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Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 Review - Monsters roam the streets of Planeptune and yet people still worship Neptune as a leader.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 Review

Rating: 3,3
A major improvement in writing over the previous entries, but it has controversial political implications.
Developer:Compile Heart
Publisher:Idea Factory

Gameplay

The gameplay iterates upon Re;Birth2, which iterates upon Re;Birth1, so most of the mechanics are the same. However, there are some significant differences.

No more EXE Gauge

EXE Drives and EX Finishes have been integrated into each character's SP bar. SP is now fixed at 1000 points for each character, the bar has four segments, EXE Drives use two to four segments, and rush combos refill your SP. Since each character has a separate SP bar, each character has to charge her own SP for EXE Drives, whereas before, the EXE Drive Gauge was a single universal bar that all of the characters contributed to and drew from. The main purpose of this change is to encourage you to use SP attacks more since you can charge SP for free. However, it renders power combos obsolete since SP attacks do more damage and have shorter wait than a full attack sequence.

SP no longer refills when you leave a dungeon, but you can drink SP potions out of combat and restock if you have lots of credits to spare, which I recommend after heavy EXE Drive usage because separate SP bars means manually recharging everyone with rush combos requires a lot more grinding than having a single universal EXE Gauge. The cheapest SP potion gives you the most SP per credit spent, so stock up on those. More expensive potions are useful for recharging during battle, since you need to account for turns. Also, since SP is cheap to recover compared to previous games, discs should be crafted for gradual HP recovery so you can afford to take hits while spamming the weak rush combos to recover SP.

Formation skills, which are EXE Drives that use your active party members instead of a partner, are more prominent in this game. EXE Drives that involve a partner or your active party will drain the SP of all involved characters, and the total damage inflicted is less than if you used each character's solo EXE Drive individually. They inflict a lot more guard damage, but you will have to spend the next few turns recovering SP through rush combos and/or potions to prepare for solo EXE Drives. Regular guard break attacks don't scale with your stats, so joint EXE Drives are more effective for guard breaking high-level bosses.

Partner-assisted EX Finishes are based on the partner's SP bar, not the active character's. If you use a partnered EXE Drive, you will find that you can't use a high-level assisted finish afterwards until you switch out and recover the partner's SP, which costs a turn to do the switch, a turn or more to recover SP, and another turn to switch back, which is clunky compared to the universal EXE Gauge. This makes formation skills more attractive options.

Reduced and optional grinding

There is now a reverse lookup of materials for crafting, allowing you to select each material in a plan and see the location and monster that gives you the material. This is a much needed feature that drastically cuts down on having to look up everything up online. However, a lot of plans require materials that you can only get from much later in the game, which makes those plans pointless to have. When you try to look up the materials, they will be listed as "Not Obtainable", but it isn't clear when you will be able to unlock the dungeons that have them. Some of these materials can only be acquired by fighting certain enemies through a dungeon change, but many dungeon change plans are unlocked randomly by playing the Stella's Dungeon mini-game, which takes real-time and only certain areas have the plan you need, so it's still a grind. It's possible for a material to be inaccessible for so long that the plan becomes obsolete by the time you do finally unlock the dungeon that has what you need.

Grinding challenges have been introduced. By performing certain actions a large number of times, you gain incremental stat boosts and plans that unlock major character bonuses. EXE Drives are now unlocked through using SP skills 100 times for each character, although having to do this for each character is tedious since most encounters are easy to do without SP skills. You can also unlock a 5th attack slot before your EX Finish. While it sounds good on paper, you don't get additional CP to assign the slot, which means you will have to compromise something else to use that slot. If you have nothing assigned, it will not skip over to the EX Finish and it will end your turn prematurely. It also adds turn wait and you can't disable it, so it is best to not get it until you have maxed out your level and have discs and partners that reduce wait, which is pretty much an endgame setup. This means the feature wasn't really well balanced.

Not a new feature, but one trick I discovered is that you can skip all attack animations with the LB button, which I assigned to Left Shift. Initially, I thought that only the lengthy EXE Drives and SP skill animations were skippable, but being able to skip basic attack animations meant that combat and grinding could be sped up drastically by pressing the skip button immediately after every attack button. However, this only draws more attention to the grindy, statistics-based nature of the game. Every encounter plays the same to the point that I just want to skip the combat to grind for the materials I need. It reminds me that the stuff I get is a greater source of satisfaction than the process of getting them, and when I get them, the game is done since nothing is a challenge. It is a self-deprecating system where high enough stats undermine the strategy. You're no longer playing the game, you're just pressing buttons to proceed. It even makes the story anti-climactic when the final boss can be wrecked by an onslaught of EXE Drives.

Shares and lily ranks are not relevant to the ending conditions, making it much less tedious to obtain the True Ending, but there are no alternate ending paths like in Re;Birth2. The True Ending conditions are still missable, so make sure to see every optional story event and unlock all of the dungeons. While having fewer ending options seems worse, multiple endings are more of a waste of time to pursue when there is only one canon ending. It creates the "paradox of choice" where having more options makes you worse off because you have to spend time and effort going through each option to find out which one is best while suffering through all the bad choices in the process.

