just might be one of the best and most unusual RPGs to come
to North America in several years. For those who are unfamilar
with .hack, it has the unusual feature of simulating an MMORPG
within a RPG.
.hack follows the story of Kite, a 14 year old boy, and his friend, Orca,
as they play an online game called The World.
While playing, they are attacked by a monster and Orca is left
in a comatose state. Believing that the key to reviving his
friend lies within The World, Kite continues playing.
When starting .hack, players are presented with a typical
MMORPG interface. Among the options are email, message boards,
and of course, the game. Kite can receive email from other
players of The World, and participate in mass discussions
on the message boards. Of course, the real action in .hack
is located within playing the virtual online game.
Upon entering the game, the player is brought to a town where
they can meet up with other players to form teams of three
for exploring the randomly generated dungeons. Before leaving
for the dungeon, the player is prompted to choose from 3 different
options which will influence the difficulty and
size of the dungeon.
Once in the dungeon, the party explores just like any
other RPG. Combat is handled like typical action RPGs, with
the main player running up to enemy to attack or attacking
from a distance with magic. Meanwhile, the other players
are controlled by the AI, in order to add to the feeling of
participating in an MMORPG. However, the combat of
.hack is the only weak point. The range of physical attacks
appears to be quite limited, forcing Kite to be extremely close
to the enemy before he can attack.
Graphically, .hack looks quite pleasing, with a distinctive
anime feel. Which stands to reason as the character designer,
Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, is also the character designer for Evangelion
and the storyline is by Kazunori Ito, the writer for Ghost
in the Shell and Patlabor. As an added bonus, .hack will
come with a 40 minute anime show, which follows a storyline similar
to that of .hack, but set in the offline world.
The audio that could be heard on the show floor was acceptable,
but nothing memorable. With a nod to purists, Bandai
has given the player the option of English or Japanese voice
Overall, .hack provides an oasis of uniqueness in a desert
of similar and bland, repetitive RPGs. If the final product
can live up to the expectations created by the early demos,
.hack should provide RPGamers with hours of entertainment come