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Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation (PC) artwork

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 2: Sisters Generation (PC) review

"The game has promise, but the grind wears you down long before the end."

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation is an enhanced update of the second in a trilogy of PlayStation 3 games. Initially available on PS Vita, the remake has since been ported to PC. That's the version I was provided to review, along with extra DLC that greatly impacts the game's difficulty. I'll touch on that momentarily.

The Neptunia series takes place in the land of Gameindustri, a world that parodies the actual game industry. Cities represent the various console makers, and CPUs stand in for the various consoles. As the story commences, you find yourself in the Game Graveyard, combating the minions of Arfore. The main CPUs that were featured in the previous title in the series have been captured. You assume the role of Nepgear (the younger sister of Neptune) and a few friends, as the lot of you try to rescue them. Your mission fails miserably, however, when the creature guarding the captive heroes easily defeats you. Licking your wounds, you retreat and attempt to build your strength by amassing Shares, which raise your popularity and make you more powerful.

If you think that sounds like a great idea for a game, you're right. There's a lot of potential here for terrific inside jokes and commentary, but things don't really come together. As the game progresses, you regularly add new characters to your roster, and each one brings along what is supposed to be an interesting quirk. The reality, though, is that it's all low-hanging fruit. Every nation except Microsoft's equivalent is represented by two characters: one for the console and one for the handheld. Sega's mascots, the titular heroes, both come off as goofy, while Sony's heroes are cocky and independent. Nintendo's standard bearers are younger, with their youngest representatives acting and sounding like pre-teens. And finally there is the Xbox CPU, a hardcore gamer who constantly shirks duties in order to play games.

Such stereotypes might make sense in Japan, where the Sega Saturn was advertised by one of the wackiest mascots in existence. It doesn't localize well in the west, though. The humour falls flat and the situations don't make much sense. The writing itself is also far from stellar, leading to one-dimensional characters who adhere to anime tropes you've likely seen dozens of times in projects that boast superior writing. Unless you're a fan of the games or the related anime and manga, you're left with gameplay as your only potential motivation to make a purchase. And as things get going, it does feel like you're about to head into a mechanically satisfying experience. Over the course of the campaign, though, excessive grinding takes its toll.

Re;Birth2 is a turn-based RPG. You explore limited, copy-pasted maps that are skinned to represent various terrains. As you wander about, you can see enemies and avoid entering into random battles. Touching a foe, however, pulls you into a combat arena. You get to go first if you are careful, or you'll fall victim to a surprise attack if you're not. Once your team appears in battle, you can move around the area and close any gap between your party members and their foes. Characters and weapons have differing attack ranges, and your attacks fall into three modes: light, strong, and guard-breaking. If you break an enemy's guard, your attacks do more damage until the turn concludes, at which point your foe recovers.

The battle system is well-executed, with additional layers that are implemented fairly well as far as they go. The interesting mechanics eventually lose their meaning, though, thanks to the aforementioned grinding. And if you take the pay-to-win approach, that doesn't go any better. As I noted at the start of the review, I had access to some DLC that isn't included with the default release, but which can be purchased separately. It gifted me a powerful weapon for the main character, Nepgear. With that gear equipped, I was able to breeze through the game without the need to master most of its intricacies. I merely had to keep Nepgear alive long enough that she could obliterate any new enemies.

Without relying on that equipment, I doubt I would have finished the game ahead of year's end because the narrative and exploration elements are so underwhelming. The game does try to mix things up with plans you can use to change what enemies and items you encounter in a given zone, but even that relief proves inadequate as you slog through the campaign.

To be clear, I'm not automatically opposed to grinding in a JRPG. It simply doesn't prove worthwhile here. To get the game's best ending, you must raise the shares of each nation to 50%, so you can obtain certain characters. Doing so requires you to move shares around by completing various associated quests that affect the totals. You might need to kill certain enemies, which requires that you remember where they live. When you succeed, you may move the needle 2%, or 5% in some rare cases. At a minimum, then, you'll need to repeat the quest 10 times for each of four nations. Sufficiently boosting a given nation's shares could require hours of grinding. You also have to improve battle affinity with each new recruit, which means you'll have to endure seemingly countless battles. They quickly grow tiresome, even when you're assisted by DLC content.

Essentially, the game features grinding as content, not as a means to unlock some other meaningful reward like in better games. And your rewards for finding more characters are just more cutscenes containing snippets of dialogue to remind you they are in your party. Since those additional party members are utterly devoid of interesting personalities, though, you'll want to hammer the button just to get past the incessant one-liners. There's no real incentive to raise every character to the levels required to obtain the best ending, especially since the endings on offer aren't hugely different from one another.

Of course, you might not get that far. I also experienced issues with the port itself, ranging from screen tearing to more serious fare, such as crashes that led to lost progress. In one case, a cutscene refused to play, which halted my progress and meant I had to work my way through an entire section a second time in order to proceed.

When I started playing Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation, I would have described the game as a middle-of-the-road homage to classic tropes from the JRPG's heyday. By the time I finished it, the grinding, lame writing, and assorted other issues made me reluctant to play it, even when I found myself with the free time required to do so. Unless you're a hardcore fan of the characters and world, there’s little here that I would recommend. Instead, I encourage you to find one of the many better RPGs that will do a better job of justifying your time and effort…

Pawkeshup's avatar
Freelance review by Pawkeshup D'Amour (October 23, 2015)

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