Revamped Stella's Dungeon

Stella's Dungeon has been overhauled so that you're much more likely to succeed, making it an actually worthwhile mini-game. In fact, you need to play it to unlock useful plans, but getting the plans depends on luck and you might not get them when you clear an area. You will have to look up the plans you can get and grind the same area over and over until you get it. But because the mini-game takes real-time, grinding it is a slow process, so it is best to consult a guide to see whether you got all of the plans from an area before moving on to the next.

Stella can choose a partner to accompany her, which will provide a specific bonus shown as well as affect the likelihood of finding treasure governed by the partner's observation stat, which increases with experience. Partners start with one innate bonus and can learn a second one from adventuring trips. They can learn new bonuses after having two, but learning the new one will overwrite the previously learned bonus (the innate bonus will not be overwritten). Generally, you will want the bonus that gives you more treasure. There are a lot of different bonuses, but most have vague purposes that I'm not sure under what circumstances you would use them over others. The real-time nature of the game discourages experimentation and all that matters is whether Stella makes it back alive.

There's also a chance that you will find a location on the overworld map. However, these are not dungeons, and will instead give you a one-time bonus of items, which is a bit of a let-down because finding a location is not that common. When a location is found, you have the option to "Believe" or "Don't Believe". If you haven't previously found the location, believing will unlock that location. If you already found the location, not believing will unlock a location you haven't found, but you have to remember whether you already found the location or else you will simply miss the opportunity.

Recycled dungeons

This is still a problem and is worse than in Re;Birth2. A lot of the dungeons are recycled from Re;Birth1, a couple from Re;Birth2, and there are only a handful of actually new dungeons. The same two pieces of dungeon music from Re;Birth1 is used over and over for the old dungeons and no music from Re;Birth2 is reused, even though I think Re;Birth2's music is better. Re;Birth3 does have new music for its overworld map, for battle, as well as for its new dungeons, but the recycled dungeons make the game repetitive for a veteran player. The new dungeons are more complex to navigate and just more enjoyable due to novelty, so I'm disappointed that there aren't more of them.

There's no more hidden treasure search. Instead of having to mindlessly spam the treasure search button and inch around every part of every level, hidden treasures are now hard-to-see, translucent floating cubes, each casts a faint, often hard-to-see circular shadow beneath it. You jump beneath it like Super Mario to reveal and get the treasure. However, you are not guaranteed a treasure and the odds of getting one, especially a good plan, are quite low, which means you need to look up plans you are missing online and grind for them. You are guaranteed to get credits, which can be put towards buying consumables like Eject Buttons to let you instantly leave a dungeon and try again.

One issue with the recycled dungeons is that some of them don't work well with the new hidden treasure system. The shadow is the most obvious giveaway, but the varied lighting in the dungeons often makes it hard to spot. This is especially true with the cave dungeon since its dark everywhere and the translucent cube is hard to spot against non-uniform backgrounds. The new dungeons have bright, uniform lighting, making it much easier to see the shadow, which indicates they were designed with the treasure system in mind. Regardless, you will want to unlock the plan that shows the hidden treasures on your mini-map.

Command menu.jpg
The interface has been redone to fit a 5th attack and to organize the EX Finishes. Don't unlock the 5th attack slot until you are pretty much maxed out because you won't have enough CP to use it without compromising something else.
Stella.jpg
Stella's Dungeon also has a new interface and you are much more likely to succeed compared to Re;Birth2.
Dungeon.jpg
Running through the same boring factory dungeon, again. The Re;Birth series are supposed to be remakes of the original games, so you would think that the developer would be focused on making new assets.
Treasure.jpg
A hidden treasure is a floating translucent cube that casts a shadow beneath itself. It will show ??? when you are standing very close to it.
Lowee.jpg
It's best to savour the new dungeons because there are so few of them.

Side-track events

Between chapters, there are events where the characters appear on an episode of a non-canon news/infomercial show called Nepstation, which is mainly a world-building thing that has no bearing on the plot, thus constituting a waste of time. They're not voice-acted either, which is a disappointment.

Each episode has three parts. The first part talks about miscellaneous events in the world. The second part advertises the various consumables that exist in the game and sells them to you in bulk. While it gives you an option, money isn't really a problem, so there's no need to refuse. The third part gives you a multiple choice quiz on facts mentioned in the main story and rewards you with a consumable for each correct answer. As long as you were paying attention to the story dialog, most of the questions are easy, but there are more obscure questions in later episodes. If you answer all of the questions throughout the entire game correctly, you will be rewarded with a million credits for the end-game, post-game, and new game+, but the best store items are so expensive that the credits won't buy you everything, so it is a bit of a letdown.

Story

Since the events of Re;Birth2, Gamindustri is at peace and the CPUs are playing video games with each other in Neptune's room. However, Histoire shows up and tells them to stop being lazy and get back to work as proper heads of nations, so Neptune and Nepgear do some Guild quests together. They learn about a protest group called the Citizens Group led by Rei Ryghts, who wants the CPUs to resign and hand over nation governance to the people. The group hasn't gotten much traction, but Neptune and Nepgear investigate anyways (fighting through their monster-infested streets) and it turns out Rei Ryghts is a very insecure, cowardly woman who gets scared off easily after being confronted. Rei gets lost and laments about her own powerlessness, but then she encounters a fairy named Croire, who forcibly gives her some sort of dark power.

