Review by Amused Observer

"Roleplaying a MMORPG Player"

In .Hack/Infection, you are Kite, a newbie Massive Multi Online Roleplaying Game player who was introduced to The World by his friend, Orca. Kite's introduction takes a dramatic turn when an encounter with an unbeatable monster leaves his friend in a coma. Your task, as Kite, is to find answers in The World.

The Story is VERY original. The game simulates a MMORPG, and the story is quite fast paced. Like a typical Role Playing Game, you meet up with characters who join your party as you search The World for answers. The game makes it quite clear what you need to do to advance in the story. You're given clues on the bulletin boards or by Non-Player Characters.

Gameplay is where this game TRULY shines. You're able to control the angles of the cameras, and switch between first person view and overhead view. Maintaining inventory is a cinch because the inventory screen breaks down the categories of items, and each item can have up to 99 pieces. While you’re allowed to have only 40 types of items on hand, you can store an additional 99 types of items in town.

The game utilizes a scale system for earning experience. While you need 1,000 experience points to get to the next level, the amount of experience points you earn for defeating monsters varies depending on your experience level relative to the monster’s that you defeated.

While in town, you can buy and sell items at shops, and you can also trade with NPCs for items and equipment. Indeed, it is advantageous to trade for better equipment, because the game does away with level requirements for equipment. In other words, if you’re only at level 5, you can still use a level 20 piece of armor if you manage to swing a trade for it.

Speaking of NPCs, another wonderful feature in .Hack/Infection is the total control you have over the two NPCs in your party. While in combat, you can issue commands to NPCs in your party to attack, heal, etc. You can dictate the kind of attack to use (physical or magical), and who to target. In addition, you can change the NPC’s equipment. You’ll agree that this total control of your party NPCs is a godsend if you’ve played other games, such as Neverwinter Nights, where the NPC has a mind of his own.

While in combat, you could zoom in and out to see where the monsters are located. If the monster is off your screen, the game provides a red tag near the screen’s edge, pointing to the direction of the enemy.

You get around to dungeons by means of a Chaos Gate. To go to a specific area, you have to enter keywords. However your choice of keywords is limited at the beginning, and as the story progresses you get additional keywords to unlock additional areas. Also, the game sets additional parameters by requiring you to Gate Hack into protected areas. What this means is that you have to go to a specific dungeon and defeat specific bosses to get keys (called Virus Cores) to Gate Hack into important areas.

The game’s music is fairly good, but not as memorable as the masterpieces from the Final Fantasy series. Graphics are excellent. You get to see mini movie clips at critical junctures in the story.

Replayability is another area where the game excels. There are side quests and also a new area that opens up after you beat the game. Furthermore, you can continue to level up your characters and load up on items and equipment for import to the next part of the .Hack series (Mutation). Your task in leveling up is made easy by your ability to specifically tailor the dungeon to visit by entering key words at the Chaos Gate. For example, you could create a dungeon suitable for level 30 characters, and the type of environment, by entering specific string of keywords at the Chaos Gate. This ability to tailor dungeons is another unique feature in this game.

The only beef I have with this game is that it’s a bit short. I beat .Hack/Infection in less than 25 hours. In comparison, I spent 100 hours on Final Fantasy 7 (and still haven’t beat it yet). Nonetheless, the game is very original, player friendly, and definitely a must buy.

Story: 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 02/21/03, Updated 02/21/03

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