Review by G.Vallentin

"Nothing has changed, is that a good thing?"

Why the series wasn’t developed into a single game is beyond my comprehension. It’s obvious Bandai is trying to milk the .hack (pronounced dot hack) series for all it’s worth. Yet sales for the four games are beyond expectations, and the series’ fanbase continues to grow. Over 120 hours of play later, I am disappointed to say that the fourth installment of the series, titled .hack//Quarantine, is nothing more than a refurbished copy of the original title.

If you’re reading this review, you’ve already fought your way to the end of the previous games. You know what to expect in terms of gameplay, graphics and sound, and you know that you’re going to play through this game no matter what anyone says.

Infection, the first game in the series, was an interesting title that was received well by the press. Players were introduced to the “The World,” an imaginary online universe where players battle hordes of enemies, level up, and trade items. The concept was original, and with character designs by Evangelion veteran Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, and a story written by Ghost In the Shell’s Kazunori, this series was meant to be an anime fan’s wet dream.

Yes the concept was great, but the execution was somewhat below the high production values. The gameplay grew stale by the end of Infection. The dungeons all looked the same, and every quest was an item hunt. The only reward for completing these item hunts was story progression. Let’s face it, most people aren’t playing for the gameplay here. The strong story is what drives us to complete this repetitive trek through all-to-familiar territory.

The story is good, and the few plot twists that accompany this latest installment will please fans of the series. The story continues Kite, Blackrose and the other party members who barely serve any purpose, and their battle with a malignant force that lives within The World and is threatening all of mankind. Some players have already fallen victim to the unknown force and are now in comas. In Quarantine, the infection has spread and now it’s up to Kite, his party, and the administrator of The World, to fight back and put an end to this saga, for everyone’s sake, including ours. The story is the series’ strongest point and the cutscenes are beautifully choreographed. The characters each have their own personalities that accompany their distinct looks. A lot of time is spent developing the personality of each character which further drives us to complete the final chapter.

Quarantine is quite possibly the most frustrating of the four games. Enemies are fierce and cast ultra-strong spells, which means battles are longer, more tedious and you’ll spend the majority of your time healing other party members. Quarantine also incorporates a ridiculous amount of virus core hunting to increase the length of the title. In order to “gate hack” to certain areas of The World, players must collect these cores by data draining enemies. Certain enemies carry certain virus cores. It isn’t necessarily hard to find where to get the right virus cores, it’s just too time consuming and takes away from the overall pace of the game. This is by far the slowest and longest chapter in the series.

As expected, Quarantine looks and sounds exactly like its predecessors. The graphics haven’t changed much, if at all. That’s not to say the game is bad looking by today’s standards. The characters look great and the overall look of The World is polished, albeit bland. The sound is absolutely the same, minus a few new songs. The voice acting is still questionable. Although the characters are young, and should theoretically sound young, they’re voices get a little irritating and aren’t acted that well, especially during emotional scenes. Luckily, just like in the previous games, the option to turn on the original Japanese voices is still possible.

Quarantine takes around 20 hours to complete and comes packed with a fourth anime dvd, which supposedly warrants the $60 it costs to purchase the game.

What is the most disappointing part of the series, is that Bandai decided to make this a four-part game spread over a full year, and sell them as full-priced games. What is especially unnerving is that in three months, this game will be half-price just like the others.

Final Comments

This was one of the toughest reviews to write. I love the series, even though it can be repetitive. The story is great and the characters are real, but as a reviewer, my duty is to look at the technical aspects of the game. Technically speaking, this is not a good finale the series, and is an expensive disappointment.

Story: 8.3
The story, although confusing at first, turned out just fine. The twists at the end are especially exciting.
Graphics: 7.8
The dungeons are bland, but the overall look of the game is good. Characters designs are incredible.
Gameplay: 5.5
Unfortunately, the dungeons and level building has gotten extremely repetitive by the fourth instalment. The excessive virus core hunting doesn’t help either.
Controls: 7.3
Nothing has changed since the previous games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Replayability: 7.8
If you can get passed the boring gameplay, there are quite a few extras to tackle.
Overall: 7.4
It’s identical to the other three games. Nothing has changed.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/11/04

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