Neptune keeps making excuses to be lazy and Nepgear feels that she has been spoiling Neptune too much, so she tells Neptune to work by herself. Neptune encounters Rei who has been wandering around lost in the forest and talks to her in her usual cheery fashion. However, Rei becomes jealous of Neptune's ability to speak so freely and creates a dark hole that sucks Neptune in, causing her to vanish. After realizing the power that she has, Rei develops an evil confidence in herself. Meanwhile, Neptune finds herself in a parallel dimension where she meets a slow-talking girl named Plutia and an almost identical Noire to the one she knows, except this Noire doesn't know her and thinks she is delusional.

Stranded in a parallel dimension

In this world, Plutia is the CPU of Planeptune and Noire is a human, while Neptune doesn't have her CPU powers since she is not a CPU in this dimension. However, CPUs are not born into power in this world. People find, by happenstance, an extremely rare artifact called a CPU Memory, which grants them CPU powers. However, even if you find one, it is only compatible with certain people, and you turn into a monster if you aren't. Before Planeptune, Lowee was the only nation and people were dissatisfied with their CPU, so Noire developed the ambition to become a CPU in order to lead those people and create a new nation. However, Plutia discovered a CPU Memory first and accidentally ate it on a picnic. Plutia never wanted to be a CPU, so Plutia is helping Noire find another CPU Memory out of pity. There is also a shadowy group called the Seven Sages, formed by this dimension's Rei Ryghts and are against the idea of CPUs ruling nations. However, unlike the Citizens Group, the Seven Sages actually has sizable support, but this Rei has the same insecure personality (yet she somehow managed to form the Seven Sages).

Neptune meets this dimension's Histoire, who is Plutia's fairy advisor and information processor. Neptune tells Histoire about her situation and after some processing, Histoire concludes that Neptune is from another dimension, so Histoire attempts a cross-dimensional search for Neptune's Histoire, which will take three days.

In the meantime, Noire goes out to search for a CPU Memory. However, the Seven Sages have also been collecting CPU Memories in order to prevent the creation of new CPUs, so Neptune's party encounters two of their members, Arfoire and Warechu who happen to have two CPU Memories. Noire demands the artifacts, but Arfoire fights and defeats Noire and Neptune while Warechu flees with the artifacts. Plutia follows Warechu and takes the artifacts by force, and then appears before Arfoire as a transformed CPU. Plutia gives the CPU Memories to Noire and Neptune, who use them to become CPUs, and the three defeat Arfoire.

Back at home, Histoire is able to establish a connection to Neptune's dimension. The group notifies the other Histoire of Neptune's safety, but there are no solutions to get Neptune home at this time. They also discover that time in this dimension advances much more quickly relative to Neptune's dimension, where one year in this dimension translates to one day in the other.

Political intrigue

Three years later, Noire has established Lastation, but the diversion of shares from Lowee has created tension between them. Neptune and Plutia are both lazy, so Histoire tells them to go to Lastation and learn from Noire how to be proper CPUs. However, Blanc receives reports of this and sees it as Planeptune and Lastation collaborating, which is bad for Lowee's shares, so she personally goes to Lastation to deal with them, but she ends up having second thoughts. While the Seven Sages want to see the CPUs weakened, they would rather avoid a war that will lead to a loss of human lives, so they create a distraction, sending Warechu and Copypaste to go on a rampage in Lastation. Noire, Neptune, and Plutia cancel their negotiation with Blanc to deal with the situation while Blanc goes home frustrated that she didn't do anything. Warechu is afraid of Plutia, so he flees while the CPUs destroy Copypaste (Copypaste is a robot). Afterwards, Neptune and Plutia go back to Planeptune while Noire is left to clean up the mess. The other Histoire contacts them and tells that in order to get Neptune home, she will need to increase Planeptune's shares in order to have enough energy to create a portal. They also learn that the Citizens Group is gaining traction.

Noire complains about the Seven Sages' harassment of Lastation, so Plutia suggests taking the fight to them instead of just standing around complaining. They recall Copypaste mentioning that the Seven Sages and Lowee are working together, so they sneak into Lowee. They encounter Vert on the streets and Neptune easily recognizes her. However, Vert has an ulterior motive for being in Lowee and wants to keep her identity as a CPU hidden. No one knows about Leanbox's existence, so in order to keep Neptune's mouth shut and to gather information on the CPUs capabilities, Vert follows the party. Noire is suspicious, but Plutia and Neptune want to be friendly and accept Vert.

They head to Blanc's office to confront her. Blanc is threatened while Noire provokes her into a fight. Two members of the Seven Sages, Warechu and Abnes, also show up to broadcast the confrontation between the CPUs as part of Blanc's plan to restore public faith in her by beating up the other CPUs. Meanwhile, Vert sneaks out because she doesn't want to be seen. They defeat Blanc on live television and this takes devastates Blanc's shares. However, Blanc's minister shows up and reveals himself as Mr. Badd, one of the Seven Sages. Since Blanc lost, he uses this opportunity to seize control of Lowee and detain the CPUs who have all been worn down from battle, thus accomplishing the Seven Sages' objective of removing the CPUs from power.

In prison, Blanc reflects on her failure as a CPU, but Plutia understands that Blanc failed because she was alone. Plutia offers to be her friend and to help her take back Lowee from the Seven Sages. Then, Vert shows up to free them, although she parts ways with them. To take back Lowee, they plan to reveal Mr. Badd's treasonous association with the Seven Sages on television, so they fight their way to Mr. Badd's office and torture a confession out of him on live broadcast. This returns Lowee to Blanc and causes public support of the Seven Sages to plummet.

