(dot)Hack overview

Note: This post was created to inform one of my friends about the .hack series. Although it really isn't a video game review, and an older post at that, I still felt like I should include it as part of the blog.

Before we actually get into the review of the original .hack games, I'd like to tell you guys about .hack in general. (Dot).hack//infection is the first .hack game to be released, however it is NOT the start of the story. Infection actually takes place after a few books and a full 25 + episode anime. To help you guys catch up with what's going on, I'll quickly explain everything that leads up to the games.

(Note: This section contains minor spoilers, if you would like to read the books/watch the anime yourself then you might want to skip this section, however I will warn you that you may find the books and anime a bit boring compared to the actual games. I'll explain this as well...)
.hack//AI Buster:

.hack//AI Buster is the book that started it all and follows our first .hack hero who goes by the name of Albireo. Albireo is a part of a beta testing team for a MMORPG known as "The World" but he soon finds himself mixed up in a strange event.

Albireo soon meets a strange NPC who is unable to talk or see. Thinking that the AI (who's name is Lycoris) is a new addiction to the game, Albireo decides to go along with the "quest" which takes him on a search to find data files that are for some reason mixed in with the actual game. Soon the strange NPC gains the ability to talk, and see once again. This is when we learn the first part of the secret behind the world.
Turns out a powerfull AI called Morganna (that acts as a goddess for the world) wants Lycoris dead because she too is an AI that is able to act on it's own. Lycoris later tells Albireo all about how she is junk data that failed to become the ulitmiate AI "Aura," which is the whole reason The World was actually created.

By the end fo the book Lycoris lets Albireo delete her which only leaves a small piece of here data in The World.

Besides the whole Lycoris failing to become Aura plot, Albireo also witnesses two PCs, (player Characters) that go by the name of Balmung and Orca, defeat a special event boss, known as the One Sin, that no one has ever been able to take down. Balmung lands the finishing blow which gets him special wings to go along with his character, and both he and Orca go down in The World's history. Orca and Balmung actually asked Albireo to help them out, but he refused because he had to help Lycoris (who was also preventing him from logging out at the time).

Another character is brought up in this novel but they are never really explained until the OVA anime episodes that come with the actual games. This character is an ex staff member who worked at CC Corp, and he also becomes a hero later on.

.hack//AI Buster does take place around the same time as SIGN, and Tsukasa is brought up.
(Later on AI Buster 2 was released which tells the story from another point of view, and it also has a few new side stories.)


.hack//SIGN is an anime that aired on Toonami around the same time .hack//Infection was released. .hack//SIGN follows the story of a young depressed player named Tsukasa who finds themself stuck in The World. No matter what they do, they are unable to log out. During the last scene of the first episode we see a young girl has fallen into a coma while sitting at their computer.

While Tsukasa (who is actually a female in real life) is stuck in the game, "he" finds himself being followed by a strange monster that is able to hack data in the game. At first Tsukasa has no friends, but after a group of players, known as the Crimson Knights,(who act sort of like mods) go after them, a few players decide to step up to help, including the leader of the Crimsion Knights (a girl named Subaru).

Tsukasa ends up going on the search for a rare item known as the "Key of the Twilight," but soon finds out that he had already found it. In a secret back room that Tsukasa had been visiting, Tsukasa found a sleeping girl floating above a bed, a girl known as Aura. The rumors of the Key of Twilight being an item were false, but Aura, the Ultimate AI, was real.

It turns out that Morganna had linked Aura's life to Tsukasa's mind with hopes of corrupting the pure Aura with Tsukasa's depressing thoughts. Due to the effects of this, Tsukasa's body went into a coma, Aura was kept from awaking, and Tsukasa became trapped in the game.

In the last scenes of the anime, Tsukasa and his friends (Subaru, Bear, and Mimiru) finally head after Morganna. Along the way one of Morganna's "Phases" known as Macha teams up with them, betrays morganna, and helps awake Aura from her sleep. Soon after Morganna summons another one of her phases, a phase known as Skeith, to stop them. Skeith is soon stopped by the hacker Helba (who had also been helping Tsukasa), and everyone got away. Well, almost everyone.

