Review by Mighty Oracle
"Decent, but repetitive nonetheless"
Where do I start? This game, .hack//Infection, is the first in a series four games released by Bandai for the PlayStation 2. This came out years ago, and I've had it since the year it was released. Surprisingly, I just recently beat the game. I've never played (but I have watched them) the other .hack games in the series, save for a tiny bit of Mutation, just so you know. k, on with the review. I'm sure you didn't click this to read my rambling (which I tend to do a lot, by the way)...
Gameplay - 9/10
The gameplay in .hack//Infection, as well as all of the .hack games (they all play the same way) is simply amazing. If you've ever played Phantasy Star Online, you'll see how the gameplay is fairly similar to PSO. More on this later. You can visit two different servers in this game. Servers are towns in laymen's terms. In both servers, you can buy items, weapons, save your game, buy armor, etc. All the things you would normally do in a town on an RPG. The only difference in servers is that you can't raise Grunties in the first one (more on that below). In addition to the aforementioned things you can do in town, there are also NPCs running around that you can talk to or trade items with. Often times, you can get said NPCs to give you some decent to good equipment rather easily, merely by giving them a few Health Drinks along with maybe a Mage's Soul. Honestly, this is usually all it takes for me to get something worthwhile from them, although there are exceptions where you'll have to try a bit harder than usual in order to obtain the item you want. The fact that you can so easily sucker the NPCs into giving you a good item sorta puts the fun out of the game, since the game becomes rather easy with the good items you can get from the NPCs. The most interesting and important feature of both servers is the Chaos Gate. With the Chaos Gate, you can input keywords in order to warp to an area and fight monsters in a field and a dungeon. You have to input up to three different keywords in order to warp to an area. Sometimes, you'll get keywords from other party members or from the message board. These keywords are usually indicative of an advancement in the story of the game, meaning you have to input the keywords at the Chaos Gate and complete the dungeon of those keywords. Most keywords, however, are optional. Depending on the keyword you input, you could end up at a Level 1 area (minimum level) or a Level 30 area (maximum level). It is usually a wise choice to venture into an area that's not related to the story as a means to level yourself up in order to sufficiently prepare for the story. It is wise to enter areas that are within 2-3 levels above your current level, however.
Also, each area has an element that corresponds to that particular area. For example, one area may be a Water type area, which means enemies there are weak against Thunder, and another area could be a Dark type area, which means the enemies there are weak against Thunder like the Water enemies are. Once you enter an area, there are two things of interest: the field and the dungeon. The dungeon is your ultimate goal in an area, and once you reach the end of the dungeon, you'll find a Gott Statue. Opening the chest beside the Gott Statue grants you some items or equipment, although these are usually not worth the time it took to beat the dungeon. In the field, you simply kill enemies and open chests until you're ready to venture into the dungeon. Also, there are power ups that you'll find throughout the fields in each area. These power ups can do things like increase your attack power or magic power, or even make you move faster. Some areas have bosses in them, although these are only story areas (save for the optional area you can go to after beating Skeith). Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about party members. There are quite a few party members in this game, most of which are optional. You can trade items with your party members just like you can NPCs. If you need Speed Charms, just give one of your party members a Health Drink, and there you go. Speed Charm acheived. You can do this as many times as you want, which makes most areas relatively simple since you can pretty much move at the speed of the Millenium Falcon going into hyperspace. Now, to talk about Grunties, which I mentioned earlier. Simply put, Grunties are pig-like creatures found in the Theta (second) server. Once raised via Grunty food (which you will find in fields and dungeons), a Grunty will be able to give you items, some of which are good. In addition to that, once you get the Grunty Flute, you can call the Grunty you raised when you are on the field and ride it like you do a Chocobo in Final Fantasy games. This makes it where you don't have to fight monsters on the field, and you can just travel to the dungeon if you wish. Really useful.