Torture.jpg
Villainy is determined by your goals, not your methods.

A new rival

There have been a number of missing children lately, so Plutia and Histoire operate a daycare to prevent further incidents, taking in young Compa, IF, and Peashy. In addition, Leanbox reveals itself, declares war on the three nations, and invites the CPUs to Leanbox. However, the other Histoire contacts them and has prepared a teleport for Neptune to return. They can't delay since Neptune's absence means Planeptune's shares are falling. After activating the teleporter, Nepgear interrupts the process and is so impatient for Neptune's return that she approaches the teleporter and gets pulled in, which uses up the teleporter and sends Nepgear to the alternate dimension. Both Neptune and Nepgear are stranded, but at least they can help deal with the Leanbox incident. They go to Leanbox and meet Vert, but she is not actually interested in violence. Instead, she gloats over Leanbox's superior console hardware and how she will win all of the other nations' shares through fair competition.

The CPUs return to Planeptune and it turns out later that Vert's console is a flop, so Vert appears before them to complain. She thought bigger controllers was better because she thought bigger breasts was better, but Blanc gets defensive about this because she has the smallest breasts. Blanc challenges Vert to a fight and Vert agrees to settle this once and for all at Leanbox. Since Nepgear is not a CPU in this dimension, Neptune wants to ask Vert for a CPU Memory, so the group goes to confront Vert. Before the fight, Neptune asks Vert for a CPU Memory and Vert hands one over easily, allowing Nepgear to become a CPU. However, Vert says this makes Nepgear her little sister because the CPU Memory was spawned from the same source as Vert's. Even though no one heard of such a rule, Nepgear is gullible and joins Vert against the others. After Vert and Nepgear are defeated and Nepgear returned to Neptune, two of the Seven Sages, Arfoire and a rebuilt Copypaste, attack Leanbox. The group decides to help Vert fight, but Arfoire and Copypaste escape.

Escalating conflict

The Seven Sages are getting desperate, so they engage in a number of simultaneous attacks on each nation except Planeptune, so Neptune, Plutia, and Nepgear go to assist the other nations.

In Lastation, someone hacked into their servers and leaked customers' personal information (Likely a reference to the 2011 Playstation network outage). Nepgear notices that there are hidden cameras in Noire's room, which means someone has been spying on Noire. Since Nepgear's hobby is in electronics, she pulls out a device that lets her scan and find all of the hidden cameras and microphones as well as trace where they are transmitting to. On investigating the source, they encounter a member of the Seven Sages, Anonydeath, who wears some kind of power suit, has an obsession with Noire, and is responsible for the hack. They defeat Anonydeath, but he tells them that if he dies, he has a program that will automatically transmit all of his embarrassing video footage of Noire to the world. Noire lets him go, but then he reveals he was bluffing.

In Lowee, Copypaste has been running amok. However, being a robot, the only thing he actually cares about is destroying things, so Lowee guards told him to go smash rocks at a mine. He complies and becomes a very productive miner, even becoming good friends with the other miners. But despite this, Blanc is angry that he trashed her headquarters and wants revenge. Copypaste is still loyal to the Seven Sages and will not abandon them to be a miner, so the party destroys Copypaste.

In Leanbox, strange monsters have appeared. They haven't caused much damage, but they're hard to contain since they keep fleeing. They track down where they are fleeing to and find Mr. Badd taking care of the monsters like they were his own children. Neptune thinks they're gross, which offends Mr. Badd and provokes him into a fight. They defeat him, but the monsters buy time for him to escape.

Kidnapping and experiments

Back at Planeptune, Histoire is tied up and the children they have been looking after have been kidnapped by the Seven Sages. Histoire overheard that they took a path to Lowee, so the CPUs pursue them. They encounter Warechu who has Compa. Warechu feels guilty about kidnapping children, so he lets Compa go and tells them that Arfoire is ahead. After defeating Arfoire and saving IF, Compa tells them that someone else has taken Peashy via a separate route. Plutia went overboard on Arfoire, so they could not interrogate her and they just leave. Rei Ryghts is the one taking Peashy, but then Peashy ate something from Rei's purse and escaped on her own (The CPUs don't delve into how she escaped and just assumed the Seven Sages were incompetent. Indeed, why was Rei just carrying a CPU Memory around?).

Anonydeath secretly meets with Peashy and feeds her pudding, which contains some kind of brainwashing drug that makes her think Anonydeath is her father. Anonydeath later appears out of his power suit and requests to take Peashy from the CPUs by pretending to be her father, but since she is under the influence of the drug, she willingly goes with him. Later, Abnes appears before the CPUs to tell them that she has defected from the Seven Sages because she is against kidnapping children, so she reveals the location of a hideout where the children are being held so they can rescue them. At the hideout, they find the same monsters that have attacked Leanbox and then encounter Mr. Badd.

He tells them that the monsters are actually the children they came to rescue. The Seven Sages have been experimenting on the children by using CPU Memories on them, which causes all incompatible people to become monsters. Being unwilling to harm the children, the CPUs flee. Outside, they are attacked by a new CPU, Yellow Heart, who is under orders by the Seven Sages. However, she turns out to be too powerful for all of them and they manage to just barely escape. Back at Planeptune, they turn on the TV to find Rei announcing that the Seven Sages have started their own nation called Eden.