Although Tsukasa had finally awoken in the real world, a 10 year old boy who went by the in game name of "Sora" was not so lucky. Sora, who was helping Morganna for a short ammount of time, also betrayed her to help Tsukasa, but was "data drained" by Skeith as a punishment.

In the real world Tsukasa and Subaru meet up (yes, they fall in love), and the story ends. Or does it?
Note: There are quite a few more books/mangas/animes/ovas that go along with .hack. Although each of them tells a new part to the story, AI Buster and SIGN are the only ones that directly relate to the first .hack game.
Things to Know:
So if you didn't feel like reading what I wrote above, here's a quick overview of what you need to know before starting .hack//Infection.

The World -

A MMORPG that was secretly created to study human life.

Morganna -

Moragnna is the "goddess" of the world. She was created as part of The World (or rather, she IS The World) to study how humans interact with eachother and to create the ultimate AI Aura. Morganna soon began to understand that she would no longer be needed once Aura was completed so she decided to come up with a plan to stop Aura from being finished.

Aura -

Aura is the ultimate AI that was being created in the world. Although she was kept asleep during SIGN, she finally awoke and became a living AI.

8 Phases fo Morganna -

The 8 Phases of Morganna are monster AIs Morganna created to stop Aura. In a sence, each Phase IS a Morganna. These phases play a MAJOR role in all of the .hack games.

Balmung and Orca -

The first two players to ever take down the One Sin.

Tsukasa -

A girl who got trapped in the world by Morgana. Morganna linked her life to Aura's inorder to keep Aura from waking up. Aura is later freed, and Tsukasa awakes in the real world.

Sora -

A 10 year old boy who was data drained by Skeith right before .hack//Infection. Sora's body is now in a coma, while his mind is trapped in Skeith's wand. Ryou Misaki (Sora's real name) later becomes a major character in the .hack world when he rejoins the game as Haseo in "The World R2."

Sieg -

Mai's boyfriend who fell into a coma during the original .hack. Although he doesn't play a major role in the original games, he rejoins The World during R2 under the name Kuhn. His real name is Tomonari Kasumi.
.hack// Review:

Ok so that was quite a bit of information to cover, and that's not even half of it! Even though there is quite a bit more I could go over, I'll keep it as short as possible and just leave it at that. Well anyway, now it's time for the review!

Now for this review I will be reviewing the original .hack// games as a whole. "Wait, what do you mean by that?" Well you see the original .hack// games are actually broken into four parts, with each part adding something new to the story! .hack//Infeciton starts the story, Mutation comes next, Outbreak is third, and Quarantine comes last.

Each .hack game will add a few new features, the level cap will be increased, and new towns will be brought in. The games do start out pretty limited on features, but by the time you get to the final game, you'll feel that it's truly complete. Now with that being said DON'T expect each game to be a huge adventure, at least not until the end. Sure, each game will take you around 30 or so hours to finish, but the games do start out very slow.

Now with that being said, lets get started.


.hack is a RPG ABOUT a RPG. You yourself play a character who is playing a character in an online game know as The World. The game starts out with you naming your character just like you would in a real MMO. Although you can change the name of this character, the default name IS in fact Kite, and it's the name that will be used in later .hack games.

Once you name your character you'll find yourself in The World. It turns out Kite's friend Orca had finally talked him into joining the game that he had been playing for quite awhile. Orca meets up with Kite in game, and then takes him out on a quest to teach him the basics.

Root Town:

The World is pretty much set up like this. When you log into the world you'll find yourself in a root town that has a gate at the entrence. Root towns act just like a normal town in any real MMORPG that you might play, and you'll find everything here that you would expect to see in a game like this. There's shops, npcs to talk to (as in, The World NPCs), and "players" to talk to. These players will sometimes tell you about different features in The World, but the main reason they are there is the trading system.

By going up to a "player" you are able to offer them items for rarer items. Just like in real life, players are willing to part with their items ONLY if you're able to find something they want or of equal value. Really this system CAN become a bit confusing, but at the same time it's pretty simple. It's sometimes hard to figure out what you should take out of the bank to trade with, and it's also sometimes hard to track down someone who has an item you want, however the trading its self is nice and simple.


