Given the fact that most remakes and reboots range between doing exceptionally well for themselves to outright terrible, tracking the Hyperdimension Neptunia series conversion from the Playstation 3 to Vita has been a great joy and can say that the games definitely belong in the former category. Starting with Rebirth 1 that amended gameplay mechanics and technical issues all the way up until the many spinoffs that traded ideas between the mainline titles, this little brand has come along way. With Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth 3, the sentiment of improvement is still going strong and proves to make this entry somewhat more than another incremental enhanced port.
Title: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3: V Century
Developer: Compile Heart, Ideal Factory
System: PSVITA, PSTV (coming to Steam soon)
Length: 50-55+ hrs
Release Date: 06-30-2015 (NA), 07-03-2015 (EU)
Just like with its counterpart Victory, Rebirth 3 follows the journey of Neptune as she is whisked away back to the Gamindustri of 1989 and seeks to return to her own time while dealing with an evil organization known as the Seven Sages. With the storyline remaining largely unchanged from the original, there have been a few small changes made to the narrative as well as IFI providing a new translation. Of course, beyond all the miniscule ones, there are also a few prominent aspects: many that are worthwhile and some that are just aggravating. It’s the common checklist of housekeeping hallmarks, but ones that do leave a lasting impression…especially when it comes to the gameplay more than anything else.
Unlike the Rebirth duo and Victory that made use the EXE Drive Gauge to perform finishing attacks and built up through normal attacks, that mechanic has now been replaced by the character’s SP pool. Already burdened by handling special skill usage and HDD transformation, battles do require some special consideration this time around, but thanks to the ability to dial in another combo, rush attacks helping refill SP quicker, and having items to aid in the process – there is uniformity in the difficulty you can expect from this switch up. That being said, Rebirth 3 is still just tough as its counterpart, requiring copious amounts of time spent level grinding, taking on quest to unlock new plans for item crafting, and exploring new areas to make/buy the best equipment possible in order to stand a chance against any problem you may face. The remake system from the first two Rebirth games does make an unsurprising return, either aiding in making things more easier or harder depending on preferences, yet also contains a lot of features that you need to work toward unlocking rather than handed to you. Want to use Plutia’s finishing attack? Get the items to unlock it! Want Vert’s leader skill? Unlock it! Want to add Nepgear’s voice back to the item menu? Unlock it! Sounding like it might be time-consuming and pointless, unlocking the features are relativity easy this time around as both quest and recipes requirements will denote where to find the enemies and items you need. No more running aimlessly trying to find that item or get that certain enemy to show up that has eluded you for the last past couple of hours! Besides that, actually picking and choosing what you want in the game makes it feel like you are the creator in a sense and fun to design how you see fit. However, due to the fact that getting things like character’s specials means that you also have to perform a specific action for each character individually to even get the plan to show up rather than having it unlocked for everyone…there is fair amount of frustration that comes from such a redundant system.
Dungeon exploration is still the same old bag of reused environments you are probably accustomed to seeing playing through the Neptunia series, but also contains some small changes. With the hidden item scan ability removed from the game, most items and plans will now show up on the field normally. There will be some items still hidden, but instead of being hard to locate, they will be in the form of invisible blocks that cast a silhouette (usually denoted by ???) and just like in Super Mario Bros, can get those blocks to appear by using the jump command to hit it them and thereby getting them to relinquish an item…if any. It is sort of strange that the blocks go back to being hidden once leaving the dungeon despite not yielding any extra items, but can’t complain and find it a vast improvement from having to trot an entire dungeon (sometimes more than once) to get a specific item to show up. At least, in this case anyway, no special items are tied to the blocks. Enemies in combat also confer a similar type of service upon their defeat to – letting the player know ahead of time if they drop an item or not. A great boon for those trying to grinding for a specific type item and face success (or disappointment) far sooner than the end of a fight.
Another feature that has seen an improvement for the better is everyone’s favorite real-time dungeon explorer Stella from Rebirth 2. The same rules still apply: Equip Stella with different items and if she succeeds in reaching the end of the dungeon might bring back plans and items for you as well as more goodies for her own use, but if she fails, everything will be lost. Still being based on luck than anything else you can tip the odds in your favor by assigning her a partner or scout to go along with her. This is what also replaces the scout system from Victory. You only start off with one, but as Stella clears different dungeon areas will have the chance to find more partners that will grant her different buffs or abilities during her voyage depending on the companion . The only downside is if you happen to fall in a dungeon, the scout will need to be rescued and you have to either go the floor the scout is on or higher to save them. During successfully voyages, the scout might even learn random abilities, but can only have one at a time with the oldest being overwritten, yet a slight chance it can be learned again in the future. And just like Rebirth 2, there are only certain items that can be accessed via this mechanic, but not required if you want to do the absolute bare minimum. However, I do personally recommend doing it, since it is a lot of fun and requires very little on the part of the player. Being a real-time game, Stella will continue her journey even when you aren’t playing and will always present you with a report whether she was able to reach her goal or not when you come back to the game. She also talks now…if that means anything.
As aforementioned, while Rebirth 1 has laid the groundwork for the series on a technical level, Rebirth 3 really does seem to embodiment this as the game does seem to perform smoother than the previous titles and more comparable to the PS3 counterpart. While the partnership with Felistella has helped Idea Factory bring this franchise to the Vita without any serious lingering problems, this does seem to be at zenith of quality most people hoped it would reach during the PS3 phase. Just like the previous titles, the artwork and designs by Tsunako never fail to impress and look very crisp and colorful working with the Vita’s hardware. Retaining most music done by Nobuo Uematsu’s unit, the Earthbound Papas, the soundtrack doesn’t contain a lot of new tracks, but does devote one or two newcomers as the world map theme and extra battle theme – either of them done by Uematsu’s group or in-house composer Kenji Kaneko. Not that important to bring up, but still a nice addition to the already solid offering of tunes.
Like most long running and expansive franchises, Hyperdimension Neptunia is and has always been one about growth. There are times when the path to forgoing a better product does becomes muddled with some unnecessary evils, but everything that has happened and went into the series has been something of learning experience for Idea Factory. For that, you really can’t fault the attempt and when that experience actually amounts to some applicable purpose like it does for Rebirth 3, it’s a good sign and shows that things can only go up there…hopefully. As of now, like this entry, the brand will continue on just fine as it matures.
Pros: Changes to combat makes the game more balanced, the remake system has a lot of customizable content, quest completion is more bearable to deal with, plenty of unique characters to use in combat with their own special abilities, enemies now will display drops ahead of time, Stella’s minigame receives some great content upgrades.
Cons: Remake and challenge systems do seem to be counterproductive, level grinding takes awhile to reap any benefits from, dungeons are still bland and boring to deal with.
Note: The original Japanese audio is not included in the game and instead will be free DLC offered upon the games release. This also applies to DLC characters to included, but I have no information whether they will be free or not.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Ideal Factory International. All images and rights to them belong to Ideal Factory International/Compile Heart/Felistella and only for review purposes.