Exploiting the enemy's mistake

Ten years later, the CPUs have been unable to fight Eden since they keep getting beaten back by Yellow Heart or stonewalled by the monster children. However, Arfoire is upset that she has been demoted and that the Seven Sages is so dependent on a CPU even though the Seven Sages was founded to rid the world of CPUs. She decides to resign from the Seven Sages and take matters into her own hands by attacking the CPUs herself. Warechu is concerned about her suicidal plan, so he follows her. However, Arfoire is subconsciously afraid of Plutia because of the torture she inflicted on her in the past. Upon meeting her, Arfoire trembles and has no choice but to flee while Warechu fights the CPUs to buy time. Warechu gets severely beaten, but Compa saves his life, which makes him idolize her. However, the CPUs want to interrogate him, so they ask him about Yellow Heart and learn that she is being powered remotely by a secret generator operated by Anonydeath.

The CPUs go to Anonydeath's lab and confront him. After defeating him and destroying the generator, Yellow Heart shows up and the CPUs are able to defeat her as well. However, defeating Yellow Heart causes her to lose her CPU form, which reveals her to be Peashy. Peashy doesn't remember any of the CPUs due to the brainwashing, but after trying to get her to remember, some aspects of her memory slipped through and she becomes confused. In the confusion, Anonydeath tells them that he just activated the facility's self-destruct and takes Peashy with him through a secret passage that locks behind him. The CPUs quickly flee only to realize Anonydeath was bluffing and the facility wasn't destroyed at all.

Rescuing children

Back at Planeptune, Compa was able to make Warechu reveal the Seven Sages' hideout so they can go rescue Peashy. The CPUs plan is to gather all the mementos they have to help Peashy remember who she was. At the Seven Sages' facility, they encounter Mr. Badd. However, he cares for his children so much that he no longer wants to put them in danger, so he fights the CPUs himself, but loses. The children come out worried about Mr. Badd, but they are now able to talk because of Mr. Badd's care. The children were orphans, but Mr. Badd regretted the experiments. He didn't have children of his own, so he decided to take care of them himself and planned to retire from the Seven Sages after this battle. Because of his kindness, the children learned to love him and Mr. Badd has been doing everything he can to turn them back to normal. Because of his defeat, Mr. Badd wanted the CPUs to carry on his research, so Noire sends the children to Lastation to leverage its advanced technology.

The CPUs continue deeper into the Seven Sages' facility and encounter Yellow Heart, who has been subjected to reconditioning and a makeshift power-up. They defeat her and then use their mementos to re-enact Peashy's childhood, which reveals her old personality and breaks the brainwashing.

Understanding a psycho

With his plan foiled and nothing left for the Seven Sages, Anonydeath resigns, leaving Rei to be the last member. Rei feels she has no choice but to accept defeat, but Croire appears and forces a dark power into her. This causes Rei to become powerful and corrupted, so she creates a copy of Neptune to run amok. The CPUs wondered where the copy came from, but they receive a tip from Anonydeath that Rei is responsible. Rei is holding Anonydeath captive and wants the CPUs to go to her, so the CPUs fight through the CPU copies, rescue Anonydeath, and confront Rei. Rei is unhinged with hatred for the CPUs and is completely unreasonable, so she transforms and reveals herself to be a CPU and fights. The CPUs defeat Rei and take her back to Planeptune for interrogation.

The dark power subsides, Rei regains her senses when she wakes up, and she tells them about her past. Rei lived in a time before there were nations and CPUs, life was chaotic, and she was on the verge of starvation. Then she happened upon a CPU Memory and became a CPU. At the same time, Croire appeared to teach her to use her powers and create a nation (Croire also mentions a selection process for CPUs, but this is not expanded on). However, Rei became corrupted by the power, and after founding her nation called Tari, her people grew wary of her tyrannical methods. She decided to forcefully shut down her opposition and this caused the entire nation to turn against her. However, she didn't know that CPUs derive their power from people's faith and the revolt caused her power to diminish. Being frustrated in such an irrecoverable situation, Rei used what power she had left to wipe out the entire nation in a giant explosion of power, causing the Great Crash (Likely a reference to the video game crash of 1983, making Rei's psychopathy a veiled criticism of Atari's management).

With her power diminished, she reverted back to her normal self, realized how dangerous CPU powers were, and hated the idea of CPUs, which eventually led her to form the Seven Sages. When she learned of the existence of alternate dimensions, she saw the Rei in Neptune's dimension and was proud of her ability to try to change society without CPU powers. She decided to give her power to the other Rei, which led to the events of this story.

Ruins.jpg
I don't see any E.T. cartridges anywhere.

Return home

Just as Rei mentions Croire, Croire appears before the CPUs and explains her ability to travel between dimensions, just as Histoire can contact the other Histoire. Histoire's purpose is to record the history of Gamindustri, but Croire's purpose is disrupting the history of Gamindustri (who gave them these directives and why only Plutia and Rei got fairies on becoming CPUs are not explained). She also mentions that the other Rei is going to destroy this dimension just before the sky turns dark and dimensional pillars appear to strike the ground and cause destruction. They are contacted by the other Histoire who informs them that Planeptune is in ruins and that they should hurry up and collect shares. Afterwards, Histoire prepares a dimensional teleport for Neptune and Nepgear using the shares they gathered. However, they gathered a lot of shares and this causes the dimensional teleport to be so powerful that it opens a permanent portal between the dimensions, allowing everyone to come and go as they please while equalizing the time differential between dimensions.

