.hack//G.U. Vol. 2//Reminisce - Staff Review  

Defeat the Villain
by Adriaan den Ouden

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20-40 Hours
+ Great new additions to the combat system.
+ The story continues to be excellent.
- Ending lacks the oomph of Rebirth.
- Crimson Vs. minigame over too quickly.
- Dungeons and fields not varied enough.
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   Picking up only seconds after the end of Rebirth, .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce continues the ongoing tale of Haseo and his quest to save his comatose friend Shino, unravel the mysteries of "The World R:2," and discover the truth behind the mysterious organization known as G.U. While for the most part Reminisce is extremely similar to Rebirth, several new gameplay additions have been added that improve the combat system among other things.

   Though Tri-Edge was defeated, the mysterious AIDA virus is still around, striking Atoli down and somehow transferring all the players currently logged into "The World" to a parallel server from which they are unable to log out, and it is here that the game begins. Fret not - this logout problem only persists for the first few hours of the game, and all the desktop features of Vol. 1 are still present, in addition to some new ones. The story of Reminisce continues to develop the intriguing characters introduced in Rebirth, while introducing new ones and branching the plotline into several interesting subplots, including a love triangle, a guild mutiny, and a new arena tournament. All these eventually converge to the final climactic showdown that ends the volume beautifully, but fails to achieve the same sort of cliffhanger that Vol. 1 ended with.

   That said, Vol. 2 still manages to surpass Rebirth's story thanks to its exceptional character development, particular that of Haseo. While every character has a moment or two to shine in the game, Haseo's growth as a character is phenomenal. Thanks to several scenes involving Atoli and, in particular, Alkaid, Haseo begins to take his first steps away from his PKK life and starts to fully integrate himself with his new friends.

   Combat has received a bit of an upgrade in Vol. 2, as Haseo completes his second Job Extension and receives his third weapon, the scythe, which players may recall seeing in the opening cinematics of Rebirth. With the scythe, the ability to fluidly switch weapons in the middle of battle becomes available. Rather than being limited to a single type of weapon skill when binding skills to the skill trigger, it is now possible to have skills of all different types of weapons bound at once. Using a different weapon's skill will automatically switch to that weapon, which leads to a unique brand of combat in which the player can constantly switch between weapons as the situation calls for it. In addition, enemies also now have weaknesses to attacks from certain types of weapons, and skills which the enemy is weak to will flash in the skill trigger menu to alert the player as such.

A lover A lover's quarrel.

   This simple new ability improves the combat system dramatically, giving the player more opportunity to experiment with the different weapons, and there is simply something ridiculously cool about attacking an enemy with twin daggers, a giant broadsword, and a vicious scythe in the same battle without a moment's pause. Unfortunately, similar to how it worked in Vol. 1, the Job Extension doesn't become available until midway through the game, leaving the first half identical to Rebirth in terms of combat. The party also gains access to a new Awakening technique, called "Divine Awakening." Unlike the first two awakenings seen in Vol. 1, Divine Awakening deals all its damage up front, without any player input required beyond activating the attack. While this can be an effective way to end normal battles quickly and decisively, the Beast Awakening of Vol. 1 still has a much larger damage potential.

   Haseo's new form also upgrades his Avatar, allowing the final attack in its melee combo to strike from a distance. Avatar battles are more frequent in Reminisce than in Rebirth, but are still a welcome distraction from traditional combat. Outside of combat, a simple, yet very welcome AI upgrade has been added, giving party members the ability to kick Chim Chims and Lucky Animals, a daunting task that was previously left up to Haseo. Other minor upgrades include changes to the steam bike and new bike mission area words used for racing.

   The desktop is back once again, bringing with it all the many features introduced in Vol. 1. Several new episodes of Online Jack become available as the story progresses, in addition to a bounty of real-world news, forum posts, and e-mail. A card game called Crimson Vs. has also been added, which is surprisingly addictive. Crimson Vs. games occur automatically, with one game being completed for every minute of gametime, allowing the player to prepare and enter his deck, level up a bit in "The World," and then check the results when finished. As matches are won, booster packs are obtained, with more powerful cards becoming available as Haseo's overall ranking increases. Once #1 ranking status is obtained, the player can challenge the champion to an exhibition match, the prize for which is a very powerful card. Sadly, this mini-game is very easy to win, and in most cases the player will have conquered it before reaching the game's midway point.

Changing weapons mid-fight is the highlight of the combat system. Changing weapons mid-fight is the highlight of the combat system.

   Reminisce's visuals haven't changed much from the first entry of this latest .hack series, but they are still good. A new field and a new dungeon design have been added, breaking up the monotony somewhat and giving the player something new to look at. In addition, several new Lost Grounds make an appearance, including a few of significant importance to the anime prequel .hack//Roots. A new root town is also available, though it lacks the visual appeal of Rebirth's Mac Anu. While still attractive in its own right, it just doesn't have the same charm as the "Eternal City." Character designs are still excellent, though Haseo's third form is notably ugly. The strange tail-like chain extending from his neck is simply bizarre, and for some reason his spiky black armor comes equipped with high heels.

   The audio experience also remains much the same as in Rebirth. There are many new tracks presented throughout, all of them decent with a few that are truly exceptional. The Gorre battle theme stands out particularly, as it fits the mood of the circumstances it is presented in perfectly. Yuri Lowenthal continues to nail the lead voice role of Haseo, with the rest of the cast performing admirably as well. The character of Alkaid, who plays a large role in this episode's story, unfortunately, was poorly cast. While Erin Fitzgerald's acting is in no way bad, her voice is notably inappropriate for the character, as she ends up sounding more like an adolescent boy than a teenage girl - a rather disconcerting notion considering several romantic scenes involving Alkaid and Haseo.

   Reminisce is an excellent continuation of what is turning into a great series. While both games have their flaws, they are both quite good and well worth playing, particularly if you're a fan of the .hack franchise or even just interested in the concept. Once again, the game is only thirty hours long, but several sidequests can keep the player busy for many more hours. The game is also fairly easy, although challenge can be added or taken away at the whim of the player, simply by leveling up (or failing to do so), which is fast and easy. The series will eventually conclude with .hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption, but fans will have to keep waiting to see how Haseo's journey finally ends.

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