“Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1″ Review

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Yeah, yeah, I know. I said like a million times I’d do a new post. I’m lazy. Don’t even care. I had zero views on November 1st. Who’s gonna miss it?

Half the problem was that I had some time to work on the blog and I found myself doing some uhh… Let’s call it “administrative work.” Basically, all of the review game art (box art or otherwise) I’ve done up until now has had a lot of problems. GameFAQs can’t keep its files organized the same way longer than a year and MangaGamer dropped most of their Higurashi entries once the compilations came out. I had to track a lot of that stuff down, save it, and just host it here. Hopefully that does somebody some favors down the line. (Also, I couldn’t see a lot of that stuff from work because sites tagged with Games are blocked in general, so now everything being hosted locally helps me out when I find some downtime to work on the blog from there.)

So here we have the first Neptunia release from IFI and the remake of the first game in the series. Time to see how it stacks up to previous NISA releases and the original game, as well as take a look at what it accomplishes for itself.

Gameplay: 9/10 – For the most part, the game is fantastic. It’s got Victory’s battle system, which, up to this point, is the most refined in the series. That’s great. It also has tons of playable characters, most of which weren’t in the original. Due to what are, to my understanding, general complications with the characters of Gust and Nisa, they’ve been replaced with the whole host of Victory DLC Makers, offering an absolute ton of new party members all on their own. There are also four optional recruits and three DLC characters ($0.99 each). The scouting system has been replaced with the Remake system. This system works significantly better. Instead of having to scout a change in enemies or items or whatever every time you need it, you simply unlock a toggle. It’s never super tedious to track down the required items either, outside of a few recipes in the system. You can use it to unlock dungeons, changes to dungeons, weapon, armor, and item recipes, features like the colosseum (and new battles for it), and a host of other system features like 100% escape rates, status resistance, or jumping higher. This really takes the pressure off of you when you’re looking to do certain things, especially if you’re doing them over and over. For example, the trophy that requires 100 million credits is going to take a lot of your time up for farming. The easiest way to do this (without DLC) is to pop an enemy that only appears under a Tough Foes change in certain high-level optional dungeons. Under Victory’s system, you’d have to scout randomly until the dungeon is found, then scout randomly until the enemy change, then rescout the enemy change every time you left the dungeon (say to go restock on items or use your newfound money on some gear/module upgrades to make the farming easier and faster). In Re;Birth1, you simply unlock the dungeon from a menu, unlock and enable the toggle for Tough Foes, then you can come and go as you please without any extra work. As always, I place the story scores under the Gameplay section. Re;Birth1’s story is sort of like the Cliffs Notes version of the original game, with a few changes for the worse. The plot gets condensed heavily, certain narrative plot points are ignored entirely despite at least a couple still playing into the plot later, and one of the key plot points near the end of the game is completely rewritten for… some reason that I haven’t quite figured out. Then the endings are completely rewritten as well. What’s interesting is that the game makes a few opportunities to set itself up with a connection to mk2, which the original game did not have, but ultimately Re;Birth2, as far as I’ve heard regarding the Japanese version, remains completely unconnected, meaning that the first game is still a complete standalone within the series. Wasted potential for sure. It does answer some questions about the series that may have been bothering long-time fans, though. Ultimately, it’s a solid experience, even from a story standpoint, but I just have a few gripes as a fan of the original (which still holds the top spot in my heart for best characterization and plot in the series to date), and this game just didn’t do enough to replace it for me. If you’re looking for the definitive experience when it comes to the original game’s plot and characters, stick with the original game if you can stomach the game systems, which aren’t bad, just outdated. If you can’t handle it, this can be your replacement. I will say, however, that the translation was excellent. A few things that have been around for a long time have stuck, like in the way of terminology, but even some of that has changed back to being closer to the original. Personalities seem more intact than usual (most people report Noire being a much more likable character than previous localizations and some feeling the same about Neptune) and IFI has gone back on a few things NISA did to avoid creating controversy, like changing “CPU” back to “goddess.” Kudos to them. I was very impressed by the translation work.

Graphics: 9/10The game just looks good. Really good. It looks better than the original, though a bit worse than the other PS3 games due to lower texture resolution in the environments and rather poor draw distance. As always, a lot of the assets here are re-used from previous games. However, CH did take the opportunity to retool a few areas that haven’t been seen since the original for the remake, like the snowy area of Lowee. In the end, though, these are just reskins of existing area layouts in mk2 and Victory. The game looks great on Vita’s screen, with the condensed resolution (qHD) allowing things to look a lot sharper. The dialogue sprites also look great, as they always do. It’s a pretty nice presentation.

Sound: 10/10 – I really appreciate the sound in the game. The tracks are good (a lot of them are reused from previous games, though), but we have a lot of new tracks, including remixes of themes not heard since the original game, though these are usually heard only once and for only a few seconds, leading you to never hear the whole thing unless you just sit in the dialogue or go find it in your bonus menus. Additionally, the dub here is excellent. IFI has gathered the entire original dub cast for their first shot at the series and everyone’s gradual improvement over the course of the series has brought some new life to the old plot. A lot of the game is voiced in the dub, too. Not everything, but still quite a bit. Most of the main plot and several of the key optional events. Pretty good for their first dubbing project, honestly. Anyway, everything sounds great. No complaints here.

Overall: 9.3/10 – There are a few things that could have gone a little better here, but overall, it’s a great game. Certainly among the more impressive titles in the series. I’m excited to see what else IFI can bring to the table for Neptunia, now that they’ve announced both Re;Birth2 and Hyperdevotion Noire. If this quality and speed of release keeps up, I’ll be very happy going forward. The game itself is indicative of a good trend in constant improvements and updates to the series. With Re;Birth2 on its way and Re;Birth3 announced with some great changes in store, I’m looking forward to V-II, which has also started reporting some cool system changes. Re;Birth1 is indicative of a trend of improvement and commitment to excellence within Compile Heart.

So there’s one out of the way. Summer final impressions and Fall initial are on the way. Maybe later today, maybe later this week. We’ll see what I end up with time for.

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