The CPUs go to Neptune's dimension and are briefed on the current situation by Histoire. They fight their way through the ruined Planeptune, pushing ahead while this dimension's CPUs hold the enemies at bay. They eventually reach Rei, who seems to have acquired the other Rei's memories of Tari and blames the system for her failures rather than herself. Since she won't listen to reason, they fight and defeat her. The other Rei appears to try and take back the power she gave this dimension's Rei, but Croire appears and instead reverses the exchange, giving the corrupted Rei all of the dark power. The CPUs defeat this powered-up Rei, which causes the dark power to come out. Plutia and the other Rei manage to suppress the power (somehow), while this Rei returns to normal and is made to repair the damage done to Planeptune.

Story Critique

Compared to the previous games, Re;Birth3's story is more drawn out and detailed. There are lots of farcical situations with lots of back-and-forth interactions revealing nuances in the characters' personalities. It's all about exaggerated characters with exaggerated personalities in exaggerated situations doing exaggerated things and having exaggerated reactions. However, the extended writing results in a lot of the cutscenes dragging on and on, especially because Plutia talks so slowly. There's a tendency before boss battles to just drag out the conversation and joke around instead of getting to the point and jumping into the fight. But to put it in another perspective, it's not a story to be rushed, it's about immersing yourself in the moment-to-moment interactions.

Teasing and social status

Teasing is the staple comedic device. It is the tearing down of a person from grace, pointing out the irony between their outward perfection and inward flaws to weaken their social status. It's quite appropriate for the personification of competing video game consoles vying for superiority, but it makes the CPUs less likable as people because teasing is inherently offensive. Being able to point out the flaws in others is an assertion of dominance over them, while laughing communicates to others that you are the smart one. Others laugh with you as recognition of your superiority and they will laugh at you as recognition of your inferiority. When someone points out how bad your joke is, you stop laughing immediately because bad jokes reveal your ignorance on the subject, which lowers your status with those you are trying to impress.

The acceptability of a joke is largely a matter of how much the target deserves it. Jokes that attack a person's competence is more acceptable than those that attack a person's race because competence is seen as a function of free choice whereas race is something you can't choose. Breast jokes are targeted at Blanc because she has a flat chest. But because breast size is largely genetic, breast jokes are not really any better than racial jokes. What's funny is Blanc's over-the-top reaction, which can be attributed to her choice of character, making the breast jokes an attack on her free will, and thus acceptable. Also, Blanc considered if she had waited until she was older before becoming a CPU, she would have bigger breasts, which suggests that she is physically, even mentally in her early teens.

Mutually selfish friendship

The CPUs tease and get angry at each other often, yet they put up with it, help each other, and hang out together. There's a sort of relationship web where Plutia being good to everyone allows the characters who are at odds with each other to co-exist in the same group through Plutia. Plutia wants to be friends with everyone and is able to mediate conflict through intimidation, but it's odd for all of them to keep meeting up in the same place at the same time to collaborate even though Noire, Vert, and Blanc don't like each other and have their own nations to run.

Being a good leader is about seeing others as untapped potential. You conflate collective profit with personal profit, so you extend a helping hand when possible. However, you can't realistically be good to everyone because a healthy relationship requires back and forth exchange and you have limited time and energy, so you can't afford to have one-sided relationships. Altruism is more accurately seen as a test for the target to demonstrate social value to the altruist. Failing that will result in the relationship drifting apart as the altruist finds someone else who provides better returns. The CPUs helped Vert because they saw her as a strong ally, not because they pitied her. If she were a plain-Jane human playing a prank, she would just be a side character sent on her merry way instead of becoming a part of the CPU elite club. Contrast this to the faceless soldier who reported to Noire during the first Lastation incident. He appeared twice, but his incompetence resulted in Noire wanting to fire him and he was never seen again. He has low social utility to the CPUs and is thus considered disposable.

Rational self-interest

One point that caught my attention was Neptune and Plutia talking about whether Neptune missed her friends back home, but she said as long as she has friends in the alternate dimension, it didn't really matter. It marks a selfish way of thinking, that she's not really concerned about her old friends' feelings or even the state of her nation in her absence. It indicates that she doesn't have a strong sense of loyalty and doesn't really care about anyone but herself. At the same time, it is this lack of loyalty that allows her to make friends with everyone. It runs parallel to Adam Smith's idea that everyone acting in their own self-interest leads to the best economic outcome, that Neptune only caring about her own fun allows the CPUs to coexist through their friendship with Neptune.

I don't really follow this principle because it's so easy to take it the wrong way. There's a difference between doing what you enjoy to be the best at it and doing whatever you want without concern for others. The CPUs being friends with each other is certainly in their self-interest, but that means they are colluding instead of competing, which is bad for consumers. Neptune being lazy is in her self-interest, but I wonder how many people have died and how much property destroyed due to Neptune not hurrying home? Competitive self-regulation requires altruism because price wars lead to reduced profit for all producers while having no net effect on market share since consumers are just moving back and forth. The best self-interested action for producers is to stay out of each other's way while keeping prices high. In order for free markets to be self-regulated, people have to willingly step aside for others to take market share while whoever enters has to be pro-consumer enough to lower prices, which are the opposite of self-interest.

