With great popularity comes the great responsibility…
Genre: JRPG, Comedy
Developer: Compile Heart,
Idea Factory, Felistella
Publisher: Idea Factory
Release date: 8 June, 2021
…To Reintroduce Yourself to a New Generation
Neptunia is celebrating their 10th Anniversary with a PS5 exclusive! The Neptunia came a long way since its debut on PS3. Eventually it reached the PC as Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1. A full remake of the first game that goes as far as them being completely different games.
Neptunia ReVerse is a rebalanced port of Re;Birth1 that comes with a brand new mode and a special way to bring back story content from the original Hyperdimension Neptunia as a bonus.
Are people on other platforms missing something big or is it just another nice to have?
Console Wars done right
Gamindustry, a world consisting of 4 big regions: Planeptune, Laststation, Leanbox, and Lowee. Each of them has a Goddess representing them. Since the beginning of their existence, all of them are in a never-ending conflict locked in a stalemate but this time something went wrong.
For unknown reasons, amidst the battle, the 3 goddesses have started to cooperate and bring down Neptunia the goddess of Planeptune. After her loss, she falls someplace on Planeptunia and was eventually brought back home by soon-to-be Nurse Compa only to find out that she has become an amnesiac. Back at the place of her crash landing, they find a special item that establishes a short connection to Histoire who tells Neptune to find the other items in the other regions to save Gamindustry from a looming disaster. Along the way they find new and “old” acquaintances like IF, Mages., etc.
The plot sounds very unassuming but the real charm lies in the characters and the simplistic story with loads of Japanese Video Game centered Homages. Neptune often breaks the 4th wall and you can find playable waifu embodiments of some of the smaller Japanese developers such as Idea Factory and Compile Heart themselves but also Marvelous AQL, Nihon Falcom, CyberConnect2, Mages., 5pb, and many more. Though they don’t have a big or not even a role since this is the origin story of the Neptunia franchise.
The biggest fun lies in the light story with a lot of comedy sprinkled in turning it into a slightly serious but mostly dumb fun experience. Certainly, a strong suit of the game as long as you’re not looking for something artistic.
Don’t expect too much in the presentation as the story is presented via VN style. You get like one animated in-game cutscene in the initial battle but otherwise, it’s all character portraits and in rare cases an event CG.
Not much to talk about it here. Towns are handled as Menus and presented as Artworks, which means it offers a very simple way of navigation. You can also find some generic characters that offer Plans and other interesting things. These characters are often designed as an homage to known characters of other video games such as Luigi, Mario, Spelunker, etc.
The dungeons on the other hand are fully in 3D and come with all the bells and whistles of actions. Each dungeon has one hidden item that you can find by mashing the scan (Square-Button) throughout traveling the dungeon and you’ll find it if you’re lucky or thorough.
Jumping is only useful for very small ledges but you can increase the height via gameplay modifications later in the game, which leads to shortcuts. As always you can preempt fights by hitting the enemies on the field with your attack, giving you a turn advantage over your adversaries.
New to Neptunia ReVerse is fishing. There are multiple ponds and you can visit to catch some fish that give you all kinds of goodies like equipment or extra scenes that got cut in the Re;Birth remake.
This particular mini-game utilizes the Gyro of the Dual Sense. You swing to throw it out and pull to get your catch as soon as you wore them down. While talking about wearing them down, the game also uses the Adaptive Trigger to create some resistance when you’re trying to reel them in. It’s nothing big but a nice touch.
It’s important to note that this game offers two game modes with very different balancing but keeps the basic gameplay. The Original game mode is recommended for newcomers as it’s based on Re;Birth1 but with additional tweaks to add a little bit more fun. The good news is that the game comes with all content including DLC and more.
The only strange thing I found about the changes is the addition of the 7 attack types because there’s a complete lack of supporting UI adjustments for this and is seemingly completely hidden. I know that this change was done to give the player more reason to use other characters but there are two issues with this:
1. You don’t know what type of attack each character does except physical or magic.
2. There’s no information on the enemy’s weaknesses or at least I wasn’t able to find such function.
Rather than having the intended effect, most people will simply try to brute force it with grinding and thus losing the intended effect.
At this point, I’d like to point to one of Nihon Falcom’s games. In Trails of Cold Steel, they managed to make the Type mechanic much more palatable in comparison by having the UI help the player visually.
This is like a MUGEN Mode that breaks away part of the gameplay from the story by having all 27 characters immediately available. The SP values were massively scaled down as you start with about 100SP with the cheapest attack skills costing about 80.
Skills are now affecting the character’s turn speed, the stronger it is the longer it takes her to get her turn. Rush Style attacks didn’t seem that useful but in this mode, they are the fastest attack type and are best used for filler if you want to deal damage while waiting for a specific character’s turn.
