Anyone who knows me personally, or has followed me through my times in the gaming news world, knows that I am a huge fan of the .hack series. If you watch anime, than you probably know of the .hack series. While some of you fans who watched Toonami before it brought back last year, might know about .hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet, or maybe the lesser known .hack//Roots, but back in 2003, the most famous of the series aired called .Hack//Sign. Most people who tried to get into the anime had trouble understanding just what was going on. Tom (the host of Toonami) did some game reviews of video games that targeted the Toonami audience and one was called .Hack//Infection. He even said that this game would help put some of the missing pieces of the puzzle that was ongoing in .Hack//Sign together so it made sense to what was actually going on.
.Hack//Infection actually takes place right after the .hack//Sign series in which you play as a character named Kite who is introduced by Orca (a famous character in the game as well has one of his best friends) to an MMORPG called The World. While going through the basics of the game, you and Orca go into a dungeon and witness a ghost being chased by a monster, but Orca doesn’t recognize either of the characters, and as you go through the dungeon, no monsters are appearing, so Orca knows that something is up. After you both go down to the end of the dungeon, you run into a room that actually isn’t suppose to be part of the game, in which the girl is put on a staff by the monster and is attacked by a magic force on the monster. Orca goes to fight it, but it evades attacks and none of his attacks work. He is captured by the monster and suffers the same fate as the girl, the monster than targets you, and before the monster has time to do anything to you, the game starts to static, the room rumbles, and then you are logged out with the game flashing on your screen..SYSTEM ERROR. Come to find out the game crashed, not only that but Orca in the real world was put into a coma. While doctors can’t figure out what exactly caused it, you soon learn that other people start entering real life comas as well, and all of them have one thing in common, they were all playing The World. So you’re mission to keep playing the game to find out what’s really going on and to help Orca, while meeting some other interesting characters along the game.
I realize that some of you might be a little confused already, but I’ll try to help by saying that it’s a game within a game. Unless you have some basic knowledge of the anime, you won’t totally understand. I’m trying to do my best without giving away any plot details, but this is usually the thing that confuses everybody and as you keep the playing the game you start to understand more.
One of the things that I always though made this game stand out was that it felt like you were really playing an MMORPG, without actually being hooked up to the internet (and not paying $15 buck a month subscription). Whenever you want to go to a world, it will have a marked list of ones to continue the storyline, but you can also enter random worlds and access them. For example, when you enter random worlds from the Root Town, it will tell you the level the area is, what type of environment of landscaping, if there is a dungeon, along with several other things. Another thing that blew my mind back than was that after you beat the storyline, it had something called the Data Flag, what this did was that when you wanted to Play part 2 of the series (Did you notice that in the Title?), you could transfer the file directly to the next game, so you don’t lose your coins, items, etc. Keep in mind that this game came out in 2003 and at the time, I had never seen anything like this at all. The later parts were released about every 4 months or so and this series ended up having 4 parts. Most players quit after this game, which makes the later parts of the game hard to find as only fans of the series, or players who just wanted to finish the series wanted them. I actually had cash set aside for 3 years just in case I found a copy of .Hack//Quarantine Part 4. This game was so hard to find, that even Gamestop had this game for $50 bucks even though it was 5 years old. This is also the only series in which I have purposely bought multiple copies of the games for no reason other than to collect them. I even bought the Official Soundtrack for crying out loud from an FYE.
This series really does hold a special place in my heart, I still go back and watch the animes, as well as the animated movies, and books they are still popping out 10 years later. There is still a hardcore fanbase for this series, even though it’s not nearly as big as the one in Japan. This game to me is one of the last great JRPGs I have played in recent years. The only thing that does bug me about this part of the series, was some of the voice acting. It seems like they recycle the same voice actors for a lot of animes. At least they did better a few years later with the .Hack//G.U. games.
Just like the Sega Saturn, while most people saw this as a turd in the punchbowl, I saw it as something completely different. I still go back and play this game on my PS2 from time to time, and I still enjoy it just as much as I did back then. This game may belong in the Gaming Graveyard to some, but I would personally have this in my Gaming Hall of Fame.