Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation Vita Review
Being the primary Vita reviewer on this site means that I also possess some knowledge in the unique, often controversial culture of Anime, which makes up for the bulk of games that keeps Sony’s critically overlooked portable console from flat-lining. There have already been a steady flow of titles that in some form or another play up on the rampant sexualization of fictional female characters, the results being divisive among gamers. But with the Hyperdimension Neptuna series, developers Idea Factory and Compile Heart takes things to a weirder, arguably darker place with the concept of Moe anthropomorphism.
If the term gives you an ominous chill, it basically revolves around the growing Japanese trend of taking non-sentient objects and personifying them as fictional human characters. Whether it be boats, trains or even countries, there is literally nothing sacred when it comes to taking something cold and lifeless and filling it with Anime life, like some sort of demented Pinocchio paradox. This concept also extends to real life historical figures like Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler, but we’ll leave you to Google the rest if you’re morbidly curious.
Hyperdimension Neptunia focuses on the personification of videogame consoles; ever imagined your Sega Genesis or Playstation 2 taking on life as a kawaii teenage girl? Hopefully not, but that’s what this series is in a nutshell. Conceptually speaking, there is an appeal in taking the slick designs of these famous videogame consoles and reinterpreting them as cool sci-fi armor, something that Neptunia does occasionally pull off. The caveat, however, is that they also serve as skimpy, often pants-less designs applied to Moe characters that pander to the Otaku demographic in several shameless ways. On a balancing scale, it’s not along the lines of Senran Kagura, but also not quite as tongue-in-cheek as Akiba’s Strip. Either way, if the concept doesn’t float your boat, then you can stop reading here.
Hyperdimenion Neptunia Re;Birth 2 is a remake of the PS3 game Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, which in itself was a sequel to the very first Neptunia game (and you thought Square Enix games had confusing titles). Re;Birth 2 focuses on Nepgear, the younger sister to Neptune, the previous heroine. Both of them are CPUs, tasked with assisting their human handlers IF and Compa to defend the city of Gamindustri from the evil ASIC corporation, who uses the evil power of CFW to spread game piracy around the world. Depending on how you react to all these references, this game is either entirely for you or something you’ll want to steer clear from.
The references are plentiful, and occasionally on-the-nose, such as a city called Lastation and another called Leanbox. There are other characters as well that are either vaguely parodic (a cynical mouse named Pirachu) or just plain obvious (a skimpy martial artist named Tekken), but it’s all mostly in good fun with a tongue-in-cheek sentiment. That said, there are the usual tropes of girls being suspended by tentacles and having their full power activated through a kiss. The Moe is strong with this one, which is something you’ll either have to tolerate or embrace in order to appreciate the RPG mechanics.
For those who played Fairy Fencer F, Neptunia is almost entirely cut from the same cloth; players navigate between several points on a map that bounce between towns and dungeons. Dungeons are the only areas where players control their party in a 3D space, encountering enemies on the field and collecting loot and other crafting material. These areas typically feature a story-based goal, such as defeating a specific boss or collecting a certain item, but can also be revisited for level grinding and even altered to players’ specifications.
Like Fairy Fencer F, Neptunia allows each area to be modified through the use of “plans”. These modifications typically change the enemy types into stronger alternatives, which becomes necessary for sidequests that require the defeat of a specific number of foes or the collection of a certain number of items dropped by said foes. Running through an area with the right modifications can fulfill several sidequests at once, earning a large boost in rewards. Unfortunately, the process to unlock these plans requires a bit more grinding than Fairy Fencer F, adding an unnecessary extra step that’s essentially grinding for the right to grind.
The battle system also shares much in common with Compile Heart’s titles. Featuring a traditional turn-based mechanic that displays the turn order of party members and enemies, players can unleash a combo of three types of attacks, Rush, Power, and Guard Break. Rush attacks are quick strikes that add to the Combo EX meter, which is an additional finishing attack that can be performed once filled. Guard Break attacks go for an enemy’s guard gauge which leads to additional damage once broken. Power attacks are self explanatory, and are typically reserved for when an enemy’s guard has been broken. There are also individual character skills that can deal damage to enemies or heal allies in various ways, as well as HDD transformations for the CPUs which is code for Anime power-up mode.
It’s a simple battle system that’s easy to learn and has the benefit of a faster and smoother framerate than previous Compile Heart games, but it also suffers from a more uneven difficulty; in many cases, players may level up to the point that regular enemies become absolutely trivial, but a boss encounter can still be a frantic struggle due to the massive damage it causes. There are even situations where a boss fight can occur twice in a row due to story purposes, and these encounters are also wildly sporadic; there has been one instance where the second boss fight became virtually impossible to lose, while another one-two boss combo starts with an easy first boss and an incredibly difficult second boss. Don’t expect an instant retry option either: it’s back to the last save point and perhaps an extended period of level grinding against incredibly weak foes.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2 has all the building blocks of a solid and fast-paced JRPG, but a few extra caveats players must be mindful of, specifically the sporadic difficulty, the extra grinding and the extra emphasis on Moe. Some of these points may be more enticing to certain players compared to others, but anyone looking for an overall better experience may want to try Fairy Fencer F instead if they haven’t done so already.