Uncompassionate goddesses

If CPUs derive their power from people's faith, how does Rei have enough power to challenge the CPUs? It is unclear why anyone would follow a psychopath like Rei, considering the Seven Sages lost all support after Mr. Badd confessed their evil. The demands of the Citizens Group is never explained and no compromise is reached. If the people found the Citizens Group attractive, it means they are dissatisfied with CPU rule. Are the CPUs going to listen to the people's concerns and work hard from now on instead of being lazy and complacent? Nope, there is no change in the status quo and the ending is just the CPUs goofing off like usual, making this a major plot hole. Public opinion just turns on a dime according to who is stronger in a fight and eternal authoritarian governance by the CPUs is treated as perfectly acceptable.

In the beginning chapter, Vert was completely unconcerned about a labour strike with people threatening to jump off a roof, and she just let her subordinate handle it while she plays games in her room. But hey, screw those leftists! CPUs are the job creators and they earned the right to be lazy! People fighting for better rights are just ungrateful communists, which is why they are the villains in this story. Alternate dimension Blanc is the only CPU to have felt remorse over her failures, but even then, she was mostly thinking about how she let herself down rather than her people. The CPUs weep for no one but themselves and are only sorry they got caught. Plutia even tells Blanc that being a CPU is about having fun, not doing "boring" work, while Neptune and Noire are utterly incapable of empathizing with Blanc, meaning they have never experienced failure before, don't understand their own human limitations, and have no sense of suffering and compassion, yet they are in charge of nations.

The scene about Blanc reveals some insight to her character. Her personality is so polar because she is ignorant and insecure. She lashes out to silence criticism because she doesn't have intelligent arguments. She doesn't really know what to do, yet she is under pressure to make decisions as a leader. It should make Blanc more capable of compassion compared to the other CPUs because having suffered herself, she would understand it well. However, she doesn't show compassion afterwards. When it came to helping Vert, she just made the excuse that she had a grudge against the Seven Sages. When dealing with Copypaste, she was bent on revenge instead of feeling bad for the miners who wanted Copypaste as a friend. She does get Copypaste rebuilt, but he is made into a servant for Blanc instead of given to the miners.

Complacency.jpg
And I told them they just had to "work hard", and now they're doing all of the work while fighting each other in the hopes that they will become one of us one day!
Civil unrest.jpg
Why are they angry? Let them eat cake! Or we can just beat up their leader and they will be happy peasants once again, which is pretty much what happened in the ending.
The ugly.jpg
The lesson is, don't be ugly.

Questionable justice

Plutia is a particularly interesting character because of her villainous sadism that I find to be well written and voice-acted. She seems like such a docile person who desires friends and harmony, but she actually harbors sadistic thoughts that her CPU form emphasizes, and she goes all out with cruel and unusual punishment. She does not have an evil agenda, but she enjoys torturing evil people, which is not unlike the point of violent games about killing bad guys because they need to be taught a lesson. It's enjoyable on a primal level, but capital punishment is rife with real-life issues like proving guilt, forgoing opportunities to rehabilitate, and being hypocritical since a murder may be committed on the basis of the victim deserving it. The nations of Gamindustri apparently do not have a formal justice system, so Plutia's sadism is enabled and played for laughs despite it being ethically wrong.

To get around needing a justice system, the story is pro-forgiveness with none of the villains dying or jailed in the end. Instead, they become productive since they are not entirely evil. Copypaste was rebuilt and reprogrammed to serve Blanc. Arfoire learned of Neptune's weakness to eggplants, so she decides to run an eggplant farm to one day get back at her. Rei reformed the Seven Sages to help the CPUs pass laws. I doubt the idea that everyone can be rehabilitated is a robust enough model to apply to real-life justice. There will always be people who are so chaotic and insensitive to others that they will just re-offend after release. Unlike Rei, psychopaths are not good people corrupted by power. They don't understand punishment, so they can't be rehabilitated. The ending has Plutia managing to suppress the dark power as if she were punishing it, but I doubt Plutia's punishment can realistically do anything to a psychopath. It is odd that Plutia just knows what to do with it because it was never previously established that Plutia or any CPU can control such abstract entities.

Strategic incompetence

How can so many years pass between chapters while the Seven Sages accomplish nothing? Neptune and Plutia can afford to be lazy because the Seven Sages are no more diligent than they are. Despite having the advantage with Peashy and the monster children, they did not go on the offensive to conquer any of the nations after ten years, not even Planeptune, which is the weakest. It implies that there is no such thing as preparation, that there is a limit to how far you can fall behind, that there are no permanent consequences to laziness, that you can just pick yourself up at anytime and be able to get back into the game. Complacency will get you killed, but the Seven Sages are not competent enough to take advantage of that even though they were smart enough to concoct the plans that they did. The CPUs also make incompetent decisions like allowing the Seven Sages members to get away when they had them. I can just imagine the villain running away while the CPUs just stand there complaining to each other about how the villain got away.

