Review by Lucidity02

"And .hack's back."

And three months have passed since we last left our intrepid, poorly translated online hero Kite after he beat the living crap crap out of the final boss in .hack's first chapter.

I've seen dozens of posts about how .hack's gimmick -- releasing each volume after three months under the same $50 price tag -- is merely a moneymaking scheme for Bandai. And those posts are all justified, but Bandai knew their audience would come back for more. Because .hack's all about the mystery, and all about solving it. And apparently Bandai, like every single other game company out there, wants to make money. More power to 'em.

For those who don't know the general plot, .hack details the story of online player Kite as he sifts through the labyrinthine MMORPG ''The World'' to find out why his buddy Orca went into a coma after being attacked by a giant monster. And so an incredibly complex story ensues.

Anyway, let's get started.

Graphics: 8/10. More of the same -- the graphics haven't been noticeably altered since the last game, though the cinematic sequences seem crisper, more defined than Infection's. They're good, and have something of a cartoon feel to 'em -- but they're nothing better than good.

Sound: 9/10. This category should've gotten a lower score, as some of the voice acting is truly grating (Hi, Rachel!). But the music still rocks the house, gets your adrenaline pumping, and does the trick.

Story: 10/10. Yep, a ten. The story is undeniably the best part of the game. It is, as it was in .hack part 1, relayed to the player little by little through emails, posts on The World's online message board, fabricated news articles (which actually seem to follow the Associated Press style pretty closely, for the two people that care about that sort of thing) and a few scattered cinematics.

And even though I should have docked a point for the translation -- which ranges from passable to ludicrous -- I didn't, because the sheer brilliance of both the story and the way it unfolds balances that aspect of the game out.

Mutation also comes with a bonus DVD -- Liminality, Pt. 2 --which details events in the real world concurrent to when they happen in the game. Pretty cool stuff. I'm no anime buff, but it seems to be more well-drawn than most.

Gameplay: 9/10. Once again, more of the same. The monsters have gotten stronger, but the core gameplay remains the same; level up, go through a dungeon, repeat. Though this sounds like it could get old quickly, it doesn't -- it requires some strategy, such as knowing what commands to shout out to your party members.

And overall...9/10. I personally think the entire .hack series is a milestone in gaming. RPG cliches will, probably, be a thing of the past after .hack part 4 is released -- I don't think I've played a game with this much mystery in a long time.

I guess the best way to sum it up is that this game isn't sitting in my TV stand gathering dust, like the five other games I've bought in the last month. That's a good thing.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03

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