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Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation (Sony PlayStation Vita)

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Felistella
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Release Date: 06/30/2015

It has been a busy year for Hyperdimension Neptunia fans. Just in 2015 alone, we’ve seen Re;Birth2, Hyperdevotion Noire, and Neptunia U. And it’s only June. Still, given that the other games in the main series had gotten a Vita port, it was only a matter of time before we’d see a definitive version of Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory.

For those that are veterans of the PS3 release, probably the biggest concern is if there’s enough new to justify double dipping. There’s also the saying that goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And unlike the first two games that had some serious flaws that needed addressing, Victory pretty much nailed it the first time around. Such that, it pretty much became the standard for every release that followed. How does one build upon that? Yet, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation manages to introduce just enough useful tweaks that you wondered how you ever played without them.

The game’s story takes place after the events in Re;Birth2, though it does take Nepgear out of the driver’s seat as the lead character, placing Neptune firmly back into that role. As before, it unfolds in the land of Gameindustri, a world ruled by four CPU’s. These CPU’s preside over countries that sound suspiciously like current gen consoles; Noire is the founder of Lastation, Blanc rules over Lowee, and Vert hails from Leanbox. Then, of course, there’s Planeptune which is representative of Sega. Each land’s CPU also has sisters that are representative of handheld consoles, such as Nepgear (Game Gear), Uni (PSP), and Rom and Ram (as a pair are the DS).

Rather than focus on uniting the nations in battling a common enemy, Re;Birth3 has Neptune investigating a rebel group that believes that CPU’s should no longer exist and that the residents of Gameindustri can live without their guidance. During this investigation, one thing leads to another, and Neptune finds herself swallowed by a vortex that dumps her into an alternate universe; one where she is not the CPU of Neptunia and where Lastation and Leanbox have not been established yet. Instead, she discovers the Planeptune’s CPU Plutia, an airhead who gains her CPU abilities on accident while having a picnic. Despite her innocent and carefree appearance, her HDD form transforms her into a sadist who quite literally gets off on seeing others get hurt either physically or emotionally. As you might imagine, she transforms far more than her fellow protagonists care to endure, leading to some increasingly uncomfortable, yet humorous scenes of her “punishing” characters off-screen as well as other hijinks.

The story is told in chapters, and is presented episodically in such a way as to mimic an anime with self-contained episodes. Each one chronicles the struggles of Neptune and friends as they fight off a mysterious organization known as the Seven Sages and try to prevent their sabotage of the faith the citizens of their respective countries have in them. It’s both better written and more humorous than the first two games, while incorporating a ton of references and in-jokes that those who have followed the beginnings of all the major companies will get a kick out of. Nothing is off limits either, as such things as the Virtual Boy are mocked openly, with one character asking Blanc if she was “trying to fail by designing it” as well more recent events like the hacking of Sony during one of Noire’s open declarations of being number one in the market. It’s video game industry satire in the form of a video game, and it doesn’t get more poetic than that.

While the plot in Re;Birth3 is largely the same as its console iteration, there are some characters and story bits added that didn’t exist before. Some of which occur as early as the prologue, such as a episode where Neptune enters her glitching video game and does battle with a rodent whose goal is to transform Gameindustri into a realm of social and mobile games (which I felt was an appropriate way to “update” the story). Other scenarios are peppered in throughout the game too.

The presentation is in line with the rest of the games, such that it’s likely that the assets were lifted right out of them. The character models and portraits look very much the same, you’ll battle the same palette swapped enemies, and the environments all feel familiar. That being said, it all looks very good on the Vita and doesn’t suffer from the same technical issues that the PS3 version had. And while we’re on the topic of repetition, let’s get into the audio. While reused music tracks is to be expected, some of the battle quotes will begin to grate on your nerves after a time. Bless her heart, but there is only so many times I can stand to hear Neptune exclaim “IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE MY TURN… but games don’t work like that, huh?” before I want to scream. At least there’s dual audio if you want to mix it up.

If you’ve played the previous Re;Birth titles, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3. When you’re out exploring a dungeon (or retreading a familiar dungeon layout as the case may be), enemies are visible to you and can be either approached or avoided. You can swing your weapon to get an advantage in the battle and move the turns of all of your characters up to the front, as well as instantly destroy them if you’re strong enough. Likewise, if an enemy spots you and hits you first, they’ll gain the first move. Once in combat, despite being a turn-based RPG, your movement and positioning plays a huge role. During a turn, your character has a large circle surrounding them indicating where they can move about the map, as well as a hit box in front of them that demonstrates their attack range. The nice thing about this setup, is if you manage to get the enemies to bunch up, you can strike the entire party at one time if you want to and potentially decimate them with a single combo.

If you decide to engage an enemy, there are three kinds of attacks that can be strung together into a combo. Triangle is a rush attack that gets you more hits, square is a power attack for going all out, and X is for break attacks that are better at reducing an enemy’s guard. These combo’s are customizable, so you can tweak which moves are accessible to you in each step of a combo. Re;Birth3 will even allow a fifth hit to the combo, which is new in this version (so long as you can allocate enough combo points to it). Also new is the absence of the EXE gauge, with finishing blows now tied to your SP. In addition, you have to use the Remake system to unlock them.

