.hack//G.U. Trilogy (PS2) 2006, 2007

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.hack//G.U. Trilogy (PS2) 2006, 2007

Postby PikaFiend » Tue Jun 02, 2015 11:58 am

Alright, so this one's a day late and here's why; First, I started writing a review yesterday for a different game, which I will do next week, and realized half way through that these three were next on my list. Then, I finished this review, but due to a forum error, couldn't post it and when I had it copied to my clipboard, I accidentally copied something else before pasting to a Notepad and lost the whole darn thing. But I'm doin' it again, so here we go. Time to take a look at The World R:2!

.hack//G.U. vol. 1 Rebirth, vol. 2 Reminisce and vol. 3 Redemption

"Welcome to, 'The World'." These three games, again, composing one larger, overarching game, were developed by CyberConnect2 and published and localized by Namco Bandai in November 2006, May 2007 and September 2007 respectively. This time around we follow Haseo, The Terror of Death, 3 months after the events of the .hack//Roots anime (Go watch it, it provides lots of backstory), which took place 7 years after the events of the previous games. Our moody, rude hero is hunting the PK known only as Tri-Edge, who is responsible for the comatose state of a dear friend of his. And that is all you'll get out of me!

Gameplay

These three games depart from their predecessors in a lot of ways. These ways begin with the home screen when you're not logged into The World. Although our new home screen is very similar, there are some new functions to look at. First of all, the News Feed. The new News Feed actually contains little video news stories in the style of the anime. Not the least of which is the hilarious "Online Jack! With Salvador Aihara" as he investigates the events of the game in the real world. This provides some extra depth to the games and I, for one, quite enjoy it. Next is the way the e-mails work. In the previous games, once you had enough affection with your party members, they'd e-mail you and that's how you did the e-mail chains. Not so anymore. Now, you must send your party members Greeting Cards, which are limited in quantity and earned through leveling up the Books of Ryu in your guild. There are, IIRC, 12 different Greeting Cards which will become available as you progress through the three games and each starts a different e-mail chain with your characters and has a different affection level requirement before they'll answer it. Finally, we have Crimson Vs. This is a Card Battle sim that you have the option to take part in. You make a deck of four cards, one leader, three support, and duke it out with the game's AI players. To earn new cards, there's a certain Area Word you'll be given eventually, where the chest in the Beast Shrine will contain a card. You will also earn cards just by winning matches. Now, the game plays these automatically over time, so all you have to do is make a good deck and let the good times roll, then check in later to see what you get. Crimson Vs. also serves the function of being able to progress in-game time so that you can just rip through e-mail chains by logging in and out of it. Of course, you need the right amount of affection with your characters to get new e-mails, but if you have it, Crimson Vs. makes it a quicker job.

Now, onward to the towns. Overall, the towns function pretty much the same as the previous games. The notable differences are the quest NPCs and the guild shops. Now, the quest NPCs will all be in the first town throughout all three games, save for one, which you gain access to in Reminisce. By completing the quests to unlock them, you gain the ability to visit their homes and earn rewards for doing various things, such as hunting PKs or kicking Chim Chims (Detailed later in the review). These rewards can be awesome consumables that boost stats, new spell books, great equipment addons, great equipment or, later, better parts for your Steam Bike and depend upon the NPC you get them from. The guild shops are the real draw of the towns. They work like the NPC shops, except for two things: The items are generally way better and they're in limited supply. Every time you log in or come back from a different place, be it a Field, Dungeon or other town, the guild shops will change. First, they are not all active at once, they cycle. Second, their inventory is randomized from a certain list of items. So one time you see...The Trifle clerk, for example, you might find some better equipment, but not be able to afford it at the time. The next time you see that clerk, they will not have the same list of items on sale. Likewise, you get to sell stuff through your own guild shop clerk and earn yourself the big bucks!

The battles. To cover these, first, I need to detail the Fields and Dungeons to set the scene. These are accessed the same way you remember from the first games. You pop some Area Words into the Chaos Gate and a screen comes up telling you the recommended level, what element monsters you'll be facing and what level of items you can expect to find. The Fields and Dungeons come in a few distinct sets. For the Fields, you're looking at two archetypes that change dramatically based on weather conditions and time of day. You'll be able to go to verdant little island chains with clear blue water and wooden bridges separating them or arid, desert like areas with little vegetation and natural land bridges connecting the islands. These will change based on whether it's day, sunset or night, as well as whether it's sunny, rainy or there's a heavy fog in the area. To further diversify the Fields, you'll find that there are two overall types of Fields: Boss Fields and Treasure Fields. In the Boss Fields, you'll be asked to defeat the boss monster lying in wait inside. These can be easy, or real pains, depending on which monsters and boss you get stuck with. Treasure Fields have you collecting a certain set of three Key Items from chests on the map in order to open the Beast Shrine, which contains a chest holding an item that's better than the rest of the ones on the Field.

