For some, the Japanese role-playing game has lost some of its luster, with critics claiming that contemporary titles use formulaic plotlines to goad gamers into action. But that claim could hardly be leveled at 2011’s Hyperdimension Neptunia, a PlayStation 3 title which re-imagined the seventh generation console war as an allegory where unabashedly moe maidens reluctantly unite to save Gamindustri from peril.
While the game’s storyline was driven by an imaginative impetus and plenty of flippant references, a handful of technical impediments prohibited Neptunia from capitalizing on its potential. With the release of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 for the PS Vita, Idea Factory has been striving to mend those blemishes. We spoke with Mr. Shingo Onodera at Idea Factory, the director of the game, as well as Mr. Haru Akenaga, CEO of Idea Factory International, Inc. to hear about some of these changes.
Tech-Gaming: The motivation to port the original Hyperdimension Neptunia to the PS Vita is fairly obvious-allowing a new demographic of players to enjoy Neptune’s adventures. But the decision to go back and improve key elements of the game isn’t quite as evident. What was the impetus behind this ambition?
Shingo Onodera, Director of Neptunia Re;Birth1: The biggest reason behind this port was the voice of our fans. It was an easy decision to overhaul the original Neptunia, as the staff completely understood the complaints from fans who were dissatisfied with the system and scenario for the original Neptunia game. We were very happy to be able to make this decision. We heard from fans who had played the original game that they very much enjoyed the new story and battle system in the new game, and from fans of the Neptunia anime who enjoyed the simple battle system and said that the story was interesting and fully like the show is. That’s how Neptunia Re;Birth1 came to be, and we recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Neptunia series but hasn’t yet played any of the titles in the series.
T-G: Where most of the changes conceived by the design team or by listening to fans?
Onodera: Some of them are because of requests by our fans, but we as a team also wanted to port the game to Vita. When we released Neptune PP on Vita, we received a great deal of feedback from fans saying that they would love to play the Neptunia series on Vita so they can enjoy it when outside or when playing in bed. Fortunately, the Vita’s development environment shares a lot of similarities with the PS3. We were able to use most of the graphical assets and programs that were developed for the PS3 in the Vita, which makes it the most suitable platform for developing a port.
T-G: Let’s discuss some of the visual upgrades made to Re;Birth1. What kind of changes can players expect to see?
Haru Akenaga, CEO of Idea Factory International, Incorporated: There is newly drawn character artwork in Re;Birth1. Some characters have new facial expressions when using accessories. The character models have been remastered to the same level of quality as Neptunia Victory.
T-G: One of the fundamental visual blemishes with the original Neptunia was the game’s framerate? Where any improvements made in this area?
Onodera: Honestly, the game’s framerate was one of the biggest challenges among the dev staff. I believe the game’s attractiveness and enjoyability would be lost if we were forced to reduce the number of polygons in the character models or decrease the texture size in order to improve the framerate. If we had to do so, it would be putting the cart before the horse. Therefore, we decided to adjust everything except the characters in the Vita version in order to keep the framerate high. That being said, Neptunia Re;Birth1 presents the gameplay with the character quality of the PS3.
T-G: Accompanying those alternations are a number of amendments to the games sonic output? What alterations have been made to the game’s music and voice acting?
Onodera: Because the scenario has been rewritten, we recorded new voiceovers for Neptunia Re;Birth1. As to the soundtrack, much of the original game’s music has been rearranged. Of course, I can assure everyone that the sound quality is just as high as in the PS3 version.
T-G: Where any changes made from Hyperdimension Neptunia’s original localization?
Akenaga: We have kept all the key terminology from the original series. The story itself has been rewritten in Re;Birth1, so fans who have already played through Hyperdimension Neptunia on the PS3 will be able to enjoy this new story with familiar characters and terms.
T-G: Both Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory gradually evolved the first game’s combat system. Are these advancements reflected in Re;Birth’s battles?
Onodera: The Re;Birth series isn’t just porting, but a true rebirth, with new elements. If it was a simple port, then there would be no motivation for fans who played the original games to play the new versions, and even if they did they wouldn’t be satisfied. That can be said about both the gameplay and the story. As creators, we would like to keep offering new and exciting things to the fans and to the game industry as a whole.
T-G: One new element is called the “Remake System,” which allows players to customize and make changes to the game system. Can you explain how this works?
Akenaga: Players will be able to obtain Plans from the residents of Gamindustri, treasure boxes, or as loot from monsters. Each Plan will have requirements, like gathering a certain number of items. Once a Plan’s requirements have been fulfilled, you will be able to add the Plan to change your game. For example, you can make your character jump higher in order to get to places previously out of reach, or you can modify the items you will find in certain dungeons, or make monsters stronger to add more challenge to the game. There are a number of different Plans that will let you tailor the game to your liking.
T-G: Can player expect any new cameos?
Onodera:Since Neptunia Re;Birth1 is a remake of the original Neptunia title, there are no “new” characters. However, there will be many characters from the second installment in the series appearing in Re;Birth1. We hope that fans who have already played the original game will be able to enjoy the characters’ journey in the new world!
T-G: The original series was published by NIS America, while Re;Birth 1 will be put out by Idea Factory International. What was the motivation behind this change?
Akenaga: Since Idea Factory International had been established in the States, it was natural move to explore the options and opportunities to release the title from Idea Factory International. We are hoping to bring more Idea Factory titles to the western market with this change.
Tech-Gaming would like to thank Shingo Onodera, Haru Akenaga for taking the time to speak to us as well as thank Nao Miyazawa Pellicone for facilitating the interview.