Another major feature of .hack is also the equipment set up. Now this is another feature that CAN become confusing at times, but if you take the time to learn it, it really won't be so bad. Each character will be able to equipt a weapon, armor, legs, gloves, and boots. Each equipment has different stats, some good, some bad, and each character has set types of armor/weapons that they can use. Since you CANNOT pick the class of your characters in this game, and because you can only look at your own equipment from the menu screen, you'll actually have to check your party members, look at the stats of their equipment, track down an item that's better than it, then trade it to them so they can use it. Now most of the time they'll equipt it on their own, but you may have to tell them to.

Once again the equipment system isn't really that confusing, but it can be hard to keep track of. You might want to write stuff down when you're looking for new items.


As I said before, each Root Town has a gate that allows you to access other servers (root towns), as well as the areas (or "levels") of the game. By entering in three key words in different combos, you'll be able to enter different types of areas. At the start of the game you only have a few key words to pick from, but as you play you'll slowly start to learn new ones. Key word combos will change the level of the monsters in the area, what type of area you'll be going to, and they'll also control what type of items you'll be able to get from the area. Sound a bit confusing like the equipment set up? Well don't worry about it! The game does show you the stats of the area before you enter it, so all you really have to do is mix and match different words until you create the type of area you're looking for.


Areas are the "levels" of .hack. Each area has a large open field that simply just loops around, and it has an entrence to a dungeons. In the field you'll be able to fight both monsters that randomly walk around, and monsters that come out of magic spawn point like areas. There will also be little creatures that you'll be able to feed to grunties, but I'll explain that later.

Most of the time the goal is to head into the dungeons, make your way through the multifloor maze, and to open the prize box at the end. These prize boxes normally have a rare item in them, but they aren't always worth the trouble. Although 90% of the time your goal WILL be to get to the prize box, there are sometimes special events/side quests that will happen in dungeons as well, so they may be your true goal.
Areas are actually devided up into three unofficial groups. You'll have the areas you go to just because you can, the areas that the story line requires you to go through (which normally has a boss at the end), and special areas that aren't normal areas at all. Key words such as "(Delta Server) Hidden Forbidden Holyground," will actually take you to a special that are just kind of there. These areas were put in by the creater of The World for an unknown reason, but they serve an important part to the story.

The original .hack games are in fact a dungeon crawler. Your character locks onto monsters that pop up, X button attacks, and that's about it. By tapping the X button over and over again you'll do a few hit combos like you would in a real MMORPG, but there isn't much more to it than this. Battles are pretty slow, and all special attacks/combos will be used by selecting them from a menu. This slow battle system, which is made to simulate something like a point and click MMORPG without the point and click, might turn many players off from the game, but it really isn't that bad.

There are different items/scrolls that you'll be able to use, as well as magic attacks that you can learn, but all of these items/commands are used from a menu. There are NO combos in this game, and the battle system is more about planning than about action. When you enter a battle you have to really think about what attacks you want to use, which monsters you should take down first, and what your party members should do. You WILL be able to command your party members to do simple commands like "heal" or "attack with skills," but you will not able to actually control them.

This battle system is NOT a fast moving action style battle system like you would find in something like Phantasy Star Online, but it does simulate a normal MMORPG (note: .hack//GU did away with this set up and went for full on action, if you want a game with combos you might want to skip the originals and go directly to GU).

The game also has a first person mode that you can play in, but there really isn't much of a point. It's much easier just to control the cam from a 3rd person view, than it is to actually have to look around.
Data Drain:

After Orca takes Kite to his first area for training, Aura flies by them as she is being chased by Skeith. Aura decides to give Orca a strange book, but things don't go as she had planned. Orca decides to fight Skeith, Skeith Data Drains him, Orca falls into a coma, and Kite picks up the book. At the time Kite didn't know what was going on, but this event would change his life forever.

Later on Kite finally decides to use the book that had been given to him, which in return rewrites his player character's data. Kite's character goes beyond the system's limit, and he gains the power of Data Drain.
Data Drain is a feature you'll be using quite a bit in .hack. Once you've weakened a monster enough, you'll be able to break it's shield and drain it's data/hack it. By data draining normal monsters Kite will be able to gain rare items, as well as strange items known as Data Cores. These cores are NOT a part of The World, and they'll allow Kite to hack into blocked off areas later on. You'll also be able to unlock extras (such as backgrounds for your desktop) by data draining, but these unlocks mostly come form you actually playing (by data draining you unlock books, and each book will reward you with different rewards depending on how many times you've done something in the game, an example would be the book that rewards you based on how many items you've broken).

