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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 2
PUBLISHER:
Bandai
DEVELOPER:
Cyber Connect
GENRE: RPG
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
February 03, 2002
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
Dot Hack G.U. Volume 3: Redemption

Dot Hack G.U. Volume 2: Reminisce

Dot Hack G.U. Volume 1: Rebirth

 Written by Matt Partington  on October 08, 2002

First Impressions: More than just a catchy title.


Tentatively, .hack (pronounced dot-hack) has warped into what is now one of the most anticipated upcoming titles for the PlayStation 2. What original developed as an interested game mainly because of its awkward title, RPG fans became squirmish with excitement once .hack became a top-seller in Japan and simply a phenomenon. Despite of its recent release date push back (from November 2002 to February 2003), many gamers are urgently awaiting this peculiar, but intriguingly good RPG.

What's got most gamers interested is merely the core idea of .hack. The game is multi-layered set in different worlds (set in the not-so-far future). You play as Kito, a young man who's recently bought a video game named ?The World?--a massive multiplayer online RPG. It's become the most popular game in the history of the industry. As Kito, you will play this video game The World. It's not till later that your friend's character is killed; typical at first until you discover his real body went into a terrible coma. This therefore creating another layer of the game, the real world. .hack is played in the video game universe, as well as the real world universe (Kito's real world of course). The interface provides easy understanding of deciphering which is which.

The main premise is that you're out to find what these viruses are (the ones that are causing people to go into comas), even if it costs you spreading the virus yourself. This is where the official title to the game, .hack Infection Vol 1., derives from. Vol. 1 should hint to you that this will develop into a series, and hopefully it'll be a good one.

Confused? I wouldn't be surprised. The World is not truly an MMORPG, but the environment convinces you of that. It's actually all computer-controlled AI. The people arguing in the chatrooms, the players that tag behind you and battle along side you, everyone and everything is computer generated. Cyber Connect has done such an authentic job of creating a real breathing universe with a real video game called The World, you sometimes might be so enthralled with it that you forget it's actually made up. Honestly, this is a real cut-up version of the story and plot. Any more would most likely just confuse you, since it gets much more deep and complex.

.hack is created by some of the top anime writers/animators in the business. This obviously lead to a highly anime-influenced visual style. There's a good portion of cutscenes in .hack which look all good and well, but overall the graphics aren't too much to get excited over. Pretty generic overall, some of the areas feel a bit empty in a disappointing sort of way. If you've picked up on much at all, you should understand that .hack is a story-focused game that highly relies on the plot and concepts rather than visuals and possibly, maybe even gameplay (we'll determine that later). Still, it's clear that the style of the visuals is more predominant than the technical achievement of them.

The World is played similar to lots of MMORPGs, and you'll gain experience and more party members, spells and so forth like most RPGs. The real world is also an RPG, full of mazes and monsters and all that icky-icky stuff. You'll venture across colossal environments?in The World that is--with allies shortly trailing behind. The battles are played in realtime, there's no pause in between combat and walking. AI will come along with you, menus give you the ability to command them what to do at any point in time such as to attack or leave or whatever else is needed.

Like most all games (ever?), levels are created prior to release, correct? Well, .hack is oddly not like that. The environments are created on-the-spot by three keywords. The game puts those three keywords together and manipulates them into a brand-new level. Quite freaky indeed, but cool nonetheless.

Not only is .hack a video game, it's also an anime series shown in Japan as well as comic. All these three things relate to each other and tell similar stories. It's quite interesting to see how such a bizarre idea coming from a sleeper-hit developer has turned into one of the biggest Japanese craves in 2002.

Final Thoughts
Like me, you might be thinking ?This preview is surprisingly short.? Well to be perfectly honest, despite .hack being on the shelves several months in Japan, it's a game that's still unraveling slowly here in the states. Gameplay physics to graphics, storyline and more, we're never seized to be surprised what Bandai has in for us next. Even though .hack doesn't have the resources of say, a Final Fantasy game, or the fan base potential of Xenosaga, but sales in Japan go to prove that we might be in for one heck of a game. Unfortunately, the Land of the Rising Sun will already be playing Vol. 2 by the time we get Vol. 1, but taking any well-made quirky title from Japan is a good sign to me. You will be infected come February.


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