By: Fernando Da Costa
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Available On: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
HERE WE GO AGAIN! - Introduction
Eight months after Rebirth hit Playstation 2, .Hack//G.U. Vol.2//Reminisce came out. Hard to imagine there’s such a gap between these releases, especially given how the first one ended. I must have had the patience of a God as a teenager because I don’t remember ever getting antsy about the wait. As a grown man, I need that instantaneous continuity because that cliffhanger was agonizing. Sure, if it was terrible, the characters abysmal, and I wasn’t invested, I’d probably be ok. That’s not exactly what’s happening because, man, I’m all of the above. I was absorbed in the events transpiring. After having devoted around 35 hours to Rebirth, I’m keen to see if the sequel holds up to its predecessor. Hopefully, it doesn’t suffer a significant fall from grace like several before and maintains the stride of goodness.
FURTHER DEVELOPMENT! - Writing
Haseo undergoes the continual transformation of his demeanour. Though he maintains the snark that he’s become well-known for, his facade begins to show a wide array of cracks. These can be mainly seen in his relationship with Atoli, who remains one of, if not the best, characters in .Hack//G.U. as a whole. They even begin to banter like friends, which, while it still might not reach hysterical heights, there’s no mistaking how damn wholesome it all is. I couldn’t help but smile as I read their conversations in emails or while inside The World: R2. It’s evident in how the narrative flows, as well as the dialogue that CyberConnect2 had fully intended on nailing a solid sense of camaraderie - and they do. Friendship is a focal point, and my session improves for that. I even began investing in those I disregarded previously.
The above paragraph is also why I suggest finishing this collection in succession. Not taking the curiosity arousing cliffhangers into account, there is no getting a fully fleshed cast from a single game. It requires all of them - think of it like the Megazord for literature. I love that acquaintances met in Rebirth slide into prominent roles while the rest slip back. The cast shuffles, giving others the limelight. Many surprising additions stand by your side as allies, helping to combat the horrors engulfing this faux MMORPG. As I’m sure you’ve surmised, that lends itself to a vast pool of party members. It becomes another considerable balancing act, drip-feeding us the importance of everyone at a fair pace. Thanks to the work of Rebirth, those that no longer are the main focus retain heft because they’re no longer faceless, now having substance.
A BIT PREDICTABLE, INNIT?! - Writing
In total, I’ve put in around 37 hours into .Hack//G.U. Vol.2//Reminisce, for a collective 72 so far. In all that time, I couldn’t help but notice something. There’s a degree of forecasting to the storyline, although the conclusion isn’t always evident. I couldn’t begin to explain the number of times that I correctly called a twist, only to have it proven not wholly accurate. It might still be half-right, but there are layers subverting predictions. In that way, it’s fair to say that with its predictability, there’s also a touch of unpredictability. It takes any stereotypical trope and laces further diction to make it become something exceptional. Then, as questions found answers, others arose. The best aspect of it all is that, so far, at least, it all makes bloody sense. My intrigue keeps on flourishing, and I suspect it will continue.
SURPRISING TOPICS! - Writing
.Hack//G.U. Vol.1//Rebirth never explored serious subject matter in terms of storytelling. Everything was by the book, focusing primarily on the fantasy setting and conflict in The World: R2. That all changes with Vol. 2 because, let me tell you, in no universe was I prepared for how on-the-nose the abusive subject matter gets. It replicates the disgusting mindset of a narcissist perfectly, pulling out insane manipulation techniques. It does well to highlight the effects that such a heinous and deplorable act has on someone, too. How, when faced with the truth, they vehemently deny what’s occurring due to brainwashing. It’s worth noting because, for me, the ordeal did end up triggering a reaction of unadulterated rage. I’ve been in a situation where my emotional trauma was weaponized. It got too real, but, I’m sure, it was the desired response to the depiction of such appalling conditions.
YOUR NOSE IS BLEEDING!? - Writing
When I wrote my coverage for Part One, I pointed to the resemblance to anime. There were snippets here and there that gave off strong vibes. It especially became blatant during cutscenes, when everyone had pronounced facial expressions. Well, it seems I may have been on to something as Reminisce continues to validate that declaration. The sense of humour that, in Rebirth, only managed smiles was now pulling hearty chuckles from me. Again, It’s not quite hysterical, but there are signs of improvement. The main contributors to the silliness are the threads in the in-game forums, from boys getting nosebleeds due to pretty girls to increased banter between users. I can’t downplay how authentic it feels to real life. Hell, and perhaps this is my inner nerd speaking, but I’m delighted that a handful of these fictional users have distinct individuality.
THE CONVOLUTION BEGINS! - Writing
Judging by my consistent praise of the narrative, some might figure it perfect. That’s just not factual, though, because in my time with Reminisce, I did spot an example of convoluted storytelling. It requires an intense gymnastics routine just to find a semblance of cohesiveness. Even after wrapping my head around potential sense, there remains a lingering doubt in the back of my mind. My biggest complaint is it nullifies an exciting plot device by inserting an unnecessary caveat. Instead of committing to a story beat, there’s a minor addition to make it more convenient - think of it as backpedalling. The problem is doing that softens up any urgency the characters have endured to that point. Sure, circumstances remain dire, and the allure in the mystery remains. However, because there are already confusing readjustments, it’s grim for .Hack//G.U. Vol.3//Redemption.
