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Review: Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation (Sony PlayStation Vita)

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Felistella
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Release Date: 01/27/2015

The leap from PS3 to Vita did the original Hyperdimension Neptunia game well, resulting in a product that was hardly recognizable from its native form, but in all the good ways. Compile Heart, seeing the potential for improvement in some of the other entries, decided to continue this trend with Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation and the results are about as good as they could have been.

Re;Birth2 is a remake/enhanced port of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, which was already a pretty solid game and an incredibly pleasant surprise considering what came before it. Its biggest problems centered around the poor accuracy of your party members, as it made battles unnecessarily long and arduous. This has been improved in the Vita port, plus the presentation has been made over to match Re;Birth1. Some other tweaks have been thrown in too for good measure, such as the Remake System and roster additions, as well as an additional ending.

But first things first, if you’ve never played this entry before, it’s set in a version of Gameindustri where ASIC has defeated the four CPU’s and video game piracy has run rampant throughout the land. Friends of one of the CPU’s (IF and Compa) attempt a rescue, though are ultimately unsuccessful save for the retrieval of the CPU candidate, Nepgear. Their energy spent, they decide the next course of action should be to travel to all of the nations, gather up their CPU candidates and mascots, and give it one more go. If only it were that easy.

Like its predecessor, Re;Birth2 has a strong anti-piracy message, and every character is a reference of some kind to a video game console or character. As implied by the subtitle though, the stars of the game are the siblings of the prior cast, with Nepgear (a reference to the Sega Game Gear) being the main protagonist this time around. Other games in the series make fun of Nepgear for being a poor protagonist, though no amount of fourth wall breaking really changes the fact that, yes, she’s nowhere near as interesting as Neptune. She’s timid, doesn’t have a lot of self-confidence, and prone to tears. Fortunately, she experiences plenty of growth as the game progresses, but just be aware that her likability is a bit of an acquired taste.

Fans of the PS3 original may be disappointed to learn that there have been some roster changes, and the story has been tweaked a bit to accommodate this. For instance, Nisa and Gust have been cut entirely. However, a number of characters have been made playable in their place (such as the Oracles from each nation). Look forward to having a controllable cast that’s twenty some odd characters strong (without DLC!) And the various nods to the quirks in the video game industry are every bit as humorous as they were in series past.

Progression is handled in an almost identical fashion to Re;Birth1. The world map is accessible to you from the get go with possible destinations unlocking as you advance. Navigating from town to town is as simple as moving your cursor where you want to go and pressing X. While in town, you can accept quests from the Guild in order to earn items and cash, as well as visit the shop to outfit your party with new items, weapons and armor (with some only becoming available when crafted with the new Remake system). The Chirper is gone and in its place are direction conversations with Gameindustri residents who sometimes reward you with new plans and components.

Like its predecessor, Re;Birth2‘s combat system has been brought more in line with that of Victory. When you see an enemy out in the field, you have an opportunity to strike them with a Symbol attack, giving you preemptive attacks in battle. You can now bring four party members into combat with you, adding to your strategic options. During their turn, your characters can move around the map with a hit box in front of them, and are able to attack as many enemies as can fit within the box. Each of the face buttons represents a new move in the combo. Triangle initiates Rush attacks (for high hit counts), square is for Power, and X is for Guard breaks. Since each enemy has a meter for HP and one for their GP (guard points), ideally you want to decimate their guard first before having them feel the full brunt of your assault. Though if they regenerate their guard too much, you can simply whittle them down slowly.

Your characters have a SP meter for using skills that can be activated at will, such as healing abilities or magic. Items are also available for use during any character’s turn, or you can spend your turn defending. Successful attacks build up an EXE Drive gauge that adds finishing moves to the end of each character’s combo when the meter is full, though the benefit is lost once you leave an area. EX Finishers and combos are configurable from the game’s main menu with new attacks becoming available as your characters level up.

