Neptunia ReVerse Review: Stuck in the Past

Hyperdimension Neptunia is celebrating its 10th anniversary! The CPU's make their PS5 debuts in Neptunia ReVerse, a remake of the 2014 Vita remake. With new hardware and functionality, this is the series' chance to make a big impression heading into the generation. However, it ends up having a hard time balancing improving and remaking, resulting in an effort that's faithful to a fault.

Neptunia ReVerse Review Stuck in the Past Cover

Hyperdimension Neptunia is fresh off the heels of its 10th anniversary. Originally released on the PS3 in 2010, the RPG franchise follows Neptune, a literal gaming goddess. As one of four CPU’s that rule over Gamindustri, the goddesses and their friends have had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks across their many adventures. After multiple overhauls, spinoffs and remakes, Neptune makes her PS5 debut with Neptunia ReVerse.

Essentially a remake of a remake, ReVerse is a faithful port of the PS Vita and PC’s HyperDimension Neptunia ReBirth. This version overhauled the combat of its poorly received debut to resemble its much improved sequels. While excellent at the time, ReVerse serves as an example of being faithful to a fault. By axing many of the improvements since the Vita release, it ends up feeling far too familiar. New mini games and party members often do more harm than good, leaving us with what feels like a missed opportunity to properly celebrate the 10 year milestone.

Neptunia ReVerse - Teaser Trailer | PS5

Neptunia ReVerse is available for purchase on the Playstation Store.

Story – A Fall from Grace

At its core, Neptunia revolves around the rivalry and eventual friendship of the goddesses of Gamindustri. Made up of four lands, the ruler of each fights to increase their power by accumulating shares. Generated by the satisfaction of the public, Lastation, Leanbox, Lowee and Planeptune have been locked in an endless battle for supremacy. Once three of the goddesses decide to single out the goddess Purple Heart, she loses her power and is knocked from the sky. What’s left in her place is Neptune, a mischievous girl who’s left with no memory of her true self.

From there, Neptune meets two of her citizens, neither of whom are aware of her identity. As the trio seeks to restore Nep’s memory, they come across a mysterious shard containing a spirit. Tasked with recovering the rest of the shards across all four nations, it seems there may be something more sinister at play. Can the goddesses set aside their centuries old war for the betterment of their world? Or will their rivalry lead to their ultimate destruction?

Nepgear leads the CPU Candidates into battle.

Nepgear leads the CPU Candidates into battle.

This all sounds ominous, but Neptunia is one of the most light hearted games you’ll ever find. Chock-full of 4th wall breaking humor, endless video game references and charming characters that are all voice acted to near perfection, this presentation is always a highlight. The only drawback is that the story is exactly the same as the Vita version. If you’ve played it before, it’s hard to get excited to retread old territory. With a larger playable cast, it would have been much better if the growing roster was acknowledged in some way.

Gameplay – Playing with Power

The primary gameplay is broken up into three phases. The story is presented in a visual novel style, with 3D character portraits acting out each scene as they stand side-by-side. Once the talking is done, dungeon exploration has Neptune traversing a variety of admittedly flat environments. Accessed via a point-and-click world map where quests, side missions and NPC’s can be accessed, each dungeon offers items and enemies to discover. Sub-bosses and a stage boss greeting you in almost every case. Lastly, once you make contact with an enemy in the field, the third and final gameplay phase triggers in the form of turn based combat.

Combat is rewarding in a unique way. Players freely control each party member on the battlefield, which gives a decent amount of freedom to strategize. Each ability and weapon has its own range, which may allow you to hit multiple enemies with a single turn. Split between Break, Power and Rush attacks, each one serves a different function when confronting your many foes. Break wears down their defenses and shield meter. Power does more damage, but is more effective after shields are depleted. Rush sacrifices damage for building meter that can be spent on the game’s most powerful skills. Focusing on positioning leads to more interactivity than the standard turn-based RPG.

Combat remains one of Neptunia's strong points.

Combat remains one of Neptunia’s strong points.