There’s a lot more but you will find those in the link above.
Since my review is mostly focused on the Arrange Mode you’ll read some context when it comes to the different parts of the game. The Original Mode is more in line with the usual RPG progression of getting new members, etc. so it’s more like a simplified version of the Arrange Mode.
Quest and Shares
On the world map, you get access to the Guild that offers Requests. These simple fetch quests consist of defeating specific enemies or collecting items and are repeatable. Each of them nets you things like consumables and money as a reward but there’s something else that’s even more important if you’re gunning for the True Ending.
That something is the Shares. If you look at the rewards, you can see them going either up or down with your goal being pushing all Shares sky-high, except “Other” to reach the True Ending.
Ergo, this system will force a grind upon the player to reach that desired state.
This is something unique to this game and possibly the Neptunia series. By collecting plans and crafting their content you can unlock a ton of new things like Dungeons, Items, new enemies, changing items in dungeons, and much more. You can even weaken all enemies. There are also plans to increase jump height, making enemy sight visible, and all kinds of nifty modifications.
There’s a catch though, the content of these plans need to be crafted, and crafting means you need to find the materials. A lot of them aren’t easy to find so there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to unlock quite a few of them in a simple playthrough.
On a personal note, I wished that some of the Plans were easier to craft like removing the damage limit because it would make some of the characters a lot more attractive.
Items, Equipment, and Money
The items are very straightforward and are limited to recovery and buffs. The initial prices are affordable but if you want the good stuff it’ll cost a pretty penny, which is also why I decided on the before mentioned team due to its self-sufficient nature.
Equipment such as weapons is playing an important role in boosting your stats and they don’t come cheap either. Bracelets are extremely important because the increase in SP enables stronger Skills as the max SP rises extremely slow with level-ups.
What about Money? Well, like always the initial offers are affordable but once you reach the later chapters you’ll have to pick one or two things after one or two dungeons, and then you’re broke again. That’s another reason why one would want to stick to a fixed team, even though there’s the Type mechanic in play.
People who like to dress up their characters will also find a wealth of options.
These are some very special customizable items. Each disc can have multiple special slots with different levels. The higher the level of the slot, the higher leveled abilities you can put in.
You can find them in Planeptune after defeating strong bosses in the story as gifts.
With 27 characters available, you’ll have a huge wealth of options when it comes to creating a party. 4 are active with each having a tag team partner ready to switch mid-fight culminating in 8 characters within a fight.
The game starts easy and you clobber your way through the first few dungeons with the original Goddesses without a healer. At a later point, the enemies become much more robust with high resistance against multiple attack types. This means you will have to think about your team composition a lot more than before.
At about halfway through the game I was able to find a team that was able to brute force through the rest of the story, some fights took longer but it was just a matter of time until the victory came.
This was the team: Uzume, Rom, 5pb, and Falcom.
Uzume’s attacks pack quite a punch and her EXE Drive had the most hits so she theoretically has the highest damage dealing potential as long as you haven’t removed the 9999 damage limiter with a Plan.
Rom can recover 1000 SP to everybody close range for 150 SP or 75 SP when transformed. Thanks to the scaled-down SP value, you gain infinite SP with her. The better news is that it’s a support move, which means it counts as a fast move.
5pb is a cheap AoE healer not much else to be said here.
Older Falcom is a decent damage dealer and can increase the EXE Drive Gauge by quite a bit with her special rush attack. Like Uzume, her EXE Drive does multiple hits and is suitable for big damage against enemies who are weak against it.
It’s not to say a perfect team but it did its job in preventing a grind or Trial & Error to find the fitting Types for each enemy. It also requires them to be at a high enough level so they have the important skills unlocked.
All characters have three types of attack: Break, Power, and Rush. Break is to deal high damage to the Guard Gauge, Power should lead to high damage and Rush are light attacks that let you have your turn back faster than the other two. The Attacks are split into 3 phases and you have to set them up in the menus.
It’s important to keep them up to date as you keep getting better attacks the higher your level gets but there’s also a balancing factor by having a cost gauge. The most important ones offer elemental attacks that can make your fights against specific enemies much easier.
EXE Drive Gauge
By attacking and taking damage you will fill this special gauge that stays its charge until you leave the dungeon. It starts with a maximum of 1 and increases along the way. This gauge has two uses: EX Finish!! And EXE DRIVE Attacks.
EX Finish!! lets you execute a final attack after your combo. Some of them require 1 and others more but they don’t deplete the gauge. These are very important are one of the biggest damage dealers.
EXE DRIVE Attacks require at least one gauge and let you unleash a character-specific super attack. At least in Arrange Mode, it comes with the tradeoff that the character takes a long time before they can get their turn again. Do not use this attack with all 4 characters in a row or else you’ll be a sitting duck with enemies barraging you with attacks.
