Some four years after the release of JRPG Hyperdimension Neptunia for the PlayStation 3, Idea Factory brings an updated version of the game to PlayStation Vita in the form of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1.
The first thing to point out about this game is that it doesn't take itself too seriously (almost to the point of being absurd), while at the same believing it's a serious RPG. Players can expect a good mix of humor, fan service and retro nostalgia, coupled with 2D manga-like dialogue sequences, 3D dungeon crawling and turn-based combat.
For those who are new to the franchise, players take the role of Neptune -- one of four sisters who rule the world of Gamindustri (sound it out if you don't get the joke) as goddesses. Neptune is represents the never-released SEGA Neptune and her sisters represent other consoles: Vert (Xbox 360), Blanc (Nintendo Wii), and Noire (PlayStation fill-in-the-blank). The game also has a number of characters personifying other parts of the games industry, such as Compa (representing PC gaming). This time around, however, there are characters included who are not found on the PS3 game disk, such as Plutia and Peashy from Hyperdimension Neptunia V. It seems that they were added at the expense of characters such as Gust and Nisa, who look to be missing this time around.
Probably, at least partly due to this cast lineup shakeup, Re;Birth1 has a whole new story -- something quite exciting in terms of ported games. Outside of Neptunia veterans being able to enjoy a new spin on the original adventure is the game's new plan system. Plans are obtained from NPCs throughout the game and can be used to create new dungeons and items. That's a big plus over the original.
The game itself plays very much like the 2010 original, though with noticeable improvements throughout. Most striking is the change away from the PS3 version's continent traversal style in favor of a world map more akin to that found in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and a battle system much more refined than before. Amazing as it may seem, it appears that the game's developers learned a thing or two after making a few of these games. But, even with the enhancements and changes, things can be a bit awkward when first starting out. Thankfully, it doesn't take that long to get a hang of the game's nuances.
In terms of graphics, Re;Birth1 provides players with a cleaner and higher quality version of the PS3 original. Storyline segments are in a visual novel type of presentation and can be a bit tedious during longer sequences, but it's crisp and extremely well put together. The visual presentation found during actual gameplay, however, does seem a little behind the times. Then again, this is game is still very much a port of a game from four years ago that (even back then) looked a little behind the times. This time around, however, it's a much more polished version of it.
Like the graphics, Re;Birth1's audio has also had some work done to it. Rather than reworking what was already there, however, the devs decided to scrap the game's original soundtrack in favor of a brand new one. A wise choice.
Much like I wrote four years ago about the original Hyperdimension Neptunia game, Re;Birth1 isn't a perfect game and it won't be appealing to all gamers. JRPG fans, however, should be eating this one up - especially if they played and liked the first one, or any of its sequels (spin-off Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection not withstanding).
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Platform(s): PlayStation Vita
Rating: T - Teen
Score: 3 out of 4