Genre: Role-Playing Game
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Right off the bat, before the review even begins, let me give you this warning: .hack//GU Vol. 2 Reminisce is a direct follow-up to Vol. 1: Rebirth. If you have not played that game, don't play this one. The plot will be most nonsensical to you, as few of the major terms and details are explained, and only the weakest of plot overviews is given before you are launched back into "The World." Furthermore, there are a number of bonuses you miss out on if you are lacking save data from Rebirth, and you'll start out significantly weaker than the average from a fresh game. There is honestly no reason to pick up Reminisce before Rebirth.
Now that you've played the first one, let's get back to business. .hack//GU Vol. 2 Reminisce picks up exactly where the first volume left off. Haseo and his friends had finally managed to defeat Tri-Edge, a mysterious Player-Killer whose victims were being sent into comas in the real world. However, mere moments after Tri-Edge's defeat, Haseo's pseudo-girlfriend Atoli is attacked by the mysterious computer phenomenon called AIDA. When we pick back up, Haseo and everyone current logged into the World find themselves unable to log out. Even worse, Atoli's player-character is slowly dissolving, and if they don't find a way to log out before that happens, she could be lost forever in the real world. Even after the heroes discover a way to log out of The World, their quest is only beginning, as curing Atoli involves going back into direct conflict with AIDA.
Reminisce isn't so much a sequel as it is Part 2 of a series. Almost nothing has changed from the first game, and if you didn't enjoy that, nothing in Reminisce is going to change your mind. The basic game flow is almost identical to Rebirth; most of the flaws from the first game are retained, and a few new ones are added to the mix. Haseo and friends go to various fields and dungeons found within the world, searching for signs of AIDA. Occasionally, they are called to compete in the Holy Palace Tournament, attempting to work their way up to the Tournament Champion, who they fear has been infected by AIDA. If this sounds familiar, that is because it is functionally identical to how the basic game progressed in the first title. A few new features are introduced in an attempt to liven up the quickly stagnating gameplay, but for the most part, they all do a poor job of it.
One of the additions to .hack//GU Volume 2 is the Crimson Vs. card game, which was mentioned in the first volume, but server problems have kept it offline until now. This may have been for the better because Crimson Vs. has a very serious catch: You don't play it. There is no gameplay element involved in the Crimson Vs. matches; you create a deck and upload it on to a server in The World and occasionally check back to see how many matches you've won or lost. This is the exact opposite of a compelling and interesting mini-game, and to make matters worse, creating a deck isn't even a particularly involved process. Each "deck" is made up of a total of four cards. One "General" functions as a player-character, and three support cards modify the general's abilities. Creating a strong deck is incredibly easy, and even the default decks should easily carry you through the ranks. Both pointless and boring, .hack is not made a better game by this minor addition.
Combat, unsurprisingly, is basically identical to the last game. Nothing in the basic controls or gameplay has changed, with the minor exception of the Multi-trigger Ability. When Haseo upgrades to his third Adept Rogue form, he gains the abilities to use scythes, in addition to his regular dual sword and broadsword. In the first game, Haseo had to enter the menu to switch between weapons, but .hack allows you a second option: multi-trigger. Each of Haseo's special attacks is registered to a specific weapon type, and by using one of those attacks, Haseo switches to that weapon instantly. Arguably, this is supposed to add a new level of tactics and detail to battles, but it fails to do that in any way.
Other than breaking the armor of some particularly well-defended enemies, my primary tactic was simply to use the new scythe weapon and reap all my foes with a minimal amount of effort. The scythe, which is Haseo's signature weapon, is almost as fast as dual blades and almost as strong as broadswords. Furthermore, the scythe has a massive attack range, so it can hit multiple enemies at once with ease. The strongest weapons I found while playing Volume 2 were both scythes, which easily outclassed their broadsword and dual blade counterparts. Despite the potential interesting change to the system implied by the multi-triggers, combat remains the same: mash the X button, watch things die, and occasionally switch to a broadsword to break armor. The only difference between Volume 1 andVolume 2 is that switching between weapons just takes a little less time.
Like Rebirth, Reminisce also features the occasionally Epitaph Battle, but almost nothing has changed here. Haseo summons his Epitaph, Skeith the "Terror of Death," and battles AIDA and Epitaph enemies in a pseudo-Zone of the Enders battle sequence. Haseo gets a slight upgrade at the same time that he gets his third form, but it does little to change battles, simply allowing him to cut some enemy attacks he couldn't before and to shoot a weak chakram of energy on every fourth slash. Despite the lack of new features, the Epitaph battles are still the most interesting part of the .hack//GU experience. Unlike the player-based combat, you actually have to keep your eye on the screen at all times and focus on the battle. Unfortunately, as long as you are reasonably focused, almost all of these battles are a breeze, and you should be able to break every one apart in a single try.
Not even the graphics have really improved. There are a few new animations here and there, but for the most part, they are functionally identical to the last game. While Rebirth wasn't necessarily a bad-looking game, it did suffer from a significant lack of variety, and Reminisce does nothing to alleviate this problem. In fact, another 20-30 hours only serves to accentuate how little diversity there is in the environments and monsters. It's certainly not hard on the eyes but very quickly falls into tedium as you traverse the same six or so dungeons over and over again, fighting the same 10 foes.
One area where Reminisce actually differs from its predecessor is in the voice acting. While most of the same voice actors have returned, some of their performances have gone significantly downhill. In particular, Haseo's actor often sounds unsure as to what emotion he is trying to express. He does fairly well on angry screams but otherwise just sounds bored. While a few of the voice actors give a spirited job, most either suffer from uninspired or boring performances. Worst of all, a few characters, particularly the character of Alkaid, who plays a much bigger role in Reminisce, have ear-gratingly bad voices. When Haseo, Atoli and Alkaid were forced by the plot to go on many missions together, I was sent scrambling for the mute button.
If you're a really big fan of the storyline of .hack//GU, then that is the only reason to keep playing this franchise. Even then, the plot is both incredibly predictable and filled to the brim of clichéd characters and logic holes that make it very difficult to take seriously. The gameplay in Reminisce is almost identical to that of its predecessor, and the gameplay was repetitive and grew tiresome by the end of the first title. Reminisce doesn't do anything to make it feel any fresher. Even worse, Reminisce ends on a cliffhanger just like its predecessor, with a third .hack title expected out later this year. As a single title, .hack//GU might have been a worthwhile play, but as a below-average RPG stretched out over three separate titles released over the course of a year, you can't help but feel that you'd be better off playing a game that's already finished when you buy it.