Hyperdimension Neptunia can be a confusing series to try to keep up with for new players; it’s actually pretty simple, but the titles are definitely weird for sure. So here’s two explanations, one short that tells you all you need to know, and one long that tells you probably way more than you need to know.
Editor’s Note: This is somewhat outdated, but also, most of the games since this article are not ‘main’ games, so technically they’re not on the timeline it seems.
Update 2018-03-19: So Cyberdimension Neptunia released and it’s largely in the “non-canon spinoffs” section, though it could potentially be in the main timeline post-Victory 2. Not much of consequence story-wise happens in it so it doesn’t really matter where/whether it’s in the timeline, though it’s inclusion of certain characters makes it clearly post V2 if it is “canon”. But it’s mostly focused on slice-of-life and character development over any plot threads.
Return to the Neptunia Mega Guide, which links guides and info for all games.
The Short Version
Easier to show than tell, really:
Basically we have three mainline games which have a PS3 release and a Vita/PC Remake, a fourth mainline game with a single PS4/PC release, and a bunch of Vita/PC side games with no bearing in canon. The remakes are functionally equivalent to the main games in terms of the canon story, so don’t worry about “which” canon.
VIIR is a new addition, but is largely the same as VII as far as story is concerned.
As for what order to play in, the simplest and mostly best order is rebirth 1-3, then Victory 2. I could write an article on the merits of various orders, but that will be fine for most players. The side games can be enjoyed at any time after playing at least one main game in Hyperdimension Neptunia to understand the characters/theme of the series. The side games are not good introductions as they assume you know the characters already.
That’s really all you need to know. The longer version is much more detailed, too detailed, but will honestly probably leave you more confused and contains some spoilers here and there.
Making Alt Text for a table is hard, so here’s the breakdown in text for accessibility’s sake, or if you can’t read the covers:
- Game 1: Hyperdimension Neptunia 1 for PS3 and Rebirth 1 for PC/PS Vita
- Game 1 is retconned out of existence by Game 2
- Game 2: HDN Mk2/Rebirth 2 Sisters Generation
- Game 3: HDN Victory/Rebirth 3 V Century
- Game 4: Megadimension Neptunia Victory II/VII@
- Hyperdimension Neptunia PP: Producing Perfection
- Hyperdevotion Noire: Goddess Black Heart
- Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed
- Hypertagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies
- Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls
The Long Version
The Hyperdimension Neptunia remakes cause a lot of confusion but really they have no major bearing on the series’ canon. Here I’ll go over the changes and why they basically don’t matter. Game 1’s remake made the most drastic changes by far and the story is actually different in that one, but that doesn’t matter much anyway because…
Game 1 is retconned
Probably the single biggest source of confusion. If you pay attention to the start of Game 2, Game 1 is clearly retconned as
There’s several other bits of HDN1 that don’t seem to make it into the later games:
The CPUs are unreasonably hostile towards Neptune/each other, something that’s been increasingly erased as the series went on. It’s clearly a result of the “console wars” plot, and Game 3 does this a lot with the Ultradimension CPUs (but everyone makes up by the end of the game). Rebirth 1 removes this element for the most part (it was pretty poorly handled anyway).
Histoire seems a lot more powerful and more actively involved in things in HDN1 and to a lesser extent Rebirth 1. In Victory it’s implied Tomes are meant to have a fairly passive role (something Croire likes to ignore). In HDN1 writing in Histoire will alter reality (but maybe that’s still the case but it’s too taboo to do), she takes a strictly supporting role in later titles, opening portals to other dimensions is about the extent of her demonstrated power.
“Celestia” seems to no longer exist in later games, though it’s referenced by an item, and Anonydeath refers to “celestia” as a generic afterlife substitute. Celestia is also changed significantly in Rebirth 1, in the first game the goddesses spend most of their time in Celestia, while Celestia is a sealed away holy land in Rebirth 1.
Other unique aspects of Game 1 are also culled, such as the CPUs “hiding their identities” (wearing glasses) and not being recognized in their human forms. In all other games they’re commonly seen and recognized by their people in their “human” forms. This is for the best as it’s rather nonsensical that after actual centuries no one has noticed that Neptune is obviously Purple Heart, and also that she has lived for several centuries which most people don’t tend to do.
Long story short, Game 1 is entirely excluded from the canon timeline but, especially as Rebirth 1, it does a good job of introducing us to the four main goddesses, Compa, IF, Histoire, and a few other standard aspects of Gamindustri. You should still play it, but don’t get hung up on it’s story.
