I was in my teens when I first played .hack// (which, at the time, I just called “hack”). I had avoided the series for years for no particular reason, but a high school friend of mine told me I had to play it. One summer during my youth, I picked up .hack//G.U. Volume 1: Rebirth, and I never went back. Well, that is, until today, when I returned to the online game “The World” in the PlayStation 4 remaster of the .hack//G.U. trilogy of games: .hack//G.U. Last Recode.
The story of .hack//G.U. revolves around Haseo, a new player to The World v2—the second version of the MMORPG from the first series of .hack// games. This version of The World was created after the first version was shut down at the end of the first series due to the trouble it caused in the real world. When he is PK’d (net slang for “player killed,” meaning players killing other players within the game) by some mean players, he is saved by Ovan, a mysterious gun-wielding character who brings him into his guild, the Twilight Brigade. There, Haseo meets Shino, a gentle and mature young woman whom he falls in love with.
However, things are thrown into hell when Shino is attacked by Tri-Edge, a player surrounded in mystery who has the ability to put players he kills into a coma, and leaves behind a three-pronged mark as a calling card. Losing the love of his life in both the virtual and real world (as well as his respected leader figure Ovan, who disappeared a while before Shino’s attack), Haseo swears revenge and becomes obsessed with gaining power. This leads him to become the feared player “The Terror of Death.” However, his search for Tri-Edge and a way to save Shino only starts to really unfold when he is thrown back to level one due to a strange bug and he meets new comrades who might be able to help him save Shino, as well as his heart that has been left in pieces.
As a game, .hack//G.U. Last Recode is essentially the same game with a graphical update. Since the original games were released on the PlayStation 2, the difference in graphics on the PlayStation 4 is obvious. From the clarity of the textures, the speed and fluidity of the movements of the characters, and the revamped text and menus, it is certainly a lot easier to play. While the previous games had kind of a foggy look, Last Recode is very crisp. Unfortunately, this also shows the original games’ age. Some characters—like IYOTEN and Asta—don’t move their lips when talking even in rendered cinematic scenes, despite the fact that Haseo’s lips do move. And, while the textures have been updated, features on the characters like noses and hair can be a bit boxy.
But the game doesn’t just get a graphical update. From the beginning, players can choose between English and Japanese voice tracks. While not available in the demo for the game, Last Recode also features a completely new chapter titled “Reconnection” that takes place after the end of the original trilogy. It will also have a “Cheat Mode” that allows players who have already played the games (or haven’t and are just lazy) to max out a number of stats, including a lot of the stats that require tons and tons of grinding to get up to high levels like party member affection. This gives the player the chance to enjoy the story without having to do tons of grinding. But with the grinding being so fun—therapeutic, really—I hesitate to use the feature. It is tempting, though.
Overall, Last Recode seems to be a very clean, easy-to-access collection of the trilogy containing Haseo’s journey from destruction to redemption that is perfect for both old fans of the series, as well as newcomers.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode will be available in Japan for the PlayStation 4 on November 1, and in North America and Europe on November 3. It will also be available on the Steam platform. .hack//Roots–the anime prologue to .hack//G.U. featuring Haseo, Shino, and the other members of the Twilight Brigade–is available to watch now on Crunchyroll.