In our modern golden age of video game storytelling, I find that RPGs are better than ever. However, in the early 2000’s, the first golden age of RPGs (which started in the early 90’s) had not QUITE met its end and provided quite a few hidden gems on the PlayStation 2 that many people probably missed. .hack//G.U. Last Recode is an HD Revamping of one such set of hidden gems in the Project .hack multimedia series that in my opinion was a bit ahead of its time when it originally released.
Project .hack (also sometimes referred to as dot hack) began in 2002 and was a multimedia series of games, anime, novels, and manga all centered around “The World”, a massively multiplayer online game that has a matrix-esque connection with those who play it. The World has become so popular that a new form of sport has sprung up in which “Player Killers” kill other players. When some Player Killers kill other players, it can cause them to fall into a coma. It is important to note that Project .hack began 6 years before Sword Art Online was created, so fans of the Sword Art Online series should not disregard this as a mere “ripoff” of the popular anime.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode is a revamp of the second series of .hack games, the .hack//G.U series. It contains .hack//G.U Vol. 1//Rebirth, .hack//G.U Vol. 2//Reminisce, .hack//G.U Vol. 3//Redemption and an all-new fourth chapter that has never been released called .hack//G.U Vol 4//Reconnection. The .hack//G.U. series puts you in the role of Haseo, a player of The World that goes on a journey to hunt a player killer known as Tri-Edge. Haseo is vengeful as this killer has caused Haseo’s friend Shino to fall into a coma.
This remastered version improves movement speed outside of battles to make exploration easier, a lowering of overall game difficulty as well as increased damage to enemies, increased EXP gain for faster leveling, reduced stun time for a better flowing battle experience and much more. On top of all of that, .hack//G.U. Last Recode has been visually enhanced to play flawlessly in 1080p at 60 FPS. At the start of your adventure, you have the option of playing the game normally, or in the all-new “cheat mode”, which maxes your stats and gives you the best equipment so that you can focus more on the story and not worry about the grinding. This is really only recommended if you’ve already experienced the first three volumes of the game before, as it makes things incredibly easy.
Along the journey, Haseo encounters other players who wish to stop Tri-Edge and uncovers the root of why the players “killed” fall into a coma. It is also important to point out that in .hack//G.U. Last Recode, there is a “terminal disc” function on the main menu that allows you to watch videos that explain elements of the first .hack trilogy of games so that you are aware of information and context that you may not understand if you’ve never played the series before.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode mostly takes place in “The World”, but there is a secondary portion of the game that takes place in emails, news websites, and forums on Haseo’s computer. Using these systems you are able to learn more about what is going on in the real world outside of Haseo’s virtual struggles, while also learning more details about the different factions and lore to expand upon Haseo’s storyline. Using email, Haseo can also contact or be contacted by friends and foes he meets in The World.
Most of the game’s events take place either in the hub world Eternal Mac Anu or in dungeons. Dungeons are found by putting “area words” together at a chaos gate to reach new destinations. When exploring in dungeons, Haseo and his party members can surprise enemies in the world, initiating combat and even sometimes getting a surprise hit on the enemy team. Upon initiating contact with enemies, a circular arena appears. Inside the arena, Haseo and his party have free movement and can initiate combo attacks at your leisure using the attack button. You can also utilize the “skill trigger”, which is a menu that allows you to map Haseo’s various skills to an action button, and unleash them on your enemies on the fly. If an enemy has a blue or purple aura around them, you can unleash an even more powerful skill called a Rengeki attack, which amps up the power of the skill you use.
As you fight in a dungeon, your morale bar will increase, allowing you to eventually unleash Awakening abilities once it is full. Awakening abilities do a variety of things, from increasing party stats to performing devastating attacks. You gain new awakening abilities as you progress through the game, so sometimes it is helpful to change awakening abilities depending on your needs. Party members can be assigned individual “Strategies” to dictate how they act in battle, you can further customize each member’s skills and equipment so that you are prepared for any situation.
Inside .hack//G.U. Last Recode’s many dungeons, you will find Chim Chims, which power steam mechanisms. It is important to collect as many chim-chims as you can so that you can explore the dungeons to their fullest extent and be sure that you are properly leveling your party and getting all the treasure a dungeon offers. This game can be fairly grindy, but the combat and gameplay is rather fun so I can’t really complain too much.
There is a ton of content in .hack//G.U. Last Recode, and you are essentially getting four games for the price of one. Four stories that tell you Haseo’s story, with side quests, deep progression, and a ton of lore to sink your teeth into and will keep you busy for (by my own estimation) 60-100 hours depending on how deep you dive into the completionist aspects of the game.
A cool thing to note is that since each game carries on the story, you can import your character data from the previous game you just finished into the next volume as you start it. The only downside to this is that since the previous .hack series (the original trilogy) did not come to Steam as well, there is no way to import your data from it into Last Recode.
There is far too much in this remastered compilation of games for me to detail every mechanic and gameplay element in this review, but I can tell you that if you have experienced any of Project .hack thus far (whether it was back on the PS2, or just by watching the anime), you will most likely enjoy Last Recode. If you haven’t experienced it yet, and want to enjoy a good series of action RPGs from the PS2 era remastered and given a modern coat of paint, you are in for a treat.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode isn’t a perfect game; the combat (while solid) can get clunky in places, the sound effects can get a bit annoying and the AI isn’t the best it could be, but overall I am very pleased by what CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco have done with bringing Project .hack to PC. The graphics are beautiful in HD, the gameplay is fun, and you get four action-RPG experiences in one sci-fi package. With the holidays coming up, I doubt you’ll find Last Recode on sale, but if you have a little extra cash and want to splurge on that special someone who likes anime, sci-fi, or action-RPG’s, you can’t go wrong with this game.
A Steam Review Copy of .hack//G.U. Last Recode was provided by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.