Review by PerfctSoldier
"My incredibly long but fair review."
When Playstation 2 came out, the first wave of RPG's were...horrible. So horrible in fact, five minutes playing Ephemeral Phantasia, I rushed back to Purple Potamus (my local video store) and paid them to erase that game from my rental records. Then, 2003 comes around, and so many good RPG's were announced to be released during the first quarter.
My choices were Star Ocean 3 or Xenosaga: Episode 1. At no point during the time I went to my local game store, did I have .hack//infection in mind, until I got there. I found out (I'm so slow) that Star Ocean 3's date was pushed...and the twenty minute drive was wasted, until I came upon .hack//infection. What the heck, if I didn't like it, I'll say it was broken and get an unopened brand new copy of the game from Bandai, then return it for a full money back.
Surprisingly, this game was good. Not just good, but incredibly good. At first I was skeptical. I've seen the series .hack//sign, and even though the show was good, most games that are based on TV shows or movies were horrible. Anyway, this was quite an introduction, eh? Long. Well, let's get to the point. I'm going to talk about gameplay LAST because that's going to take a little longer than I'd hope to spend on a review.
With the littlest possible spoilers, this game starts off kind of slow. Your friend, Orca, has invited you to play a massive multi-player online RPG, and you begin by creating your user name and your character's name (default: Kite). As you explore the first field with Orca, and you are introduced to some basic key facts about the gameplay, your friend is attacked by a monster and ''data drained.'' Your friend, Orca, goes into a comatose and you are given a book by a mysterious girl with white hair that gives you the ability to do what the monster had done to your friend. As you try to solve the mystery behind your friend's condition and what The World was really for, you'll meat a lot of other interesting characters throughout the game. I gave Story an 8/10 because .hack//infection is just one of four...so it will be continued.
Based on anime (Japanese animation), the character designs...well, are anime. It's really good. I can't go into much details here...because the graphics are just ''good.'' The background and environment looks just as sharp as Final Fantasy X, and the characters move at a good framerate. There are almost no slowdowns in battle (which are in REAL time), even when your team of three characters are up against another team of seven monsters. That's quite impressive. Also, they tried to go into realism. When I was traveling through ''corrupted'' plane/world, there are static on the screen. Am I confusing you? Good. Just wait until I get to the gameplay, and things will make more sense. Why did I give graphics an 8/10? The camera angles suck. It gives you the freedom to move the camera on your own...but in battle, you need a smart camera. Automatic.
Background music? The soundtrack is wonderful. There are some places where the music is so strong, where it's so good you actually FEEL like you're in the game. Final Fantasy 7 quality music, except they aren't in MIDI format. And there are other places where...the music is just there. Not enhancing the gameplay, not causing you to rip your hair off...but just ''there.''
Voice acting! Yay! Bandai and CC were clever, giving us the option to choose from the original Japanese voice track (with or without subtitles) or the English track. I, personally, think that the Japanese track will always be better than the dubbed, but in this case, the English voice acting was pretty decent. It had a cast of voice actors who were in .hack//sign, Digimon, Outlaw Star, etc etc. So these aren't actually some idiots other companies pick off from McDonalds to do their dubbing work.
But because the option to switch from Japanese to English, an extra mode called ''Parody mode'' was taken out from the original. Bah.
Let's see...gameplay is original...yeah. I can't think up of a catchy introduction for the gameplay section, so I'll just go straight down the list.
Battle system. People ask me...how's the battle system? And they usually expect me to compare it with some other game. In short, it's like Kingdom Hearts. Real time. Except without Kingdom Heart's horrible camera angles. Well, take that back. When you're up against multiple FAST enemies in the game, because you control the camera angles on your own instead of the ''smart camera'' concept, yeah. Then the camera sucks. Battles are real time, meaning you can keep tapping the button and try to get as many hits off of the enemy before he strikes back. A lot like hack and slash, but unlike Diablo, even with the simple battle system, it gets pretty exciting. Keeps you on the edge. Strategy is also involved. During battles, open up a seperate menu with the square button to give commands to your A.I. controlled team mates. Open the other menu with the triangle to select your spells or items to use.
Let's see...the field map. Well, this is an ONLINE RPG after all *cough*. There are two ''servers,'' or worlds that you can visit in this game. The other three servers will be available in Volume 2, 3, and 4. .hack//infection is just part 1. Each server has a main town. From there, go to the gate to combine three words (in any random order) to go to a field. Monster levels vary from each field, so you have to be careful which field you create, or you'll find yourself slaughtered the minute you arrive. Some fields will be pre-set according to the story, but there are millions of other fields to create and visit. Most fields should have a dungeon...and inside the dungeon, some treasure, depending on the level of the monsters.
Some fields are corrupted and some are forbidden. That's what the Data Drain is for. Some bosses, you must data drain, and you get Virus Cores (there are 26 of them, A B and C the ones you can get from regular monsters, others given to you as you progress through the story). Data Draining can also get you rare items and treasure, but at the same time decreases your enemy's stats the the minimum. Meaning...after you waste ten potions while trying to get rid of the boss' PROTECT spell, you get a Virus Core (yay!) but 1 experience point. Disappointing. With these Virus Cores, you can ''hack'' into the different fields which normally you wouldn't have the access to.
When you first load your file, the Altimit (operating system) screen will come up, with a couple of options. It was made to really look like a start-up screen for the video game, ''The World.'' The World, Mail, News, Accessories (background image), music (background music for the main screen), and Data (save/load). The World is for logging into the game. Mail is where you can receive mail from other players and respond to them. Although your responses are pre-set and they give you a few different response choices, it's real enough that you feel like you're actually exchanging mails. The News menu shows you what's going on in the outside world, for example, new products that are going to be released, some world news, etc. Accessories are background images, and Music are...well, BGM for the start-up screen, and you can find more while you're traveling throughout the world.
Click on The World and a new screen will pop up. Log In, Board, and Log Out. Log In takes you directly to the server town. Board is a message board where other players in The World. Again, messages you can actually post are limited and pre-set, but the environment feels real enough. Dozens of messages are posted up, each with their own responses, to give you clues and to help you advance throughout the game. And some are just for one.
Gameplay? Great, if it weren't for the camera angles. Sound? Beautiful. Graphics are top-notch. .hack//infection or Xenosaga? Depends on what you're looking for. But I don't regret buying this game. Buy or rent? Definitely buy. This game should take you no more than 25 hours to beat, so if you're looking for a game that's driven by story, character development and overall length, I don't know, I'll have to play the other three volumes. If you are a true RPG fan, you can't miss it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/03, Updated 02/21/03
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