Returning to The World.
PS2 remasters are a dime a dozen. For every great remaster, there’s an equally repulsive one. It’s like Newton’s laws of physics applied to the gaming industry, except this costs us our typically hard earned cash. Still, nostalgic gamers like myself are thrilled at the ideas of replaying the games of our childhoods (even with all of its inherent flaws, the remake of the Crash Bandicoot trilogy scored major points with most gamers). For me, the release of .hack//G.U. Last Recode was an unexpected but much anticipated return to one of my most beloved RPGs of the PS2 era. I always wished for a new .hack game, and while I never received one, this – including the fourth epilogue episode – came pretty darn close.
The story of the .hack//G.U. series takes place shortly after the original four games. The World, the MMORPG of the .hack universe, had since been shut down by CC Corp., making way for The World V. 2. Haseo, new to the entire VR MMO experience, logs in to the game for the very first time, only to be slain by PKers (player killers) who hunt noobs. He is saved and avenged by Ovan, who becomes his guild leader and mentor. Over the next year, Haseo, Ovan, and friend Shino enjoy The World together, until Tri-Edge PKs Shino – placing her real life player into a deep, incurable coma. Ovan disbands the guild and disappears, leaving Haseo to his own devices. He’s sworn to save Shino, all the while hunting down PKers in his search for Tri-Edge. Unfortunately, a chance meeting with the villain leaves Haseo data drained and back to level one. From there, you take control of Haseo and must venture forth in his quest of redemption and revenge. You’ll meet a boatload of characters on your journey through The World and its various servers who will help and/or hinder your progress toward your ultimate goal. You’ll also join a few guilds in your quest to save Shino, unlocking special guild perks that you can upgrade as you continue through the series.
Gameplay in the .hack//G.U. collection is pretty standard in today’s gaming age, and it was pretty average when it released. You’ll find yourself in battles against foes that you run into on the ‘over world’ map. Battles are fought in an arena type field, meaning you’re limited in the amount of space you have to fight in. That said, you often don’t need much space to quickly dispatch enemies, especially if you use your rengeki attacks. By the end of the saga, if you leveled up like I did, you’ll roll through just about everything the game has to offer with one swing of your chosen weapon. It’s something that harms the overall experience, especially if you’re playing the games back-to-back like I did, and even more so if you’re hunting for the platinum (which I obtained). By the end of my platinum run, I was fatigued with the .hack series but happy with the platinum outcome.
Sound in .hack really shines, however. Considering that .hack//G.U. launched at the end of the PS2 era, it was filled with some of the best voice actors in the business. Yuri Lowenthal (who’ll be playing Peter Parker in the new Spiderman game) leads the cast, followed by the likes of Liam O’Brien, Sam Riegel, Jameson Price, Crispin Freeman, and more. The sound track is also memorable, and it’ll leave a few of its better tracks stuck in your head for a month or so after playing.
Visually, the .Hack//G.U. HD collection looks leaps and bounds better than the original games, particularly in the cinematic sector. Everything is brighter and shinier, though, unlike Final Fantasy XII, it wouldn’t pass for a PS4 game on its own. Either way, traveling through Mac Anu will always be a fond memory for me, as the uniqueness of the whole idea behind .hack has never really loosened its grip. As dumb as it might sound, I loved reading through all of the news articles, forum posts, and every bit of my desktop again. There’s something to be said about a game that brings its “A” game to atmospheric settings. Plus, my favorite quote of, “I want to be a cow that lays down when it eats” reminds me constantly why I love games.
When I consider my time with the .hack//G.U. saga, and in this case with the HD remaster, I am left with overly positive memories. Yes, the games will wear on most gamers if they play them straight through, and the platinum really does take quite a bit of effort to complete. The combat is dated, but it’s enjoyable in its early stages. The .hack//G.U. games shine in their attention to detail, storyline, and creation of a faux MMORPG that feels pretty lively. If you’re a fan of the .hack games, this one’s a no brainer. If you’re not, proceed with caution. Nostalgia might not carry you through to full term.