Growing up during the PlayStation 2 era of games was a special time, the amount of quality content we were getting never ended, and I found myself drowning in JRPGs to play. A few series stuck with me after playing them and the .hack series was one of them. I remember spending hours after school playing the original trilogy, watching the anime, reading the different manga that was produced and speaking at length about my love of the art and the story around different forums on the internet. Cue my excitement when Bandai Namco revealed a remaster of the .hack//G.U. series and a bonus new episode made for the remaster, and here we are.
Returning to The World summons old feelings of nostalgia, but it also reminds me that this is a decade old series, and with that comes growing pains. A lot of the game’s systems feel archaic and would be a tough sell in today’s industry. It’s a bit of an adjustment to return but it’s as fun as it was years ago.
Starting with Rebirth, you play as Haseo, at the start he is known as a Player Killer, who goes around hunting other players, but with a twist, he only preys on bullies who attack others first. Within The World, Haseo has built a reputation and it’s created distance between himself and others. This all started after Tri-Edge, a PK who attacked Shion, a friend of Haseo’s in game, causing the real version of Shion to fall into a coma in the real world – pushing Haseo to find out what caused this.
Combat runs at 60 frames per second and benefits the most from the remaster, with the move to a new console and the technical mastery of today’s tools, combat is enjoyable and the camera is zoomed out giving you a better view of the area when in combat. There’s more room to react and engage enemies this time. CyberConnect2 went back and touched up combat as well, including more inventory space, menu shortcuts, and the rhythm of battle has improved.
Being a simulated MMO experience, as Haseo, you can engage in many activities including a ton of sidequests to complete, emails to read and reply to, and forum boards to scour for clues. There are also dungeons to dive into full of enemies to battle with your party, building relationships as affection with everyone.
Despite getting an HD facelift, Last Recode suffers from it’s age. Some character models look great while others are pixelated and blurry. Haseo’s body tattoos would be blurry, and NPCs suffer, too. Some environmental textures were rough, but the new coat of paint improves the overall experience. There’s enough to do and to focus on this won’t take away from the experience, but it is noticeable.
Cheat Mode lets players experience the story without any of the grind. Available in all four volumes of the G.U. series, levels, weapons and affection are all maxed out. Haseo and company have their ultimate gear and money is maxed out. You’ll still have to play the game, but any concern of being under levelled and unprepared go out the window, effectively and essentially making you untouchable. For someone who has less time to play games as they want, this presents a viable way to enjoy the core story without compromising the experience.
Something that this series did exceptionally well was Haseo’s growth throughout the original trilogy of games. Starting out as a social outcast that held a lot of hatred within himself, his experiences and his friends transform him turning himself into a hero by the end of the third volume.
In addition to getting three full games, CyberConnect2 added a fourth volume to Haseo’s story that serves as an epilogue after Redemption. The fourth volume is appropriately called Reconnection, and follows Haseo in his quest for Ovan and filling in the gaps left by the cliffhanger ending of Volume 3. I played with Cheat Mode on to brisk through the grind, letting me recollect events without the worry if I could handle what was coming up, this allowed me to invest into the story more than I did years ago.
After playing Last Recode and returning to the .hack series, I’m hoping the investment into remastering the series allows for Bandai Namco to develop new stories to tell. With a decade between the last game and multiple new and exciting MMO’s to draw inspiration from, I’d love to see what that time away could do for a series based on a fictional MMO.