Uneven Difficulty

ReVerse is never particularly hard, but the difficulty tends to be all over the place. Especially in the back half of the game, it’s common to come across basic enemies that hit harder than bosses. This is made worse by certain enemies that can transform mid-battle, restoring their health while multiplying their damage output. It’s easy enough to heal up. Leaving a dungeon restores everyone to full health. Most of the party can also transform, but with a fraction of the benefit. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating when you have to retreat right before reaching the end.

The New Features – Arranging with Mixed Results

Aside from the normal Story Mode, ReVerse also offers an Arrange Mode, which gives access to every character in the franchise from the start. Using them has no bearing on the story however, which feels awkward when antagonistic characters are already fighting alongside the team (or against themselves). It’s ultimately a chance to liven up the third time this story is being told, but the opportunity slips through.

Another issue unique to Arrange Mode is the absurd amount of money needed for new weapons cost. Normally, gear unlocks for the handful of party members you find. Now with two dozen characters, it takes way too much money grinding to keep them all strong. The entire cast gets EXP after battles, (leading to hilariously long level up screens), but these stat gains are miniscule compared to the benefit of new equipment. With everything costing so much, the game discourages you from switching up your team in favor of focusing on the same four.

Fishing is a fun, flawed distraction.

Fishing is a fun, flawed distraction.

One feature that’s completely new to ReVerse is the fishing minigame. These new areas give Neptune the chance to find weapons, music, gallery items and console shaped fish. Focusing on the PS5’s unique functionality, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers complement the fun distraction. But yet again, the game discourages players from enjoying it, with the most rare fish being too powerful for each rod unlocked within the same level. At that point, it’s makes more sense to ignore in until post game, which defeats the purpose of a monotony breaking mini game.

The Remake System

Yet, what wasn’t broke wasn’t fixed in some cases. A highlight of the Vita version that returns here is the Remake system. Remaking helps Neptune change the game to how she sees fit. Want to make enemies easier, change the materials in a dungeon or unlock new ones? These are just some of the ways the game lets you craft it to your tastes. Sadly, it exposes a major flaw. Most of the bonus dungeons (and some of the story dungeons at that) are duplicates. A treasure or enemy may be different, but the map layout is identical. It takes away from the excitement of unlocking a new area when it looks exactly like a dungeon you’ve explored twice before.

Uzume unleashes a powerful EXE Attack

Uzume unleashes a powerful EXE Attack

Audio and Graphics – Highs and Lows of a Gaming Goddess

One of the Neptunia series’ biggest strengths is its voice acting in both English and Japanese. The English cast in particular sounds like it’s having a blast in the recording booth. By hamming up the hilarious dialogue at every turn, it enhances a script that feels like an hours long inside joke for gamers. Fronted by Melissa Fahn as Neptune (perhaps best known as Edward in Cowboy Bebop) each character has a strong, distinct personality. The chemistry the cast shares enhances the storytelling every chance it gets. This is further enhanced by the energetic soundtrack. While repetitive, the music enjoys the same light hearted energy as the script.

Visually, the game looks almost identical to its Vita counterpart. While that might have been passable in 2014 on a handheld, its the most noticeable misstep on the PS5. I would never expect photo realistic graphics from this type of game. However, for there to be next to no improvements is a glaring flaw. It never looks better than the PS4 games, with the only benefit of the new hardware being a more stable framerate.

Neptunia ReVerse was reviewed on Playstation 5 with a review key provided by Idea Factory International.

Summary
Despite its strengths, Neptunia ReVerse should have been so much more. The best parts of the original continue to hold up, with a hilarious script and engaging combat. Yet, this is a remake to a fault. The game looks basic for a PS5 game while the narrative ignores the larger cast. The new features like fishing are welcomed, but aren't implemented well enough. By adding very little and doing nothing to take advantage of the new hardware, Neptune's latest ultimately feels like a missed opportunity.
Good
  • A laugh out loud script boosted by fantastic voice acting.
  • Engaging combat that rewards positioning.
  • The remake system allows a more customizable playthrough.
  • The larger cast and fishing gives a reason to revisit.
Bad
  • The game is visually and narratively identical to the 7 year old Vita release.
  • Enemy damage is unbalanced.
  • The large party is wasted on the expensive, necessary equipmenr.
  • Fishing punishes you for playing it before the endgame.
  • Reused dungeon layouts and enemies.
6
Fair

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