I have had this planned for months on end, and now it’s finally time to make it a reality. The topic is Hyperdimension Neptunia, a video game series about video games and cute girls. It also has an animated adaptation, which is actually the starting point of this review because it was my first experience with the series.
It all started one Spring Break when I was in college. I had the wild idea of watching the first episodes of seven anime series, one per day of the week. This gave me a glimpse of series with which I was at first unfamiliar, such as Squid Girl, GJ-bu, and the one in question. In this case, I was drawn in by the cute girls (yeah, typical) and ended up intrigued by the interactions among them; thus, needless to say, I continued all the way to the end of the series.
That time was six years ago, enough for me to have forgotten all but a few bits and pieces. So, naturally, I took two consecutive days of this month (of this week, even) to binge rewatch the animation in order to understand it better now that I’ve completed the Re;Birth games. It worked out, although surprisingly the animation takes place in a separate canon from the games despite being chock-full of inspired elements. (Not just the characters and settings, but even elements as intricate as poses.) That is to say, it’s not so much an animated adaptation as it is an alternative story (kinda like Unlimited Fafnir but even more improvised).
The first time I watched the anime was with subtitles, so I decided this time to try out the English dub, also partly because I’m more accustomed to the English voices on account of my experience with the games (and, call it a surprise, but I prefer the English voices to the Japanese voices). About it…well, first off, it’s definitely not suited for folk with a low tolerance for jokes. Jokes as in memes (arrow to the knee, do a barrel roll), name drops (e.g. Gears of War, Punch Out, The Last of Us, Uncharted), and basic gags (such as chest-related quips and Neptune messing up Arfoire’s name). On the bright side, Blanc’s emotionless voice was done better in the anime than in the games (strictly talking English dubs, of course), although hearing it from her HDD form (which happened at least twice) just didn’t seem right.
In terms of characters, I found Plutia to be the best in the anime the first time I watched it, and I stand by that even now, despite that Blanc is my favorite in the games; that’s just how different the two media are. I like Plutia because her human form is charmingly absentminded while her HDD form is stunningly dominant, and she uses those traits to play devil’s advocate in situations that are tough to comprehend. On another note, the animation doesn’t feature quite as many characters as the games, having relegated a few to cameo roles (MAGES. and every Oracle but Histoire) and nixed many more. (The only minor character of note is 5pb.) This, for one, leaves an odd cast of villains: Abnes, Underling, CFW Trick (of all characters), Arfoire, Warechu, Anonydeath, and Rei Ryghts.
Come early 2017, after I had assembled a Windows machine and acquired Re;Birth 1 on sale, I wanted to give the game a try. It has the same sort of charm as the animation, but with more immersion and less restraint on the erotica (e.g. you can see up the girls’ skirts). As a video game, it’s kinda like a Tales game but simplified—the combat is turn-based (instead of real-time) and involves attack ranges reminiscent of a tactics game, while the cutscenes are dominantly 2D. (Well, 2.5D if you count the effects that make the characters look like they’re breathing.)
I mentioned Blanc being my favorite in the games, and now to provide reasoning. She is relatable in being emotionless yet short-tempered, she symbolizes Nintendo, she has the best Rush attack in the series (Satellabute), and most importantly she takes hits like nobody else. (She also somewhat resembles Yō Kasukabe from the Mondaiji series.) (Plutia is decent with her magical prowess and healing skills, but her main issue is her frailty.) I also like Broccoli due to her cuteness (especially when she jumps around like “Jump, nyu!” and “Boingy, nyu!”), sharp tongue, and fun set of skills (particularly “Mekara Beam?”, which is comedic and heals a whopping 80% of a close-range target’s HP). And, on an unrelated note, Purple Heart has always reminded me of Yami Yugi.
Other aspects have the right to be organized specifically by installment.
- Only has three party slots, each containing up to two characters
- Has the most difficult main story
- The Hraesvelgr + Black Heart tag team battle is notoriously punishing towards reckless SP use (the only place I’ve gotten a Game Over in the main story)
- Fake CPU fights are also tough, especially Fake Green Heart (pulls no punches) and Fake White Heart (tedious)
- Features a vast multitude of characters who only appear as simple portraits in cutscenes (e.g., Financier, Yvoire, Ran-Ran)
- One Two Three, the music that plays when you fight a dangerous enemy, is surprisingly good
- Has a Normal Ending and a True Ending, which are dependent on Shares and no different until after the True Arfoire fight
- The only installment for which I didn’t bother unlocking all achievements (100 million credits without Symbol Attack Gains…nah)
- Speaking of being without Symbol Attack Gains, Clione is a nasty post-game enemy.
