.hack//IMOQ (PS2) 2003, 2004

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.hack//IMOQ (PS2) 2003, 2004

Postby PikaFiend » Mon May 25, 2015 9:18 pm

Well, it's Monday again, so that means review time. As hinted last week, I will be covering the .hack games next. As a preface, I will be covering Infection, Mutation, Outbreak and Quarentine as a single game, due to the fact that they technically are. I will be doing the same for the G.U. series next week. So, let's get into it, shall we?

.hack//Infection, Mutation, Outbreak and Quarentine (IMOQ)

The .hack series of games starts as a direct sequel to the anime, .hack//SIGN. They were released months apart throughout 2003 and in January of 2004 in North America, developed by CyberConnect2 and released by Namco Bandai. Our story across the four games follows a player new to The World, Kite, and begins with his first dungeon adventure as he's accompanied by his friend Orca. They happen upon the Goddess Aura being chased by the first Cursed Wave, Skeith, the Terror of Death. This is where our adventure truly begins and I stop talking about the story of the game.

Gameplay

First of all, combat, since it's the main gameplay mechanic of the game. The combat system in these games is somewhat unique to these games. You could probably find similar systems in other games, for instance Rune Factory, but nothing exact. In Fields and Dungeons, monsters essentially spawn from portals. If you don't get too close, you can avoid them entirely, other than scripted battles of course. But why would you want to? Monsters give experience and drop important things like healing items, equipment and spell items you can use to conserve SP. Since it is an open world, action oriented RPG, rather than a traditional console style JRPG, you have to get up close and personal with your enemies and actively press buttons to execute skills and combos. This is typically easiest to do with a full three person party instead of soloing with Kite alone. The monsters themselves will vary in size, shape and tactics. Some are more magic oriented and want to stay back a bit to avoid having their spells interrupted and they can be a huge pain. But, they are nothing compared to enemies later on that will require the use of Kite's Twilight Bracelet to even damage. Watch out for these guys and make sure you get in a few fights between them if you can, otherwise you significantly increase your chances to die.

Beyond the combat system is simply moving around. I have to say, that there are no big problems here. Movement is responsive and navigating any part of the game is made slightly easier due to having camera control and the angles you're able to use being good for their purpose. Moving between Fields, Dungeons and Towns is a bit more complicated. In order to move between Towns, you must first have access to their servers. This only happens as you progress through the series. From the gates that allow you to transfer between towns, you also have the option to generate Fields and Dungeons with Area Words. These are obtained through getting certain rank evaluations from going through other Fields and Dungeons of various enemy levels and by obtaining quests, either from your party members, system e-mails or the forums. The Area Words will determine the level of enemy you'll face, what their likely elemental attributes will be and even what items and equipments can be found inside. It is in your best interest to collect any and all of these, to allow the greatest access to the game.

I would like to cover the Grunty system as well, but I've forgotten most of the details about it, so if you want to know about this fun little side activity, sorry, I can't help you right now. Now then, that said, there's one other aspect of gameplay I'd like to note: The NPCs. Now, in most games, NPCs will offer, for the most part, just throwaway dialogue meant to fill space and keep things lively. However, since The World is an MMO and you're playing in it, the NPCs are going to function as one of your best sources for good items and equipments via the trading system. The majority of the time, what the NPCs are carrying will be far better than what the game's shops have, though unlike the stores, in limited quantity. Take advantage of these people, you'll need their stuff. I have to say that this is one of my favourite mechanics of the games, granting access to really good stuff, really early, if you're willing to grind a little to get things to trade with them.

Design

These games contain a really clever and well executed mix of steam punk, fantasy and high tech settings. You'll find yourself traversing gorgeous, albeit mostly inaccessible, cities and towns ranging from Mac Anu's somewhat European looking aesthetic, to Netslum's post-apocalyptic junk yard of misfit programs. They provide a wonderfully diverse set of visual stimuli. The Fields and Dungeons also offer their own brands of diversity. Be it the desert fields with Oases (Certain ones functioning as a great source of high level equipments), or the snowscapes, or the volcanic caverns, or ruined sky castles, you shouldn't really find yourself wanting for a change of pace and setting.

Visually, you'll also be greeted by quite a large cast of character models. There's an enormous list of monster archetypes to run into, as well as bosses that look simplistic, but **** if they don't some times get frustrating. Your party members will also offer at least a small escape from the generic Player Character models, with more unique palettes or, big green knights with bowl cuts that will become even more ridiculous eventually (I'm looking at you, Piroshi).

Sound/Music

As with other CyberConnect2 games, the music is well done to fit the vast array of situations you'll find yourself in across the games. They employ a somewhat Celtic feel, staying true to the anime series, to give the game's various settings the appropriate whimsy and emotional cues. The pace and feel of the music will vary a fair bit between Fields, Dungeons, Towns and the game's cutscenes. It's a great way to help people immerse themselves into these games within a games, if the music works on you like it does me.

The voice acting is also top notch. The whole .hack series of animes and games brings you into contact with lots of well known voice actors with huge credits to their names. I'm not going to say who, because honestly, I can't remember who did work on which series and not others, but suffice it to say, some of my favourites are here and they don't disappoint on the quality of their performances.

Overall/Summary

So, after this swimming review, you might find yourself wondering if I have criticisms. Well, yes, I do, but most of them would involve spoilers and I'm determined not to put those into my reviews. Apart from those, my criticisms are few and far between. The biggest one is mostly for the later games and their overuse of certain enemy types just because of the sheer amount of times they resulted in me getting Game Overs because Kite overheated. But, it's easy to overlook most of the less convenient parts of these games if, like me, you love the series. Be it the music, the feel of it or the few returning characters you'll encounter, if you're not new to .hack, you should enjoy these games. If you are new to it, I highly recommend watching .hack//SIGN before popping Infection in and starting your game, for a bit of extra background. If you're really interested, you might also see if you can get your hands on the novels that also precede these in the .hack timeline, but they're less necessary for understanding when you start out.

With IMOQ out of the way, next week I will dig into the G.U. games, and happily so. Until then, I hope you found this informative and feel free to leave some comments or criticisms.
"Insanity is just a state of mind." ~ Capt. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce
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Re: .hack//IMOQ (PS2) 2003, 2004

Postby Jupiter Knight » Tue May 26, 2015 11:07 am

I had a friend who loved this game series. He said some of the bosses could be very frustrating to fight. But yes, he said it was a very good game. Too bad they were never ported over to PS3. :(
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