Data Drain will corrupt your PC over time, but by killing monsters normally your corruption will go down. In short, data drain ONLY when you 100% have to, or when you know you'll be killing enough monsters to bring the levels back down. Data Drain WILL become a major part of boss battles (since most bosses will be corrupted viruses that have no life bars until they are data drained), so make sure you keep an eye on your useage.

The Desktop:

Your desktop will simulate a computer desktop. Here you'll be able to check emails that you get from characters you meet while playing The World, you'll be able to check news updates which let you know what's going on in the real world, you'll be able to change your wallpaper and background music of the desktop, and you'll be able to log into The World.

While emails will serve as a way to farther the story, they will also help you get to know your party members as well. Your party members will ask you different questions over time, and you'll be able to befriend them. It's also a good way to get to know their real selves, as in the person behind the player.

In The World you'll be able to also do a few different things. You'll be able to log INTO the game, and you'll be able to check the Message Boards. After Orca goes into a coma Kite actually posts a message on the boards asking if anyone knew what was going on, however it's soon deleted by a mod.

Normally the message board will just be a place to learn about events that are going on in the world (which will open side quests), but they can also teach you new key words and help you find your way around the game. Just like a real message board, new posts will show up all the time, and you'll get to see many types of people discussing the game. Since we're all here on capcom-unity, this should be something we can all relate to.

The Story:

(Black Rose and Kite BEFORE he uses the book given to him by Aura)

After mods deleted his post on the forums, Kite decides to head back into The World to try to figure out what's going on for himself. Soon he meets a young girl named "Black Rose," who has a brother who also fell into a coma, and teams up with her to find the truth behind The World.

Along the way they meet many friends, and uncover the secrets behind The World. Little do they know, what they're doing won't just effect "The World," but it'll change the real world as well.

Mini Games:

.hack does have quite a few mini games, but they really aren't the main focus of the game. As you explore each area you'll be able to find grunty food which you can feed to pig like creatures known as grunties. By giving grunties different types of food, you'll be able to create different types. Each type of grunty has it's own personality, their own items to trade, and their own stats. You can ride on the back of grunties in field areas, but they can also be used to enter grunty races. These races are NOT included in infenction, but they are included in later games.

The Four Discs:

.hack is devided into four games. Each game is a game of it's own, but you will share a save file with ALL of them. Instead of thinking about .hack as four games, you could also think of it like a normal RPG that has more than one disc. It's just that instead of playing a 60 hour game spread out over 3 or so discs, you're actually playing a game that has 40 hours PER disc. Yes, .hack is actually quite long, and it has a LOT of extras to keep you busy. If you're really crazy, you could always use EVERY key word combo and try to beat all 10000 + areas.

Yes each game is a game of it's own, but they're all actually part of a single game. You can play one without playing the other, but it's best to play them all and just transfer your data over to each new part.
Each part of the game will add a new story, at LEAST one new town to explore, the level cap will be lifted (to go along with the new area), and new items and characters will be added as well.


Each .hack game will come with an anime OVA that will actually show the story of the real world. While Kite and his friends are working on solving the problem inside the game, a few people are also working on the outside world as well.

After a girl named Mai's boyfriend falls into a coma from playing the game, she finds help from an ex CC Corp staff member to help her get to the bottom of what's going on (the very same worker who was brought up in AI Buster). Although Mai, and the group of people she meets up with, never contact Kite or any other players in the game, they still play a major role in what's going on with The World.

Note: Mai's boyfriend becomes a major character later on in GU. It's good to keep in mind that EVERYTHING in the .hack world is connected, and nothing is forgotten.

If your copy of the game did NOT come with a copy of the DVD (since most games would have to be bought used now days), you can still watch the videos online. Since the DVDs came free with each game, there shouldn't be any copyright issues that will prevent you from finding them.

