is a remastering of the 2010 PS3 JRPG that replaces the old clunky combat with the much improved 3rd person turn-based strategy mechanics and aesthetics of the HyperDimension Neptunia Victory sequels. This includes updated and modified scenes, dialogue, and story beats to give the game a grand makeover that it both needed and deserved. The new dialogue has been diligently localized by Nippon Ichi Software America (NIS America), and is packed to the brim with fully voice acted 4th wall breaking gaming in-jokes and anime references that somehow never get old.
There’s no other game that (somehow) manages to sidestep as many copyright violations as the Neptunia series in order to bring you hilarious enemies like the Totally-not-space-invaders and We-have-ribbons-on-our-heads-so-we’re-not-pacman-ghosts in the many dungeons scattered throughout the world.
Dungeons in Neptunia Re;Birth are entered by selecting them from the world map, and take the form of free-roam areas for Neptune to roam through and engage patrolling enemies in a similar fashion to the dungeon crawling in the later Persona games. If you are able to get a back attack on an enemy, your party will receive a surprise attack bonus where all of your characters go first in battle. Initiating combat brings you to a battle field where characters take action based on a turn order determined by each character’s agility stat. Each character can move freely within a green circle determined by their movement stat, in attempt to cram as many of the on-screen enemies as possible into your attack box. When attacking, characters can either choose to consume SP to use a variety of skills including but not limited to damage skills, healing skills, and buffs, or to initiate a character’s basic attack combo onto all enemies contained in their attack box. Basic attacks are divided into three categories: Rush, Power, and Break. Rush attacks are low damage strikes that give additional charge to your EXE Drive, which when filled allows characters to use EX Finish skills. Power attacks deal high health damage, and are the main damage dealers when taking down enemies. Break attacks primarily damage the enemies’ armor bar, which when depleted allows your characters to do increased health damage to them. Every character has 4 combo hits, the first of which is a default attack, and the rest which can be customized as you wish. Assigning skills to the combo list consumes Combo Points (CP) and more powerful skills cost more CP. This allows for a high degree of character customizability, as you can create characters primarily focused on using rush attacks, breaking armor, or any combination of specializations.
In story/event dungeons, your goal is generally to reach the innermost part of the dungeon and defeat one or more bosses to progress the story. However, every dungeon in the game can be replayed if you wish to gather more materials to invest into the lengthy crafting system of the game, which allows you to control difficulty, unlock more dungeons, and even increase enemy variety/drops in addition to the standard weapon/item/equipment crafting systems.
While the combat of Neptunia Re;Birth1 is deep, it does take a few hours before you unlock enough skills for the complexity to show through. However, once you get past the initial hurdle you’ll find a combat system much more intricate than one would initially expect from a parody game such as Neptunia. One downside that I feel should be mentioned however, is that if you wish to play on a higher difficulty, you should expect to spend a significant amount of time grinding for both levels and materials for crafting. Though grindyness is generally to be expected from JRPGs, I feel that there could be room for improvement in the current difficulty system which heavily punishes you for not having high enough stats, where tactical counterplay such as the exploitation of elemental weaknesses don’t providing significant enough bonuses to outscale a level differential. Due to this, I would recommend playing on normal or easy to experience the story and dialogue without any unneeded stress or excessive grinding, which may distract from the great story and dialogue that is the game’s strongest point.
If you enjoy any combination of any combination of JRPGs, gaming culture, anime, visual novels, and self-deprecating humor you’ll love what HyperDimension Neptunia Re;birth1 has to offer. The long campaign will entertain for hours while you become more and more engrossed in both the comical story and the deep combat and progression. Re;Birth1 is available on both Playstation Vita and PC and run flawlessly on either, with minimal load times and no noticeable frame drops. I’ve had the opportunity to try out the game on both PC and Vita, testing out the PC controls with keyboard, 360 controller, and PS4 controller. While the keyboard controls aren’t too bad, due to the 3rd person mechanics of the game I would recommend using a controller if you have one available, as the camera control and movement are much smoother and more comfortable on analog sticks. If you own one, I fully recommend grabbing it on the Vita, as the bite-sized dungeons are perfect for an on-the-go play style. HyperDimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 can be purchased on PC through the Steam Store and on Vita through the Playstation Network Store or at a physical games retailer near you.