Now, the Dungeons come in their own flavours too. These are no longer accessible through finding their entrances in Fields, they are completely separated now. So here's what you're facing: Cave Dungeons, Shrine Dungeons, Jungle Dungeons and Tower Dungeons. The Cave and Jungle Dungeons are largely the same, other than appearance. There are subtle differences in the way they're structured, but they're not significant enough to make a big deal of. I will say this though: Jungle contains more trap rooms than Cave or Shrine. Now, the Shrine Dungeons, which look like Japanese mansions, are slightly different, generally having less dead ends, but again, fairly similar. The real departure comes in the Tower Dungeons. These are unique among the four as there are no branching paths. It is simply a spiral path upward, facing enemies and rooms full of goodies along the way. The differences end here. Among all four, you will be running through a varying number of floors in order to reach the Beast Shrine at the end. Usually you will need to defeat a certain number of enemies or a certain enemy party to drop a barrier that prevents you from progressing. These enemies can also be Boss Monsters, so go in prepared for facing something above the rank and file. If you're trying to power level, I would recommend Towers if you can access them. They offer quick, simple routes, with good opportunities to replenish any healing items you might use along the way, and the enemies don't move, so you can avoid them easily in a pinch...For the most part.

Since I'm talking about the areas, I should now talk about the little creatures you can kick to make your life inside easier. These come in three types: Chim Chims, Lucky Animals and Unlucky Animals. The Chim Chims will be your source for progression. Other than being tied two quests, albeit in different ways, they drop Chim Spheres which you'll need for opening doors, unlocking trapped doors and activating certain kinds of teleporters in the Fields and Dungeons. There are five species of Chim Chim, although one is a Redemption post-game species, so don't try to find it until you finish the story of that game. The can drop between 1 and 50 Chim Spheres, depending on the type, or make -you- drop them. Now, the Lucky Animals are a bit more complicated. There are 17 kinds of these little guys, 8 in the Fields and 9 in the Dungeons. Kicking them will net you a wide variety of bonuses, ranging from free money to having your HP and SP doubled for a certain number of battles. It's in your best interest to kick them for quest completion and just making your adventuring life easier. And of course where there is luck, there is bad luck too. The three Unlucky Animals, 2 in Fields and 1 in Dungeons, will try to kick you. If you don't manage to kick them three times first, they will, depending on which you just got owned by, drop your HP and SP by half for a while or steal your hard earned cash. Make sure to get the jump on them, it's not good going into a Boss fight crippled by bad luck.

Now, the battles are where we see a lot more difference between the two sets of games. Previously, you just fought monsters on the overworld. In this trilogy, if you get close enough, you activate a battle area, a finite circle, that will only disperse once the enemies are down. Attacking works the same. You hit X to swing or fire whichever of his eventual four weapons Haseo has equipped and your partners run around usually getting their butts kicked. You can activate Spells from the menu screen or Skills by pressing R1 and selecting the one you want Haseo to execute. If you combo a monster enough, multicoloured rings will float around it, this is your signal to use one of Haseo's skills. Executing a skill on an enemy in that state makes you do a Rengeki attack. It's still the same skill, only it's beefed up a tonne and gives a significant Awakening Gauge boost, as well as a decent increase in affection with your party members. Speaking of which, each party member has different in-battle actions they like, and this will reflect visually by little phrases appearing by their names, which in turn send orbs to fill the Awakening Gauge, that raise their affection more than others. Type 1: Comboing. Certain party members will gain affection through getting 16 hits on an enemy without the combo breaking. Depending on how strong you are and which weapon you have equipped, this can be challenging, but still doable. Type 2: Killing Blows. Some members will want you to let them finish enemies off. If you do, they'll celebrate like they're Kratos and just tore off Zeus' head. Type 3: Critical Healing. Now, all members of the party, no matter who, will get small affection boosts from being healed. But some will gain more if you heal them from near death.

Ignoring that those actions fill your affection with characters, they serve the important function of filling your Awakening Gauge. Once this is filled you'll be able to use your Awakening. This is selected from the menu when you're not in-battle and there are three types, though only one is accessible until mid-Reminisce. Type 1: Beast Awakening. This Awakening is great for quick fixing tough battles, as it stops when everything's dead and doesn't consume the entire gauge, only as much as time has passed. As long as it's active, you will deal massive damage and the enemies will not move. The time goes by quickly though, so make it count. Type 2: Divine Awakening. This is the more complicated of the three types. It involves lots of button presses and factors in your success there, as well as party member affection to determine both the amount of damage you do, and which of the three attacks you'll used. The power is further augmented by which of his weapons Haseo is equipped with at the time. It frustrates me and I've only used it a handful of times. Type 3: Avatar Awakening. The big, bad, boss of the Awakenings. Avatar Awakening makes use of Haseo's Avatar. You and your party will summon it and Data Drain any enemies you're in battle with at the time, which also has the added bonus of sucking Virus Cores out of them, which you'll need later for unlocking certain weapons and buying things at a certain shop. Using it a lot will allow you to beef it up further by leveling it up, like you would with your skills, and even unlocking two higher forms of it. Do this, it's worth it.

