Review by Dead Star

Reviewed: 08/17/04

''You're in their WORLD now!''

.hack//INFECTION is a RPG, although a bit different from most. It simulates a MMORPG, offline. It plays like a MMORPG but no internet connection is required. And unlike most MMORPG, this game does have a good story and is the first part of a four-episode series.

This aspect is a bit hard to review. I mean, the gameplay has so many good but bad things. You have root towns, where you can shop, talk and trade with all the players who are on the same town. In each town(server of the ''online'' game The World), there's a Chaos Gate where you can warp to areas, using a combination of Keywords wich affect how those areas will be like (weather, monsters, dungeons, etc.) Each area has a field and a dungeon where you can level up your characters, fighting monsters.
The biggest complaint i have here is that the fighting is repetitive. The battle system consists of mashing the X button to attack, and using the square button to give commands, in a chat-like window, to your fellow party member (you can have two along with you). Eventually, you'll have to perform a special skill: Data Drain. Using your bracelet you drain the data from an enemy, and get either rare items ou Virus Cores. You'll need several virus cores to perform Gate Hacking. In gate hacking you also use your bracelet to ''open'' areas that are protected in the Chaos Gate. Fighting through so many monsters, to level up and get those virus cores can eventually strike you as repetitive. However, even how repetitive as it may be, i actually found myself having fun hacking through all those monsters. Some of the monsters designs are pure comical genious, so it really didn't get much boring.
Raising Grunties: Grunties are like the chocobos of the Final Fantasy series. Throughout the various fields you can find several varieties of Grunty food. With those you can feed the baby grunties at the second server/root town, about halfway through the game. What you feed them determines what kind of grunty it will become, changing some things like it’s intelligence, brutality, purity, size, etc. And depending on wich Grunty they become, they’ll have different items that you can trade with it. Those items really weren’t such a big deal, but i still found it funny, raising them. Their voices are really funny, with some crazy ‘’OINK’’s and ‘’RIBBIT’’s thrown in. You can raise a maximum of three grunties in this Part 1 of the series.
Moving on to the most ''online'' aspects of the game, you have a desktop, where you can read Web News, e-mails from your friends, change your wallpaper and the background music, or watch movies (cutscenes from the game) you unlocked, simulating a great PC feel. Then there is also the board where you can read other players of ''The World'' posts, including help topics or hints. Some are connected to the story too, and you get to make a few posts (i can't remember very well, but it might have been only two).
In the root towns you can trade items with other players, as i mentioned before. If you use this wisely, you can get very good items, although it might be a bit easier just to data drain some enemies or open the chests in the end of each dungeon. There's also the Gift system, where you can items to your party members for free, so that they get better equipment and stronger.

Well, if i had to boil it all down to two sentences i'd say: Cutscenes graphics rule. In-game graphics suck. That's almost it. In the cutscenes the graphics look very good, especially the character models. As for the in-game graphics the only good thing i can say about them is how the root towns look. Quite good. The character models are average, and their animation is good, but not excellent. Enemy design i so-so, they're not really very detailed, but some are really comical (yes, it's a good thing) while others actually look cool.
The worst thing here are the fields and the dungeons. They feel bland and repetitive.

Well the story has a lot going for it. The only reason i don't give it a higher score is because this is only the first part of the four-part story, so before the end it doesn't develop as much as you'd like. A lot of things are introduced, and many questions arise, but there are no answers, and the ending is a MAJOR CLIFFHANGER.
Anyway, the concept is very interesting, as well as the characters, and it kept me hooked all the time. As i reached the end i could only think ''I WANT PART 2 DAMN IT!''.

The soundtrack to this game is mostly awesome. There are several songs that will stick to your mind and you’ll keep humming them for the next few weeks. Only complaint here is that the dungeon’s music is very repetitive, and always the same. Oh, and Piros’ theme SUCKS. It’s a really pathetic song. Gave me a few laughs the first time, but then it just got annoying.
As for the voice acting, the english voiceover is actually very good, one of the best out there, in the RPG genre. The japanese voiceover remains the best though, and you can choose it once you finish the game. That was kind of a stupid idea, since after you finish it there’s not much talking to hear, unless you play the whole game again. But why should you? You’ll probably just complete the Ryu books after the story ends. But you can always watch the cutscenes you unlocked on your desktop, with the japanese voiceover, so no big problem here.

Lasting Appeal/Replay Value:
When i finished the main quest i had about 15 hours played, much less than your average rpg. However, there's still quite a bit of stuff you can do after you beat the story. After the credits roll, save, and you'll be able to continue that same game (you don't star over), with the level,items and all the stuff you got. You can complete two new challenges, including a hyper-difficult secret boss. And after that you can get all the goodies the Ryu Books can give you. Let me explain about this. The more data drains you perform on the enemies, the more Ryu books you get(the maximum is 8). These store game data, like how many monsters you've beaten, the players you've met, the treasures you've opened, etc. Meeting a certain requirement (like for example, open 100 treasure chests or defeating X monsters) you get new stuff for your desktop: Wallpapers, background music, and movies wich are cutscenes from the game that you can only watch after beating the main quest. Overall, it should keep you busy for some good 20 hours.

Included DVD: Liminality Vol 1.: In the case of Mai Minase (OVA)
This dvd is a really great bonus, with interesting new characters and storyline. All story, no action, wich is what these OVA's are for; to complement .hack's storyline. Looking forward to the next volume.

Overall Score: 8.2

This game was a pretty enjoyable experience, and i recommend it to any PRG lover. However, i do advise to get it at low price, because there are three other games in this series, and each isn’t very big. A cool and mysterious storyline, charismatic characters, fun,although repetitive, battle system, and an amazing soundtrack/voice acting make this a great game, with a very good anime OVA as bonus. It’s not Final Fantasy, but it’s great anyway.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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