Review by Xenon
"Now on to disc 2...."
As we're all aware, media that starts one place (like a book) rarely transfers well to another media (like, say, a movie). There are exceptions, of course, but these generally serve to illustrate how bad the other ones are. What if, however, all the media was planned from the beginning?
So project dot hack came into existence. An Anime, Manga, OVA (direct to DVD Anime), and Video Game all planned from the beginning, While the Anime was first to hit, the centerpiece was and is the Video Game (as such, it's the only one to not bear a // name, such as sign or liminatlity, as a whole, though each volume has their own). Part of making it the centerpiece has involved breaking it up into four different Volumes. This second volume is called mutation, and at this point, we ask whether the project has succeeded, at least so far. I believe so, if the basic concept didn't undermine itself.
The World before WoW
When the dot hack games were first made, WoW had not been released yet, so there hadn't been this huge mass appeal to MMORPGs that dot hack makes up in its game. For those that are reading this without being familiar with project dot hack, in these games you play as a kid who's playing a game. Yes, you're playing a game as you're playing a game. dot hack focuses on the happenings of The World a hugely successful MMORPG of the far future of 2010, having launched in 2007 (yes, I'm aware of the year as I write this). However, because you're playing a game about playing a game, things get a bit more interesting. Several players, most notably Orca, the friend of our main character and uber-player in The World, have fallen into comas while playing the game. Now, unlike a sensible person who learns that playing a certain game has a tendency to put you into a coma, our hero, known as Kite in The World decides to investigate in the world to find the cause.
This whole playing a game in the game thing I think it's fairly well done. You're more forgiving of the more ridiculous things in The World, because you're not ACTUALLY playing it (but you are). Still, however, it causes a few questions. Why are you deleting viruses from within the game? If I was a virus, I certainly wouldn't just give myself infinite HP, I'd also give myself instant kill attacks. But I digress.
Before I go farther, you should ask yourself if what I just went over is familiar with you. You see, Mutation is not a sequel. It's part two of a four part game. While Mutation does allow you to start a new game, doing so would be like starting to play Final Fantasy VII on Disc 2. This is the middle part of the game called dot hack, and the fact that it's sold separately shouldn't confuse you. If you haven't played part 1, Infection, then go look at reviews for that, as this game shouldn't be played before that one.
For those that HAVE played it, I repeat a part of the message, this is just the next part of the game. Disc 2 of 4, if you will. The gameplay is identical, the story is the same (but further progressed). The sad truth of this review is that this is its only real purpose. To tell you that yes, it is the same game.
With that out of the way, this is not all bad. While the practical part of my brain is yelling at Bandai telling them that they're ripping me off, the other part of my brain is just saying cool. The truth is somewhere in the middle. While Bandai IS ripping us off by charging us for four games by what all rights should be one game, the story knows it's a four parter, and is written appropriately for it. When you combine this with the tie in with the Anime (the manga comes later) and OVA, you get quite a gripping story, as long as you overlook some of the silliness that comes from the fact that everything you see that isn't your desktop is people holding controllers (normally, fine, but Drama comes off a bit .silly).
Mutation makes its own problems, however. Enemy to experience rate isn't balanced at all (2000 HP monsters capable of two hitting you give the same experience as wimpy 400 HP monsters? What?). The ridiculous evasion of some enemies is just annoying, and there are issues with it being right in the middle of the game. I used one piece of equipment through the whole game. A many others were changed once, maybe twice. This really undermines your progression. I went from level 33 to level 50 in Mutation, but I didn't really feel much stronger. The repetition also returns. People will often say that something is somewhere in a certain field, but I know where it is, on the bottom floor of the dungeon. Every time. Mutation is also even shorter than Infection. My clock started at a little over 20 hours (the clock carries over from part one, as if to reinforce the parts idea) and ended at a little over 39, and that was even with the stupid padding that they through in (virus core hunting).
Other information I want to through in but don't really have a place for: You still have the characters from part one to party with, remember, it's just the next part of the game. Five new characters are also available, though only one joins through the story, and he isn't even available until the games over (he joins before then, but won't actually be online until the story is done). Also, you can now race grunties in town. Oh, and on the new server, you can raise new grunties. I think that's just about it.
+++ A Solid continuation of a story
++ Some decent and challenging gameplay in there.
+ Now with THREE real bosses instead of one!
--- Even Shorter than the first part
--- Still way too repetitive
-- Gameplay wise, didn't feel like I was getting anywhere
-- Forty items is STILL too few
dot hack has an interesting story and some mediocre gameplay. This is the same as it was in part one, and I suspect it'll be the same in parts three and four. In some ways, it does seem like the gameplay has taken a small step back, but it's still the same game. If you played part one and liked it, then carry on. If you didn't, then this isn't going to change you mind.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 05/28/08
Game Release: .hack//Mutation Part 2 (US, 05/06/03)
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