Speaking of Avatars, this is a new feature. I won't detail it much because spoilers, but here we go. At certain points as you progress the story, you'll be thrown into Avatar battles. These are quite a bit different from normal battles. A) They're easier to lose and B) The controls differ somewhat. The object here is to take as little damage as possible while dropping your enemy's HP to zero so that you're able to attempt to Data Drain them. This consists of getting up close and slashing them and firing shots until they Shield Break and then doing that for massive damage. It's not going to be easy with some of the enemies, because they don't just sit there and let you kill them. They'll charge at you, shoot at you, try to trap you and even use Data Drain on you. Watch out. Once you do get them down to 0, you get your chance to finish them off. Hold X to charge your Data Drain and avoid the attacks they'll fire off at you. If you fail to hit them with it after about 30 seconds I believe, they gain back 1/4 of their health and you've gotta do it all over again. Have fun with that.

Design

I won't have as much to say about this as I did the gameplay. That having been said, the games are beautiful. From the sunny island fields to the lonely atmospheres of the Lost Grounds, the art team for these games was not being lazy. They're incredibly detailed for the limitations of the PS2, the draw distance is surprisingly far and the palettes they used to bring these places to life were spot on. Mac Anu positively glows in the perpetual twilight, Lumina Cloth makes you feel like you're in Vegas on fight night. I can't say much negative about the appearance of the places in the game. Even the gloomy, fairly monochrome design they used for the foggy Fields is spot on.

The PCs are also well done. We see more diversity this time around than the previous game. None of our party members at all fit into generic archetypes like the other PCs that run around the towns and you can encounter in Fields and Dungeons. The notable exception being a certain subset of PCs that you can only encounter in Field and Dungeons...Or a certain few events in Redemption. They also happen to be some of my favourite characters, because of some of the ridiculous designs (Which is saying a lot, I know, because Piroshi exists and he is as ridiculous as it comes). All in all, great work by the devs.

Sound/Music

First, let me say the voices in this game are wonderful. Leading the way we have Yuri Lowenthal taking over the role of Haseo from Andrew Francis in .hack//Roots. Along the way you'll also be graced by the likes of Johnny Yong Bosch and Crispin Freeman, to name a couple. The casting is absolutely wonderful and I can't commend the casting directors enough for this. They do their jobs well and bring life to the characters that, frankly, was slightly lacking in the anime.

But the real strength is in the music. Because the music in SIGN, IMOQ and Roots was so good and fitting for the world they were creating, if the music for these three games wasn't at least that good, it would've ruined them completely for me. Thankfully, that's not the case. CyberConnect2 once again employs the familiar Celtic feel to most of the music, creating a peaceful atmosphere in Mac Anu, Dol Dona and Breg Epona, as well as in some of the Fields and Dungeons. Those same Fields and Dungeons get a more heavy feel to them with the music, depending on which you go to. There are also the exciting battle themes and the tension charged music of Lumina Cloth to give you what you need in that area. And, of course, your more ridiculous theme songs (I'm once again looking at you, Piroshi, and you, Mecha Grunty) to add fun and whimsy to the game. However, where perfection comes from, is the emotional cutscenes. These are greeted with music that conveys the perfect levels of sadness, somberness, pain, loss and even happiness. I have no words to describe how much I love songs like Carl's Theme and Gentle Hands. They're absolutely beautiful.

Summary/Overall

So, you've listened to me muse about 7 games that are at the very top of my favourites list. If you want an emotionally charged, rich, deep story that'll tug at your heart strings (I have shed at least one extremely manly tear playing these) and don't mind a bit of grinding here and there, these games are for you. The controls are simple, easy to pick up and smooth. There's enough humour involved to offset the high running emotions felt by Haseo and his companions and graphically, they're wonderful. I would love to say something bad about these games, but my bias prevents me from doing so. They're everything I ever want in an RPG.

So, I want to thank you for taking this unobjective journey with me, into games I love so dearly and encourage you to leave your comments or criticisms if you have any. Next week, since I started writing my review for it because of forgetfulness, we will take a journey into the misadventures of Yangus and the Gov he swore his life to. See you then!
"Insanity is just a state of mind." ~ Capt. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce
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