Finally, I'll explain the combat system in this game. As I said, this game plays like PSO. You run around and attack enemies in an open screen, similar to how you do not only on PSO, but on the KotOR games as well. Your typical hack and slash action, basically. In addition to the hackin and slashin, you can use spells on both the enemies and your party members, in order to lead yourself to victory. You can use Kite, the main character's, Data Drain on any enemy after obtaining it in the beginning of game, as a means to get Virus Cores. There are several types of Virus Cores. Some of them you will obtain as you progress through the game, but other times you'll have to get them on your own by Data Draining enemies. Virus Cores are essential for beating the game, since you need them to hack gates in order to reach certain areas that are locked and unenterable by normal players. Getting Virus Cores can be quite the pain, but unfortunately, you have to do it. The last thing I'll mention is that .hack is basically an MMORPG offline, meaning the game and story progress like an MMORPG would. For this reason, you can go to your desktop, write e-mails, read the latest news from CC Corp (the makers of The World, the game that .hack is played in), and you can also go to message boards and read messages (you can't post, unfortunately).
Graphics - 8/10
The graphics are nothing spectacular compared to games like Xenosaga and Final Fantasy X, but still good nonetheless. I was actually pretty impressed by the graphics in this game. The characters were very well drawn, the environments are almost always beautiful and artistic. Only downside is that the characters' mouths don't keep up with their voice, which can sometimes become annoying and distracting. Not sure if that has anything to do with the graphics, though. Whatever. <_<
Sound/Audio - 6/10
Mediocre at best. You'll probably want to turn off the sound within the first five hours of playing. The sound is nothing special, and the music definitely isn't. In fact, this is one of the most annoying parts of the game in my opinion...
Difficulty - 6/10
The difficulty in this game is relatively meager, save for a few spots where you might have trouble (i.e Skeith; first time around, this son of a gun can be hard). Generally though, the game's quite easy, which is sad, since most people like games with a fair amount of challenge involved. Unfortunately, .hack//Infection doesn't deliver said challenge, and instead delivers just plain simplicity and meager difficulty. The fact that you can get an infinite amount of Speed Charms just by handing over Health Drinks to your party members, as well as the fact that you can just grind until you're satisfied, really washes out any sort of difficulty this game might have. The only time where I was significantly challenged was when I fought Skeith, and that was only because I was unprepared. He too, however, is quite easy, provided you are sufficiently prepared. They definitely could've done a better job here.
Story - 7/10
Mildly amusing. Nothing special, though. Kite, who has a friend in real life named Yasuhiko, gets invited to The World by Yasuhiko. Kite then plays with Yasuhiko, who is known as Orca of the Azure Sea in The World. The two venture into a dungeon, where, unexpectedly, they find a weird enemy named Skeith chasing an even weirder girl named Aura (the fact that she is voiced by Lia Sargent makes her rather likeable, though). Orca gets all scared and wets his pants, while Kite just ignores him and the two move on. Eventually, they run into Skeith. Orca attempts to, laughably, combat Skeith, and in the process, ends up being owned beyond recognition. His encounter with Skeith sends him into a coma. Kite is later met by Aura, who gives him the Twilight Bracelet after he opens the book that she gives him during his skirmish with Skeith. Kite's costume then changes (for the better, I might add), and he goes on a journey to defeat Skeith and try and get Orca out of a coma.
Replay Value - 1/10
I'm not sure why you'd want to play through this game again once you've beaten it. Heck, you probably won't even feel like playing Mutation after beating this game.
Overall - 7/10
This game wasn't bad, but it wasn't fantastic, either. Bandai did a fairly good job on the game though, and I think it's an underrated game. If the game was harder and had some replay value, I'd have given this game a higher score. Oh well. Can't have everything I want, I guess. :/
Buy or Rent
I...don't think you can rent this game anywhere, so you'll have to get it on eBay if you really want it. It could still be expensive though, so buy it only if you're sure you'll actually play it. Probably costs around $30 to 40 USD (plus shipping and handling, of course). If you decide to buy it from eBay, make sure you find a legitamate seller, obviously. Don't want to get yourself cheated out of your money. I've had it happen before. Not fun. >_>
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 12/05/06, Updated 04/09/08
Game Release: .hack//Infection Part 1 (US, 02/10/03)
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