Review by CChan

"Unique storyline - freakishly real."

.hack//Infection, pronounced as ‘dot hack’, is based on the highly successful and popular anime called .hack//Sign. .hack//Infection, undoubtedly, is one of the best RPG games, with the most unique storyline that totally differs from the usual ‘save-the-world’ or the ‘damsels-in-distress’ kind.

Graphics – 9.0
Nice graphics, and brilliant lighting effects but for the most part they remain almost the same. And there’s no FMV either, just plain cut-scenes that take over most of the storyline. The graphics are not that dazzling that it’ll catch your eye from the beginning, but it’s good enough to match most of the PlayStation 2 games. Shadows, colours, and the character modeling are neatly done.

The most interesting aspect would be how there would be a graphical ‘glitch’, or ‘buzzing’ that is intentionally made to make the game even more life-like, to emulate an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). The emotional expressions can be somewhat limited, with the wide-eyed expression looking quite weird at times.

Music and Voice Actors – 9.2
The music is nice, but a little bit dull at various parts. Of course, we can never expect spectacular music like those in the Final Fantasy series, so the slightly repeated music for the same dungeons are not a big surprise.

The voice acting in English is good, the same goes with the Japanese voice acting, which supposedly used the same voice actors for certain characters (like BlackRose). The one thing I liked would be the reading of a make-up language in the beginning of the game, which is similar to Lord of the Rings’ Elvish.

Gameplay and Story – 9.5
There are several resemblances between the characters in the game and the anime, but they are not of the same character. Mimiru from the anime is not BlackRose while Tsukasa is not Elk in the game, despite the similar looks; the rational explanation would be there have to be the same character looks at times, as this is supposed to be an MMORPG, widely played by all and it is not impossible to have the same character model.

While the storyline is incomplete (obviously, since this game is available in four parts in a series), .hack//Infection is particularly enjoyable due to the fact that it emulates eerily like a real-life online MMORPG. The various e-mails you will get, messages posted at the BBS (message board) all points that way, to get you intrigued with the whole aspect of the gameplay.

There are definitely many similarities between the anime and the game (for those who watched .hack//Sign before), which is good so that those who had watched the anime before will not be confused with all the changes that are made, and for those who finished the game and then watch the anime (like me), will find that Bandai had definitely done a good job in the anime-to-game conversion (the cute Puchigosu [or Grunty], magic portals, Zeit statue, etc).

The fighting system resembles Phantasy Star Online’s in many ways. It utilizes the real-time combat, and you can pour in magic, skills and items while playing by selecting them during a battle. The variety of weapons, armours and equipments can be commendable, and one of your main methods in obtaining a good equipment would be trading with the characters in the game, who are “online” users in the game. Getting them at the end of a dungeon, or getting them in treasure chests or off enemies are another good way.

There is also a unique thing in the game, which is a pond where you throw in your weapon or defense equipment, where a huge droplet will emerge from that pool and ask you the question you often hear in fairy-tales, “Did you drop the golden one or the silver one?”. You would then answer your obvious reply, and based on certain circumstances (play the game and you’d find out), your equipment could either gain a level or lose one.

Playing through the game involves keyword-ed fields, where you enter either a specific or random three words to ‘create’ a field for you to go, which holds a dungeon. Going through the dungeon can be kind of fun, and at the end of it, you would find the Zeit Statue which holds three rather rare (or useless) items. Later in the game, you can even raise a Grunty by feeding the various food you find in the game. It would be a surprise what you will get in the end, of the three possible Grunties you can raise in this volume.

Enemies aren’t that hard really while the experience points are not divided equally, so it doesn’t matter whether you fight an enemy that gives you 30 experience points, all your party members (including you) would get the same amount. If you ever die, you will get a few buzzes and flickers, blank black screen and the ultimate words “Game Over” sprawled across your television screen. The end. So it is advisable to save often, which you can only do in towns.

Replay Value – 8.7
Even when you had completed the game, you can continue to level up up to a certain extent for obvious reasons, and there are a few side missions to complete too; collecting those rare equipments would be a good choice too. Finishing the game would just signify waiting for the next chapter of .hack to be released, with bated breath.

Overall – 9.7
The fact that this game had an interesting storyline, and in four parts (good news and bad news respectively to some), intrigues the game even further. What with the rather addictive gameplay and brilliance of the concept of the game, I would essentially recommend anyone who loves to play RPGs to get this game, or at least, give this a go though you can complete this game easily in 15 hours (well, it's available in four parts, right?).

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/19/03, Updated 03/19/03

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