Back in 2010, Compile Heart and Idea Factory made a game personifying video game consoles as cute girls with the plot based on the console wars. While it was an interesting idea for a story, the first game unfortunately had a lot of problems ranging from game-breaking bugs to mediocre graphics.
Just little over three years later after the franchise got two well received games, Compile Heart decided to make a complete remake and reboot of the first game for the Playstation Vita, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth1.
The story pretty much follows the original as the four goddesses representing the four big console makers (Sony’s Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and the unreleased Sega Neptune) fight each other for the title of “true goddess.” As Neptune gets defeated after three of the goddesses teamed up on her, she gets turned into a pre-teen girl and loses her memories. She is found by Compa and with her and IF’s help, they go on the quest to collect parts of a key to free Histoire in order to regain Neptune’s lost memories.
In the remake, there are some notable changes from the original story. First, you no longer battle each goddess numerous times nor have to challenge them for the last time to have them join your party. Besides Noire, which is the only goddess that challenges you in chapter 2, you battle fake versions of White and Green Heart (later Black and Purple Heart) instead throughout the story. This changes the story in Chapter 4 significantly as you won’t be battling White Heart 3 times. Instead, Neptune and company has to take down the fake version of Blanc that is trying to start a war. Not only that, the makers from Victory plays a significant role in the story. Like previous games, the game does not take itself seriously and is mostly light-hearted, mostly because characters break the fourth wall quite often. Moreover, shares, which are manipulated by doing quests, determine the endings. In this game, there are only two endings to unlock, the Normal and True endings.
Compared to the original game, the gameplay in Rebirth 1 is a massive improvement. While the battle system is based on the one from Victory, it was still enjoyable although I made a few mistakes early game such as not changing the combos and enabling the EXE finishes. You can position your character anywhere on the field and then attack the monster. When your character attack, the EXE Drive meter will gradually increase. After a part of the meter gets filled, you can perform an EXE Finish (which is a special attack that doesn’t deplete the meter) or an EXE Drive, which is basically the most powerful attack that deals massive damage. You can gain new EXE Finish and Drive abilities by increasing the Lily Rank with a character that is not on the field, but participating in battle. However, certain characters will only receive special EXE Drives if you have a goddess paired up with Neptune or their respective CPU candidates. As always, goddesses and CPU candidates can transform, allowing them to gain higher stats at the cost of some SP. However, this is not a problem since boss battles will give you a free transformation off the bat in most cases.
Like in previous games, Rebirth;1 has the disk making feature (which adds special abilities when the disk is equipped) and a synthesis system known as the Remix System. On the world map, speech bubbles will appear and when you interact with them, they can give you a recipe needed to make an item, unlock special items/monsters, difficulty levels, etc. You can find and collect ingredients in the dungeons to make these items. However, use of the remix system requires free space and only bosses pertaining to the story will drop these memory sticks. While everything gets carried over in a New Game Plus besides the legendary weapons and Lily Ranks with Maker characters, you need to beat the game twice in order to unlock everything.
As a whole, Neptune Rebirth;1 is a very enjoyable game since it improved on a lot of aspects over the original. The graphics were even a slight improvement over Victory while Silhouettes of NPCs are replaced with distinct portraits. However, the remake removed a customization feature from the Playstation 3 games, which allows the player to use an image as a texture. While I was not that bothered by it, they probably didn’t include it due to the limitations of the Vita. Still, I think this game will be a great entry title for people who are interested in this franchise once it finally gets localized. Hopefully, the remake of Mk2 will be just as great or even better than this one.
Strengths: Vastly improved gameplay over the original, enjoyable story, slightly improved graphics over Victory, enjoyable characters, and makers are playable without DLC. Additional content DLC are pretty cheap compared to previous games, although the selection is pretty small.
Weaknesses: Some elements are recycled (monsters, dungeons, music).