OPI ARIGATO, NO MORE ROBOTO! - Gameplay
One benefit of releasing eight months after the first is the ability to receive and implement feedback. See, I couldn’t help but complain about the robotic combat in .Hack//G.U. Vol.1//Rebirth. It’s unintuitive to defend a strike because completing hit-combos took priority. Thanks to that, it made the simple act of protection an awkward affair, eventually causing me to revert to Leeroy Jenkins myself, or in other words, charging into the fray with weapons drawn. Well, Vol. 2 addresses those concerns, and it does so in a rather meta manner. It’s genius how while CyberConnect2 strove to refine mechanics, they did so with a method in favour of nurturing immersion. What’s more, blocking is now doable. However, due to AI companions being functionally sound, the strategy of murdering without remorse is still equally as feasible - note that every swipe feels a lot smoother, too.
WHO WANTS A RIDE?! - Gameplay
A topic I didn’t bother discussing in my coverage of .Hack//G.U. Vol. 1//Rebirth is the motorcycle Haseo has in his possession. The reason is its usage is as simplistic as it gets. That’s not even mentioning the windy design of the hub town of Mac Anu. It’s twisty, and because the bike has pretty pathetic handling, it would mean a paragraph of exclusively complaining. Luckily, that’s a thing of the past and what was once inefficient now has a goddamn purpose. Bike quests are available, too, requiring vehicular manslaughter to finish. The prizes for doing them vary, including parts that modify its various stats. That’s right; there’s bike customization here. Base speed can be boosted, as can acceleration, and, most vitally, handling can finally be a dream. My one beef is that the quests themselves are uninspired.
JUST PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT! - Gameplay
One icon that’s difficult to ignore while on your faux desktop is “Crimson VS.” Not to mention that it’s constantly referred to within the forums, even having a dedicated one. Well, the maintenance making it inoperable during Rebirth has come to an end. With it unlocked, a new mini-game in trading cards is available. I’m in heaven. As a kid, I loved partaking in the hobby. I dove in headfirst, noticing there’s nothing tricky about it. Each round automatically cycles in the background as I traverse dungeons. The only manual input is creating decks. Gathering all the cards is surprisingly fun. There’s also a weakness triangle, throwing an extra wrench of strategy into the proceedings. Now, it’s never going to test your mental prowess truly. It’s a minor challenge. Still, it’s a fine distraction when you have to check emails incessantly.
ENTER A NEW SERVER! - Gameplay
Throughout Rebirth, there was a ton of chatter about other servers. During the transition into Vol. 2, the predominant question looming over my head was if, maybe, they’d be utilized as a way to enforce caps. Well, it seems the answer to that is a resonating affirmative. From what I could gather, an increase of 50 occurs every time, with 100 now being the maximum. Unlike the first, I’m foregoing the grind and being more modest. No longer will I trivialize every enemy, all because I have to overcompensate. Quests, too, became too effortless - I must reassess my playstyle. After testing, my findings are that keeping in parity with the scaling does help to maintain a challenge. CyberConnect2 seems aware of that because the average area has been rebalanced to keep up with me, sometimes even surpassing my current level.
I LIKE YOUR VOICE! - Sound Design
The score in .Hack//G.U. Vol.2//Reminisce is better in every way to Rebirth. The tracks with vocals exude serene energy. Is it wrong to compare it to Neir: Replicant?
I’m not saying the quality is on par, but it’s evident there was a goal, and that’s to capture an enigmatic aura. It grabbed my attention and got my ears to orgasm. The only downside is the emotional impact isn’t as potent as it could be, at least not without vocals. Atoli is, again, incredible in her vocal performance. I could sense her pain. Haseo is also a standout, having a softer tone to reflect growth. The lone misstep is when someone directly messages; it’s shown as an echo. It’s subtle, but if you catch it, you’ll notice only those being spoken to reply - an excellent little detail catering to the MMORPG motif.
AND THE REFLECTING VERDICT IS…
.Hack//G.U. Vol.2//Reminisce is an excellent continuation of an increasingly exciting trilogy. The characters maintain their endearing mannerisms, and it’s impossible to ignore the effort to realize a forum environment. What is a troublesome revelation is that much like various titles before it, the senseless convoluting of details rears its ugly head. It hampers what could have been an enthralling plot point and alters it to be convenient for storytelling. It shows a lack of commitment to what’s already been established - it offers a reluctance to pen a coherent tale by utilizing the narrative pieces already put in place. Not to mention it exhibits a lapse in creativity. As a whole, however, I’m invested in all the discoveries that await with bated breath. For a title from 2007, I must applaud the respectful manner in which it approaches gender-fluid individuals.
Despite the l trip up regarding the convenient writing, I remain sat at the edge of my seat, eager to get into Vol. 3. It’s a clear recommendation.
Special thanks to Bandai Namco for providing the code used for this coverage.