.hack//G.U. Part 1: Rebirth Review

The game with the ridiculous name is back for its newest installment. I feel its only fair to warn all the fans out there, that this is a review written by someone with no prior gameplay of the previous games: me. We thought it would make for an interesting twist to let new players know how it feels coming to the "rebirth" of the dangerous world. So to complete my point here, I have never played any prior games in this series and I apologize in advance if this seems like sacrilege. As you may imagine, there’s a little bit of feeling lost after 4 games and a TV show have all fleshed out these concepts (which I am familiar with), but I’ll do my best to explain this new title.

.hack (dot hack) is a series of games that emulates playing a MMORPG; maybe it was due to the lack of decent network play on the PS2 console, but it seemed to come as a stroke of genius in an RPG-ridden world that had grown stagnant of late. The original series brought you into "The World," which is the online arena in which the game’s "real" world plays the MMORPG. In "The World" everything is very similar to a massive multiplayer game, down to changeable parties, messaging system and even the ability to "Log-out" and go back to the computer contained in the real world. I’m sure some of you might be confused by now, but you’re in for the ride now. As I said before I haven’t played the previous games, I only know the back-story. I would recommend familiarizing yourself with it to SOME degree before playing this new title, even if its just reading online.

So armed with only information gathered from other games and writers, I plunged forward into the land of .hack with Rebirth, the first real sequel presented so far in the series. The series is known for, and continues the tradition of, lengthy cutscenes. But I can say as a fan of anime, these cutscenes were rather impressive and action-packed rather than another MGS wait-fest. You begin immediately jacking into The World and being accosted by two overly friendly players who show you the basics of moving around TW (The World). You’re taught to fight and move from area to area, which isn’t too surprising or new. Here’s where the weirdness first reared its head. One of the ways to move from area to area within TW is by using a word system comprised of a server word/symbol and 3 additional words, leading you to areas called something like "Delta Courageous Waterfall Hidden," and they only get weirder from there.

Since the game simulates the MMORPG concept, the game does metaphorically place your real "character" as a real person playing a video game, which allows you to actually log-out of the game and into the computer that runs it. This is represented by a cool custom operating system that allows you to check emails, forums, browse the web, view videos, save your game, and log back into the game itself. The game parses out the information as you progress, making it seem like the outside world has updated the content or sent you a new email. The effect is slightly cheesy, but unique and fun as well. I found myself drawn further into the fantasy of the game due to this additional layer of abstraction placed between you and simply playing a game, thus making it a Massive Single Player RPG / Mystery / Adventure — a combo of genres I’m fairly sure has not been done before (aside from the previous .hack games)

You do have to run around and actually PLAY the RPG, which turns out to be quite fun. It controls similar to a well-created MMO, but the combat system is much more standard console fighting, which I find to be a good thing. You engage with an enemy, and a series of button presses strings together combos which you can couple — or even interrupt — with special powers. Pressing the R1 trigger freezes time so can you interject special moves or items. When an enemy is damaged you can also use this technique to enter Rengeki Mode, where you pile on the combos for massive additional damage and experience. It does get old after a while, as most RPG combat does, but it’s satisfyingly interesting and engaging.

What may present itself as a good or bad thing to you is the anime cutscenes and heavy use of anime-styled action and dialogue. Chances are if you’re playing a Japanese RPG you don’t really take issue with these things, but you will see the same over-the-top action and trite dialogue that you’ve seen in countless cartoons and movies. However, I found this to be fun and exciting in most cases, as I’m an anime fan from the get-go. Despite this, I found one of the game’s flaws to be the dialogue. While the voice acting is quite decent, the actual wording is somewhere between a crazed fan-fiction and speech pulled from the forums of World of Warcraft. Once again a double edged sword, as this is actually how many people speak online in these environments, so it’s truly realistic. But when viewed cinematically or self-importantly, the true silly nature of most dedicated MMO players comes through. The first time I heard that the evil bad guy was going to show up at Omega Hidden Dark Holy Ground for some PK action I just about spit a mouthful of soda across the entertainment center before I realized it wasn’t a joke.

In a way, the whole concept of the latest .hack is charming, and I can only assess from the many variations of the game existing already that this concept has taken hold and gained popularity in the mainstream market. The graphical quality in the latest .hack is quite impressive, and probably near the peak of the PS2’s capabilities. The action and plot are both intense and well-woven, as well. The cutscenes are lengthy and numerous, but don’t really wow you. And the weird distortion of reality heralds back to a much-missed adventure hey-day where the plot mattered more than simply looking pretty. Coming on as a complete and total noob, I can say I was impressed and will soon be returning to "The World," and I encourage you to visit, as well.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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