For years now I feel like I’ve been saying “how come there’s no HD collection of the .hack games” and finally we have just that, kind of. So to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the .hack franchise the .hack//G.U. trilogy returns fully restored in 1080p and 60fps… wait, what?!
I feel like this move is both great and not so great. Firstly, Europe has never had a release of any of the GU trilogy of games so that’s great as I get to enjoy them for the first time. Secondly, I’m rather disappointed that this isn’t the original series of games as those are what I want to re-experience in HD. Plus wouldn’t it make more sense that way and then release this GU trilogy a little later?
If your not familiar with the .hack franchise and haven’t played the first series of games I wouldn’t worry too much about it. While the franchise is a deeply inter-media woven story that I recommend experiencing it would take a lot of time and effort to do so and I would assume that this trilogy could be played in a standalone manner and still have an understandable and enjoyable story.
That said, I do have a long history with the franchise and actually found this trilogy to be a little lacklustre in comparison. The premise, as with most of the franchise is deeply intriguing but GU doesn’t seem to capitalise on it all that well. Maybe it’s just nostalgia as honestly, I haven’t consumed any .hack media in many years. The protagonist Haseo is a very interesting character though and for reasons that I’m sure fans of the franchise will understand I’m not going to spend much time talking about. If however, you do want to learn more about his character then again I recommend starting at the very beginning, you won’t be disappointed.
Having not played the trilogy when it was originally released on PlayStation 2 due to it not being available in Europe I can’t fully compare it to this new remaster. I can, however, compare it to the original series and wow what a difference. The Last Recode is sleek and sharp, the team at CyberConnect2 have really spared no effort when it comes to bringing this trilogy up to modern gaming standards. It makes me wish for a remaster of the original series even more. I will say though that while it certainly looks great I feel like it’s lost the charm the original series had. I don’t know if this was evident in the PlayStation 2 versions but the general design and look of the game aren’t as appealing, dungeons especially.
The gameplay is mostly the same, you play a character playing an MMO and so you’ll spend a lot of time jumping in and out of that game, The World, to check emails and message boards etc… It does feel a little tedious I’ll be honest when jumping in and out of menus especially compared to more recent games of a similar style. The battle system is simple and will have you mashing the X button a lot but you can also bring out some skills when needed. There has been some tweaking to balance the battle system as well as other areas of the game and most of it is very welcome though it does make the game feel a little on the easy side.
Actually, as part of the remaster the developers have even included a built-in cheat mode allowing you to max out your character’s stats from the outset. The thought behind this was to give players the chance to just enjoy the story without the challenge which is a great option especially for those who have already completed the games in the past, but why not add harder difficulty options alongside that?
If there’s one thing this release does right it’s the massive amount of content included. Not only do you get the GU trilogy that will easily keep you occupied for a very long time there’s also brand new content to play through alongside new cutscenes and much more. All in all, it might not have been the return to .hack that I had wanted but it definitely scratches that big itch I’ve been having. With three previously unreleased games (in Europe) and more than just little extra content, it’s hard to complain. Hopefully, this will also mean more and possibly new .hack games in the near future.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode brings a beloved franchise into a new generation with improved graphics, polished gameplay and extra content. Fans of the franchise will definitely want to dive back into this deeply intriguing story and European players will no doubt be excited at the chance to finally play the GU trilogy for the first time.
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Games