Game 2 is basically the same
The script for Game 2 is different in the remake, but this has more to do with NISA technically owning the original English script and Idea Factory International taking over publishing rights. Almost all the content is the exact same.
The only major change outside of gameplay is that NISA and Gust were replaced with RED and Broccoli due to Idea Factory no longer being able to license those characters. Yes, Idea Factory creates Maker characters, gives them to the parent company, then licenses their own characters back to themselves so they can use them. Licenses are fun! Now you know why the Gold Third are not directly named after the companies they represent—it would be a licensing nightmare. But that’s getting off topic.
This change is somewhat unfortunate as NISA was a sort of a fan favorite and RED is sort of…the opposite of that, in the end the change matters extremely little as Gust is a simple McGuffin provider and NISA is largely a random tag-along. Change all instances of “JUSTICE” or “Heroine!” in NISA’s dialog and you’ve functionally already got RED. In the end the plot is entirely the same regardless of which supporting characters happen to be here. This did require changing a couple of CGs of course.
Yes there’s also a “new” ending in Rebirth 2, it’s garbage and is basically the first 15 minutes of the Conquest ending taped onto the last 15 minutes of the True Ending with a boss rush in between. Sadly it doesn’t even function well as an “escape hatch” for the (direly depressing and honestly traumatizing) Conquest Ending, since it requires max lily ranks with ALL partners, a feat basically only possible with Lily Rank+ disks and the Symbol Gain plan which need the True Ending to get (or an insane grind). So in the end it’s more of an NG++ deal.
You might also notice Mk2 is rated M but Rebirth 2 is rated T. No, it wasn’t censored–in fact they even ADDED a fairly gross perv-CG with CFW Trick if I recall correctly. The ESRB either screwed up or had lower standards for what an M was when Mk2 was released. The infamous dogoo scene is still in, CFW Trick is still a pedophile and the Conquest Ending is still traumatizing as hell.
So yeah, Game 2 is basically the same with all changes being purely gameplay or licensing related. Canon is entirely unaffected outside of which support characters (who are never seen again) gave a helping hand.
Game 3 is confusing but still the same
Neptunia Victory completely removed “Makers”, human playable characters that aren’t goddesses, from the gameplay. This was for good reason, as the game takes place over like 30 years in Ultradimension, and Makers would age over that period.
Eventually for the love of DLC, Victory went back on this and added Makers who make no sense plot-wise. Including…TWO IFs and Compas. That you can use in the same party at the same time. Then Rebirth 3 kinda makes it worse by tossing the Oracles in there too and including DLC in the base game making it rather unclear which characters were actually supposed to be in the game and which were (often overpowered) DLC characters.
Add this to the fact that the start of Victory is balanced around you having only 2 or so characters most of the time, this decision pretty much completely destroys any difficulty in most of Rebirth 3. But that’s a topic for another article…
You basically have to consider all the DLC characters, including the oracles, as non-canon in Game 3. And with that considered…the plot is once again almost exactly the same, with the only differences being due to the aforementioned rewrites of NISA’s English script.
Which is a shame, Victory’s writing of the main CPUs is so poor they’re basically out of character (Vert is a crybaby, Neptune is an asshole and Noire waffles between being a total pushover and a jerk) and Plutia’s Mary Sue-ness and implicit (and occasionally explicit) sexual assault of several characters could have really used a heavy handed edit or twenty. On the plus side, the lack of relevant editing means story-wise you get pretty much the same thing and yet again, remake or original doesn’t matter.
There is one difference though, Rebirth 3 has a brief one-dungeon prologue and a couple minor Social/Mobile gaming villains in it complete with a VR reference to keep things timely and topical.
VIIR is an enhanced remake
As far as we know the story is largely the same, but more scenes were added to make things feel more personal and more VR-friendly, and the battle system was completely overhauled to help the game feel “new”.
So there we have it. Whether you play remakes or the originals, your story experience is going to be largely identical, with the major exception of a game that is entirely retconned anyway.
Another cause for confusion is Neptunia is actually a Multiverse series, though this isn’t made explicit until Game 3. As such there are multiple worlds and multiple versions of several main characters.
Fitting to the series’ English name, every game in the main series actually starts in Hyperdimension. When our CPUs are wearing these clothes, they’re from Hyperdimension:
For some strange reason, Uni, Rom, Ram, and Nepgear are exclusive to this dimension thus far. When in doubt, assume something is from Hyperdimension.
