Before Sword Art Online, .Hack was the premier online game anime/manga/game series. The series found a lot of success, spawning multiple games, series and lasting for quite a while before it vanished. With nostalgia in full force, .Hack//G.U. is back to introduce another generation to The World and the perils in it. With multiple games, a nice history and plenty of twists, is .Hack//G.U. Last Recode worth experiencing or is it a dated mess that is better left forgotten?
.Hack//G.U. Last Recode takes place in the fictional MMORPG world known simply as The World. Unlike games like The Elder Scrolls Online or something like Destiny, it’s a harsh place where player killing, or PK for short, is a common practice many players partake in. This is something new player Haseo learns rather quickly.
After meeting some seemingly helpful players, he learns it’s a trick to make his death more satisfying. When things look their darkest, he is saved by the mysterious player Ovan and quickly learns the way of The World. Following that some time passes and he builds up a reputation as a player killer killer, or PKK for short, and starts on his quest to find the mysterious Tri-Edge, who killed Shino in-game and might’ve potentially caused her to go into a coma. After meeting the infamous Tri-Edge, Haseo is defeated and his character is reset with something special being added. Having met his foe, Haseo sets off to defeat Tri-Edge and save Shino.
Needless to say, there is a lot going on in .Hack//G.U. Last Recode, something that takes multiple adventures, all of which are included, to tell. A big part of the story is going to come from one’s association with the series. There are a lot of callbacks, like Tri-Edge is a cryptic version of the series mascot character Kite, with other elements adding to the experience. These aren’t required to enjoy the experience; they just make it easier to identify what is going on. What is something of a requirement, is being invested in the story.
After the first hour, which is a fairly boring exposition dump and training segment, there will be more story. Much of it boils down to the importance of friendship, even ones had with people online and the characters in the world, especially the mysterious Ovan. It’s a journey that pays off in the end, assuming you invest the time to get there, though it can be a rough ride getting there.
Part of the problem is much of the focus is put on the story. Following the fairly lengthy introduction, players will end up in their first real combat situation. For the most part, the combat system is paper thin. There is an attack button, block, one to bring up the magic menu and some magic attacks. Most fights can be won without too much difficulty, with the bulk of the combat system being attacks or defense, with little variety between them. This makes the journey fairly tedious, especially since the combat feels dated.
To help counter this or give experienced players a chance to revisit it all, is the ability to play cheat mode. This mode basically turns an easy combat system into a joke, giving players maxed level, best items and essentially makes every experience pointless. It’s great if you want to see the story or not try, though it takes away much of the fun. When you make an easy experience easier, there isn’t much going on. Even at a low level most enemies can be steamrolled or beat with relative ease, especially if you engage most enemies, so there isn’t much need outside of having that feeling of being overpowered, in a story narrative where you’re anything but, at least for a good portion of it.
This, along with having battles take place in a separate sequence, feels horribly dated by todays standards. It’s slow, clunky and relies heavily on the story to carry the shortcomings. Considering the story is quite interesting, it can do a good job bearing the load, it just, again, hinges on whether or not you want to invest the time.
In the end, .Hack//G.U. Last Recode is a dated game that falls short in every aspect besides story. With fights being extremely simple, to the point where most engagements can be conquered by pushing two buttons and taking place outside of the sequence, it isn’t as enjoyable as modern titles. Combine this with older models, lack of mouths moving and more act as a reminder how far games have come. However, if you’re willing to overlook some shortcomings for an emotional ride filled with twists and turns, you’ll likely love .Hack//G.U. Last Recode, otherwise, stick to newer experiences.
[Editor’s Note: .Hack//G.U. Last Recode was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]