Review – .Hack//G.U.

GU Covers

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 2
Genre: Simulated MMORPG
Release Dates:
Vol 1 – Rebirth – October 24th, 2006
Vol 2 – Reminisce – May 08th, 2007
Vol 3 – Redemption – September 10th, 2007

Premise

After a fire destroyed their servers, CC Corp has returned with The World: R2. This new game is less moderated, and Player killing runs rampant. Enter Haseo, a Player-Killer Killer who is hunting a PC known as Tri-Edge. His goal, to kill him and find out why his friend went into a coma when she was PK’d by this mysterious player.  After finding Tri-Edge, Haseo is defeated, and an unusual skill reset his character’s level back to level 1. Haseo must now become the player he once was, while learning that his character data holds a very powerful secret.

Story

The sequel series to the original .Hack// games really stepped up its game. The conspiracies are deeper, the guild politics of The World are more apparent and have a direct influence on events throughout the game, and some of the plot twists in the game were exceptional.

The games also do a great job tying themselves into the original game series. While the look and feel of The World: R2 is very different, it still feels like a sequel.

Like the original games, there is a prequel anime series called .Hack//Roots that wonderfully explains Haseo’s events before the game starts. I warn you that there is a major spoiler in the last episode, so I do not recommend watching it until at least the end of the second game.

Characters

This is really where these games shine. Firstly, Haseo’s character is one of the biggest focuses in this new series. Not only is he the main character in the game, but his journey is also what builds his personality. Haseo starts out as a loner, and is slowly forced to make allies, and eventually friends, while he looks for Tri-Edge. I found this development over the course of three games to be rather exciting, and was one of the biggest things that kept me playing.

The remaining cast of characters, for the most part, are also very interesting. Not only do they have their own lives, personalities, and agendas, but each of them interact with Haseo in different ways, affecting his overall development.

When it comes to villains, one thing I tend to look for in how good they are is how much I hate them, and .Hack//G.U. delivers that in spades. One of the major villains in the game, is probably one of the villains that I just despise, meaning his portrayal as a villain is convincing, and shows psychotic tendencies. His Real world identity is revealed at one point, and that just makes him even more insane.

One of the other things I enjoy is that some of the cast were also involved in the previous series’ events. Some are major, and some not so much (One is painfully obvious). For example, Kuhn was one of the coma victims of the first games, only mentioned in the OVA .Hack//Liminality. Also, some of the other characters were PCs from the previous games that Kite had in his party. It’s these little things, that really shape a cohesive universe, and it was done in a way that didn’t feel forced.

Visuals

The graphics for the .Hack//GU games were enhanced to create a richer looking environment. From the updated version of Mac Anu, to the lush greenery of some of the outdoor field areas. Even with a larger variety of area environments in the game, the attention to detail was astounding.

Visuals

The cut scenes were also enhanced using some cel-shading, and it was a pleasure to watch each scene. I remember when the game first came out, and the first major scene in the game is of Haseo taking out a bunch of PK’ers, and could not help but sit in astonishment over how amazing it looked. Even today, It’s ingrained in my mind as one of the better video game scenes I’ve ever seen.

Audio

These games include an English Only voice track, and includes voice actors such as Yuri Lowenthal, Steven J Blum, Crispin Freeman, And Jamieson Price. Many of the voices in the game are fantastic, but there are some that do tend to annoy me a bit. Still, it’s one of the better dubs overall.

Gameplay – Exploration

Much like the previous games, there are two types of areas in the game; Root Towns and fields.

Town exploration is pretty straightforward. You can visit shops, interact and trade with other PC’s, and enter field areas. Since the Root Towns are much larger than they were in the last series, there are shortcut warp points that help you fast travel to the district you want. Once you’re ready, you can use the Chaos Gate to enter areas. Areas are once again created with a set of three keywords, which dictate monster level, area type, and area objective.

Field areas are where you explore, fight, and acquire treasure. Fields come in many different types; Outdoor, caves, towers, etc. Unlike the previous games, instead of going from a field to a dungeon, the field itself is your area. Each area also has an objective. These objectives could include fighting a boss, obtaining the keys to a locked treasure room, or getting to the end of the area and receiving treasure.

snapHi44_013--screenshot_large

Sometimes, in order to progress in an area, you will need Chim Spheres. These can be obtained by finding Chim Chims. These can be found by kicking trees, or hidden in areas of a dungeon field. They are plentiful, so you will have no trouble finding them. To obtain Chim Spheres, you need to kick the Chim Chims you find (Making you a mean person).

