Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 (PS VITA)

Following in the footsteps of it's last-gen predecessor "Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory", the newly overhauled port of "Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 V-Generation" adds plenty of extra features to entice fans of the series to return to it's roots on Playstation's 'PS Vita' legacy console. Along with the main story that we know as fans comes additional plot material featuring the cute cast of CPUs from the constantly war torn GameIndustri. Amongst the more lengthy plot, and additional story panels also comes other noticeable game additions, and changes to gameplay. Once you start the game up you'll meet, and greet the CPUs and their sister candidates through the main protagonist, "Neptune" in a visit within her homeland, and her homeland of an alternate reality. Accompanying Nep-Nep (or Neppy, if you prefer) this time around are alternate Lastation's CPU "Noire", and "Plutie" who happens to be the newly crowned CPU of Planeptune in the alternate GameIndustri. Of course there are other girl goddesses (CPUs) involved as well, each of which will be dealing with the current predicament in their own interesting ways.

As you can probably guess the game would not be true to the series without it's evil antagonists included, and to fill those shoes are seven dastardly villains looking to control the GameIndustri as a whole with their oppressive laws, and misdeeds. These bad guys, and gals are known as the 'Seven Sages', and are revealed one by one as they make their debut appearance throughout story panels, and contributing dialogue. All you need to know is that the timeline of events ranges from the NES glory days (Lowee) to Sony's rise as a console maker (Lastation), and even deeper into Microsoft's (Leanbox) involvement in the ongoing console conflicts. There's no doubt things will get crazy as the CPUs clash with their new rivals on the newly introduced battlefield!

When it comes to new content Idea Factory, and Compile Heart really went out of their way to make this a significant re-release. Included in the already memorable mixture of gameplay is a story worked from the ground up to include new dialogue, and new situations not seen in the original PS3 version. They even added an extra post-game chapter that further extends upon what was included. Improvements aside from the new story additions include a revamped menu system, try before buy options, and the ability to easily change camera angles in-game. Stella's dungeon mini-game also makes a revamped return, and is rewarding in it's own unique way. By sending Stella, and her scout of choice out into the various areas of the game via the world menu option (Stella's Dungeon) she will be able to combat monsters, gather equipment, and farm for items that can be used in plans outside of the Stella mini-game. Should she choose the correct scout for the occasion she can also earn you some extra goodies that will help aid in your ongoing quest. By this I mean that scouts with bonus skills (avoid trap, skill boosts ...) can be found, and chosen from. Scouts in general are actually NPC characters who contribute comments from time to time through the menu, and map. The first scout is gifted, and comes in the feline form of Felis.

Stella's dungeon, once started will continue until Stella, and her scout are killed off, or until she completes the designated set of staircase ascensions in an automated fashion. Each area in the mini-game is laid out in simple 2D format within Stella's Dungeon, and is organized in a floor by floor tower that numbers to 100. Equipping Stella with the best equipment is your key to surviving the long trip upwards, and with each outing set into motion she will start from floor one, and ascend to your marked end point. Just be sure not to push the limits early on as it could end quickly with the loss of everything stella, and her scout has discovered. In the way of combat improvements you'll find that Compile Heart has added an action meter that replaces the former mechanic for using skills, and HDD transformations within battle. It is easily refilled through combat making said functions more convenient.

As usual gameplay in "Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3" is segmented by chapters, and further by action oriented options through a detailed menu system. You'll spend most of the time advancing the plot through hilariously animated, and vocally accented dialogue sequences which are triggered by mission clearing outings that are made available through the in-game guild. While the story is still the game's main focal point you will get in your fair share of battle time. These battle encounters play out as they usually do in that you'll be traversing multi-level 3D landscapes while confronting monster avatars that wander the lands. Once you strike the monster avatars with you leader CPU's weapons, or get attacked first you will enter into a secondary landscaped arena that acts as the turn-based battle hub. Like the original version of the game you will be moving, and positioning your CPU/s within a circular barrier/outline, and will be attacking the enemies therein with a variety of different attacks.

Attacks in 'Re;Birth 3' are just like those of 'Victory' on the PS3. You can use melee combos that come in three different customizable options (Rush, Strong & Break), and can extend upon the combo'd attacks with EX finishers should you meet the requirements. In addition to these melee attack options come character specific skills that can be learned through battles, and used within said situations. Skills are extra powerful attacks that trigger cinematic animations of the CPU attacking her target/s. Along with the new action meter you can also build up meter for an HDD transformation which changes the CPU into her goddess form. This HDD form acts, and performs much like the standard CPU counterpart, but deals extra damage through the the CPU goddess's own unique melee attacks, and skills. Learning which battles warrant HDD, and which can be managed with a party of CPUs in their human form is a must if you hope to make it to the end of the game. Keep in mind you will encounter a variety of different enemies that come in normal, stronger, and viral types. Each of which will be shown on the onscreen mini-map with their corresponding enemy ranking symbols. These symbols, or dot variations indicate where the enemy avatars are stationed in the current area.

