I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 was going to be a thing. The combat system from Victory was what they added to the other remakes, and things like plans and Stella’s Dungeon, if Re;Birth2 was any indication, would not be big enough to set it apart from the original game. I’m glad to say there’s a bit more to Re;Birth 3 than that.
I suppose I should start with what hasn’t changed. I haven’t completely beaten the remake, but the plot seems to be almost identical. I compared a few cutscenes side-by-side and word choice was just about it. This means that you should know what’s going to happen if you’ve played Victory, or you have an inadequate, compressed summary if you watched the later half of the anime. The method for getting the normal and bad endings remains identical as well, but Nepstation no longer gives you pointless ratings for each chapter.
So the story is still Neptune being sent into another dimension that’s basically in the ‘80s, and being stuck there for many years. The DLC for Re;Birth1 also continues to spoil the game’s attempt at a plot twist later in the game.
One thing that has been changed in the story is the very beginning. The videogame fight scene at the start where everyone teams up and Neptune moves into a fourth wall-breaking segment referencing Re;Birth2 involves a new dungeon that takes place in virtual reality.
The difference in how to get the true ending is regarding how the scout system was merged into Stella’s Dungeon, which returns from Re;Birth2. The system here remains the same in spirit—you send a girl named Stella to dive into dungeons that she will traverse automatically in real time. If she survives, she will return with items. The difference here is that she can pair up with scouts that will alter her stats and affect her ability to find things. If she dies in the dungeon, the scout is stranded wherever she died until you make a return trip there. Also, she loses her equipment and you get nothing for your trouble. Reaching the end of each dungeon unlocks a plan that will open the next one for her, with the items required being in main story dungeons, so you can’t have Stella too far ahead of you.
You may be wondering what that has to do with the true ending. Well, Stella also gets plans to unlock dungeons as she finishers her own dungeons. Yes, the remake system returns, with more options than ever. While some items may be hard to get at times (one of the pigments requires an item only dropped at a dungeon from the beginning of the game you can’t go back to), most are as easy as usual and give rewards such as removing enemy ambushes, having an automatic symbol attack, increasing the item drop rate, raising characters’ stats and giving characters a fifth combo skill slot (more on that later). This is, of course, on top of the usual unlocking of dungeons and items to buy in the store.
To get the true ending back in Victory, you needed to send scouts out, and then enter and exit dungeons until they returned, at which point they might have found one of a list of dungeons you need to enter before the endgame to get the true ending—which means if they didn’t get it right away, you’ll need to rinse and repeat, entering and exiting dungeons until they were all unlocked. Here, however, it’s far simpler: You must unlock the dungeons via the remake system. And the plans for it are laid out such that you’ll need to make most of the dungeons before these will open up.
This replaces random luck with requiring a lot of legwork from the player, and which one you prefer is your choice. That said, given that the optional dungeons presented a decent challenge for me even after I used the remake system to weaken enemies to remove the grind speaks for itself in terms of what I thought.
The dungeons are still mostly-repeated layouts, but the largely unexplained flag system has been moved to the remake system’s dungeon change plans as they were in the previous remakes. Also, the whole concept of repeatedly pressing a button to scan the area for a hidden item has been cut and replaced with something far more amusing. Hidden blocks a-la Mario that will give you money and sometimes items. I got weapons from the next chapter of the game early this way, and a plan can show you the locations for all of them.
Which is when we get to the changes made to the combat system. The base of the system is the same as ever—characters walk around a set amount of distance based on one of their stats and execute Rush, Power or Break attacks in a row on the enemy, ending with an EX Finish (a final, more powerful attack) if the gauge has been filled far enough. MP can be spent on transformations for stat buffs or for stronger skills. But the difference here is what Compile Heart did to the bars. They actually removed the EXE Drive Gauge from the previous gauge and instead moved the functions to the MP bars of each character. This means that skills, EX Finishes and EXE Drive skills all rely on the same bar. Also, EX Finish slots have been limited to three, and each one is tied to the three types of attack, which must not be adhered to.
That last change is a notable early-game nerf to Noire’s flexibility. All three of her early-game EX Finishes are the same type of attack, meaning you have to pick between Venom Fencer, Paralyze Fencer and Tricolor Order, while the slots for the other two types of EX Finishes remain empty until much later in the game. Also, this forces one to be far more careful with skill usage, and raises the importance of making sure everyone equips Rush combo skills, as they refill the bar more quickly (where earlier games’ optimal strategies involved one or two dedicated Rush users and designated EXE Drive users).
The combined MP/EXE Drive bars all start at 25% and remain at whatever amount they contain even if you leave a dungeon, which is far different from the mechanic’s usual applications. Here, hitting the cap for the bar will keep it at the cap until you spend it and conversely having it low will have it stay low, but older titles simply emptied out the EXE Drive Gauge and refilled all MP upon leaving the dungeon.
Finally, heavy use of each type of attack will unlock a plan for equipping a fifth combo skill of that type. These cannot be disabled, so be careful when activating these. Using the fifth combo skill will increase the time between turns, but not equipping one after unlocking it will lock you out of EX Finishes, significantly weakening the character.
This resulted in the game legitimately feeling different from its predecessors. Not what I expected at all from a remake. It’s just too bad that, in the transition, the Inafune attacks were lost. Yes, the one in Victory was removed just like the removal of Infafune Brand and Thehellis Allthis! from mk2 in Re;Birth2. That said, while I miss them, the game isn’t really hurting without them.