The console war is a very real thing. Despite the fact that a healthy and competitive market with multiple consoles is a great thing for consumers, even in 2014, many gamers still elect to take sides. Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, takes that very real passion and runs with it, crafting a fictional story heavily inspired by the real life competition between Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and even the dearly departed SEGA. That gimmick, which admittedly is quite clever, only temporarily masks what is otherwise a very mediocre game.
Re;Birth1 is an enhanced remake of the PlayStation 3 exclusive Hyperdimension Neptunia. The game takes place in the world of Gamindustri, an obvious play on words, where four goddesses each representing a seventh-generation console (including a fictional SEGA console), do battle in the console wars to decide who will rule Gamindustri. Each Goddess also has a human form and when they aren’t battling each other, reside in a city that represents their console. Neptunia, the main character, resides in Planeptune, a futuristic city inspired by the unreleased Neptune console from SEGA. There are the cities of Lastation (PS3), Lowee (Wii), and Leanbox (Xbox 360), where Neptune and her team of anime heroines eventually visit as well.
While the plot is obviously inspired by the console wars, it quickly devolves into a run-of-the-mill story about traveling Gameindustri collecting mysterious but important “key fragments” in order to save the world. Former rival goddesses will put aside their differences to help combat a greater threat. Outside of the occasional 4th wall-breaking moments about video games (including pointing out and making light of its own heavy fan service), nothing here is interesting or unique.
It isn’t helped by the fact that nearly the game’s entire story is told only through characters talking over a static background. There are no video cutscenes to help show what is going on. Also, the amount of unnecessary dialogue is staggering. Characters will go on and on talking about pointless topics such as breast size and pudding for minutes on end before getting to anything that offers any value to the plot.
A little character development is one thing, but so many conversations are sidetracked by something silly for excessive periods of time. To make matters worse, any kind of charm the world of Gameindustri has is buried by the fact that none of it is traversable. The entire game takes place in a menu, rather than an explorable world map, with the only real locations being shops and dungeons. With all of that said, the main characters can be endearing and likable at times, and the voice acting is pretty solid. If they were part of a more interesting plot, then maybe their sidebar banter would be enjoyable rather than frustrating.
The only thing more disappointing than the plot is all of the overcomplicated features that serve only to bog the game down. First are Shares, which is a barometer that represents the amount of influence the Goddesses have and is raised and lowered by completing dull kill X amount of enemies side quests. You can take advantage of Shares to power up your Goddess…but do you really want to go into old dungeons and kill the same enemies over and over again? There’s also the “Remake System” which allows you to load different game-altering mechanics onto a hard drive (such as easier enemies in a particular dungeon) through plans that you can collect from various NPCs on the world map. A cool idea in theory, but a lot of the plans require grinding to obtain all of the necessary items needed to create them.
There’s also disc creation, idea chips, and the lily rank system, all of which are just part of the laundry list of mechanics that I don’t have space in the article to go into. They all get thrown at you pretty early on in the game instead of being spaced out, and it takes a long time to not feel overwhelmed by it all. It’s hard not to feel that so much time and resources went into making all of these overly complicated and unnecessary features that could have gone into crafting a more interesting story and polishing up the battle system.