You’ve two choices to deal with as soon as you fire up .hack//G.U. Last Recode on your PS4 or PC. Do you play it as intended and enjoy the story as it spools out across the three remastered games (Rebirth, Reminisce, and Redemption) along with one new shorter chapter (Reconnection)? Or do you activate the Cheat Mode that maxes your party out from the get-go and makes zipping though most of the game a total cakewalk?
I ended up choosing the first option and while the game took a lot longer to play through, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of Bandai Namco or developer CyberConnect 2‘s overly gracious hospitality. As a huge fan of the original four chapters games and later, the G.U. series’ three entries, I wanted to play these as originally presented, carrying my save data over into each game and getting the same thrills I’d gotten way back when the PS2 was going strong with quality JRPGs dropping on a semi-regular basis.
This remastered trilogy benefits from a higher resolution, better frame rate, somewhat simpler combat and much better looking cut scenes. That said, it also doesn’t go overboard in trying to be a purely visual showpiece far beyond the original games. Lead character Haseo is still very much an angry jerky guy for a good chunk of the experience, but you’ll get used to him as the game progresses. The end result is a reliable buy that will please fans of the old games while maybe making some fans that expected too much or come into this wanting to see every trick in the PS4 book exploited a tad disappointed. Then again, you’re going to be playing this game more for the story and somewhat deep world building that extends into how you interact in the “real” world presented outside the faux MMO game.
In addition to plenty of lengthy story scenes that give the game a visual novel pacing at times, you’ll also need to log off of The World (the online game presented here) and go check your character’s email, read news and even poke around on “online” game forums for assorted hints and plot advancing bits. This game within a game world also does a solid enough job as a sort of time machine when you realize the developer was spot on about a few things we take for granted (virtual reality and tech creeping into daily life with some not so nice side effects).
The end result is quite absorbing as Haseo and his growing guild of online friends grasp that events in The World are affecting events in the real world outside the game and they’re playing a big part in trying to contain something massively powerful and potentially unstoppable. Still, there’s plenty of time for leveling up, the usual fetch-questing and quite a bit of humor at pretty much everyone’s expense. This is a game that knows when to drop in a few gags to lighten the mood. Still, you get a few annoying characters with appropriately annoying voices (Gaspard makes me want to hit myself in the head with a sack of hammers whenever he opens his yap), but in for a penny, in for a pound, ladies and gents.
For those who missed out on the first four games, there’s the wonderful Terminal Disc content that fills in those story points by showing that series’ cut scenes as it spells out the story that sets up the events in this trilogy. It’s helpful to watch this first whether you’re new to the experience or a returning player who no longer has those four long out of print titles. I’m sure Bandai Namco has been besieged with requests to bring them back, but I highly doubt CyberConnect 2 will do this anytime soon (as the games haven’t aged well visually and my guess is they’d prefer to focus on newer games as time rolls on).
The all-new final chapter is more of a coda to the series, but it’s a great touch that adds to the final product greatly. If you’re all in on this, then Parody Mode will be the icing on this particular cake. It’s a collection of redubbed cut scenes that range from flat out intentionally dopey to “you better know your J-pop references, pal!” – I wish there were either more scenes to see or some sort of DLC that added a bunch as an option or made the entire set of games as wacky as this content turned out. But that’s probably over-killing the idea somewhat significantly.
So yep. In short, this one’s a buy because it still works as well as it did back on the PS2 and all gussied up on the PS4, it’s better for the most part. While I’m not sure what CC2 has planned for the future (probably more of those spectacular looking Naruto games they do so well?), I’m thinking it would be nice to see the developer tackle a new RPG of some sort that pokes even deeper at some of the themes the ,hack series has raised since its inception.
Score: A (90%)
Review code provided by the publisher