Review by PentiumMMX

"An enjoyable action RPG with a great storyline"

Back in 2002, Bandai's CyberConnect2 development team created .hack, a series of single-player action RPGs that emulate an online RPG, but with a story that spans 4 separate games. Not much else to say here, so is the first game in the storyline good?

Similar to how Final Fantasy VII spanned 3 discs, .hack's story spans 4 separate games, released a few months apart from each other. The main story of the series follows the adventures of Kite, who had just started playing "The World", a popular MMORPG in the .hack universe, with Orca (One of his friends, who got him to start playing). Everything was fine, with Orca teaching Kite the basics to the game, when they had a run-in with a weird monster that defeated Orca easily, which caused him to mysteriously fall into a coma in the real world as a result. Following the event, Kite makes a post on the message boards to see if anyone knows what's going on, but the moderators quickly delete the topic for unknown reasons. Because it seemed that The CC Corporation (The company behind The World) was covering up something, Kite begins a quest to find out why his friend fell into a coma, and along the way, he meets up with other players who join him on his quest.

The story reeks of mystery, and with a memorable cast of characters to go with it, it makes me consider it to be among the best in any RPG I've played so far.
Story: 10 out of 10

Bonus DVD
One of the main features of .hack//Infection is a DVD containing the first episode of .hack//Liminality, an OAV taking place from the point of view of other characters during the events of the 4 games. The first installment begins with a guy finally getting his girlfriend to play The World, but things took a turn for the worse as both of them fall into a coma for an unknown reason...but, the girl somehow recovered. Thus, she joins up with a former employee of The CC Corporation to solve the mystery of why people have been falling into a coma from playing The World. Compared to the story to .hack//Infection, Volume 1 of .hack//Liminality is slow but just as interesting as its video game counterpart.
Bonus DVD: 9 out of 10

Music \ Sound Effects:
The music isn't anything you'll have stuck in your head for ages; I found it to be mostly forgettable. The sound effects aren't very impressive, either (It's mostly generic sound effects you've heard in other games). However, what is great about the audio is the voice acting; it's not overly cheesy, and the voices fit the personalities of the characters quite well. Overall, the only thing bringing down the voice acting is the forgettable soundtrack and the generic sound effects.
Music \ Sound Effects: 8 out of 10

The graphics have a similar style to Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (That odd, slightly cell shaded look), which isn't too bad. Also, there are plenty of areas that look identical to each other when you're in a dungeon, which can make it easy to get lost, but they where nice enough to give you a map that fills in as you explore, making it easier to navigate the dungeons and making this small graphical problem ignorable. Overall, it looks good, but could use some improvement.
Graphics: 8 out of 10

The controls are not as bad as some claim; other than 2 menus (The Square button menu, which allows you to give out commands to your party members, and the Triangle button menu, which allows you to use items and skills) and the camera not being the best ever, it's not too bad of a control setup. The camera can be controlled using either the L1 and R1 buttons or the right analog stick, so you can use whichever you prefer, which is a nice feature. Also, you can move using either the D-pad or the left analog stick, which is also useful.

Simply put, the controls work great.
Controls: 8 out of 10

.hack is unique in how it's a single-player RPG that simulates an MMORPG. There are 2 parts to the game; the real world (Your character's desktop, where you can check your e-mail, save your game, read the latest news, and customize your desktop) and The World (The main part of the game. You'll be spending most of your time here, fighting monsters as you follow the storyline). What is amusing is how on the message boards in the game, they actually have fights break out between users (They've captured the typical message board for a game quite well). The characters you team up with all have unique personalities, ranging from the serious player all the way to the lovable newbie. You find out more about the character's life outside The World from e-mails they send you throughout the game. It doesn't do much for the story, but is a nice addition for those who want to know more about their favorite character. Plus, you can actually reply to the e-mails they send you by choosing between 2 responses to send (So you can either be nice to the characters or be a total jerk. It's your choice)

The gameplay to the main game it's self involves exploring dungeons, fighting monsters and collecting treasure as you go. The battles are real time, but unlike some other games I've played, the game will pause when you bring up a menu, allowing you to take your time choosing an item or skill, instead of franticly searching for what you need while still trying to dodge enemy attacks, like in Kingdom Hearts and many other action RPGs I've played before. There are areas you have to enter as part of the story, though if you want to take a break from that, you can randomly generate a keyword to go into an area to build up items and experience points before you tackle the next story-related area.

An interesting ability in the .hack games is Data Drain; an ability that allows you to hack into an enemy and turn it into a weaker enemy and gain items from it (Typically, you'll receive Virus Cores, which are used to enter locked areas, though you'll also occasionally find new weapons and armor from it), but at a cost. If you use Data Drain too much, not only will you barely get any experience points, but it will cause your Infection Rate to increase (If your infection rate gets too high, you'll get a Game Over screen and have to start again from your last save), plus there's random negative effects to your party.

It's not without flaws, though. The game does get repetitive after a while, and it can be a pain trying to gather the Virus Cores you need to enter a locked area (It can be a pain trying to find the one you need).
Gameplay: 8 out of 10

.hack//Infection is an enjoyable game if you can get into it, though some might not like how repetitive it can get. I'd suggest at least trying it out to see if you like it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/03/08, Updated 02/17/09

Game Release: .hack//Infection Part 1 (US, 02/10/03)

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