Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation (localized) Review

2015-01-29-175657Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation is the rebirth of the 2nd game (mk2) from the HDN PS3 trilogy… but where as Re;Birth 1 was more of a remake than anything else, Re;Birth 2 feels more like an enhanced port than a remake, but with some new features and changes. The game was developed by Felistella while Compile Heart and Idea Factory both contributed to the production and publication of the game. Idea Factory International was responsible for the localization. It was released on March 2014 for Japan, and January 2015 for the localization.

The game keeps the same art style and gameplay elements that Re;Birth 1 had. It also retains a similar story to the PS3 version by using the same characters, barring a few changes (those who have played mk2 will remember Gust and Nisa; they aren’t present in this one, instead replaced by some of the characters who appeared in Re;Birth 1, along with others).

Story
As for the story… it is not a direct continuation from Re;Birth 1. Rather, the game takes place in a similar yet alternate dimension of Gamindustri where there are new characters such as the CPU Candidates and the Oracles. The CPU candidates are essentially the younger sisters of the CPUs, while the Oracles act as the second-in-command of the CPUs.
A group called the ASIC (Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime) who are dedicated towards Arfoire (the antagonist from the previous game), has risen. This group is a threat to the world so as a response, the 4 CPUs / goddesses of Gamindustri + Nepgear, our main protagonist of this game, tries to combat the group. This ultimately fails and they are captured.
The game begins with 3 years passing by, our two deuteragonists Compa and IF, managing to find a way to free the captives with a special crystal of sorts. This plan fails as they only had enough power to save Nepgear. Without enough strength to combat ASIC, the trio decide to run away and think of a different way to free the captives. And thus begins the journey to save the CPUs and hopefully save Gamindustri from ASIC.

So what’s new??
When you first take a look at Re;Birth 2, you will say that it’s the exact same thing as Re;Birth 1. So are there any new features unique to this game? Thankfully yes, but it’s not much.

  • Stella’s Dungeon
    In this “sort of RPG” minigame, you decide which dungeon (based on the ones you have explored so far in game) Stella and her partner Felis will explore. You can choose her equipment (if she has any) to boost her starting stats, and choose how many floors of the dungeon she will explore. The more floors you choose, the longer her trip and the higher chance of failing the exploration.
    If her exploration is successful, you will be rewarded with equipment that can enhance Stella’s stats, as well as items that will be taken to the main game. If it fails however, she will lose all items and equipment she was carrying for that exploration.
    Some things to point out about this:
    – The minigame is done in real time, so Stella will continue to explore whether you are playing or not.
    – However if you turn off the Vita while active on any type of menu (main menu, shopping menu, etc), it does not count. I don’t know if this is meant to be a bug or not (that’s what I’ve experienced anyway)
    – If you restart / load a save data at any time, the minigame resets to the point where you last saved the game
    2015-01-30-233246
    A screenshot of the minigame. A log of her exploration is seen on the left.

  • Voiced main menu clips
    While not a major feature, I do want to point this out as it hasn’t been done in any of the other HDN games before. By unlocking this feature, a character in your party will comment with some sort of one liner every time you open the main menu or switch equipment. This feature can be unlocked fairly early in the game. I personally prefer this over hearing the generic menu sound you hear everywhere else in the game… so it’s a nice touch.
  • Multiple endings
    Staying true to the original, Re;Birth 2 offers multiple endings apart from the Normal and True endings that most games would come up with. Counting those 2, there are 2 more plus an extra 5 “extension” endings if I can call it that. They are not actual endings but when certain conditions are met, they help extend the Normal ending route.

As this game is more or less the same as Re;Birth 1, I don’t need to go into great detail. I can summarise what you will expect from this game (if you had not played any of the HDN games before):

  • Console RPG with Visual Novel elements
    Nearly every scene in the game is shown in the visual novel format, where whoever is on screen is usually doing the talking or is the main focus of the dialogue / scene. There are special images that pop up during the story as well. Only the dungeons are explorable, the towns are done via menu selection.
    2015-01-30-191610
    Exploration screen. You can interact with the enemies to initiate battles. Blue cubes like the one shown may contain items such as accessories and materials.