CPU’s and CPU candidates, such as Nepgear or Uni, can activate HDD mode. It uses up a percentage of their available SP (unless for story purposes), but they can inflict much more punishment than previously possible in their vanilla state. Characters not in use become support members and grant bonuses based on their affection with a particular character, also known as the Lily System. They can also be switched into play in the midst of battle, though if whichever party members are on the field are wiped, it is still a game over.

The Remake System continues to be a worthwhile addition to the franchise and you’ll find it’s just as useful here. Finding new plans are as easy as talking to NPC’s in most cases, and once you have the required components to make something, you can tweak what enemies spawn in a particular area, which items can be mined, and even permanently made certain items available to purchase. Being able to raise or lower monster difficulty is a nice bonus too, giving the game its own makeshift difficulty adjuster.

Stella’s Dungeon is another major addition, allowing you to send Stella (based on the developer, Felistella) into previously explored dungeons to uncover new items. This occurs while you’re playing (or even not playing) so it’s advantageous to have Stella on an adventure at all times. All you need to do is choose the dungeon, how far you want her to go, and what items to equip; she’ll take care of the rest. If you send her somewhere she’s not equipped to handle though, she may fail and lose any equipment she may have been carrying, not to mention you won’t gain any rewards at all. It’s reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII and the PocketStation accessory that could earn items to bring back into the main game.

One thing I did notice, and I can’t tell if it’s just me or not, but Re;Birth2 seems like a harder game than the title it’s remaking. I had to do very little grinding in the PS3 version in order to progress and it seems as though boss battles are more of an endurance match this time around. It’s a bit of a shame too, as these encounters could be more strategic than the battles of attrition that they’re currently designed to be, though this isn’t a problem exclusive to just this particular game. Consecutive boss battles and the inability to save anywhere are still prevalent issues as well. And don’t get me started on the various zones and enemies of the CTRL+C & CTRL+V variety.

In fact, for all of the tweaks and improvements that have been made to this game, my biggest gripe and concern for the franchise as a whole is franchise fatigue. Re;Birth1 launched last August and not too shortly before that was Producing Perfection. Hardcore fans are likely delighted and the HDN franchise is likely Compile Heart/Idea Factory’s biggest seller right now. Fortunately, Hyperdevotion Noire and Neptunia U look like they’ll break the monotony, but with Re:Birth3 and Victory II likely just around the corner, I’d hate to see the JRPG equivalent of Assassin’s Creed start to take shape.

It has been awhile since mk2, but it sounds as though the English cast have been retained in their entirety, and they’re just as enthusiastic as ever. The Japanese language track can be enabled on the fly if you so choose though, which you just might once the battle cries start to get repetitive. The music is generally pretty good though. The visuals are far and away more impressive on the Vita, with the awkward 3D models during dialogue exchanges dropped in favor of the animated stills. The frame rate runs far more consistently as well.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation is a bit more tricky of a recommendation than the previous Vita game was. On the one hand, it’s a definite improvement over the original and the new features alone make the overall experience a better one. But has enough changed that someone who completed mk2 would want to play through this again? Now that’s a tough one. If you’ve missed out on the PS3 trilogy and are just starting out on the Vita, this feels like a direct extension of the Re;Birth1 for all the good and the bad that that entails. The question then becomes, are you ready for more after only a five month break? That all being said, if you’re looking for the definitive version of Nepgear’s quest to save her sister, then you certainly need to pick this up.

Short Attention Span Summary
Following the example of its predecessor, Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation attempts to improve upon one of the existing PS3 games (this time mk2) by streamlining the combat and adding in additional characters and features. The end result is the best version of the game that you can buy, even if the transformation isn’t nearly as dramatic. That said, many of the problems that exist in Re;Birth1 are still present here, including the frequent reuse of content and the reliance on grinding in order to progress. Still, if you’ve been keeping up with the franchise thus far, it certainly isn’t any worse and the transition from the prior game to this is a smooth one. In other words, if you love the previous title (or any of the others, for that matter), this is a must buy.

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