Dot hackers prepare to reconnect into "The World" as Haseo and company return in .hack//G.U. Vol. 2//Reminisce for more quasi-MMO action. Reminisce is the sequel to Vol. 1//Rebirth and is the second part of the .hack//G.U. trilogy. The saga continues in this offline simulation of an MMORPG with new adventures, ultra sleek avatar battles, and a whole new card based mini-game.
For those of you who are new to .hack//G.U., you might find the premise a little confusing; the game is set in the year 2017 where you take on the role of a gamer and his character in the popular MMORPG "The World R:2". This means you're actually playing a game within a game and that .hack is not a real MMO, but the story about one. This also means that the other "players" you'll be interacting with will only be creations of the game and not real, air-breathing people. All of this may be a little hard to swallow at first, but it'll all makes sense once you see it in action. You'll be comforted to know that you won't have to play Vol. 1 to understand what's going on in Reminisce. The back story is divulged at the very beginning of the game, so you'll be up-to-date without any worries. In fact, Hiroshi Matsuyama (President and CEO of the CyberConnect2 development studio) has confirmed an incentive for newcomers to the series; it's a little thing called the "data feedback system". This system allows players to load their Vol. 2//Reminisce clear data into Vol. 1//Rebirth. Starting a new game in Rebirth will boost your character's level. So, if Vol. 2 is your first game in the series, you can pick up Vol. 1 later on and take advantage of the bonus. Rebirth veterans won't be getting the shaft on this deal; they'll still be able to import their Rebirth clear data for extra goodies when starting up Reminisce.
"Overall, .hack titles give off a strong postmodern vibe. They constantly remind you that you're playing a game, as opposed to the illusion that you're not--which is something that other games strive to uphold."
Speaking of starting up, the game begins where Rebirth ends: Haseo, the protagonist and famous "Terror of Death", has avenged his friend's comatose by defeating the one responsible for it--the PK (Player Killer) TRI-EDGE. But, with that arc now over, a new problem suddenly arises in the MMO universe. Due to a malicious bug, players are unable to logoff, leaving them trapped inside the game. In addition to that, Haseo's friend Atoli finds herself a victim of AIDA (Artificially Intelligent Data Anomalies) and her character data is slowly being eaten away. Hence, our hero is determined to save Atoli and free the other players from their current predicament. Reminisce will follow the escapades of a maturing Haseo as he tries to solve the increasing mystery that surrounds AIDA.
From the get-go, you'll have nearly unbound freedom to explore your surroundings. Access to your steam bike, a vehicle used for swift travel, is readily available and you can even customize it to your own liking. Players can also move around with more confidence as Haseo starts the game off at around level 40. There will be a ton of player-characters to interact with right off the bat, which is something reminiscent of MMORPGs. Some of them are friendly while others are not; you can choose to help or challenge these player-characters, either way you'll be rewarded if successful with your choice. Another form of interaction comes from Crimson vs., a brand new card mini-game. You can collect cards to create decks, then use them to battle other player-characters or enter in tournaments. Long-time fans may find nostalgic value hidden within collecting these cards, since they will not only feature character artwork from G.U. but also from the original .hack series.
Overall, .hack titles give off a strong postmodern vibe. They constantly remind you that you're playing a game, as opposed to the illusion that you're not--which is something that other games strive to uphold. From the different personas between characters and their player-characters to the very setup of how the game operates, the signs are everywhere and unabashed. The use of the ALTIMIT Mine OS desktop is a primary example of this. It's basically a space that mimics a computer desktop where you can chat in forums, respond to e-mails, and watch unlockable movies. However, keep in mind that the game is offline and there is no real connection to the internet. These forum posts and e-mails, like the supposed player-characters who write them, are creations within the game; so don't expect to get an e-mail from your real-life friend who lives in San Francisco. The purpose of this desktop is to add more to the MMO semblance and to make the experience feel genuine. Complementing this, movement from area to area is also done through a computer-like area loader known as a Chaos Gate. To use the gate, you'll need to input a combination of three "area words". This will then form a description that will determine the difficulty of a new location. Gaining more area words is not too hard; you get them by conversing with the other player-characters or by completing mission objectives. Speaking of missions, you'll have to do these if you want to progress through the story. Again, this is meant to allude to MMOs, specifically on dungeon-crawling and quest-seeking. On an interesting sidenote, you'll be graded in criteria such as total monster kills or total number of treasures found after finishing a dungeon.
As for the battle system, it hasn't changed much since Vol. 1. It's basically the same formula with the inclusion of an extra awakening attack and the ability to change weapons in the middle of battle. Monsters still appear on the field so you can avoid them by running away or riding off on your steam bike. If you're looking for a fight, make sure to sneak up on enemies to initiate a surprise attack and give yourself an advantage. Unfortunately, battles are still transported to an enclosed space, so you won't be beating up monsters on the field map. All fights are in real-time and strategy revolves around the morale gauge. This gauge fills every time the party defeats an enemy together and when a character performs a skill trigger (individual skills) or a rengeki attack (more powerful version of skills). When the moral gauge is full, the party can unleash a unified barrage known as an awakening to deal huge amounts of damage; this will either be a beast, demon, or the all new divine awakening. Avatar battles, where the player transforms into a summoned creature, return as well. The battle becomes a one-on-one showdown with new moves and fighting styles, such as Haseo using the data drain ability that Kite had in the original .hack series. And lastly, those who've played Rebirth may be happy to know that the second tier of the Arena is now open.
Visually, Reminisce has improved over Rebirth, though it's only marginally noticeable. As for the music in the game, Tomoyo Mitani will be doing the main theme again. The track is titled "Shinjitsu no Yukue" or "The Location of Truth" in English.
If you're still unsure about getting Reminisce for the game alone, then maybe the bonus .hack//Roots anime that comes with it will be enough of a persuasion. Additionally, Daisuke Uchiyama (Chief Producer) hints to fans that there will be a big surprise by the end of Vol. 2, so look out for that. The game, .hack//G.U. Vol. 2//Reminisce will be available on May 8, 2007 and is only on the PlayStation 2 console.