Relation to the Player:

One great thing about the .hack is the fact that just about EVERYONE can relate to it. Since this game simulates an online game, you'll be coming across a lot of themes that actually DO happen in real life. The game really focuses on the players, and who they really are. You'll be meeting characters who act one way in the game, but they are 100% different in real life. Everyone has their own problems, and they all have their own reasons to be playing The World, it's really... Well... Realistic!

Think of it this way. Here on capcom-unity you get to see a lot of different people, however how many of them do you really know? Everyone is here for a different reason, and everyone has their own personality; we're real people! However, just who is everyone? Is their online selves their real selves? Are they hiding a secret? What if something bad has just happened in their life and they're here posting to keep their mind off of it?

The .hack games are NOT afrade to bring these subjects up. As you play the game you WILL get to know just who everyone is, and you'll get to see how they change over time. This theme is REALLY explored in .hack//GU, but it's present in the originals as well. If you're a player of a MMORPG, online games, or if you're just active in online communites in general, you'll be able to relate no problem.
My Ratings:

Well looks like we're almost done with the review! Wow that was a lot to explain, but now it's time to down to it. Is this game a good game or no?

.hack is for sure a good game, however it still may not be for everyone. The game does a good job when it comes to simulating an older styled MMORPG, but it just doesn't hold up to today's standards. MMORPGs have evolved a lot since .hack came out, and so has the action RPG style gameplay. Really the whole game is just dated.

The game has great characters that you can relate to, and it's nice to see the game take on a real world feel. The message board and email system are both nice, and it was also cool to see how the "real world" changed with each game. The game's story is really nice (and long), and there's a LOT of gameplay to go along with the story. Since the story does start out pretty slow moving, you'll actually be playing more and figuring things out on your own than you will be watching cutscenes. I myself LOVE cutscenes so I would have liked to see more than there was, but this can be seen as a good thing.

Overall .hack is a good game, it's just that it's an older one. Today some players may have a hard time getting used to the older style, heck they might even hate it, but please don't let that scare you away from this. If you've ever played a game like White Knight Chronicles, or Final Fantasy 12, then you've played games with battle systems just as slow. If you play a lot of REAL MMORPGS, then you've played slower.
Infection DOES start out very slow(and somewhat boring at times), but as the games go on, they get better and better. There is also quite a lot of fan service from SIGN, but that doesn't mean you have to watch it to play the games. It's just that knowing the past will help you understand the games a bit better.

If I had to rate the .hack games as a whole, I'd give them an 8/10. The gameplay might seem a bit dated, but when it comes down to it, it is still a very good game with a very good story. If you're an RPG or MMORPG fan, .hack is the game for you.


So that's it for the origina .hack games, but what about GU? Well I actually plan to review GU next! Yep, that's right, I'm going to knock out ALL the .hack games!

Now before I actually do the review over GU, I wanted to bring up a few things.

First of all the GU games take place about 7 years after the original .hack games and they take place in a brand new game called "The World R2." Since The World has changed, the actual gameplay has gotten a FULL overhull, and is more action based. If you're thinking about getting a .hack game but you're put off by some of the gameplay elements of the originals, then check out GU!

GU has a fully action based battle system (think Star Ocean or Phantasy Star Online/Universe/Portable/Zero), and has a much larger world to explore. The game deals more with the characters themselves, and it also takes the player into the world of guilds.

Really GU is a fully upgraded game with an amazing story (although a lot of fans would argue that the original's story was better) that really builds off of the original. A lot has changed in 7 years, brand new characters have entered the world, and old friends return in new ways. It's nice to see how things have changed, but it's not always for the better. How about that character who had their heart broken during the original .hack games? What would you say if I told you they became so depressed that they haven't left their house for 7 years, and ended up becoming attracted to their own sex? Yeah, it happens.
GU's story would be nothing without the originals.

Other Books and Animes:

As I said before, there are quite a lot of .hack books, mangas, and even animes out there for you to see. Some books follow side characters that are only brought up a few times, and others show completely behind the scenes events that play major roles in the games. If you truly want to understand the .hack story, it's best to watch and read everything possible. .hack is NOT an easy story to follow, but it's a really good one that's worth the effort.

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