.hack Part 1: Infection
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Bandai
Developer
Bandai
Genre
RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mature Sexual Themes, Mild Language, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Extra DVD
• Refreshing story
• Great character models

The Bad

• Short story time
• Bland textures

 
Grade
B+

When I first heard about this game I wasn't too excited because I didn't know very much about it. The more I knew, the more interested I became. .hack//Infection Part 1 is the first volume in a four volume collection of games that tell one overall story. The story takes place in the near future, 2007 to be exact, and the cast are all members of an online MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game). The game itself is off-line, so nothing other than a PS2 is required to play.

The protagonist is a 14 year old 8th grader by the name of Kite (you'll have the option of changing his name from the beginning). Without spoiling much of the story, what happens is that Kite's real life schoolmate, Yasuhiko, invites Kite to play the very popular MMORPG "The World." Yasuhiko, whose online name is Orca, teaches Kite the basic tutorials at the beginning of the game to get you acquainted. The two of you set out in a newbie dungeon for your first dungeon crawling adventure when you notice a ghostlike girl being chased by a grimreaper-like figure when you both go to investigate. Orca tries his luck at defeating the grimreaper-like figure with no luck and is attacked with a strange type of spell that kills his character. Just before the grimreaper-like figure kills your character you are automatically transported back to what's known as the Root Town. Throughout the rest of the game you and your allies try to uncover the mysteries of "The World." The story can get a little slow at times but don't really expect too much just yet until the next volume hits the shelves.

The battle system is a very similar to Phantasy Star Online and Kingdom Hearts, meaning it's real-time. It also reminds me of Grandia 2 because of the dungeon crawling. At the beginning of the game you get a unique ability called "Data Drain". What Data Drain does is when you fight an enemy and get his HP down low enough you'll see "Protect Break" pop up and once you use Data Drain it will cause the enemy's level to decrease making him easier to kill. It also allows you to extract things that are called "Virus Cores" that are used for Gate Hacking. Be careful not to use Data Drain too much otherwise the chances of your stats lowering increases and it could possibly result in a Game Over. Gate Hacking allows the player to go to a restricted area of the server that the Admins do not allow mainly because of instabilities. You will be forced to do this a few times throughout the game to proceed with the story. Just like in any other MMORPG, there is money to be gained through selling items, weapons, and spell scrolls. One sidequest includes raising "Grunties", which are like donkeys. You can gather talking fruits and feed the grunty until it becomes an adult and use them in the game's field for faster travel or to avoid battles. Hack//Infection really feels like an online game because it allows you to read threads on the message board, which also gives you clues, keywords, and tips and the characters run around with chat bubbles around their heads. The game does not allow you to add any member of "The World" to your member address, only key characters, but it does allow you to trade with every character. You can trade to obtain better weapons, armor, items, etc. For the key characters you can do the same as well as the give gifts. The more items, weapons, armor that you give to them, the higher their affection level grows for you. Affection doesn't affect the storyline but it's more of a side quest for when you finish the game. When you log off of "The World" you are brought back to your virtual computer desktop that allows you to use the following options:

The World - Allows you to log on to the game.
Mailer - You can check your email here and reply. Good for getting a little background info on characters.
News - Check here to see what's new with the game's real world issues.
Accessory - You can change your desktop image here.
Audio - Allows you to view cutscenes and listen to BGMs.
Data - This allows you to save your game. Requires 685kb and gives you 12 save spaces in the game. The saved games will be transferable to Volume 2, but not vice-versa. Same goes for Volume 2 to 3, and 3 to 4.

You can acquire new movies, audio files, and images by acquiring "Book of Ryu" which comes in 8 volumes. They each record a different aspect of the game (i.e. one records characters' affection level, another records battles fought, and so forth). The game's downside is that the main story is only about 20 hours for the average gamer, but you can make it as long as you like if you decide to finish all of the sidequests. That is understandable however, considering its only 1/4 of an overall story.

The music is not too shabby. I found myself humming the tune of Mac Anu (Root Town) a few times. The voice acting is done well but could have been better. In some instances the voices seemed too dull and lifeless and in others it seemed to be perfect for the mood. I like Kite's voice - I think the English VA (Voice Actor) did a good job with him. The game allows you to switch between the English and Japanese voice track which was a great idea considering a lot of people prefer the Japanese voice actors. The sound effects are done nicely and are very crisp and clear. In fact, maybe a little too crisp, because the footsteps needed to be softened a little like when you're running on concrete. It just sounds a little too loud, but at least you can tamper with the sound effects option. :)

The character models are very well done. The facial expressions impressed me the first time I played. The characters have an anime look that I think the developers were trying to pull off and they did a good job. The battlefields are vast but some of the textures (like the ground) look too bland and flat even though there a slight hills. The atmosphere of the towns and battle fields are nice. We see fog; we see the game's coding when you go through hacked gates, etc. We all know that in most MMORPGs, the character's clothes change when new armor is equipped, but Bandai didn't include that for some reason. It also has a nice draw-distance effect. The graphics definitely leave room for improvement but they are still good overall.

This game comes with an OVA (Original Video Animation) DVD called Hack//Liminality Part 1:in the case of Mai Minase that tells the story of what's going on in the real world at around the same time the game is going on. The OVA takes place when you get around 75% done with the story. The story revolves around a middle school girl named Mai Minase. She and her friend Tomanari play "The World" and they both fall into a coma but only Mai wakes up. She and Mr. Tokuoka then investigate what happened and why people are falling into comas over this game. The DVD, like the game, allows you to switch between the English and Japanese voice tracks which is really cool. The DVD is 45 minutes long and it also comes in 4 volumes like the game. If you want to more about Hack you can check out the Hack//SIGN anime show on Cartoon Network or buy the DVD. Also you can check for upcoming Hack (non-game) installations.

- - Fox the Sly

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