.hack//Mutation - Review

Always on the way...
By: Solon

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 9
   Music & Sound 7
   Originality 9
   Story & Plot 7
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Completion Time 15-20 Hours  

The field names just keep getting weirder
The field names just keep getting weirder

   Another three months has passed, and it's time for the second part of the .hack series. Only this time, it's called .hack//Mutation. This is the second part in the series, and two more parts are to be released, the third in September and the fourth in December this year. I had high hopes for this sequel... and in one way, it was a success. But unfortunately, there are some really unnecessary flaws in this title.

   Battles and overall system is exactly the same in //Mutation as it was in the first game. To be honest, there are absolutely no changes at all here. Even many of the bosses are the same as seen in the first part of the series. I can't honestly say that this was unexpected though, as only 3 months has passed since the first title was released. Also, //Mutation starts only one day has passed in the game since //Infection ended.

   If you want a closer look into the battle system, check out my review on .hack//infection. The only change that I noticed was that the AI seemed a lot more stupid in Mutation than in Infection. The party members often just stand there doing nothing, or are very slow to react on orders. Battles are still in real-time, faster than ever. You still control your character with the left analog stick and the annoying camera with the R and L buttons and the right analog stick. I don't know why, but there's something with the controls in .hack that I can't stand. I seem to never get used to them. Aside from the stupid AI and the new skills and weapons, there is absolutely nothing new to the battle system, so there really isn't anything to say about it.

Disturbance in the net...a serious disturbance...
Disturbance in the net...a serious disturbance...

   Sort of the same goes for the interface, as nothing has changed here either. I still rate it higher than ever though, as it still surpasses everything I've seen (even the one found in Final Fantasy X) with it's spectacular speed. Even in the heat of battle, the menus are incredibly fast and cool. While there can be a little too much to navigate through sometimes, you'll probably get used to it pretty quick. Also, most players should be used to it already, since this is a direct sequel to Infection, which has the exact same system.

   So, where do the large improvements lie? What's the whole point with this sequel anyway? Is it in the music? No. Mutation actually has the exact same tunes as the ones found in Infection, aside from a few new ones. I wasn't surprised over this either, as you revisit a lot of places in Mutation, that you have already been to in Infection. The new tunes are cool though, perhaps not worth buying the whole soundtrack for, but cool enough to keep you in the audio section on your desktop for a while (you'll get it when you play the game).

   There is nothing new about Mutation, which lowers the originality a bit. It is, of course, still one of the most original games ever made, but since .hack//Infection is already out, everyone knew what was coming. But on the other hand, one might look at both of the games as one, and give it the same grade. However, that is not going to happen in this review.

   There are more flaws? Yep. What happened to the localization? I thought the first part of the series had a brilliant translation, almost without any errors in the text. In Mutation, the spelling errors are everywhere, and they're so obvious. Weird sentences pop up everywhere. I'm going to give you a little example, this is what one of my party members said; "If everyone ain't satisfied, then you can't consider yourself 'pro'". Uh...right. I saw nothing of the kind in Infection, and I was quite surprised over the sudden change.

   Graphics in hack are nothing you really should care about. They are good, but not that good. If you zoom in on your characters, they are all smooth and beautifully rendered...but you wouldn't buy the game to do that. If you have to compare, this game doesn't stand a chance against games like, let's say, Xenosaga. But then again, graphics don't matter in RPGs. Especially in .hack, the main focus is on the story.

Come on, focus...
Come on, focus...

   And that might also be the best thing about the .hack games, the plot. The plot is probably the only thing that really underwent a great development while proceeding into //Mutation. This time many new characters are introduced, including some of those seen in the anime series .hack//Sign. This was very cool, and it helps to understand a bit more if you have actually seen this anime (It's definitely not a must though). Also, you get to know a lot more about The World (the game you are playing), and its mysteries. Your friend Orca is still in a coma and you are determined to rescue him, or at least find out what has happened to him. The game also gets hacked more and more as time passes by, and now ordinary players are affected as well. You are the only one who can solve this problem (no kidding?), by hacking through the different gates, trying to find more clues about The World, Aura and the mysterious conspiracy in this strange game.

   But you will definitely only do this once, just as you did with Infection. While most other games have their "sidequest section" at the end of the game, .hack has spread those quests out throughout the entire game. You can choose at any time where you want to go, and what you want to do. You don't have to answer any mails or join any party if you don't want to, but it is highly recommended if you want a powerful character (and that is needed).

   .hack isn't getting any easier either. I had a lot of problems with some of the dungeons, especially the ones found in some of the sidequests. I found myself being forced to run through dungeons alone, facing hordes of enemies all the time. It's very unpleasant. The irony in this is, that you actually have to do these sidequests in order to stand a change against the incredibly dangerous bosses found in this unbalanced game (well, at least some of them were that hard).

   In the end, I liked the first .hack game better than this one. It's mostly because this part didn't really give anything to the series. It was another 15 Hours of dungeon crawling. Sure, a lot of story-related stuff was revealed, but the game left me once again without knowing anything in the end. It feels a little bad paying money for four games when probably only two of them are memorable (the first and the last, for those who don't understand anything of what I'm talking about). But sure, .hack//Mutation was fun, and I recommend it for anyone that liked the first part. Just don't expect too much from it, because you won't get anything new. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in these games. It's just that this second part felt a little unnecessary. Perhaps it would've been better if they divided the series into two larger parts instead.

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