Videogame otaku and RPG fans mark
this in your book: "Get .hack." Thats "dot hack," a new action
RPG from Bandai. But this is not your typical action RPG. In a major turn towards blurring
the line between reality and fantasy, .hack centers around a massively multiplayer online
roleplaying game (MMORPG) called The World. Of course, there is no real MMORPG called The
World, and .hack does not utilize the soon-to-be online capabilities of the PS2. Its
a wonderfully bizarre premise, and with a strong grounding in A-list anime production, it
could be the coolest RPG to hit the market this year.
To lay all this out, lets begin
with the real world. .Hack is an anime series in Japan. Actually, as things tend to go
over there, it goes by a few names, including .hack//Sign and hack project. The anime
features characters designed by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, of Evangelion fame, and the story is
by Kazunori Ito, who wrote Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor. The anime series centers
around The World, a fictional MMORPG. Everything was all hunky-dory in The World until
some strange stuff started happening.
about all you need to know before you dig into .hack on your PS2. The protagonist of the
game is a fourteen year old boy named Kite who plays The World with his friend, Orca. Orca
is a famous player on The World and very powerful. Still, what with all the craziness
going on in the game, Orca ends up being put into a coma. (From some of the synopses
Ive read of the series this isnt such an unusual thing. Thats how
strange this virtual MMORPG has gotten.) Kite, unable to just let his friend waste away,
enters The World in hopes of saving Orca. Along the way Kite runs into Aura who gives him
the Twilight, which apparently endows Kite with amazing powers capable of doing serious
damage to the real person playing the game.
.hack is very story-oriented, and it utilizes a lot of anime cutscenes to convey the
narrative. You can also choose to hear the voice-overs in either English or Japanese,
which is just another example of how Bandai is really catering to the anime enthusiast
with .hack. For years weve been clamoring to allow us to play games with subtitles.
In addition, Bandai is including an extra DVD disc with the game. The DVD features a 40
minute original video animation (OVA) that tells a side-story to the games plot. Mai
and Tomonari are playing The World when both lose consciousness. Mai recovers and, in a
move very similar to Kites, must work to figure out the mysteries of The World in
order to save her friend. This extra movie fleshes out the world of The World even more.
standard action RPG gameplay with a whole bunch of other stuff. Youll interface with
the game (which is the "real world" for Kite and his friends) and The World
interchangeably. Youll have to read email, hang out in chat rooms, interact with
other players in The World, etc. By interacting with other players (of course, these are
all non-player characters) you collect clues that will help you progress and open up new
areas of The World to explore. All of this skipping from reality to reality leads to some
innovative and energetic gameplay.
writing about .hack is somewhat engrossing. The levels of fantasy are staggering, and the
whole concept lends itself to some serious contemplation of just how topsy-turvy a game
can get. Bandai has a remarkable track record with anime (Cowboy Bebop, yall), and
theyve sunk a lot into .hack. After reading so many good reviews of the Japanese
anime series and seeing .hack in action at E3, I dont have a problem expecting a lot
from this game. Its no wonder that there are already four installments of the series
planned for Japan. Although only the first installment has been announced for the US,
its no doubt that well see more, especially if the game is as big of a hit as
I suspect it will be.
The World gets a little less stable this October.