CPU characters can transform at will into HDD form at the expense of your SP. This grants a substantial benefit to your statistics, which is practically a must during boss battles. You can also tag team characters that are in the back row to fill in for the four that you can have in the front lines, though having certain characters paired up will offer statistical benefits and potentially bonus XP if their affinity is high.

There is more to exploring dungeons than just combat. Your lead character can jump, which in of itself isn’t particularly useful, but it will help you clear a few ledges that you wouldn’t be able to walk over normally. Using the square button will send out a pulse that will reveal any hidden items nearby. There aren’t any clues so far as I can tell as to where these items are, you just have to send out the pulse randomly and hope you find something. The items you find do end up being worthwhile most of the time. Bonuses are awarded as well based upon such things as how often your lead character jumps, how much damage your characters soak up, and how many items were picked up that will grant permanent stat boosts.

While there are towns to visit, they can’t be explored in the traditional sense. Much like the overworld, navigating towns is a matter of maneuvering a cursor over what it is you want to interact with and then doing so. Each nation you visit will bring about familiar faces, such as characters that appear strikingly similar to Mario and Solid Snake. A meta game in the form of Stella’s Dungeon returns from the other Re;Birth games, which involves sending the titular character out to unlocked dungeons to hunt for items for you. Upon her return, she may bring back something, though failure will result in losing everything she was carrying on her person. Her success will earn her better gear, which in turn will increase her success even more. It can be an interesting diversion, but you will often forget to check up on her when she returns.

Items can also be synthesized using parts found from defeated monsters or quests using the Remake system. Upon synthesizing an item, it will be added to shop inventories for you to buy, though it’s not just items you can create. New dungeons, skills, and even gameplay changes are waiting to be crafting by finding their respective plans and acquiring the necessary items to obtain them.

One nice thing in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 is that you always know what your main quest goal is, as the person or area that needs to be interacted with is always marked with an exclamation mark. On the other hand, if you don’t see one, this means you have to head to the guild and fulfill a mission that has the name in brackets. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but these required guild missions don’t differ much from the run of the mill optional quests that you pick up. As a result, you’ll be expected to perform some very arbitrary tasks, such as collecting a certain amount of an item, or defeating a predetermined quantity of a particular monster. Sometimes you might get lucky and already have the items in your inventory when you take on the quest, but honestly, this seems like needless padding to extend the game length. And it’s not the only thing in the game guilty of contributing to that.

You see, for all the things that Re;Birth3 gets right, it does one serious thing wrong. The game is horribly imbalanced. The game will throw complete fodder for enemies at you for long periods of time and then match you with a boss that will just annihilate you. Sometimes, even regular enemies who aren’t all that difficult will sometimes catch a virus that will transform them into a more powerful version of themselves and lay waste to your entire party before you can even get a turn. This is rather ridiculous, especially since 95% of the time, an attempt to run from incredibly strong enemies will lead to failure and you can kiss the last half hour of progress goodbye.

To be clear, I have no problem with challenging boss fights. In fact, I welcome them if there is actually some strategy involved. But nearly every boss in the latter part of the game can kill a party member in one blow if you’re not prepared, even after equipping powerful HP boosting items. The strategy for bringing them down is always the same too. Once the boss focuses on one of your party members (in my case, it was always consistently Neptune), one party member will revive them from the insta-kill so they can soak the damage again next round, while the other two crush their guard and proceed to deal as much damage as possible before the boss can regenerate it all back. Some battles can last an excess of thirty minutes just on account of how much health gets regenerated by the boss. And the only way to mitigate that (or survive for that matter) is to grind for hours prior to the battle. Fortunately, you can eventually unlock a colosseum to make this a bit easier on you, but at what point do you realize that if you are going to spend most of your time playing the game while simultaneously watching Netflix, that it would be wiser to just do the Netflix part? At least the Remake system helps with mitigating this.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had a blast with the battle system and they managed to pack a ton of content into the game, including sidequests in the form of guild missions and entire areas that can be optionally explored. And many of the missions can be completed simultaneously since much of them take place in the same areas. They can be done while on your way to do the story missions if you really want to, and are repeatable. But having these guild missions force fed to you as a way to progress the plot is an annoyance, as is spending hours building levels between boss battles. You also have to participate in them to build shares for your nation, which can influence the ending.

Bottom line: if you’ve been keeping up with the Re;Birth games thus far, you know what you’re getting into. It’s an extension of its predecessors which were themselves an extension of the PS3 version of this very game! And in this journey of going full circle it has picked up some extra story bits and the incredibly versatile Remake system. Not to mention the presentation has improved. It’s not a massive change from its original version, but if you just want to take it on the go or if you haven’t finished it yet and would prefer to play the definitive version, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation is the way to go.

Short Attention Span Summary
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3: V Generation is similar enough to the PS3 iteration of Victory that it can’t quite be called a remake, though there’s enough differences that it’s not just a port either. In any case, the end result is a game that has improved in subtle ways with the addition of the Remake system and additional story content. Because it’s not remarkably different, if you didn’t like the prior Re;Birth games or even Victory, you’re likely not going to get into this one either. But for franchise fans that haven’t suffered franchise fatigue yet, it’s another home run.

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