Hyperdimension Neputia Rebirth Review: If You’re Into That Sort of Thing
I have to admit, Hyperdimension Neputia completely flew by me years ago when it released on the PS3. I didn’t hear all of the negative western reactions to the game’s portrayal of women, I didn’t hear about the flaws with the battle system or the wacky, tongue-in-cheek allusion to the console wars. It just never showed up on my radar.
Fast forward a few years and Idea Factory/Compile Heart have revamped the PS3 game for the PS Vita, bringing changes to the core game that are suppose to make it a better overall experience. Has enough been done to make Neputia Rebirth a must-have JRPG for your Vita?
The answer is,…if you’re into this sort of thing.
Let’s start with the basics of gameplay. Hyperdimension Neputia Rebirth throws players into a somewhat standard JRPG game that isn’t all that entirely new to fans of the genre. Nep-nep, the main character, ventures forth on dozens of quests into dangerous dungeon like areas, battling monsters, acquiring new characters to bring along in battle and overall grinding to move the plot along.
Rebirth’s combat system has been altered so that it resembles the combat system in the installments that came after this initial game. Players can move around a giant combat circle during enemy encounters with complete control over their party members, something that is new for the PS Vita version. This is like the difference in difficulty and general frustration from going from Persona 3’s computer controlled party AI to Persona 4’s player-controlled party members.
You’ll be far less frustrated with how battles play out since you don’t have to rely on the game’s AI to pick what your partners do. This makes the game feel faster and far more balanced in the player’s favor. Don’t be mistaken, typical JRPG burdens like excessive level grinding to tackle certain bosses and plot events is still required though its fairly tolerable in Rebirth.
Even though Rebirth’s battle system is enjoyable and far better than in the original game, it really doesn’t stand out much for any reason other than not being as bad as it could have been. You can unleash special attacks and power up Nep-nep to transform into a more evolved form of herself with stronger powers but there isn’t much else to it. There aren’t really any distinctive traits of the game’s combat unlike what you see in the Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem, or even Bravely Default franchises.
You can’t talk about Neptunia Rebirth without mentioning the game’s wacky narrative. Yes, its all symbolism for the console wars. Nep-nep, for the most part represents the fallen Sega brand and is literally defeated at the beginning of the game by the women who represent Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. She loses her memory (a tired cliche of JRPGs) and goes on a quest to learn more about her identity and set things right as the warring CPUs (Playstation, Nintendo, and Xbox) lay waste to their respective homelands.
There is a fair bit of comedy in the game’s plot and you will laugh from time to time. Most of the time those laughs will come from actually being amused by the game’s humor while other times you’ll laugh at the game for reasons the developer probably didn’t intend.
The groan inducing, outright embarrassing nature of some of the dialogue, animations, story of the game is unavoidable. That’s why I said that if you’re into this sort of humor and style you’ll probably like this game. You’ll be able to overlook the straight up laughable characters.
It isn’t just the fact that these female character have stupid, excessively sexual outfits on while fighting epic battles even though their attire is an obviously bad choice for combat. It isn’t just the spilling out, comical breast physics for quasi-static character art. It’s how weak and moronic these girls are portrayed to be that makes this a hard game to recommend to anyone without the tag line “if you’re into that.”
This wasn’t intentionally but I played through the game while also playing the recently released InFamous First Light on the PS4. I know it isn’t fair to compare the cast of Neptunia to Fetch from Sucker Punch’s open-world franchise but the irony of Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth 1 releasing around the same time as First Light can’t be ignored. You can’t help but yearn for more fleshed out, realistic characters in Neptunia even if the game is a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek JRPG.
Despite the game’s up-beat, solid music, decent art and fourth-wall breaking and parody-based story the issue of horribly portrayed women overwhelmed my entire user experience with Neputia Rebirth. Every time a breast jiggled during dialogue or a cutscene, every time Compa, Iffy or Nep-nep took much longer to figure out something than any rational human would take, every time the dialogue got cringe-worthy I would force myself to not turn the game off. That isn’t something you want people to think when they play your game, that they’re struggling to not give up and move on with their lives.
Like I said at the start of this review, I didn’t experience any of the backlash against Neptunia when it originally released on PS3. I’m entirely new to the franchise so I hoped I wouldn’t be as skewed against it as some in the media are. But I just can’t get over how badly women are portrayed, how sexist the game is, or just how average it is outside of these issues.
Neptunia Rebirth would be a decent, if only average game if it didn’t have these problems. It has pretty good music, a one of a kind plot and humor that simply no other franchise can copy. If Neptunia had more one of a kind gameplay to go along with its unique story then perhaps I could overlook some of the other glaring issues but as is, Neptunia Rebirth is a hard game to recommend even to die-hard JRPG enthusiasts. You’d be better off skipping this entry for a later installment in the franchise but if you can get past Neptunia’s cosmetic issues you will enjoy your adventure with Nep-nep.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Rebirth 1 isn't a bad game. It can be very enjoyable to actually play from time to time and has a very interesting story. The sexist portrayal of women overwhelms the player, encouraging them to abandon their quest to see Nep-nep's adventure through until the end. Review copy provided by Idea Factory.