Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation
System(s): PC (Also available on Vita)
Release Date: May 29, 2015
Publisher (Developer): Idea Factory (Compile Heart)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity and Suggestive Themes
Here we go again! Another year (month?) another Hyperdimension Neptunia game. The Re;Birth series of remakes continues with Idea Factory re-visiting the second game in the original core series. This is the game people really noticed, after a middling debut effort, and the vast difference in reception was part of what sparked the Re:Birth thing in the first place. If you’ve played any of the other games, especially the one directly preceding this one, you’ll be right at home here, as very little has changed. A few tweaks and additions are more lightly peppered than anything else, but Idea Factory has these things down to a science at this point, and it shows. Both for better and for worse.
Throwing a bigger party
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation has little use for continuity. There is a vague connection between this and the first Re;Birth, but the plot is generally full of retcons and nonsense for the sake of comedy, so it barely matters. What you need to know: The world of Gamindustri is powered by CPUs, super-sexed anime ladies who are basically personifications of contemporary video game console companies. Their ultimate goal is to foster faith in them from the people, but piracy is running rampant and “shares” are becoming scarce. On top of that, the crazy cult backing the evil piracy demon-people have defeated and captured the CPUs. Each CPU has a younger sister (CPU candidate) all of a sudden, and Nepgear (related to Neptune of course) has taken it upon herself to fix everyone’s problems and save the CPUs.
As per usual, plot and development is bone-dry in favor of a constant stream of jokes, and it’s about as successful as it sounds like it can be. As I’ve commented on before, the focus on piracy (and particularly the infamous R4) dates the humor a little, and that’s a huge pitfall. If the player doesn’t know what an R4 is, or didn’t really pay attention to (or, uh, participate in) that era of homebrewing, they will be seeing tons of jokes flying way over their head. I’ve yet to play the third Neptunia (I may as well wait for the upcoming Re;Birth version at this point), but so far the series hasn’t been very good at future-proofing itself in terms of humor and writing.
That said, it tries in other places to be more generally funny, and sometimes it works. Hyperdimension Neptunia games are littered with tiny references to all sorts of things, and a good portion of those jokes go a bit beyond the Borderlands school of thought, so the joke is a bit more than the reference in and of itself. Of course, it still goes all over the place, as the approach is pretty much a giant dart board. Toss everything out there and hope something sticks. This sounds like a cop-out, but mileage can and will vary. Sometimes I cracked a smile, sometimes I laughed and sometimes I went through sections of dialogue as fast as possible because I was bored out of my skull and just wanted to go in the next dungeon. Which brings me to the next section, actually. Nice segue, self, good job.
Even people who tend to stray from games like Hyperdimension Neptunia can’t help but admit how fun the combat became over the years. The first one missed the mark, the second one found some new territory and the subsequent releases really dug in and refined a ton. The Re;Birth games are the culmination of those years of polish, and it shows. You can customize your characters’ moves in all kinds of ways, experiment with different items, skills and weapons (all of which have varying attack ranges, making positioning key), and even rework the enemies and items available in each dungeon. Sisters Generation is super malleable, and a few improvements are in place to give the player more options.
The biggest new addition here is an additional party slot. That sounds trivial, but there are so many different characters it became really annoying to have to pick and choose. Granted, the balance was a little wonky and, by the end, using the three CPUs was the clear best option. Now that an extra slot is in there, the player can experiment more safely and have a chance to check everyone out. This of course also allows the player to toy with the Lily Rank mechanic a lot more as well, which is a system that links characters together in and out of combat for even more skill options.
Also notable is a lack of difficulty options, which seems distressing at first due to the grindy nature of the previous game. However, it becomes clear early on that while grinding is still necessary, things have been toned down a bit and the balance feels a lot more consistent. And, if patience is still an issue, some DLC weapons are included that pack a heck of a punch, but don’t overtly break the game once the enemies start getting stronger.
Other than that and a few other minor changes, everything pretty much feels the same. I mean, everything. Most of the first chapter is so full of reused assets it feels like a copy and paste job from the first Re;Birth. Some of the dungeons are practically identical. Once things progress, environments vary a bit more, but playing the two games close together will definitely raise an eyebrow or two, especially since tons of cost-cutting measures have already become Hyperdimension Neptunia trademarks.
That’s the biggest problem with Sisters Generation. It feels too much like a retread. The first Re;Birth was a significantly different experience from the original Hyperdimension Neptunia, which made it feel necessary. That game really needed a facelift to bring it to par with its sequels if Idea Factory wanted fans to care about the series as a whole. This time around, the deja-vu was a lot stronger. I felt like I was merely playing a fancier version of something I’ve done before. It’s still fun, it’s still charming, but I’m ready to move on. Re;Birth3 will be more fresh for me on an individual basis since I never played the original third game. But if Idea Factory wants to keep Hyperdimension Neptunia on the shelf as long as it seems like it does, the series is in dire need of the same breath of fresh air that made this game into a “thing” the first time around.
A review copy was provided for this review.
Site [Idea Factory]