Some games get a remake, and others get a remaster, but not just any game can get a rebirth! Idea Factory brings us a reimagining of the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise on the Vita; a Crisis on Infinite Earths if you will, by introducing us to Hyperdimension Neptunia: Re;Birth1. Will it attract new blood into the jestful franchise, or will only the diehards come back for a second helping?
The name rebirth is very apt and thematic for this game, because it is not a typical remake. Idea Factory has taken the core of the first game and changed the story and style to be more in line with the direction Victory has taken, creating a new parallel hyper dimension. Jokes aside, the overview map and some of the dungeons are all similar to Victory if not direct clones. This is a boon for those who enjoy the style of the newer titles, but it’s a shame to waste all the locations from the original. Some of the areas in the original had more charm to them and gave off less of a generic tone. They still looked generic, but the problem with the Victory model is the settings are even more generically created. Small areas, lack of scenery, and little to see. This doesn’t mean it has to be a graphical beast, but considering how stylish and crazy the characters are portrayed, the backgrounds could have had more work done to set them apart.
Combat is also the same, allowing players a smoother and quicker feel than the original. The same leveling system is back as well as the lily rank system. This might sound really short, but there is nothing new to the combat that has not already been shown in Victory. It is a matter of style preference. Do you like the Neptunia 1’s slower, more traditional feel or Victory’s free moving, area of effect feel? They also kept the three character slots from the original. For me, more is better, and Victory’s four slots felt like the bloated cast was put to better use. Having three makes combat a little more tedious and harder, due to less attackers. Also, if you have more than three favorites, then you’ll be regretfully benching one. This, of course, is solely a user preference.
In terms of story, what you know about the first Neptunia game has to be thrown out the window when playing Re;Birth1. The basics have changed so much that it is not a simple cash-in on a different system. Key elements and events from the first are still there, but the majority of the scenes leading up to them are different. This idea brings a lot of spice and originality for a company that wants to remake a series while thematically making sense of it all. The dialogue has been reduced greatly when compared to the original, but at times it still felt overdone. There were some pacing issues I had when reaching sections of 30+ minutes of reading before going to the dungeons. That is not so bad if it happens once in a while, but it cropped up a bit too often, thus slowing the game down and ruining that groove a player can get into to keep them going on a multi-hour play session.
Added to help spice things up is the ability to change the world. As players progresses through the game, they are able to get plans that allow them to modify the environment. No flags are around like in Victory. Get the required items for the plans and make it, and you essentially have the cheat shop out of the Disgaea series. These changes do have a big impact on the game’s difficulty. Until I was able to get a plan to make the enemies ‘weaker,’ the game chugged along at a slow crawl due to the amount of grinding needed even for chapter one. A simple switch flip and I was cruising. This works both ways, as there is the option to make the enemies stronger, acquire extra experience, new weapons, and so on. It lets you, the player, decide what kind of game you want to play and change it at will when you get bored or want a fresh twist.
The musical score from the game has this weird persona that I don’t experience often with RPGs. Usually, the town areas have boring, generic music while the battlefields and fights have more upbeat, interesting music. This time it is backwards. The early console generation beats helps alleviate the typical dullness that comes with town areas, which is then offset by the boring music that accompanies standard battles and dungeons. Considering how good their ending credits themes usually are, I’m surprised Idea Factory just doesn’t do a full-out J-Pop soundtrack. Yes, obviously the cost would be very high, but a guy can hope for the future.
Those who are veterans of the series will be happy to know the characters’ personalities are not completely reworked, despite my earlier mentioning of the narrative changes. The bickering between the CPUs is still there in light-hearted fun, and the sexuality is still there too. If sexual and lesbian themes bother you, then this might not be the title for you. If those can be embraced or ignored, then new players should not have any issue enjoying the characters for who they are.
Re;Birth1 is a good entry in the Hyperdimension series for those already of a similar mindset. Does it add anything new and exciting to the franchise to pull in new targets? Not really. The reworked story idea is creative, and combat is simple and enjoyable. The characters are also as enjoyable as ever. However, it is just missing that special something to set it apart from other RPGs to make it a must-buy, as well as the pacing issues. Fans will undoubtedly have their fun, but new players will have to accept some grinding.