Released in 2010 in Japan (2011 in the West), the very first Hyperdimension Neptune was objectively not a «good» RPG. Terrible exploration, repetitive combat, abusive DLC, sub-par graphics, the cons were pretty clear and no one missed them. Niche gamers nonetheless appreciated its strange universe, sharp humor and its characters now well-known in JRPG circles. This more than justified a remake of the founder of the Neptunia series, and you have it now on PSVita.
Let’s immediately stress that Hyperdimension Neptune ReBirth1 (Re1) has cut all ties with the original title (almost). Even though it borrows a lot from previous episodes (battle system, enemies, musics, 2D models), Re1 definitely feels brand new. All the technical aspects have been adapted to fit to Vita’s power, but above all, the game has been re-written and re-designed. While keeping the broad outline of the original, the story becomes more modern and richer : it has a better pace but maintains its terrific sense of humor, its hilarious parodies (the game starts with Luigi’s double saying «at long last my time has come!»), and welcomes more characters more progressively. Those characters enrich Re1 which ends up more dense and fresher than any past episode.
Remember the hassle to obtain Noire, Blanc and Vert at the end of the first game? That’s no longer the case : Noire joins pretty quickly, Vert and Blanc 1 or 2 chapters after. The game also has the wonderful idea to make the transition with Mk2 by the «birth» of Nepgear, Uni, Ram & Rom. NPCs such as Financier and Cyan have now a character design of their own, which makes the narration a lot nicer, like a bunch of other design choices that it would be too long and useless to discuss here. But that’s not all! Re1 includes every DLC character from Hyperdimension Neptune Victory, which makes a total of 16 playable characters in game (+ Histoire, Plutia and Peashy in DLC).
Technically speaking, this remake transposes with some refinements the graphics of the latest PS3 Neptunia. True, Neptunia games have never represented technical prowess… but the referential has changed! We are now on the handheld market and Re1 is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful portable RPGs ever made! Far from the derelict 3D engines used on 3DS, here characters are incredibly detailed and the game goes as far as animating the mouth of the girls when they speak! Backgrounds are still rather simple but the 3D is neat. Movements suffer from drops time to time but remain on par with home console versions. Believe me it’s quite a sight on the OLED screen.
Gameplay-wise, it’s still Mk2’s system with tougher difficulty : you will bite the dust, at least in the first half. But the good people of Felistella have you covered. You will have the possibility to lower the enemies’ level if you’re stuck, or even reinforce them if you’re yawning during battles. It’s part of the «memory» system introduced in this remake. The Flag/Scouts system is gone : now, the game grants you a amount of «memory» that you are free to use for the following : discover new dungeons, modify enemies, modify drop items, item creation, gameplay tweaks (including difficulty).
The fighting in itself knows little change. The tactical-like turn-based system with free moving around the field is still on the agenda. That said, the higher difficulty and the different styles of the various characters make combat more fun, strategic and varied than ever. You really have to weight your decision in managing heal, magic, relay or Ex-Drive. Note that you’ll have again a your disposal the creation of CDs (accessories) to boost your characters in battle.
The only drawback I can think of is that the fan-service level has been reduced to a bare minimum : artworks, inherited from the original for most part, aren’t risqué in any way and too few new ones were made for the occasion. Except this, ReBirth1 is exactly the concentrate of humor, beauty and variety the fans have been dreaming to hold in their hand.