Aside from the nitty-gritty stuff, the combat is quite simple. It’s traditionally turn-based and features a preview of the upcoming turns popularized by Final Fantasy’s CTB, except without the preview of how your move affects it.
Also, a Guard Break has become an increasingly popular mechanic by initiating one you reduce the opponents’ defense by a lot.
Movement and Attacking
Unlike the typical static slugging between both parties, you can move around the field and attack multiple enemies at once by having them in your range. Each character has their movement and attack range, some are wider and some are attacking from far away.
In Arrange Mode you will find that some attacks are having a blowback effect that you can utilize to optimize your enemy’s position for the next character. This effect can also work as a detriment if you’re not careful.
One thing to note is the slightly annoying implementation of targeting. You can only move the character, which means it becomes a chore to make slight adjustments. You can’t make the character stand still so you can only pivot them or at least I wasn’t able to find that function. It’s nothing big but adds a few seconds of unnecessary adjustments.
The goddesses like Neptune are capable of entering into a stronger transformation that buffs their base stats and halves the cost of their Skills. Each transformation costs 20% of your Max SP. This makes their base stats stronger than those who can’t transform. That doesn’t mean that the others are useless because they have Skills that offset that difference.
By moving to the edge of the battle arena you can escape the battle. It’s extremely unreliable in my experience due to RNG so I haven’t used it that much.
Enemies and Bosses
This is a weird one in Arrange Mode. In many cases, the attack of generic enemies only does damage in the lower realm but in the later stages, there are cases where they hit like a truck to the point of nearly one-shotting one of your characters. I didn’t manage to find out where this huge discrepancy comes from but if I had to take a guess it’d be the attack Type.
Bosses have a typical design of being tanks with high HP. If you get the type right you might be able to crush them quickly. I managed to do that with Uzume’s EXE DRIVE, which did like 200k damage on a goddess boss and instant kills them.
Status afflictions, Buffs, and Debuffs
There are a handful of status afflictions and you can cure them with items or skills. Virus prevents and reverts your HDD transformation and paralysis prevents your character’s turn. Aside from virus, these afflictions can go both ways. It’s possible to neutralize them completely by crafting a special plan though it requires some grinding and searching.
Buffs and Debuffs are useful to offset the Type resistance so this opens up some more interesting team compositions.
The camera is the one objective thing I don’t like about the combat. To be more specific, the camera when the enemy is attacking. It’s too close and you don’t see who the enemy is attacking and its damage value. This forces the player to look at the UI to understand what happened.
Neptunia ReVerse knows what it wants to do and does it well enough. Reducing traveling to a Map might be disappointing for some but one can also appreciate the quick and frictionless result. Each place is only a few button presses away.
The combat system is interesting and they tried to add some depth with attack Types, though I can’t say it was fully successful because they didn’t support these changes in the UI by making them much more apparent. Instead, all of it seems completely hidden.
By offering two game modes, you can experience the story in at least two ways. My playthrough took about 20 hours with some excursions into additional dungeons and some fishing, if you’re going for the True End and unlocking all the plans then expect a massive increase in potential playtime. There’s also a New Game+ in case you want to revisit the story from the beginning but keeping everything from the previous playthrough.
Graphics and Sound
To answer everybody’s question: No, it does not look like a PS5 game. Outside of the short load times and maybe the new ability to skip animations, I see no necessity for a PS5 as it looks like a PS4 game from a technical standpoint. The enemy designs are one of the stronger points when it comes to visuals due to their homage to all kinds of things like a Visual Novel screen that attacks by clapping its text box at you or Space Invader-like creatures.
The artworks are fine though it’s a little bit lacking when it comes to the amount of event CG.
The sounds and soundtrack are rather unremarkable as they are doing their job to accompany the action without anything sticking but that’s just my impression.
Unlike those, the voice acting plays a bigger role because they have to infuse their characters with their unique quirks and I’d argue that it’s a full-on success in this regard. Otherwise, Neptunia would have become as popular as it is today. Though I’m biased towards the Japanese VA, I’m pretty sure that the English VAs are also doing a splendid job.
Neptunia ReVerse is a nice old-school RPG that offers a lot of content and two differently balanced playstyles, which is a very unique feature and nothing to scoff at. It has enjoyable gameplay with some slight criticism, a fun story, and characters. There are not many that push all of these buttons and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why Neptunia is so popular.
The pricing is relatively sensible at about 50 bucks as it comes with all of the DLC and many changes. There’s also plenty of playtime to be found with a ton of optional things to do like the challenging coliseum, fishing, dungeons, enemies, etc. If I had to guess how long it’d take to clear everything it has to offer, it’d be about at least 50 hours and potentially much longer.