Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart/Felistella
Publisher: Compile Heart
Release Date: January 30, 2015
Platform: PC via Steam
This week I had the opportunity to sit down and try out Compile Heart’s Hyperdimnension Neptunia Re:Birth 1. The game itself had been available in North America since August of 2014 however it was just ported to Steam at the end of January. Rebirth 1 is a spinoff of the original title Hyperdimension Neptunia, which was released for the PlayStation 3 in August of 2010.
The main story circulates around the world of Gamindustri (pronounced ‘game industry’) which is divided into four regions. Each of these counterparts are watched over by one of the four goddesses of the universe; Purple Heart, Black Heart, White Heart and Green Heart. The beginning of the game starts off with the four arguing that there should be one main goddess that presides over all Gamindustri, a continuous war known as The Console War – sound familiar?
Apparently, each of these regions are references to real life gaming consoles. Purple Heart, or Neptune is a reference to Sega, Black Heart represents Playstation 3, White Heart the Wii and Green Heart the Xbox 360 console. All of these, if not their successors are currently involved in a real life console war.
During the beginning cut-scenes, the four are convinced by an off-screen voice that Purple Heart, otherwise known as Neptune, should be the first goddess exiled from Gamindustri. Neptune is cast out of the heavens and lands in the main city that she once resided over. On land, she meets Compa, a bubbly young nursing student. Neptune, or Nep-Nep as she is now called by her friend, has lost all memories of her former self. Compa and Nep-Nep decide they are going to further investigate Nep-Nep’s sudden appearance and thus the gameplay begins.
Throughout the game you explore the world of Gameindustri. Such things as fighting monsters will allow your character to level up in hopes of becoming the newest heroines in town. Upon your journey, a new face will join the team, turning your solid duo into a trio. Iffy, another would be female heroin, completes the necessary support needed for such a journey. For those curious, you are not limited to these characters alone. During the game, you will also be able to recruit other goddesses throughout your adventure if you choose to.
The game strays from that of a typical role-playing game (RPG) fighting style. You still operate within the normal, turn-based rules. However, instead of staying in one spot you must move the player around so that it is within the range of the enemy before attacking. This can be quite cumbersome at times since it takes a bit of effort with the controls to get the character in the right position to attack. Depending on where the enemy was positioned, there were times where I spent more effort getting into the right area to strike than actually battling. Personally, this took me right out of the game as due to its frustrating nature and lack of flow.
While the striking distance was somewhat of a nuisance, there were other hindrances found within the options and menus. There was a help menu that continuously popped up in between battles, at first I thought this was just going to occur during the tutorial stages, but made itself very visible as it continued even when my characters were considerably leveled. You can disable these tutorials in the settings thankfully.
During the battle scenes the menu holds a familiar array of normal RPG choices. You have the option to either Attack, Defend, use Special Skills, or access your EXE Drive.
Using a regular attack against the enemy will build your experience (EXP) gauge and heighten your opponents’ guard break, allowing for the player to deal a higher amount of damage. These standard attacks come in three forms, a Rush, Power and Break Attack.
Each protagonist also has their own special attacks depending on their abilities. For example, Compa will be your Healer throughout most of the game, fulfilling yet another archetype of the RPG mold. One thing I did enjoy is having the ability for Neptune to access her HDD (or Hard Drive Divinity) and transform into her former goddess self. This tapped into my love for all things magical girl, being a fan of such shows as Sailor Moon for quite some time. This isn’t a random occurrence as the game is similarly shrouded in this art-style.
One thing I must mention is the art and graphics system utilized. If you’ve ever played games such as Dead or Alive, then you may have noticed a particular focus on the, shall we say, physics of certain body parts. This same idea is amusingly apparent in Hyperdimension Neptunia. In cut-scenes during gameplay, you will notice the chest area of the characters are pretty much the only body part with any movement to it. This may seem a bit strange until to anyone outside of the manga/anime realm, but you will be reminded of exactly what genre you’re playing. This may be a Japanese magical girl fighting game, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s geared towards a female audience.
During gameplay, you will also notice that the characters have a tendency to break the fourth wall fairly often, which essentially means they are aware they are in a video game and not in an actual reality. A lot of the game centers around gaming technology and terms used in the industry. For example, when you transform into your ultimate goddess form during fighting sequences, you must access your HDD to do so. Neptune also says key phrases throughout the game that hint that she is self aware as video game character such as, “let’s go fight some monsters and gain experience points!”
Neptune, Compa and Iffy battle their way through the different regions of GameIndustri until they are met with the final antagonist, Arfoire. Her plan all along was to pit the goddesses against each other in hopes they would be destroyed by their own hand and she would be able to rule the entirety of Gamindustri. There are several ways the story to end depending on the choices made throughout your quest.
The overall design of the game, representation and physics of the female form was entertaining-and often amusing. But, for others out there, it might come off as offensive. This might be the case, particularly surrounding the relative controversy of whether females are grossly misrepresented in video games.
Sure, the focus on certain parts of the characters’ bodies may seem a little exaggerated but think of it this way: Have you ever seen a girl jump up and down and swing a sword only to have every part of her body stay perfectly still? I think not. You also have to remember that this particular game focuses on the characters being self aware that they are in the RPG genre, playing into the satirical emphasis of this gaming nuance.
The Bottom Line:
Despite being a fan of RPGs, I found myself not becoming extremely connected to the characters and their storyline. The camaraderie of the protagonists and their desire to defeat the evil bestowed upon their world is a familiar concept we can all get on board with and made the fight to the end a little less of a chore. I would recommend it for those who are interested in the magical fighting girl genre as that may keep you committed to the game. If you don’t have a PC, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re:birth 1 is also available for the PS Vita.