By Patrick Aguda / July 28th, 2021
|Publisher||Idea Factory International|
|Release Date||June 8th, 2021|
|Age Rating||ESRB: Teen – T|
Ten years ago, the original Hyperdimension Neptunia released for PlayStation 3 and featured amazing character designs and equally interesting characters. However, it was marred by framerate issues, boring combat, and an extremely grindy Shares system. Fast forward three years and a full remake of the game, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, was released for PlayStation Vita. This game changed up many aspects of the original, including the UI, combat system, performance, the game’s script, and added new characters. Jump forward another seven years and now an upgraded version of Re;Birth 1, Neptunia ReVerse, is available for PlayStation 5. ReVerse once again revamps the game’s UI, adds even more characters to the roster, a new game mode known as Arrange Mode, a fishing minigame, and updates the combat to allow four party members in battle. Having never played Re;Birth 1 and only Hyperdimension Neptunia, I was very excited to play, what should be, the definitive version of this remake. How much does the game improve upon the original, and is this game worth the time? Let’s go on and find out!
Our story begins with the four CPUs of Gamindustri: Purple Heart, Black Heart, Green Heart, and White Heart, locked in a longstanding battle known as the Console War. The protagonist of the story, Neptune (Purple Heart), is defeated in a three-on-one battle, and sent tumbling down to the land of Gamindustri. Compa, a nurse-in-training living in Planeptune, discovers Neptune outside the city and nurses her back to health. However, Neptune soon discovers she has amnesia. Thus begins her adventure to regain her memory and, ultimately, save Gamindustri from certain doom!
The main story of the game isn’t particularly groundbreaking. Neptune goes around Gamindustri with her friends, Compa and IF, solving problems in different lands while trying to help Neptune recover her memory. I should mention this is the exact same story as seen in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1. They even still call the game Re;Birth 1 in one of the dialog boxes, which I found really lazy. Where Neptunia ReVerse really shines are the characters themselves, how these characters interact with one another, and, of course, the references to real-life video games and companies. Neptune is the happy-go-lucky protagonist who is willing to crack a joke, no matter how serious the situation; Noire is the stubborn, yet kind, girl who believes in solving things by herself; Vert is a hardcore gamer who’d rather game all day than perform her CPU duties; Blanc is the soft-spoken bookworm on the surface, but rile her up and she becomes quite the violent individual, unafraid to cuss out those who anger her. I really loved watching these four CPUs interact with one another. It made for some hilarious and interesting moments. I particularly enjoyed when Neptune and Noire interacted with each other as you could see Noire come out of her lonely shell.
When you first start up Neptunia ReVerse, you have the option to choose between Normal Mode and Arrange Mode. Normal Mode plays similarly to how Re;Birth 1 played where you unlock characters based on story progression. Arrange Mode on the other hand gives you access to all playable characters off the bat while adjusting the balance of enemies, character stats, and items, among other things. I played through the game in Arrange Mode since I felt having everyone available would make things more fun. And seeing as how this mode is exclusive to ReVerse, it felt right to play through this mode for the review. Neptunia ReVerse at its core is a JRPG. Gameplay segments are broken up between story events told in visual novel-esque scenes, dungeon exploration, and turn-based combat. There isn’t much to dungeon exploration. You go through the maps until you reach the Event markers. You can find hidden treasure chests by tapping the square button while running around the dungeon, so expect to spam that button while exploring. There are also no puzzles at all in these dungeons, so it is very easy to breeze through them if you avoid the enemies. Enemies are spread throughout dungeons, and running into them, or attacking them, will start a battle. In battle you have four frontline members and four reserve members. You can switch between the front and reserve members at any time during battle. Doing so will allow your front member to recover while the reserve member fights. Each character in the game has different stats and abilities which make them more suited to certain roles than others. For example, Neptune is the heavy-hitting frontline attacker; Noire is the balanced character who can attack and buff party members; Vert can act as a magic attacker plus support; Blanc is the tank who can take a lot of damage. You have a lot of options to choose from in Arrange Mode, so choose the party that works best for you.
When it’s your turn in battle, you have multiple options to choose from. You can move your character around within a set radius, perform a normal attack, use skills and items, perform EXE Drive attacks, and, if your character is a CPU or CPU Candidate, turn on HDD mode. Each character has a break, power, and rush attack. These attacks are each assigned to a button, triangle for rush, square for power, and cross for break. You can assign three of each attack to any character, and depending on what number attack you’re on, the attack changes. Leveling up will unlock more of these attacks for each character. Skills are what you expect them to be. They can range from more powerful physical and magical attacks to support abilities that can heal your party members, buff them, or even debuff foes. EXE Drive attacks are ultimate moves that can be performed by a character once your EXE Gauge is at a certain level. Most of these attacks only need the gauge to be at level one, but other attacks such as combination EXE attacks will need the gauge to be at level two. You can raise the EXE Gauge by damaging your opponent or taking damage. You can increase the rate at which the gauge increases by unlocking an option later in the game.