Monarchy versus capitalism

The contrast between dimensions about how CPUs come into existence portrays the difference between inherited power and capitalistically acquired power, but either way, the outcome ends up being the same. The same people ended up creating the same nations, with the exception of Neptune, but Plutia isn't any more competent as a CPU. Unregulated societies are inevitably regulated by whoever seizes power first because society needs leaders to get things done and laws to enforce order. However, leaders are human and capable of selfishness. While leaders prove their fitness with their deeds, the scope of their power is another issue. A monarchy leads to a massive point of failure should the monarch be incompetent, and knowing everything that happens in a country and making optimal decisions for everything are inhuman tasks.

Free market capitalism is less centralized than monarchy and allows everyone to be their own leaders, but some companies can be so entrenched in the economy that you can't compete against them due to the high startup cost and you can't avoid them as a consumer because you need them to be productive (e.g. telecommunications, banks), so they can afford to engage in political lobbying to create sub-optimal outcomes in society (e.g. the net neutrality repeal in the US, intellectual property laws). There is evidence that American politics is independently influenced by economic elites rather than the majority voters. Without a monarch to unify the societal vision of all companies, some sectors of the economy can be egalitarian while others not so much. For example, healthcare in the US is a ripoff, but you can buy video games for cheap because Steam set a precedent for regular and massive discounts. But because they are separate markets with separate leaders, they can't competitively regulate each other, even though consumers want both.

Regardless of the system, it is really the openness and generosity of whoever is in charge that leads to freedom and prosperity. Rei's tyrannical rule led to the destruction of her nation, even though it had the same authoritarian power structure as the current nations, and the current nations are doing just fine. However, the CPUs are far from good role models, and their acceptance as leaders is plot armoured. Even the competent, hard-working Noire, in her lack of diplomacy, would have started a war against Lowee if it weren't for the Seven Sages. Rei was right to point out that CPUs shouldn't have absolute power over people because CPUs are human in their thinking and can easily cause mass suffering from their selfishness, but the story under-represents her side and takes a pro-authoritarian view, dismissing Rei's failure as purely her fault rather than due to a weakness in the social structure where a single sub-optimal leader assumes control for eternity.

Scarcity of opportunity

The rarity of CPU Memories represents how brilliant ideas are few and far between even though everyone has the same opportunity to find them. However, because of the scarcity of opportunity, it is certainly possible for equally talented people to have wildly different outcomes because opportunities are not shared. Plutia became a CPU by accident, but Histoire does most of the work for her, which allows her to maintain her position despite being lazy. There's also the problem of successful people being in a better position to find more opportunities and control them. Vert just happened to have an extra CPU Memory that she willing gave to Nepgear to convert her, meaning she was keeping it from other people for her own strategic purposes. The concept of exclusive rights is at odds with the notion of equal opportunity because you can just assign property rights on an opportunity and it's no longer equally available. Extend those rights to the next generation and you have people born into advantage.

People turning into monsters represents those who had an opportunity, but failed miserably. However, this does not mean that people who fail are incapable of becoming productive. You can't learn from your mistakes if you are not given the opportunity to try again, so the generosity and guidance of others can help create a better outcome for them and society on the whole. Mr. Badd was the one who took pity on the children and cared for them while the goddesses who everyone worshipped shooed them off as disgusting monsters. How did the CPUs not know what CPU rejects looked like? They took a huge risk to become CPUs themselves and not once did they consider studying those who have failed. All of the information they had about CPU Memories was hearsay. There were no pictures, no examples for everyone to see. It makes Mr. Badd's reveal dependent on the CPUs' neglect of the unfortunate.

Embrace of femininity

Even though the CPUs wear skimpy outfits, the story doesn't look down on women. It portrays them as competent, yet girly, beautiful, yet humanly flawed. The CPUs' revealing outfits reflects their confidence in themselves, and they are comfortable with expressing their femininity. On the other hand, Rei wears a business suit as a symbol of her lack of confidence in herself as a woman. By emulating a man, she has no faith in her womanhood. It is only when she becomes her psychopathic CPU form that her feminine confidence is reflected in her outfit.

Sexy outfits are an expression of femininity because openings symbolize a woman opening herself to receive a man. It is not about submission, but about a woman taking pride in her body as a vessel of new life, which men find attractive as well. If anything, sexy women are actually making men submit to them. Men can get emotionally, even financially destroyed when they don't meet women's expectations, showing that feminine beauty has strong, even dangerous power of influence. Personally, I'm not into skimpy outfits because having no sense of shame reflects arrogance. And if I haven't made it clear already, these waifus are trash.

Final words

On the surface, it's a lighthearted game about girls becoming friends and saving the world, but the devil is in the detail. It doesn't take itself seriously, but a lot of political conflict happens because problems aren't taken seriously. The CPUs' behaviours would be more appropriate if they were just regular girls rather than heads of nations. It is a part of the joke, but it creates an ethical dissonance as soon as I start thinking outside the box, which makes it hard to like the whole premise. However, I still enjoyed the game as a casual experience and it is clear that a lot of love went into making these characters.

Also, the CPUs names, except Neptune and Plutia, are colours in French. Noir is black, vert is green, and blanc is white. However, French is a gendered language, and for some reason Noire is the only one with the feminine form of her colour. Vert should be Verte and Blanc should be Blanche... unless they are secretly men.

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