With several games released in less than a year’s time, is Idea Factory’s latest “Sixth Time Lucky”?
Oh, hi there. Yeah, I know I’m a I’m a little ways from home and no, Press Pause Radio hasn’t kicked me out. Really, I’m just visiting. Sure, it’s a little different in these parts, but you know what hasn’t changed a bit? That’s right; I’m still reviewing Hyperdimension Neptunia games. For the uninitiated, I’ve have at it with five installments to the series since September of last year, and the newly-released Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth 3V from Idea Factory makes it six. Six releases in ten months. I can scarcely think of any other series in history that has seen as many single releases as Neptunia has in such a sort amount of time.
Granted, half of these have been remakes of the original PlayStation 3 installments but still, they are different enough to be unique. Being re-imagined from the original Hyperdimension Neptunia V, Neptunia Re:Birth 3V falls under this category, but how does it fare? Let’s take a closer look.
Picking up after Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth 2 (consume extra-strength vitamin-”doi” here) Neptune and the gang have taken to slacking off in an epic, hardcore manner. With the world of Gamindusri at peace, what’s a goddess to do? Play video games with the neighboring deities that inhabit lands modeled after real-world consoles, obviously. But, all isn;t as well as it seems; protests demanding the removal of the nations’ CPUs require Neptune to look further into what’s going down. In typical Neptunian fashion, things take a turn for the Nep, and our titular heroine is zapped into another dimension where familiar faces and places abound… but all is not as it seems. With her friends having no memory whatsoever of Neptune and another CPU already ruling her assumed homestead, this is a world that is as different as it is familiar. Bringing Nnep-Nep back is going to be a pretty big challenge…
So you might be thinking, “Okay, another Neptunia game. Sure. We’ve seen this before.” And yeah, you’re pretty much right on the money there. If you’ve played Re:Birth 2, everything is more or less identical to the previous game with only a couple of exceptions. For those of you not in the know though, here are the basics.
At the core of Neptunia Re:Birth’s gameplay, player travel around Gamindustri by moving a cursor to a capitol city at which point options appear which allow players to interact with characters, purchase items and weapons complete plans to remix enemies and dungeons, create new gear, items, etc. and create game discs to enhance a character’s attributes. Players can also access quests which are completed usually by collecting specific items or defeating a particular enemy type which lets players earn extra money and items for their main overarching quest. Other areas such as dungeons also open up, and various NPCs appear randomly as well. Some will provide plans while others merely talk you up.
In dungeons, players take control of a lead character in a 3D environment in which enemies can be seen and battles can be picked, chosen and strategized around, so long as players have the reflexes for it; get too close or end up in an enemy’s field of vision and they will give chase. You can get the upper hand by swinging your weapon and hitting them before they hit you, otherwise you’re in for a rough ride. Items and materials can be harvested at certain points and each area is relatively small, allowing for decent progression without the need for multiple save points. Hidden items can also be found, but we’ll get into that in a second.
The combat in particular has always been super-fun in the Re:Birth line, and 3V is no exception. Different weapons and abilities have different fields of attack, so knowing how each weapon can be used with an especially specific character position in relation to groups of foes can really make fights super quick. In the case of bosses and larger groups, special finishers called EX attacks can be unlocked and super-powered goddess forms called HDD allows for massive damage to be unleashed in no time at all – paired with special and EX attacks, even bosses go down in a hurry. Lily Rank also makes a return to enhance your fighters by pairing them up with ideal partners in the back row.
All caught up? Sweet. Let’s see how 3V takes refines things and takes others further. First and foremost, while the world is open for exploration on the outset, the world changes back to a state pretty early on that requires players to first make it to an area before going to it again from the main map. Each nation also now has its own map, making things a bit more challenging to get around, rather than just moving your cursor a couple inches at a time. It feels a lot more like the very first Neptunia on PS3, only without the cumbersome timing required at times to get from one continent to the other.
Meanwhile, in the dungeons proper, searching for secret items has changed drastically for the better. Rather than emitting a circular pulse to reveal hidden stuff – which, let me tell you, was cumbersome as hell – you can catch glimpses of hidden blocks floating around the areas you’re exploring that are just visible enough to catch as you pass. They also cast shadows as well, which helps when hunting them out. By jumping under them, coins, items and super-powered weapons and can be obtained through these blocks Mario-style. It’s a much better way of going about things when it comes to hidden stuff and pretty fun too; I found myself scouring the entire dungeon to see how many there were.
Speaking of dungeons, Stella makes a return from Re:Birth 2 to help find items and other nifty things in Stella’s Dungeon, a real-time automated dungeon-craw in which the titular Stella braves a tower in search of treasure and glory. This time, she has a companion, Felis, to help her out. A single run can be seconds or hours long, depending, and it’s pretty fire-and-forget. Just send her out, get stuff, arm her with better gear, wash, rinse and repeat. No mess or fuss.
V3’s presentation on the whole is also everything you’d want and expect from a Neptunia game, and the overhauled UI is pretty great. Meanwhile, V3 is nowhere near on the level of Neptunia U’s super-bouncy, clothes-exploding, Senran Kagura-wannabe self when it comes to jiggle and flash, but it’s not devoid of your typical shower scenes, crude sexual humor and risqué shots of ample cleavage, both up top and bringing up the rear. Multiple characters representing several game companies, publications and gaming pop-culture abound in the world of Gamindustri – once again, just as you’d expect. Of course, the great character design and easy-on-the-eyes pastel visuals are also in full form. Not that I can say the same about some of the sound; some of the sampling used to make up a great portion of the music is getting pretty tired, and while some characters are voiced really well – Neptune, of all characters really stands out – the changes made to Noire’s delivery makes her sound way, way off – to the point that it sounds like a totally different voice actress. Meanwhile, Pluto really puts the “special” in Special Edition with a far-too-aloof, drawn out, uber-ditzy delivery that get under my skin way too easily.
Thankfully, as with other entries, full Japanese voice is available in the options and with the kind of writing on the level that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth 3V has, complete with some pretty great jokes that make even my stone-cold-hearted, morose, dispirited self laugh out loud, the story is one to stick with. Good stuff.
It’s a series that I’ve been more or less satisfied with throughout its existence, and fans of Neptunia should obviously get it, too. Anyone else looking for a solid RPG on their Vita should give Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth 3V and its direct predecessors a go too; this is one game that is quite worthy of a spot in your Vita case.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: Vita (reviewed); Publisher: Idea Factory International ; Developer: Compile Heart ; Players: 1; Released: June 30, 2015 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Hyperdimension Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:Birth3: V Generation provided by the game’s publisher, Idea Factory International.