The Hyperdimension series has become huge over the past few years, almost to the point of self referential parody. What began innocently enough as a single turn-based rpg grew into a franchise with multiple remakes and spin-offs ranging from an idol management simulator to a strategy rpg. One could argue the franchise’s true beginning wasn’t until Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, a PlayStation Vita and eventual PC remake of the 2011 PS3 original.
Re;Birth 1 makes use of the battle system introduced in Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2, which employs a mix of turn-based and real time elements. Enemies are visible in dungeons and can be attacked for an initiative bonus. Once in battle, characters act by turn. During that character’s turn, the player has full 360 degree movement on the field within a specified radius(dictated by the character’s movement stat) and can line him/herself up perfectly to execute a set of combos on an enemy or multiple enemies.
Combos aren’t a matter of dexterity or rote memorization. Each branch of a character’s combo can be initatiated step by step as the character’s turn doesn’t end until the combo is finished or the player decides to cancel mid-combo. Icons on the bottom of the screen will be friendly reminders of what your options are at each branch.
The real depth lies within combo customization. Attacks are separated by three categories mapped to different buttons. The triangle button is mapped to “rush” attacks. The square button is mapped to “power” attacks. X is mapped to “break” attacks.
Rush attacks fill up the EXE gauge more quickly, allowing for devastating EXE-drive attacks or the ability to attack one last time after the combo ends with each final attack requiring differing levels of the EXE gauge to execute.
Break attacks deplete the enemy’s shield while power attacks inflict the most raw damage to its health. Each slot in the combo tree can be customized, allowing players to set what move they want wherever they see fit. It’s a mix of simple raw combat and in-depth customization that keeps the game from becoming too repetitive despite the groove combat settles into early on. Late in-game, when Re;Birth 1 unleashes all of its characters for players use, it becomes almost daunting managing each character’s combos.
This is most definitely an RPG for RPG gamers. Unfortunately, it sticks a little too closely to that hardcore RPG mold. Re;Birth 1 is too stat-based. While most modern rpg’s have clearly defined stats, they’ve moved on to the point that players can generally wipe the floor with higher level enemies and bosses to a degree provided precise planning and strategy is used. That’s not the case in this game. Every level-up and minor equipment change makes a HUGE difference.
This brings to light Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1‘s biggest issue. Difficulty. It constantly flip-flops between incredibly easy and unfair insta-kill enemies. On more than one occasion, easy dungeon runs culminate in a boss battle with a massive difficulty spike. On other occasions, an easy boss quickly leads into the next dungeon being filled with near insta-kill enemies. It’s an artificial way of extending the game’s length as even after going through all the side dungeons, story dungeons, and doing multiple hours of grinding, the playthrough ran at under forty hours.
Speaking of dungeons, items, and equipment, the game makes use of a mechanic known as the “remake” system. It’s essentially just a fancy word for crafting. Plans can be acquired to craft weapons, items, and outfits, but new side dungeons can also be created using this remake system. Re;Birth 1 goes a step further, allowing for dungeons to be changed. Every dungeon has plans allowing items/materials to change and for stronger enemies to be added. It’s a basic system that does just enough to alleviate the tedium of the grind slightly.
All the combat and staring at menus is well and good, but it’s clear from the outset that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a character driven game and these characters are what have kept the series alive so long. If you consider yourself a knowledgable video game and anime nerd, then Re;Birth 1 has you covered.
The premise of a world named Gamindustri split into distinct regions controlled by goddesses engaged in a console war is ridiculous. In fact, ridiculous is the best way to describe the humor and characters. Nearly every dialogue scene contains at least one joke. Some are quite clever and subtle while others are not so subtle. Let’s just say one of the characters is named Tekken and she wears a necklace that says Tekken while wearing gloves that bear a striking resemblance to a certain Jin Kazama. In spite of the archetypes, nearly every character has an endearing quirk that players will likely grow to love.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 is a stupid game. It’s got a stupid premise and a lot of characters fill in the roles of various archetypes. Item and quest names are also stupid ranging from stuff like “non-RPG growth” to “kinda pervy”. Almost everything about this game is stupid, but that’s exactly why it works. I found myself laughing far too often at the dumbest lines or references because sometimes it seems like the writers didn’t try.
It is a deeply flawed game. Combat is basic and dungeons are incredibly repetitive(some dungeons are recycled and given different names up to four times), but it gets by on its deep customization and charm. Get to know Neptune, Compa, IF, and the rest of the cast for a good time.