.Hack//G.U. Last Recode Review

Developer: CyberConnect2

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Release Date: November, 3rd 2017

Platform: PC, PS4

The .Hack series has been around for 15 years, and Bandai Namco is taking us on a trip down memory lane and back into “The World” with .Hack//G.U. Last Recode available for you PC and PS4.

For those that never had the chance to play it back in the days of yore, you’ll assume the role of Haseo, a player within the fictional MMO known as “The World.” Volume 1 starts out as Haseo takes his first steps into the world and meets two other players who lure him deep into a dungeon, teaching him how to play before betraying him. As they’re about to kill Haseo, he’s rescued by a mysterious player known as Ovan and there’s a bit of a time skip. Haseo has since progressed to level 130 and become an infamous PKK (Player Killer Killer) known as “The Terror of Death.” Haseo cuts a swathe through the PKs of “The World” seeking information on Tri-Edge and a cure for his friend Shino who has been in a coma since being killed by the ghostly PK. Its not long before Haseo is given information on Tri-Edge’s location and one thing leads to another. Haseo confronts Tri-Edge and is simply decimated. Tri-Edge re-formats Haseo bringing him down to level 1 and erasing everything he had gained within “The World.”

Haseo is clearly out to win this dance battle.

It’s at this point the game really kicks off. Haseo must gain back his power and, with the help of a few new friends and allies, unlock new abilities he never even knew he had access to.

While .Hack//G.U. doesn’t offer a large, open world, you’ll do battle across a plethora of small, isolated dungeons. Players can string together three words to randomly stumble across new dungeons or browse the forums located on Haseo’s desktop to learn about new locations and words to use. If you’re a fan of the Tales of games, then the battle system will feel incredibly familiar. Enemies will roam around the dungeons in set patterns waiting for Haseo and co. to come along and pick a fight. Battles are fought within a small circle for players to freely maneuver around in, and there are a whole lot of skills and items to help gain the upper hand. That being said, the battle system isn’t exactly deep. Most can be won by button mashing to set up “Rengeki” attacks and blocking at the appropriate moments. Avatar battles are fought a little differently as Haseo enters “The Outer Space” of “The World,” which is a realm beyond the game’s code. Taking on the form of Skeith, you float around shooting and slashing at large bugs and other enemies while dodging their attacks at the until you can deliver a powerful stun in order to Data-Drain them.

Skeith likes to make an entrance

Each volume comes with it’s own level cap with Vol. 1 starting at 50, then 100, and capping at 150. Haseo starts off with only dual blades but eventually earns job extensions that allows players to equip other weapons along with a new look. If you’ve already played the games and simply want to experience the story again, you can now use cheat mode to max your stats and level to run through the game as fast as you can. You cannot carry over a save file with cheat mode enabled however, but if you’re maxed out does that really even matter?

The developers did increase the amount of experience you gain, so even without cheat mode, leveling is much easier than it was before. The game’s constant requirement of leaving “The World” to read emails and forums gets old fast though and only serves as a break in-between the games events. Sometimes the game will ask that you log out, read an email which sets up a cutscene, and then asks you to log out again after you watched the cutscene to read more emails. Its aggravating to say the least.

Way back when it debuted on the PS2, I remember thinking how cool “The World” was. In today’s day and age however, it doesn’t quite translate very well. Back when consoles had more limitations, you were put into a world that did it’s best to emulate a small MMO experience within its settings. NPC’s meandered about towns that you could talk and trade with, there was an active forum section to browse through for information, and the dungeons tried to seem lively with monsters to fight. That worked on the PS2. Those things aren’t nearly as interesting now though when played on hardware that’s light years ahead of the original console.

Haseo gets quite a few wardrobe changes.

Thanks to a new coat of paint, the anime styled cutscenes look great and the environments look cleaner, but we still have character models that have blocks for limbs and mouths that don’t move during in-game cutscenes. Again, it’s a JRPG, so expect all the corny voice acting that comes along with the territory. Haseo is surrounded by a host of serious characters, but you’ve got a lot of whiny and quite frankly obnoxiously voiced allies to go along with him. Atoli and Gaspard are some of the first people you meet and they’re not always easy on the ears. Characters also like to repeat objectives, so expect to hear the same line of dialogue parroted back and forth with a good 30 seconds of it being mentioned last.

I have some other minor issues as well, like not being able to disable subtitles and the fact the avatar button command menu is displayed before every fight, but the gameplay overall is fun and the stories are great. It’s worth noting that Volume 4 is a new edition to the series taking place a year after the events of Volume 3. If you do plan on picking up this remaster, I suggest trying to find .Hack//Roots, which is based on Haseo’s time with the Twilight Brigade if you want a little more background on the characters or “The World.” It’s also a plus that you get four games for the price of $49.99, which is a pretty great deal for fans of JRPGs.