When you leave an area, you are also ranked on how quickly you cleared the area, how many monsters were defeated, and how many objects were destroyed. The higher the rank, the better your bonus reward.

Lastly, like the previous games, you are the guy playing Haseo. This means logging out of the game every now and then, and checking your email, change your home screen’s wallpaper, and so on. This keeps the immersion of playing an MMO in a story-driven game, and I always thought that was an interesting concept.

Gameplay – Combat

Combat has been sped up a lot, and looks much less mechanical than before. All monsters are visible in the area, and are usually in clusters of two or three at a time. If you can sneak up on them, you can get an opening attack. You are able to hit in combos with your weapon, or use the skill trigger. The skill trigger pauses the game, and lets you choose between four skills to do damage. If an enemy is hit enough times, it triggers a Rengeki break, meaning skills will do additional damage, and include bonus EXP at the end of the fight.

There is also access to Awakenings. These are super moves with strength that is determined by your affinity level with your party. There are different types of Awakenings that you will gain through the three games.

Since Haseo’s character is an Adept Rogue, as you progress through the game, he will gain the ability to use different weapon types. Monsters will be weaker to certain weapons, and the skill trigger will let you switch weapons immediately. This makes for a more fun experience because it allows for variety in combat, as well as strategic gameplay.

There is also an Arena server in game that allows you to fight battles against other PC parties. The arena does have importance to the plot, but you can use it afterward as a side event. Arena battles are similar to regular battles, but since you are technically fighting other PCs, they can counter your skills if timed correctly. The battle will end if you beat the whole party, or if just the party leader is defeated.

GU Arena

The last combat element is known as an Avatar fight. Haseo’s hidden power is released, and this allows him to fight several enemies that deviate from the system’s parameters. This is a more free-flowing battle system. You are required to dodge attacks, use your long range attacks to stun the enemy, and then move in to attack for big damage. Once the enemy’s health bar is depleted, you get a chance to give it a finishing blow, but if you miss your chance, it will regain some health, and you’ll have to try again. Honestly, it isn’t that hard to get him with the first shot. It just takes the right timing. I rather enjoyed Avatar fights, and would have liked to have seen more of them, even though they do have a good amount of them in the game.

Gameplay – Character Progression

Every character levels up with experience from battle, and the more you use your skills, the faster you learn new ones. Aside from that, the only way to boost your stats is by equipping gear. Luckily, the gear can be customized with equippable items, adding effects to them, such as an increase to HP, or adding poison damage to a weapon. in later games, you are able to fuse equipment together to create stronger versions of said equipment, making their usage last longer.

Gameplay – Optional Content/Sidequests

Like any MMO, The World: R2 is littered with different side events. These include a quest shop, where you are given a specific quest from an NPC to fulfill. These can open up other content in the game, like the Grunty Cycle.

In the fields, there are two optional things you can do while exploring. The first is finding the lucky animal. If you find and kick it (yes, animal cruelty), you are rewarded with a specific bonus determined by the animal. The other thing is finding Mecha Grunty. Mecha Grunty is a little robot that needs help getting home. You provide it some Chim Spheres every time, and it will fly off to another area. This is tracked by an NPC, and you get rewards based on how often you help him.

There are also special areas that can be obtained by responding to posts on the message board. These usually unlock special event dungeons.

Once you start Volume Two, a side game called Crimson Vs enters. It is an online card game that plays automatically while you are logged into The World. The game consists of a deck of 4 cards, and deckbuilding is fairly straightforward.

Final Thoughts

I think it’s fair to say that I definitely preferred this trilogy over the first series of games. I still remember being so hyped for the Volume 1, that I annoyed a game store rep for three hours waiting for their shipment. I’m glad I did this, since, like their predecessors, this series of games is not cheap to purchase at any used game store. The average price I’ve seen is $75.00 CAN per game, with a usual hike for the last game. Regardless, it is a fantastic game series, and worth every penny. I spent a lot of time comparing these games to the previous series, because they took what was great about the old titles, and improved upon it greatly. I highly recommend them, even if you haven’t played the original series, as it is still a self-contained game series, and will keep you wanting more.

 

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Review – .Hack//G.U.

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