Review by AnimagaGFA
"Prepare to be Consumed by Project .hack..."
For those of you not familiar with Bandai's all-encompassing Project .hack, this first of four Playstation 2 games is just a small part of the .hack universe. The year is 2007, and CyberConnect has created the largest and most immersive MMORPG in the history of gaming. Soon, it sells more than 20 million copies. For reasons as of yet unknown, however, things begin to go wrong. The fiercest of monsters in the training fields of newbies. Rumors of those who can go beyond the system. And... even players falling into comas at their computer terminals.
The mystery of .hack has begun.
The fighting style of this game, as it has been described before, is much like Kingdom Hearts. The battle system will take some getting used to as you lumber around Bursting Passed Over Aqua Field, but as the player begins to delve into the deeper dungeons of the game, he'll realize the flexibility of the on-command skill and item menus.
The party system of this game is something of brilliance. When you receive a Member Address of a friend, you can attempt to contact them, and if they're online at the time, they'll join your party. When the party engages in combat, the amount of control you have is fantastic. Order your allies to attack certain monsters, to recover, to use skills, or to defend.
Even the opening menus of this game are especially well-done. You boot up into the ALTIMIT OS, and can check your Mail, the Web, or log into The World.
Since Bandai began to release Project .hack, I cannot think of any story that's drawn me in more. .hack//AI Buster, the opening manga, sets the tone for the story, though this monolinguistic review knows little about it. .hack//SIGN is the first anime series of 26 episodes, currently being aired on the Cartoon Network. Though it's not for the fans of DBZ, the storyline will keep hold of you for sure. .hack//Legend of Twilight's Bracelet, the second anime, is apparently 13 episodes long, and is currently airing in Japan.
This game takes place between the two animes. .hack//INFECTION places you in the role of Kite, whose friend Orca has just fallen as a victim of The World. With little equipment save one strange and powerful book, he seeks to quest throughout the game and solve the mystery of his friend. (I could tell you more, but I'd hate to spoil the story. :))
So, go watch .hack//SIGN on Cartoon Network, play the game, and fall into the mystery that is The World
The first thing I thought when I saw the preview of this game was, ''This looks JUST like the anime.'' .hack//INFECTION is animated as beautifully as the anime. The backgrounds are detailed, and the load times are extremely low. The characters have excellent facial expressions and outfits as well. Easily some of the finest graphics ever created by the PS2.
Like the masterful composition of .hack//SIGN, the music in this game is truly incredible. Being something of a video game music enthusiast myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the calming theme of Mac Anu, as well as each of the fields I've yet visited. But most interesting to me was the seamless blending of the battle themes with the field themes, producing a wonderful effect.
The optional Japanese voiceovers was one of the most pleasant surprises to me in this game. Keeping the entire .hack universe in the language certainly makes it feel authentic. At times, you'll swear you're even watching the anime. Voice casting is near perfection, with the one casualty being Elk. :)
Play Time: 15 - 30 hours
If you rush through, you can take finish this game in about fifteen hours. If you want to get everything in the game, it will most likely take you up to thirty hours, or even more.
Though this game is not going to fool anyone into thinking it's a REAL MMORPG, the replayability of this game is certainly high. The innovative Keyword system allows for generation of nearly limitless environments for you to explore, and there will almost always remain new items to find, new people to meet.
The Anime: 9/10
Also included with .hack//INFECTION is the first DVD of the OVA series .hack//Liminality, titled In the Case of Mai Minase. The DVD provides a look at what's happening outside The World during the same timeframe as the game. Since this is a game review and not an anime review, I will keep this short. It's beautifully animated, and I really enjoyed watching it in the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Audio is wonderful as well, and though I would have liked a 5.1 setup, it's still crisp and detailed. The storyline might not appeal to all, though I certainly liked it, and documents one of the coma spells brought about by The World. Watch it at least once, of course.
Final Word: 10/10 - BUY
My prediction? RPG of the year. We'll wait for Xenosaga, too. But for a PS2 RPG fan, you can't do better than .hack.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 02/14/03, Updated 02/14/03
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