.hack//G.U. Vol. 1//Rebirth ended on a major cliffhanger. After a triumphant victory against what appeared to be the notorious Tri-Edge, Haseo and Pi watched helplessly as AIDA engulfed Atoli. With an ending like that, I wasted no time in starting the second game: .hack//G.U. Vol. 2//Reminisce. I knew that the second chapter wasn’t going to add anything major to the gameplay, but I didn’t care because I was there for the story. So, the question is whether or not the story’s momentum was enough to keep me interested in carrying on.
The answer is yes and no. Things start with a bang after gaining control of Haseo. First, we learn that Atoli is unable to communicate via voice chat. Second, we learn that all of the players currently logged into The World are unable to sign out. They’re trapped in the virtual space. Haseo and Pi begin investigating the causes behind these phenomenon. Sadly, after those mysteries are solved, things decline. The second volume’s pacing is a major step down from the first’s. For the 30 to 40 hours of game time, a good chunk of the story segments are filler. Haseo does get more characters on his team and, as a result, is able to learn more about them behind their game avatars. But it’s not enough. There’s just too much fluff and repetition getting in the way of an otherwise captivating narrative. The credits are about roll by the time things get to a point that can be considered interesting.
So, if the story has more lows than highs, is the gameplay enough to make up for it? Again, the answer is both yes and no. The World still consists of towns where you can chat and trade items with other players. There are also shops, guilds, and folks that offer rewards for various side-jobs. Each town is connected to a gate and server. During Haseo’s journey, he’ll acquire keywords that can be strung together to go to dungeons. Most of these come from advancing the story. However, you can combine words on your own to make your own dungeon. A new server and new keywords allow you to explore brand new areas. There’s also a trading card game called Crimson VS that you can play or have the AI handle while you’re logged in The World. Otherwise, it’s the same old stuff. It works, but it does get tedious. When I was logged out of The World, I would just quickly go through Haseo’s emails, messages, etc. just to keep things pumping.
Combat fares similarly. We’re back with the full-on, button-mashing, action RPG goodness. You take control of Haseo and the AI will cover his friends. You can perform regular attacks, charge attacks, and special attacks assigned up to four shortcuts. Your weapons and armor can be customized for additional effects. As enemies take their beatings, they’ll eventually get a purple aura around them. Using one of Haseo’s specials during this time will cause a Rengeki (連撃). Not only does this increase the power of the special attack used, but it fills up the Morale Meter. Haseo can unleash a devastating attack on all enemies when the Morale Meter is full. New to the second volume is Haseo’s ability to equip scythes and new team attacks. They’re nice touches, but not enough to make up for the game’s overly long dungeons. All of the caves with winding corridors and the necessary chim farming that comes with them feels like even more of a chore than it did previously. Even the Avatar battles outstay their welcome because there are so many of them.
There’s not much new to say about the presentation since the version of Reminisce that I played was part of a remastered collection on the Switch. Thus, the graphics and music are the same as they were in Rebirth. It’s clear that this used to be a PlayStation 2 game, for better or worse. The character graphics got an HD upgrade and the areas have more crispness. There’s a lot of unique models, enemies, and special effects. The movies are where the game really shines. While few and far between, they’re blockbuster levels of epic and tons of fun. On the downside, the areas you explore outside of the towns are dull and repetitive. They’re so empty that they reach levels of uninspiring. The music fares better. Every track is either catchy or easy to listen to. The voice acting is solid whether you select the Japanese or English options. We still can’t advance the dialogue at our own pace; it’s still annoying.
Maybe I should have waited a few weeks before jumping into Vol. 2. Or, maybe the story really did consist of that much filler. Or, maybe it’s a combination of the two. Since Vol. 2’s ending wasn’t as edge-of-your-seat, I’m planning on taking my time before heading into the third game. If you enjoyed the first volume, then you should try to give the second a chance. Power through it so you can get to what is, hopefully, a thrilling conclusion to such an interesting series.
Overall, 5.5/10: After a thrilling beginning, the second chapter in the G.U. saga becomes a tedious slog that takes too long to become interesting again.