Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 Review
Remember HDN 1? That gimmicky game in PS3 with an interesting concept but with an extremely unplayable gameplay? (yes, it’s THAT bad for me). While several years after that had seen better sequels in the series, namely mk2 and Victory, HDN 1 remains a dark history in the HDN franchise-an isolated standalone with it’s own universe separated from the rest of the other games in the series. However, HDN 1 had a remake on Vita sometime ago, called Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, and this particular remake was also released on Steam recently.
The main storyline by far, at least as far as setting goes, remains unchanged-you step into the Gamindustri world again in the shoes of the goddess, Purple Heart, or as she is usually called-Neptune, who lost her memories in the “Console Wars” against the other goddesses, falling from Celestia in the midst of combat. The story uses the same concept the series had been going for all these years-a “meta” story of original VS piracy in gaming-with the protagonists who represent the major different consoles as the former and the latter as the antagonists.
Several minutes after however, the story started to shift into it’s own original content, completely straying away from HDN 1’s story. Most of the plot’s skeleton is still retained however-to retrieve Neptune’s memories, to obtain the Key fragments, visiting every cities and their respective goddesses, saving Historie; just that a lot of the plot progressions are completely shifted. For example, without revealing too many spoilers, now not all the goddesses are too gung-ho about fighting you anymore; there are dozens of other minute to major differences and especially the way plot points are carried out, and their dialogues, are all massively overhauled, to the point that it almost feels like a new story altogether. Of course, most of the predecessors’ lighthearted fun, comedies, parodies, references and even the breaking of fourth wall are still there, and I dare say it’s even wittier than ever. In any case, this changes in story script is actually a pretty good thing since this time, the overarching storyline is paced a lot better as storyline progression feels smoother and flows better in the remake. Because of this, it makes the characters a lot likable.
Because of the overall better pacing, the game managed to spend a great deal of time on the characterization of the other goddesses who are all very integral characters to the story, namely Noire, Vert and Blanc; which was something HDN 1 failed to do aside from the 3 starting main characters-Neptune, IF and Compa. I actually prefer Re;Birth 1’s more fun and lighthearted treatment of these characters, which is what Idea Factory had been going for since mk2. This is a stark contrast in HDN 1, where these three goddesses were basically treated more as an antagonistic force, and therefore, less chances for me to like them since there were barely any sense of camaraderie at all. There is also the fact that these goddesses will join your party early to mid-game in Re;Birth 1, unlike HDN 1 where you can only recruit them near end-game, so that definitely is a difference maker as well.
Also, all CPU candidates (for a lesser use of HDN terminology, they are basically the goddesses’ imouto) in mk2 and DLC characters in Victory will return as actual playable characters in Re;Birth 1 too (though you need to fulfill some requirements for the former), but unfortunately, with the addition of both of these, the cast just grew too huge for them to feel integral to the story. Although it will be a good chance to try out the former DLC characters if you never had the chance to use them in Victory.
Other than the fact that Re;Birth 1 uses the core foundation of the series-the combination between visual novel-esque scenes and third person RPG dungeon crawling; the gameplay in general is massively revamped. You will be greeted with a map screen just like mk2/Victory, though this time, there will not be any transition screens to major cities, by clicking a city, a separate menu screen will pop up instead. There are different things you can do in the map, from visiting shops in cities, doing quests in Guild, checking out your music and illustrations in the museum mode and last but not least, you will most likely be navigating across the map screen looking for NPCs to talk to-since sometimes they give you important items throughout the games, majorly Plans (which I will talk about more in a little while). Story events are also progressed in the same way, in that you just click on the areas with a “!” mark where the story will proceed.
Instead of relying on HDN 1’s iffy battle mechanics, Re;Birth 1 borrowed most of it’s gameplay elements from mk2/Victory, which is a more welcoming battle mechanics in comparison. You have the ability to move around within a circled area (depends on the character’s MOV stats), and land an attack on the enemies, Triangle for a Rush attack, Square for a Power attack, and Circle for a Break attack. Some enemies; mini-bosses and bosses mostly, really encourage you to use your HDD (Hard Drive Divinity) mode, which transforms Neptune and the other goddesses from their human forms to their battle-hardened HDD forms with increased stats but sacrifices 20% of your SP. Other mechanics like EXE gauge is also an important factor-by filling out the gauge, you can use extremely devastating EXE Drive moves for massive damage which in turns depleted the gauge. The EXE gauge can also be used to fit in some EX skills as a string of attacks in conjunction with normal combos. There are also Coupling skills and Formation skills which are moves incorporating two or more characters. My only complaint is that you can only use 3 characters in battle, similarly in HDN 1. This becomes a slight issue three quarter of the game since they are just so many characters to play, and having only three playable characters in the field (with other three as support) is just not enough.