Game 1 also seemingly took place in this dimension despite being retconned. But multiverse and all, it’s possible Game 1 simply took place in a different dimension that wasn’t yet disambiguated from Hyperdimension.
A great deal of confusion was caused by the introduction of “Ultradimension” which was, honestly, handled really badly by marketing, especially by NISA. Game 3 was marketed as “a blast from the past” and starts over from the 80s to follow the console wars as they evolved (an annoying partial retread of the first game’s plot).
However, Ultradimension isn’t really the past. It’s a separate space created entirely for a “through the ages” plotline where time goes faster and we see Playstation and Xbox rise from nothing to become console giants while Sega derps around and does basically nothing, just like real life.
The characters you meet in Ultradimension are entirely different, sometimes even with different personalities from their Hyperdimension selves. The Neptune in Victory is the same Neptune from Hyperdimension though. We eventually meet Ultradimension’s Neptune in Megadimension Neptunia V2 just to keep things confusing.
When you see these outfits, our CPUs are in/from Ultradimension.
Ultradimension has it’s own rules, like CPUs being created by CPU memories instead of being born into godhood, it’s time goes by much faster than Hyperdimension’s time, it’s nations look visually different, and it’s Histoire has considerably worse hardware capabilities. This opens the door for every dimension to technically function differently.
Ultradimension is part of the canon timeline, but it’s also nearly irrelevant as of Game 4.
There’s some confusion over the title of Neptunia Victory II as well. It’s abundantly clear that the core of the game and main characters come from Hyperdimension, the same dimension every game starts in.
However, “Megadimension” was used probably because
Best I can tell Megadimension may simply refer to the multiverse in which Neptunia takes place rather than a single dimension. Which would mean arguably all games take place in Megadimension so…no, don’t try too hard to find meaning in it.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Side Games
Side games each have their own special dimensions, which aren’t always named. Hyperdevotion Noire is “Gamarket” for instance, which looks like Ultradimension but doesn’t follow the story or any of the other “rules” of Ultradimension.
Basically the Hyperdimension Neptunia side games tend to follow whatever trend is going on with the main series (Ultradimension outfits? Sisters in? Sisters out?) and you shouldn’t even think about it too hard. Neptunia U even blatantly states the game is non-canon in a little fourth wall break.
None of the side games even lead into each other at the time of writing this, they’re merely one-offs done largely without the main team’s involvement.
The Title Issue
Even if we understand the dimensions, the titles in the series are a bit confusing.
So, in Japanese, Victory is actually called something more like “Ultradimension Neptune Victory”—because it takes place 95% in Ultradimension, not Hyperdimension. And it’s just “Neptune” instead of Neptunia in Japanese, hence Neptune’s truly insufferable “I’m the main character guys!” attitude in Victory 2. The series is actually directly named after her originally.
NISA changed things, likely for branding reasons so all three PS3 games were called Hyperdimension Neptunia in the west. (NISA is also somewhat infamous for changing or mixing up details in the series—like introducing Peashy as the “PC” CPU—that’s PC ENGINE to you! But that’s for another article, NISA changed a lot more than titles).
So for a while the series was only Hyperdimension Neptunia in America and that was pretty okay honestly. It slightly confused the issue of Ultradimension for some people but resulted in a more consistent branding for the titles.
The Japanese series never cared about said consistency, and after releasing Ultradimension Victory/Rebirth 3 they came up with “Megadimension” Neptune Victory 2, “Extremedimension” Blanc + Neptune vs Zombie Army, and “Superdimension War” Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls Dream of Coalescence.
Idea Factory International mostly stayed faithful to the latest round of brand-butchering, so now we have “Megadimension Neptunia Victory V2”, “MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies” and “Superdimension Neptune vs Sega Hard Girls”.
We’re spared a bit of the awkwardly long titles here and there, but now the brand is once again a mess and now we even have English titles using “Neptune” instead of “Neptunia”. Whether this convention will persist to the next mainline game is yet to be seen, but for better or worse Idea Factory International seems to go pretty far to the side of a 1:1 translation…to the point they let their English actresses read some Japanese lines in Blanc Game for some reason.
Basically Hyperdimension Neptunia titles are a complete mess and it seems deliberate at this point, with both Japanese and English titles being actively hostile to the concept of a consistent name for the series. Think of it like how many Japanese fighting games constantly try to one-up each other with long, usually English subtitles that make no sense.
Well, maybe you regret reading the Long Version now because that’s actually probably much more confusing than just pretending none of that happened, isn’t it? Just call it “Neptunia”, play the games roughly in order, and have fun.