Until the official unveiling of .hack//G.U. at E3 in May, the .hack series lied dormant since the release of the last game in the original four-part series, .hack//Quarantine, in early 2004. The aforementioned announcement of .hack//G.U. breathed new life into the series, and news that another new title in the series, to be released before the first title in the newly announced .hack//G.U. series, rose up shortly after. Details on this new title were nonexistent until this week's edition of Famitsu Weekly was released, where the game was given its official unveiling, along with the game's first concrete details.
For those who are unfamiliar with the .hack series, its most prominent claim to fame is that they are offline titles which take place in an artificial MMORPG setting. This new title for both the PlayStation 2, titled .hack//Fragment, will mark the series' first venture into actual online play. An offline mode will be featured as well.
Not many details have been released regarding character creation, but it looks as if players will be able to choose between six different classes, and will be able to customize their character's physical appearance. New design variations on the female samurai, female warrior, and male heavy-sword user classes will be included. Once a character is created, you are tossed into a lobby where you can search for other players to create a full three-person group.
Online play also touts other typical MMORPG features, such as the ability to chat, send email, browse a BBS, or create guilds. One not-so-typical feature is that players will not be subjected to a monthly fee for access to the online portion of the game. This will not come without a price; Bandai is setting up a matching server, but actual online gameplay will take place on an "area server," which runs on your PC. Your PC will represent a section of the .hack world, and you will be able to create your own dungeons and areas to adventure through along with areas that Bandai has created.
As for the offline aspect of the game, players will be given the option of following a story adventure more akin to the previous titles in the series. You will play alongside two computer controlled characters, who will consist of major characters from every title in the previous games, as well as the various .hack manga and anime releases. Players will be able to groom their characters offline and play with them in the online portion of the game.
.hack//Fragment is 75% complete and will be released in Japan some time this year. North America has yet to receive word of a western localization.