Oh no! Not another JRPG for the PlayStation Vita!
Sony’s poor neglected handheld seems to have been taken over by JRPGs in recent months, leaving fans of any other genre wanting. However, this is great news for the JRPG fans, who now have plenty to choose from when it comes to quirky, often long role-play games from Japan.
Idea Factory’s Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation is the latest strange title to make its way onto the Vita. Ported from an earlier PS3 title, which itself was a sequel, Sisters Generation manages to not only have a huge and unwieldy title, but also has one of the strangest settings ever found in a video game. Despite this, the game is actually a fairly competent and enjoyable JRPG, and it looks good too.
It could be recommended to play Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1, which was launched on the Vita last year, before jumping into this sequel. However, it is not essential as a quick search on the Internet will fill in any story or setting gaps that you may have, and Sisters Generation is fairly easy to get into, if you can look past all of the weirdness.
The world of Gamindustri is under threat from the Arfoire Syndicate of International Crime (ASIC) and their plan to resurrect the evil Arfoire. The world is broken up into four different nations – Planeptune, Lastation, lowee and Leanbox – with each area having a CPU goddess. These four goddesses, along with CPU Candidate Nepgear, step forth to fight ASIC, but end up getting captured in the Gamindustri Graveyard. After three years of captivity, IF and Compa turn up to rescue the goddesses, but only manage to free Nepgear before being forced to retreat. It now comes down to Nepgear and her friends to gather CPU Candidates and others before going back to finally rescue the goddesses and defeat ASIC.
Okay, let’s just take a moment to think about this. The world is called Gamindustri. Would you be surprised to find out that the different nations of Gamindustri and their goddesses represent different consoles? Or that the CPU Candidates represent yet more consoles? Or that supporting characters are based on the likes of developers or publishers? Even the bad guys have their setting in the videogame industry. The whole thing is a giant, rather strange but often funny, parody of the game industry. It is weird, but really rather wonderful.
Once you step away from the obvious, and not so obvious, videogame references, you are still left with the more usual JRPG staples, such as the characters being young girls with a questionable choice of clothing and often oversized “assets”, bright colours and overwhelming cuteness, and the occasional moment when the game almost becomes unsavory. This is all a standard in the JRPG genre, and the fans will likely be expecting all of this and more.
Get past the videogame industry parody and the JRPG staples and you have a fairly solid game. Sisters Generation does a good job of holding the players hand as they start out, explaining the various different systems successfully, without over complicating things. Thus begins the exploring of the various dungeons in the game. These are fortunately quite varied in their appearance and their content, making the inevitable grind a little less foreboding. The difficulty level and progression is very well set, however, which leaves the grind a little less necessary than in other JRPGs. There is also a system whereby the player can customise different parts of the game, which can change dungeons to offer something different upon revisiting, which is a nice feature.
The combat has various mechanics to get used to, but they are explained well and allow for a surprisingly large number of tactical options. The turn-based combat gives the character freedom to move around the battlefield, within limits, to position themselves to best effect, such as to defend the weaker members of the party, or to come into range of more than one enemy for additional damage. Different weapons have different ranges of attack, an EXE gauge can be filled to launch a more powerful move, special abilities or spells can be used or cast, and yet more options are available depending on which characters are being used. The system is not difficult to get to grips with, but those of a more tactical mind will find themselves with plenty of choices as to how they approach a given enemy, or even the often difficult bosses in the game.
Visually, if you can look past the big eyed cuteness and young-looking girls, Sisters Generation is a good looking game. It is incredibly colourful, and makes yet more reference to the videogame setting, and looks great on the Vita screen. The cut scenes tend to be of the portrait style, with the characters being superimposed onto a more static background, but they serve their purpose while still looking good.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation may have a ludicrous name and an even more ludicrous setting, but beneath that is a very competent JRPG which is easy to pick up and enjoyable to play. The setting does give the game a niche appeal, but if you have already spent some time in Gamindustri, or are a big fan of the JRPG genre on the whole, then Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation will be worth checking out.