- I was considering skipping this installment, but I was persuaded otherwise, and I’m glad for that
- Formally introduced the Candidates, the Oracles, and some of the villains
- Also sheds the most light on the human characters (IF, Compa, Broccoli, and the rest)
- Is the only Re;Birth game to feature Nepgear as a protagonist
- While not as comedy-oriented as Neptune, she partly makes up for that with the phrase “What the goodness”
- She starts off wishy-washy and is left in a situation where she must take charge, making her more relatable to young adults
- Convinced me that Uni is a better Noire…somehow
- Added the fourth party slot
- Has the best dungeon music but the worst audio balancing
- Magmatic Magnetics and History of Collapse are particularly good dungeon themes, especially the former
- world map music is too loud, especially compared to the better tunes
- also the only installment that lacks One Two Three
- The only installment with cutscene triggers that block off certain parts of dungeons (bleh)
- Has a whopping nine endings, of which a few have their share of similarities and most are dependent not only on Shares but also Lily Rank
- Normal Ending: Since there are so many endings in the game, this one might feel cheaply earned compared to the rest, further complemented by the fact that it’s the only one without an accompanying image (I used the background of the final cutscene). It’s also the basis of the Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, Leanbox, and Human Endings.
- Planeptune Ending: Centered around Planeptune’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Neptune. Lawful Evil = Nepgear hoarding Shares for her own nation
- Lastation Ending: Centered around Lastation’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Noire and Uni. Chaotic Neutral = heated rivals in perfect harmony
- Lowee Ending: Centered around Lowee’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Blanc, Rom, and Ram. Lawful Neutral = partners in the civilized activity of reading
- Leanbox Ending: Centered around Leanbox’s Shares and Nepgear’s Lily Rank with Vert. Neutral Good = giving Vert a new sister
- Human Ending: Centered around recruiting human characters and bonding with them. Neutral Evil = forgoing the other Candidates/CPUs in favor of a pyjama party
- Conquest Ending: Hands down, the highlight of Re;Birth 2 as a whole. Mind-numbing in unlock criteria and plot alike. Contains unexpectedly morbid events reminiscent of the Zero Escape series and Of Mice and Men. Makes elegant use of the Decisive Battle and Tear Drop music tracks. Chaotic Evil = sacrificing as much as possible to “save the world”
- Holy Sword Ending: With a difference of only one recruited character from Conquest Ending, this takes the murder weapon thereof and rectifies it. More importantly, contains a boss rush featuring the Four Felons and the Deity of Sin. Chaotic Good = turning a nasty rumor on its head
- True Ending: Centered around balancing Shares, keeping them away from Arfoire, and recruiting everyone possible. Goes down similarly to Holy Sword Ending, except with a bath scene, the boss rush split into three extra dungeons, an extra bit with Underling and Warechu, the true form of the Deity of Sin, and no nasty rumor. (Kinda drab if done after Holy Sword.) Lawful Good should be obvious
- Introduced the Symbol Attack Gains plan, making grinding and post-game content significantly easier
- Introduced Menu Voices, an improvement towards immersion and humor
- Introduced Stella’s Dungeon, a mobile-esque minigame that advances in real time
- I cleared every single floor sequentially without computer time manipulation, and it took me about a year and a half overall
- Has the toughest Colosseum fights (especially Gamer Legend and Goddess of Calamity)
- Introduced DLC bundled with the Steam release (mostly equipment in this case)
In the prime of my time playing through this installment, I had issues with crashes relating to entering dungeons affected by Dungeon Change. The troubleshooting step recommended by most Steam users is to use CFF Explorer; load the executable, locate Nt Headers ==> File Header, click the cell intersected by the “Characteristics” row and “Meaning” column, and check “App can handle >2gb address space”. That helped a bit, but the game continued crashing later on, and what I did to stop that for good is make sure to always reboot my PC before starting the game. (Thankfully, thanks to the newer patches, I don’t have to do that anymore.)
- Suddenly the “Hyperdimension” part of the series name makes more sense
- Introduced the rest of the villains, along with Plutia and Peashy
- Speaking of Plutia, I like it when she says “It’s my best!” when using Plutie Attack and “You’re a meanie!” when getting hit
- Relegated the human characters and Oracles to DLC
- Introduced Nepstation, which presents special varieties of per-chapter cutscenes inspired by television programs
- Introduced Challenges, an internal achievement system of mundane tasks
- The new source of Menu Voices (split among characters)
- Not worth grinding for, considering the obscene requirements for Marathon Runner (I mean, freaking 5,000,000 meters with every character? I’ve only hit the 300,000 benchmark with one character!)
- Has possibly the best cutscene in the series: the interaction between Plutia and Blanc when they’re imprisoned in Lowee
- Fused together EXE Drive and SP
- Made extra layers of the overworld: G.C.2012, Plutia’s dimension, and the lands within Plutia’s dimension
- Has the best music overall (featuring Nobuo Uematsu, even)
- Simplified Stella’s Dungeon, but also made Symbol Attack Gains exclusive to it
- Also includes punny unlockables such as “95 Broken Windows”
- Has three endings (Normal, Good, and True), which go back to the basics of building up from least to most progress
- Steam release includes level 999 DLC
- Speaking of which, Gacrux is the toughest enemy in the game
- Too many freaking plans require the Deployment Shard, an item that can only be obtained from an enemy that only appears once after every True Ending (I’ve had to procure the drop three times total, i.e. clear True Ending two extra times)
I would rate the series 9/10, based on my overall experience so far. It is certainly what I would call fun, and that’s all that matters in the end.
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)