Speaking of party members this re-release keeps intact the Lily Rank system, and coupling system that was introduced in the original game. By pairing up CPUs via the coupling menu, and battling with said couples in mission outings you can build their relationship (aka, Lily Rank) which will in turn give you battlefield benefits in the form of RPG stat boosts, and extra effects. While this does come in handy at the latter parts of the game when you have more party members it is best that you keep CPUs separate in battle early on as getting a dreaded "Game Over" screen is easier done without the grinding efforts, and chapter completion put in.

Another aspect of outings comes in the form of 'Guild' missions. By completing the Guild missions which come in an alphabetically categorized variety (repeat, story advance, ...) you will not only earn EXP points that go towards improving your CPU's stats, but you'll also earn the in-game currency which can be spent at the store menu. The store carries everything from the traditional Neptunia health items to accessories, and even weapons. Keeping your CPUs equipped with the best equipment possible is the key to surviving the more difficult battles that you'll face. I should also mention that some of the stronger weapons and gear can be crafted through the "Plans" menu. Plans are usually found on outings in the form of blue orbs, and blue question mark icons. You can even find some plans hidden in the new floating invisible bricks that can be found by spotting their shadow, and accompanying "???" dialogue alert. By standing underneath these floating boxes, and jumping up and down coins, and other items will be gifted to you.

The plans obtained can also be used to add items to the stores. These items include visibly different clothing articles, and accessories for specific CPUs that can be attached to party members, and viewed on their interactive 3D models within the character setup menu. Other plans can be used to change, and open up new areas on the world map as well as to weaken/strengthen the enemies contained in each given location amongst other things. There's definitely plenty of plans to find, and unlock through the material grinding that you'll do in your more leisurely mission outings. I think I forgot to mention that in order to complete plans you need two things. These things are memory space, and specific materials that can be gathered from battles against monsters. It goes without saying that the more battles you engage in, and win the more you'll be able to craft the plans that you find along your adventure.

In the way of extras 'Re;Birth 3' also houses the series' signature 'Museum'. In the 'Museum' you'll find unlocked music tracks, a bestiary, and instructional information regarding the game, and it's features. There's also CPU biographies disclosing background information in the gals of the GameIndustri. With all of the extra content included in this re-release you can bet your bottom there's a lot to unlock, and a lot to do within the game. You can speed through it somewhat if you like, but you'll find it most rewarding if you take the time to grind a bit, and enjoy every element of the game a little more.

Before I close I also need to mention that there are two map menus in the game. One map menu houses each GameIndustri land, and it's various locations. This includes the Basilicom (place of management), and mission areas. You'll even find hotspots marked by word bubbles as well as a menu listing which will give parody style commentary through NPC (Non-Player Characters) that mimic some of our real-world video game characters, industry contributors, and personalities. Some of these Chibi represented character cartoons will also gift you items which will be useful in-game. These items include everything from plans to materials, and even Discs that can be used to add extra perks to each CPU party member. An important gameplay detail I forgot to mention is in fact the Discs (cassettes, CD-ROMS ...) that use special ranked items called "Idea Chips" which come in a red, yellow, and blue variety. These "Idea Chips" which are named odd things according to video game lore can boost various RPG stats with the equipped CPU via the 'Disc Dev' main menu. In order to obtain idea chips while on your outings you'll need to defeat the stronger enemies such as the "Dangerous' type, and the 'Viral' type. Idea Chips can also be obtained through the "Stella's Dungeon" mini-game. Like all of the other character setup mechanics this option is also a good one to utilize as it will improve your odds in battle.

Lastly you'll find a feature unique to this Neptunia experience. It's a newscast style side feature known, as "Nepstation" that will clue you in on behind-the-scenes GameIndustri happenings as well as offer up bargain bulk item deals, and quizzes that that will gift you free items if you can answer the questions correctly. The 'Nepstation' harbors, and builds upon the humorous character relationships that are going on in the game, and even discloses more darker information tied to off screen murders, and deaths that have taken place within the GameIndustri. It's that little something extra that is there to give you a break from the grinding, and story progression while keeping you in tune with what's going on.

Now for the Verdict ...

You could have probably seen this verdict coming a mile away, but I will say it anyways. I loved this revamping of the PS3's 'Victory'. It felt vastly more engaging, and more content heavy than the original was. While the story portion of the game still commands center stage the battles feel more rewarding, and actually more fun. I can't be for certain, but I also think the enemies, and characters in-game got a visual upgrade as well in a style similar to Neptunia U's. The added things like the extras I mentioned, and the return of the optional voice-over language choices (English & Japanese) really make this a full-fledged fan-service release. If you are looking for that next Neptunia fix, and don't mind playing through the extended, and altered plot of the former 'Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory' I think you'll like this game. It really is a "Re;Birth" title, and quite frankly I'm glad I got the chance to play through, and review it! Keep in mind that 'Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 3 V-Generation" is slated for a June 30th release. As of now that's about five days ahead. I'd strongly advise placing a pre-order if you can, because retailers usually don't carry many copies of Neptunia PS Vita games. I'm pretty sure the game will cost you the usual $39.99 plus tax here in the states. Outside of the US it will no doubt cost even more.

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