In the game industry, if you’re popular enough and cute enough you can be reborn…assuming you were a video game to begin with. So it is with Hyper Dimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1, Compile Heart’s remake of the original Hyper Dimension Neptunia. Unfortunately, I was given a copy of the PC port to review and this, uh, has colored my time with it. I like Re;Birth, I really do, but the port-job just makes it hard to play.
For those questionable souls who do not follow obscure Japanese moe RPGs, the Hyperdimension Neptunia games are about cute girls based on video game consoles competing for their share of the Gameindustri Market. The franchise spends most of its time either selling you on character-comedy between the console-girls and various antagonists, or lulling you into a relaxing state of a perpetual grind. If you’ve played Disgaea, its pacing is pretty similar.
As I mentioned earlier, Re;Birth is a remake of the original Hyperdimension Neptunia. What I did not mention is that the original Hyperdimension Neptunia was known for being so bad that it was stricken from the series’ canon. While I have not played the original for myself, I can confirm that Re;Birth does, in general, match up to more modern Neptunia games. The writing is fun, the girls are cute, and the gameplay is adequate.
Unfortunately, Re;Birth doesn’t really do anything to set itself apart from other titles in the franchise, and that makes me nervous. While the formula that Compile Heart follows to makle their games does in general work, I am nervous about where Compile Heart is going to go in the future if they keep making games like Neptunia. As it stands, almost every Compile Heart title released in the past few years has used almost the exact same battle system, and while that wouldn’t be the problem if that battle system were especially good, it’s actually a bit bland and the lure of the relaxing grind can only keep one going for so long. After playing multiple games with nearly this exact same combat I am feeling a bit tired of it. There are also some PC-specific issues with Re;Birth. Here, take a look at this key binding Screen:
Yikes. Rather than letting me bind keys to specific functions, Re;Birth wants me to bind keys to console buttons as if I was playing on an emulator. After setting all of my keybindss up, I then had to figure out how to save my changes and leave. Well, the button guide says I need to press my B button. After 30 minutes of trial and error, I found out I had to click the B-button on the console button guide. Not on the actual text, or by pressing the button bound to B, but by the B-button icon. It was at this point that I started crying.“Why!? Why!? Is THIS what I’ve been reduced to? I used to play Counter-Strike at tournaments, but now I have been reduced to clicking console icons like some idiot child who just got their first iPad!? Is this what has become of me?”
As has become common in many Japanese games of late, Neptunia delivers its dialogue in a visual novel style interface. Unfortunately, this interface is also clearly designed for a console.
Please observe the complete lack of any sort of clickable button. Normally a visual novel on a PC would have various buttons to view previous text, skip sections, or hide the interface. Neptunia does have those functions thankfully…if you can remember which console button they’re bound to, and the corresponding keyboard button. This is made worse by the game doing things like binding the B-button to ‘k’ and the A-button to ‘enter’ by default. Yeah, the default binds are not so wonderful.
Then there’s the mouse controls. The mouse has a cursor, thankfully, and eventually I figured out right click was a universal cancel/B button press, but the left click is…finicky. Unlike the rest of the fairly-constant console-button controls the game uses, the mouse buttons are context dependent. Outside of battle? Click and hold to spin the camera around your character. Inside battle? Click console icons to issue commands. Click and hold to spin the character around to move attack zones. At no point does the game ever give you any information regarding mouse controls (All tutorial screens show console controls), and no, you can’t rebind mouse buttons. Once I actually got my custom key binds setup, I found myself barely using the mouse at all, which is not something you want to have happening in a PC game with ostensible mouse support.
The issues with the port don’t just extend to control problems. Despite the game being marketed as being able to hit a 1080p resolution, the maximum resolution ingame is 1600×900, and even then the game looks blurry on my computer whenever the camera moves. To make matters worse, there are no in-game video settings to reduce quality for framerate besides resolution so if you want to do any tweaking get ready to go INI diving. [Update: The game has been patched to run at 1080p. At least you can see what you’re trying to do now without blur.]
If you own a PC controller however and are willing to stomach some control problems, the game runs fairly well. While I did experience some crash issues on startup those have since been patched, and the DLC issues that have been reported will supposedly be sorted out soon, so if you absolutely need a moe-succubus to steal your PC pride, you could do worse than Re;Birth. If you’re just looking for a silly RPG to play on your PC though, you can probably find something better.
Re:Birth is enjoyable, but the poor port holds it back and nothing really sets it apart from other Neptunia games.