Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

.hack//Infection //Mutation //Outbreak //Quarantine (2003)

Genre: RPG  |  Players: 1  |  Developer: CyberConnect2

There is a game, an MMORPG known as 'The World', which has caused a small number of players to fall into a coma. The game’s creators attempt to hush the situation, but the scandal breaks. Despite the danger, a young boy named Kite selflessly enters the game to help his friend Orca, one of the coma victims. Kite believes the answer to the mystery lies within 'The World' itself. He's a hero, but he doesn't know it yet; it’s up to you to guide him to his destiny.

You’ll be accompanied in the early stages by a female player called BlackRose; she plays a crucial part in the drama that unfolds. Together they hunt for a solution to the problem and make a few friends along the way. By the end of the adventure you’ll have many people to call upon to form your party of three. You can swap them in and out between missions… if they're available.

The .hack games present one lengthy story split over four titles. They're a traditional JRPG but resemble an MMORPG that remains one-hundred percent offline. You've a desktop with changeable wallpaper, simulated news updates, a message board that directs you to new areas and even an email client to receive mail from the players you meet in-game. The illusion is maintained by having each character display a message box above their head and attend to personal errands when not in your party. The illusion is only broken when you activate FMV sequences that advance the story, but it’s a welcome intrusion.

Character classes are typical of the RPG genre: swords, axes, magic users etc, so choosing a party is a simple and logical process.

You’re able to transfer game data to each new title so you won’t lose your EXP or inventory, which will be extensive. Weapons aren't customisable, but there are many different kinds, each adding to or reducing your default stats and/or granting new abilities, all of which you'll need.

Happily, levelling-up isn't the endless grind it can be in similar titles. It’s possible to gain levels very quickly if you dare to enter the more dangerous areas.

There's a LOT of gameplay for the JRPG fan. I logged over 130 hours, but I went to many places that aren't necessary while hunting for trade items.

Before you begin, I recommend printing 3 copies of THIS PDF (hosted on MF) to log the level of each item in each character's inventory; it'll make your life simpler.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for PS2 only. Each of the four games include a dvd that contains one unique episode of the .hack//Liminality series (see Nut Box for a review). Each episode takes place concurrently with each game, meaning events in the anime collide with story of the game at crucial moments.

4 trips to Δ Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground out of 5

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