  • The ‘Remake’ feature, Item Synthesis
    A feature returning from Re;Birth 1 is the ‘remake’ system. By collecting development plans you can develop new items and add optional dungeons. You can also change the set of enemies and items to gather for each dungeon as well. There are also plans to change the mechanics of the game such as making enemies stronger, increase the battle escape rate and more.
  • The turn-based Battle System
    Keeping true to Re;Birth 1 (and Victory, where it originated) the battle system largely remains the same, with 1 minor change: Where as Re;Birth 1 allowed up to 3 characters + 3 support in battle, this game allows up to 4 characters + 4 support in battle.
    Here is a rough summary of the battle system:
    – Each character can move around in a limited area during their turn, allowing for a bit of strategy during battle.
    – Each character can pull off a Rush (high combo count), Power (deals high damage) or Break (breaking the enemy’s Guard) attack during their turn, up to 3 times. They can also use a special skill or use an item during their turn instead.
    – The EXE Gauge returns, functioning the same way as in Re;Birth 1. This allows the use of EXE Skills (ultimate attacks that consume the gauge) and Finishers (combo attacks that occur at the end of a character’s turn). These Finishers do not consume the gauge but do not become active unless the gauge itself is filled up.
    – A staple feature of this series is transformation. Certain characters can transform (at the cost of SP) to become stronger, and changing their stats depending on what parts they have equipped. Certain animations and skills are slightly altered as well. Regular enemies can also undergo transformation to become stronger. This is known as going Viral.
    I stated this before but I really do enjoy this battle system. It’s fast paced and it’s always fun to watch the characters beat enemies in style with various techniques and explosions.
    2015-01-30-191217Battle screen. Each enemy has a HP bar along with a blue Guard bar. If that bar is depleted they will take more damage. The EXE Drive Gauge is also seen along with the level of the gauge.

  • The Lily Ranking System
    An recurring feature is the Lily Ranking system. This feature determines the friendship level for each character when paired up with one another. By making this level higher, certain features become unlocked between the pairs such as bonus buffs and stats during battle, and new Support attacks (these act as Finishers). There are also some EXE Skills specific to some pairings and can only be used if the condition(s) are met.
  • Presentation, Music, etc
    Re;Birth 2 presents us with both old dungeons seen in the previous games, and new dungeons unique to this game such as a Resort area. Keeping true to the JRPG nature, we do also see repeatable dungeons, enemy palette / colour swaps, and music that is shared between the different dungeons.
    The music is, for the most part, largely the same as mk2 (I could be wrong though, I don’t remember the majority of the music) but there are a few new pieces as well. Again they give off the whole game-y vibe and makes you feel like you’re playing a game, where as most games now-a-days try to put a lot of detail into their music (opera / orchestral for example).
    One thing I do want to point out is that the translation has been improved HEAPS compared to Re;Birth 1. There is little to no grammar errors and spelling mistakes in the dialogue, skill and item descriptions, etc (from what I experienced). If there are though, they should be minor. They also seem to improved the FPS. It’s quite steady and runs a lot smoother compared to Re;Birth 1. Of course it still slows down whenever a dramatic or explosive attack is used but still… exploring dungeons never looked so smooth before!

Final Thoughts
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2, while it looks like playing through Re;Birth 1 again, is still a good JRPG nonetheless. It may not have many new features that would innovate or change the gameplay but it’s still enjoyable, albeit a bit more difficult than expected. Due to the different cast of characters the story is a bit more serious and typical rather than wacky, stupid and random (I miss Neptune and her 4th wall breaking skills!) but there are still those few moments.
Definitely for those who are fans of the HDN series. If you are one of those who likes playing JRPGs, have not played them yet and does not mind some fanservice… consider giving this or Re;Birth 1 a shot! If you do not have a Vita, you can get Re;Birth 1 on PC (Steam).

Basically: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. It seems to be the motto for Compile Heart for this series, seriously.

wpid-20150128_1307521It’s Nepgear! She’s overlooking the PS Vita that has Re;Birth 2 running.

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