Outside of story events and dungeons, you have access to the world map which acts as the game’s HUB. Here, you can purchase items and equipment, accept and report quests, and access the game’s gallery. Completing quests will increase, or decrease, the Shares for each nation. Five Share bars are affected by quests: Planeptune, Lastation, Leanbox, Lowee, and Other. In order to access the True Ending, the Shares for each bar must be at a certain amount. This is very easy to manipulate in this game when compared to Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Neptune is kind enough to let you know what is needed for the True Ending at a certain point in the story.
I personally enjoyed the simplicity of the gameplay in Neptunia ReVerse. It was easy to progress through the story and see the characters interact with each other, which was my favorite part of the game. However, this simplicity led to things getting really monotonous and boring after certain periods of time, so I would have to take a break and recharge my batteries before continuing the game. I also noticed that the boss enemies were easier than some of the normal enemy mobs you find in the field, which is weird to me. I died more times against normal mobs than the story bosses, mainly because normal enemies can power up and become Viral enemies randomly during a battle. Not only did this increase their stats, it also completely healed them of any damage you inflicted. I’ve had times where I was close to ending a fight, only for the enemies to all turn Viral and proceed to wipe my whole party, causing a game over and making me restart a dungeon. I wish there was a more concrete way to know when an enemy would turn Viral, but there is none that I know of, so your only choice is to wipe out the enemy as quickly as possible before they have a chance to counterattack. I also would’ve liked an option to continue from the fight you lost at, rather than having to reload your save and start a dungeon all over again. It would’ve saved me some frustration.
Graphically, Neptunia ReVerse looks decent, but it definitely could’ve looked better considering this is a PS5 game. The character designs still look fantastic, but these are the same designs they’ve been using since the series first started. The game’s UI was simple to use and easy on the eyes. The 3D character models look fine, but the dungeon environments and enemy designs are very forgettable. Also, the dungeon and enemy designs are all recycled throughout the game. Maybe the enemies will get a recolor, but they’re essentially the same foe, just stronger. Dungeon layouts are literally the same throughout the game, and you will definitely see some that repeat. The only one I found to have a unique design was the final story dungeon, and it’s ridiculous it took that long to find a unique layout. Also, the character animations for skills were reused from past games, you’d be hard pressed to find anything new in that department. The 2D character art still looked great and was very expressive during cutscenes. The event CGs looked fantastic as well, as expected from Tsunako. For the game’s first foray on the PS5, I expected more, but I guess there’s only so much they can do with what’s essentially an updated PS Vita game.
Audio wise the game does its job. There were some pretty catchy tunes such as “Nepgear’s Theme ver. V” and the final dungeon’s theme. Some of these tunes were reused from past games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The opening and ending themes, however, are new to ReVerse, and both sound fantastic. “For SHARE!!” is catchy like most Neptunia game openings, and I really enjoyed the ending theme “Reverse.” Being able to listen to “Reverse” after beating the game really felt like a great reward. Both the English and Japanese voice acting is great in this game, you can’t go wrong with either option. I chose to use the Japanese voices since there are more voiced lines in Japanese when compared to English.
Performance wise, Neptunia ReVerse runs as smooth as butter. There were zero frame rate drops throughout my playthrough and the game ran at a steady 60 FPS the entire time. There was also very little load times, which was also pleasant. This is a far cry from the frame rate mess that was Hyperdimension Neptunia. If there’s something I will absolutely praise, it’s the fact that the game runs so smoothly compared to the original game.
It took me about 30 hours to complete Neptunia ReVerse’s Normal Ending and True Ending, so the game isn’t too long. There is plenty to do for completionists after beating the game. You can reload your save and complete all the dungeons and quests, play through all the Colosseum battles, and play the Fishing minigame to unlock items in the gallery.
I enjoyed my time with Neptunia ReVerse. It was great seeing these loveable characters interact with each other again, and I appreciated how much this game improved upon the original. ReVerse is such a significant improvement over Hyperdimension Neptunia, that if your only experience with the first game is the original, I highly recommend picking this one up to see how much it changed. If you’re new to the series, this is probably the best way to get into the Neptunia franchise, seeing as how this is a remake of the very first game. If you already played Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, I think you can skip this one since the story is essentially the same. I think $50 is a bit high for an upgraded port of a PS Vita game, so I recommend waiting for a price drop before picking this one up. Neptunia ReVerse is available right now for PlayStation 5.
Game copy provided by the publisher.
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