The Disc Development also makes a return from Victory, and how it works remain the same. You can exchange medals you get from defeating various bosses around the world for disks. By equipping chips on these discs (each chip slots on these discs also have certain level requirements), and burn them, you will get various additional effects on the discs which you can equip them to the characters. These “effects” are varying, which includes resistance against certain enemies, increased Gold, increased EXP, increased escape odds, rate of EXE gauge rate increases, rate of HP restored after battle, rate of Lily Rank increases after battle and so on. With the right combination of chips, you can create a “Godly Game Disc” which gives you an improved buffs over normal discs. Speaking of Lily Rank, they are also a returning feature in Re;Birth 1, which is pretty much an affection system for certain characters; and certain support skills will be available depending on the level of said affection, which ranges from buffs to Coupling skills.
Last but not least, is the groundbreaking “Remake System” or Plan, which is a new “meta” system in Re;Birth 1, and able to accomplish so much more than Victory’s scout system ever could. Remake System is a combination of both mk2’s item development system and Victory’s scout system, but it can do more with it than both of them combined. You can create items, equipments or clothes, reminiscent of the item development in mk2; you can also use it to discover new dungeons, changes items you get from harvesting spots or make stronger enemies spawn at will, reminiscent of the scout system in Victory. That’s not all, the Remake System is as it’s name implies, a tool to “remake” just about anything, even the very system itself! You can use it to set difficulty at will (by weakening or fortifying enemies at will), increase drop rates, show hidden treasures, instigate 100% escape chances, EXE drive increases, breaking damage limit, unlocking the Coliseum, increasing jump height and the list goes on. You can even use it to “give birth” to the CPU candidates! The Remake System is really your one-stop point for just about everything you need, providing you have both the plans and materials needed. Once you created a particular plan, you can toggle them on/off as necessary. As far as having a convenient and flexible gameplay, Re;Birth 1 is literally several notches above it’s predecessors. Although there is a space for the total amount of plans you can made (which is humorously measured in MB), you get random amount of memory increases throughout the game ranging from as small as 64MB to as big as 1024MB-however, only from main story bosses. There is no way to grind for them otherwise, and the only way to get more memory is to replay the game, which is my only pet peeve for an otherwise, wonderfully implemented gameplay system.
As far as music are concerned, most of the tracks in the HDN series aren’t too memorable for me in general and seeing as how Re;Birth 1 mostly uses the same tracks in mk2/Victory if I’m not mistaken, my opinion on this remains unchanged unfortunately. The voice acting however, is still as top-notch as ever, and I like how some of the major supporting characters like Chian and Financier has voice acting now and even their own character portraits. Visually wise, it’s also a huge improvement in the remake. I personally dislike the use of 3D sprites during the visual novel-esque parts of the game, and HDN 1 uses 3D sprites fully. Mk2 in comparison uses a combination of both 3D and 2D spites and Victory fully utilized 2D sprites. Re;Birth 1 follows Victory’s footsteps and also similarly utilized full 2D sprites usage, and is also something I prefer personally. In addition, Re;Birth 1 also has re-detailed background most predominantly shown in the cities backdrop, which is also a plus. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of difference as far as dungeon and enemies designs are concerned, and while there are some (slight) changes to a few dungeon layouts, most of the designs remain ultimately the same.
I barely replay any of my games, and so remakes of games are something I don’t usually go out of my way to play them unless there’s a legitimate reason to do so. However, Re;Birth 1 is one of those rare games where remakes are actually justified. Re;Birth 1 is the result of the franchise’s maturation over the course of several years-taking the concept of HDN 1, but using the best gaming mechanics from mk2 and Victory; making this game one of the best in the series yet by combining the best of three worlds. For those who are unfamiliar with the HDN series though, please note that this game isn’t meant to be a RPG with a deep, complex story or characters, but a sort of RPG satire which breaks the fourth wall and pokes fun at games in general-and you will be looking at one which arguably had perfected it’s craft due to longevity in experience.