Right now, It’s a great time to be a new or casual gamer with so many new titles being released and publishers re-releasing or remastering older titles on new systems. For a long time now we’ve seen titles originally released on the PlayStation or PlayStation 2 making their way to current generation consoles letting fans enjoy the experience once again without needing to break out their old consoles and letting new fans play the game for the first time. One series I never would have never imagined would get a remastered release would be the .Hack// G.U. Trilogy but here we are 11 years after the release of first game in the trilogy .Hack//G.U. Vol.1//Rebirth and I honestly couldn’t be more excited got .Hack//G.U. Last Recode.
.Hack//G.U. Last Recode isn’t just a simple remaster of the trilogy for the PlayStation 4 and Steam as developer CyberConnect2 has even gone a step further by creating new content in the form of a new volume titled .Hack//G.U. Vol. 4 Reconnection. So let’s dive right into “The World” of .Hack//G.U. Last Recode and see if this game is worth playing a decade later.
Welcome to the World!
For those unfamiliar with the series, .Hack// G.U. seriesis set Seven years after the events of the original .Hack series (which itself was released as four different volumes). The series follows new player Haseo, as he begins his adventure into “The World R:2” which is the name of the Virtual Reality game in the .Hack series. As soon as he enters the world, Haseo is invited by two players who offer to teach him the game and as he makes it to the end of a dungeon he is quickly killed by the two players who make it a sport to trick newbie players known as Player Killers (or PK).
The game then fast forwards as Haseo has become a Player Killer Killer (PKK) known as the “Terror of Death” who is searching for revenge against a player known as Tri-Edge. While the game skips shows Haseo with a completely new look and has become a PKK (which is actually explained in the anime titled .Hack//Roots focuses on Haseo’s first days in The World as part of the Twilight Brigade), we find out that Shino, a member of the Twilight Brigade, was PK’ed by Tri-Edge and fell into a coma in real life. Shortly after, Haseo comes face to face with mysterious Tri-Edge and is easily defeated leading to Haseo getting data drained which finds him discovering that all of his skills are gone and his level has been reset to level 1. Now he must restart all over again if he plans on saving Shino as he tries to find a new power that can take down Tri-Edge.
Three Volumes, one disc….
Let’s take a quick look at the original three games before we jump into Vol. 4 Reconnection. The series itself is an action role-playing game that tries to give off an MMO feel while being a single player game. We’ve seen a lot of titles in recent years with series like the Sword Art Online games (also from Bandai Namco Entertainment) taking it to whole new level in terms of visuals and gameplay but .Hack did was definitely ahead of its time given the dated technology.
All three games have a very similar format, which can be a bit tedious since it’s almost rinse and repeat. It’s usually advancing the story via a dungeon or scene, having to take on a quest or two with your teammates, or more story and repetition with the quests given to you in a way to really pad out each game. It can get pretty boring and tiring especially since the dungeon layouts tend to look the exact same broken down into one of three map types and worst of all you have to do this over the course of three games.
Originally, each title in the G.U. trilogy was released a few months apart from each other which gave players the chance to fully enjoy the content in each and then take some time to relax and enjoy a few other games. Of course, this also gave players the chance to enjoy a few other titles to recharge before next installment. This was a smart idea at the time as to not burn out players given that having to do this back to back can be a bit painful, but worth it since the game has such a great story and a lot of great characters.
Each volume can take anywhere from 24-40 hours to just clear the main scenario. Having to level up, strengthen skills, challenge the arena and leveling up your guild also offers plenty of post game content to enjoy if you choose to do so, as well as taking on any bonus missions or quests you may have ignored originally. More importantly you are also able to carry over your save data which transfers over your hard work including levels, character affinities, skills, weapons, guild ranking and more over so you feel rewarded for all of your hard work.
Bring it On!
As you explore dungeons you are able to surprise attack enemies by getting behind them and attack, as you get closer enemies will notice you which is shown by a question mark over their head and they will start heading in your direction and then a battle will initiate if they get close enough and that question mark turns into an exclamation mark. Each character has a different fighting style based on their class aside from Haseo is an Adept Rogue, at the start of the game he fights with two short blades. Attacking is a simple as spamming the attack button but skills can also be used with the R1 button and after use have a cool down time.
Your partners are AI controlled and unlike many other games, they won’t just stand there and take hits as they will attack and use skills against your opponents or heal you if they have a skill. So you can fight as hard as you want without worry.
While the core of the battle system remains consistent throughout the game, it also adds new elements as you progress through each stage. In the game you can add two other players to your party as you progress through various dungeons, with more characters joining you as you progress through each game.
There aren’t a lot of boss fights as most dungeons end by reaching the beast statue and collecting a treasure chest at the end, you are also scored depending on how many surprise attacks you were able to get on enemies, items destroyed, chests found and chimchims collected which rewards you with Area words or items so it’s up to you how you proceed on this. The boss battles that are in the game can be far and few at times but luckily they are also accompanied by my favorite battles, the Avatar battles, which are pretty repetitive but enjoyable having to discover various patterns and cut up enemies especially as your avatar get’s stronger each time Haseo gains a new form.
Log in, Log Out, Log in, Log Out!
While the game might be set in 2017, it seems “The World” is pretty limited in technology as you have to log out every time you need to check your email. It becomes quite a pain having to log out after every quest or mission to read an email that makes you log back in to head to a location for a scene only to have to log back out to read and email to go somewhere else. It was one of my least favorite things in the original game but just as bad even now, luckily there are a few other things you can do after logging out which includes reading the community forums that will sometimes give you new area words and some bonus missions or even some artwork for your desktop background.
.Hack//G.U. Vol. 4 Reconnection
Easily the thing I looked forward to to the most in Last Recode had to be Vol. 4, as it serves to give players the closure that they never got for over a decade. Set over a year after the events of Vol.3//Redemption, Haseo logs into the world for the first time in over a year in order to rescue Ovan, the problem is he only has a few short days left as “The World R:2” is scheduled to shut down in a few days and time is running out.
While this new volume was rather short with only about three hours of gameplay, as it only focuses on the main story. I was quite surprised that CyberConnect 2 was able to recreate the world perfectly and rather than using in game cutscenes as the previous games have, it used animated cutscenes which looked very stunning and amazing, along with the addition of a new form for Haseo which is pretty bad ass since it also includes a new fighting style. Best of all a majority of the English voice actors return to reprise their characters including Yuri Lowenthall as Haseo and Jamieson Price as Ovan.
Is it worth it?
While the series might be 10 years old, it still has so much charm and is a joy to play again. It’s not perfect since it can get pretty boring at times due to it’s endless repetitiveness but once you get further into the story and get more characters to recruit in your team it’s something you want to push through til the end.
This is a game you can take your time and enjoy or jump from game to game with a lot to enjoy and discover. One of the additional modes added is a “Cheat Mode” which let’s you play each game in the series with max levels, max money, the best weapons in the game, along with max affinity and plenty of items to let you beat the game a lot faster. It’s a nice option if you just want to play through each game again or for the first time, which itself is my favorite part of the collection as replaying them is a long time coming and gives the closure this great series deserved.
If that’s not enough you are also able to watch Haseo marry various characters in the game after completing vol. 3. If you have max affinity with the character. Honestly, It’s hilarious to watch and definitely worth spending a bit of time reloading and marrying each one.