Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation - Vita Review

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation changed many of my prior opinions about the second chapter in this gaming series, originally titled MK2. Upon the original game's release, I found that even with the new characters, the title felt rushed. Finishing the original title left me with the distinct feeling that something was missing, which was not at all how I felt at the conclusion of the first and third entries into the series. Re;Birth2 is a remake, but it is more than just a visual update with some new menus. Re;Birth2 fixes just about every issue that I had with the original MK2 title, from the combat system to a more cohesive story that makes the entire experience a more complete one.

Normally when it comes to anything being released by Idea Factory, NIS America or Atlus, I find myself on the edge of my seat waiting less-than-patiently for that title's release. Having had a chance to preview Re;Birth2 before writing the review gave me plenty of time to get to know the game and left me anxiously awaiting the opportunity to talk about it. This is because Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation is an outstanding game worth the foray back into the series.

For those who played the original version of this game, the overall story has not changed a great deal. The premise is very similar, but the little extra additions such as new characters breathes some new life into the experience. Starting with Pegear, IF and Compa, the party soon acquires several characters (new and old) to the series that were not available in the original. Gust, Cave, Red, 5pb, Tekken, Falcom (which pen writes as Adele Christine - something that had me amused by her similarity to Adol Christin from the Y's games) and more all eventually become party members on a quest to resurrect the Goddess of Sin Arfoire. These additional characters lead to new dialogue that better fleshes out the game's story. Instead of the somewhat rushed feeling of MK2, Re;Birth2 simply feels like a more complete tale at the end, despite telling the same basic story as the original game.

Some of these character developments are quite pronounced. For example - I have to confess that I now have a new favorite character in t he series and am certainly hoping to see more of her. In the past Cave was only good for a few story-based appearances, but now she is a character with substantial dialog and plenty of laser-based combat option. Outside of these more intimate looks at previously fringe characters, the expanded roster allows systems such as the Lily Rank much more versatile and entertaining. Having this many characters to draw on allows for a wide variety of combinations to work with when trying to tackle a dungeon or unlock new places to explore.

Combat follows what has been done in the more recent Victory System, in which party members and enemies alike take turns attacking one another according to their character speeds. I honestly cannot say why it took me so long to get to this point, but by the last quarter of the game I finally got around to dedicating certain characters to specific roles. Cave was around to use the Break attacks in order to inflict more damage as enemy defense crumbles. Red was used for her Rush skill to help build the EX Gauge (which I used with Cave and Nepgear to the point of abuse). Finally I had Neptune and Nepgear for the outright hacking and slashing elements of combat.

In most games I normally balance out my party so that each character can be fairly useful depending on the stage of battle (especially bosses). This time I decided to go all-out with very specific roles, and this actually worked very well. if there is one thing about the combat that can occasionally irk me, it is that it is still fairly difficult to run away if needed. Aside from this minor quibble however, combat is incredibly smooth, with HDD transformations that were quick and flashy without bogging down the game. Skills generally look very sharp. One example is when Cave uses her EX - which turns everything into a bullet hell cutscene. Even swapping members of the party was snappy. It is great that combat can be strategic without being boring.

Exploration of Gamindustri  is what players will spend most of their time doing. The various locations around the globe contain plenty of dungeons. Some of these are related to the primary storyline, but there are lots of dungeons just for grinding experience or gathering materials as well (thank you Powerlevel Island!). Most of these locations can be unlocked either by obtaining plans and then using the necessary materials to open them up, or by simply reaching a point in the story where these areas unlock more organically.

Dialog, whether written or voiced, is just as brilliantly witty as ever. Jokes can be about anything and everything from video games, anime or a myriad of other sources as well. The voice actresses for every character felt spot-on and not a one seemed out of place. My favorite pieces of dialogue come courtesy of the Gramps Monster. There were plentiful references to be made here, from a Persona 4 Chie look-a-like to Danganronpa's Monokuma and more. Some of these interactions gave plans, materials or items - but many times they were just there for laughs.

In my preview, I talked about Stella - a dungeon crawler who sets out to gather materials through various floors of the world's dungeons. Further to that, Stella did not need the player to be actively playing to carry out these explorations. There is a roguelike element to Stella in that failure can mean the complete loss of the current earnings. Stella starts off with no equipment and needs to find items like weapons or armor to continue on further. This can open up a risk versus reward consideration. Still, it is nice to get this little bit of 'free' progress while having the Vita on standby for the evening.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation is worth the time you invest in it. Newcomers looking for a fun, deep JRPG with an anime style should find plenty to like here. Those, such as myself, who have played the earlier games will no doubt come away impressed with the improvements leveraged into this remake. I could feel the effort from the opening sequence all of the way through the credits for the first Normal Ending - and I am looking forward to diving right back in to uncover even more endings now.

Review by Pierre-Yves

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