Here we are again – back where it all started. The first Hyperdimension Neptunia game has been remade. Now, this isn’t the first time the game has come over to more modern hardware. Heck, it’s not even the second. It could actually be the fourth. Maybe the fifth. Regardless of how many times this game gets thrown at fans and non-fans alike, let’s jump into Neptunia ReVerse and see what’s what.
Bring Back The 7th Generation
First things first, Neptunia is all tongue and cheek. The world of Gamindustri is split into four nations, each overseen by its own Goddess or CPU. Each nation is fashioned after a 7th generation games console, such as the Wii, PS3, or 360. There is a big ol’ war known as the Console Wars (ha), and the physical manifestation of Sega, Neptune, gets dunked on and left for dead.
Neptune, Neptunia, or Nep-Nep (all the same person) is found lying in a ditch somewhere with amnesia after being yeeted from what can only be described as heaven. She finds some friends, discovers an evil group doing all kinds of nefarious things, and goes about her merry way solving problems and eating copious amounts of pudding.
The story presented here is mostly barebones fluff and filled to the brim with fourth-wall-breaking. I didn’t find it interesting enough to hold my attention. The frequent breaks in gameplay for lengthy natter sessions with characters who are a mixture of sandpaper personalities and tropey characteristics quickly wore thin. There was very little in the way of intrigue, and the only selling point is the unique setting which, if I’m being honest, is underutilized.
Noodle Swinging, Lip Flapping
The story is told through a mixture of fully animated, in-engine cutscenes – although these are rare – and still portraits of characters pulling funny faces and expositing at you. The in-game cutscenes are laughably bad, often starting out of nowhere and ending with a noteworthy amount of abruptness. The animations are also subpar, even for the time. Thankfully these are comparatively rare. The lip-flapping scenes are done much better and are satisfyingly animated – albeit in a pretty basic way. The 2D artwork is pretty nice, but it has a tendency to lean on the side of fanservice.
Fanservice is what it is. I can do without it, but others love that kind of thing. Neptunia ReVerse leans on its fanservice to cover up for its other numerous flaws. Being the prude I am, I also think it goes way too far in some areas. Neptune is a preteen (according to the wiki), so having scenes where she is wrapped in bandages so tight she starts to jiggle is bordering on straight disturbing. Not all fanservice is like this, but the fact that some of it exists is a huge turnoff for me. In general, the fanservice makes an already cheap-looking game look pretty bottom of the barrel.
This is carried over to the general gameplay, which I can only describe as being so boring to be harmful. Gameplay entirely consists of going through mostly linear dungeons and engaging in combat. Dungeons are uninspired in terms of design and are there purely to be catalysts for violence. Combat is a turn-based affair, so enemies and allies will take it in turns wailing on each other via menu-based input. Neptunia does a few things differently which, admittedly, is nice, such as being able to move your characters freely around the battlefield. This lets you avoid AoE attacks as well as position yourself for those very same attacks.
Another feature is the Guard Break system which more-or-less forces you to hit enemies with specific attacks to break their guard before going for a truck-load of bonus damage. In theory, these features plus the addition of transformations and various spells and abilities should make for a fairly engaging combat system. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and it became almost immediately apparent.
You can kill basic mooks without really engaging in this system. You can just spam basic attack combos and everything dies. Because you have to manually move everyone and a basic attack consists of four attacks and inputs, the combat feels sluggish. This is exacerbated by the sheer amount of combat you’ll be sitting through. Although Neptunia doesn’t have random encounters, you are encouraged to fight as much as possible because you need the EXP.
Bosses don’t use this system very well either, and these fights nearly always become mindless slapfests whereby you spam basic attacks, or high guard damage abilities until you can actually do damage. You’ll of course be forced to heal regularly since bosses have large health pools and don’t skimp on the pain. All in all, the combat never felt satisfying.
There are a number of systems outside of combat that could have made things a bit more interesting, but they ultimately fail in covering up for the banality of the whole thing. Firstly, you can have four active party members and 4 support. The support characters build bonds with the active member they are linked to, essentially granting you a party of eight at any given time. Most characters you encounter are not story-relevant, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth slotting in.
Speaking of slots, your basic attack strings can be freely customized as you level up. This gives you the option of crafting your own combos that specialize in damage, elements, or guard breaking, which is a nice touch. Honestly though, zero thought needs to be put into this system. Big number politics tend to win out here.
You can craft various data disks to enhance your abilities and do other funky shenanigans, and this is probably the most interesting aspect of the pre-combat portions. There is very little guidance on what makes a powerful disk, however, so you’re encouraged to just smash things together until something clicks. Shopping is another avenue for stat gains, and Neptunia is pretty basic in this regard. Health is easily the most important stat since many curatives work off a percentage system. Pump health high enough, and you never need to worry about dying again, as your healing potential will skyrocket in conjunction.
There are other things, like the ability to exchange monster drops to unlock extra dungeons, or change loot pools and whatnot, and whilst these are all worth a gander, nothing really helped shake the feeling this was a bargain bin JRPG filled with numerous vapid mechanics meant to distract, not engage. This can be seen most clearly in the Guild Hub – the side quest dispensary. These are all vacuous kill or fetch quests. You can complete these without thinking and they barely constitute as content.
Neptunia ReVerse does add some things that are not present in the earlier releases. Most notably an increase in party size (3 to 4) and a brand new fishing minigame, which, if I’m being honest, is the best part of the game. I’m a sucker for fishing, and when that mechanic rewards me with high-level equipment, well, it’s a no-brainer for me. The minigame itself is as basic as the rest of the experience, but I had a surprising amount of fun yanking swords out of ponds.
There is also a new Arrange Mode that mixes things up a bit. This is mostly for veterans of the series as it gives you access to about 20 characters from the get-go. These characters are not normally accessible from the start, so this lets you play the whole with the party of your dreams – if that’s what you’re into.
The game has also had a bit of a graphical bump, although you can clearly tell this is an old game. Neptunia ReVerse is hideous to look at. Environments are basic, character models look terrible, enemy designs are meta, but bland, and animations are weightless and awkward. The game is also covered in vision-obscuring post-processing effects that make everything look significantly worse.
I would go as far as describing the sound design as grating at best, painful at worst. The soundtrack is incredibly upbeat, but also frustratingly repetitive and generic. The voice acting nails what they were going for, and what they were going for was annoying. Finally, like animations, sound effects are laughably bad and add that final limp ingredient to an already noodly combat system. Oh, and characters never shut up in combat, and will constantly grunt, moan, squeal and squirm whenever anything happens.
Neptunia ReVerse is a bad game. What few redeeming qualities it has, are completely overshadowed by the sheer weight and magnitude of its negatives. This is a bland, repetitive, and sometimes disturbing jaunt through a world that is not worth experiencing. Neptunia can ReVerse out of my PS5 and find sanctuary in the nearest bin.
NEPTUNIA REVERSE IS NOT RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Idea Factory for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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Forged in the rainy wilds of northern England, I carved a path of mediocrity through generations and genres. My play style is often described as: “optimistically awful”.