.hack//G.U. Last Recode is basically the ultimate collection for fans of the series. It includes the remastered version of the first 3 dot hack games featuring Volume 1 Rebirth, Volume 2 Reminisce and Volume 3 Redemption. In addition to the remastered collection, there is also a brand new Volume included with the collection offering an entirely new chapter in the saga. It might have taken a while to get the complete package but is this long wait worth in the end?
.hack// as a series has always been difficult to follow in term of story. This is because of the way these games were released. Somehow the developers thought it was a nice idea to chop off the story into 3 different games even though it seems to be essential in providing the complete experience. The gradual release of the first 3 volumes made it harder to get into the series even if they offered solid content. This no longer applies to .hack//G.U. Last Recode though, because it has managed to bundle all games in one package making for a definitive experience. You can also experience more of the story with Volume 4 which is the shortest game in the collection. There is also a brand new Parody Mode that replaces the dialogue in most of the series scenes with comedic lines resulting in some hilarious situations. It is better tested after completing the game since it can spoil the content of the story.
The one thing that immediately stands out as you boot the game is that visually, it has managed to age well thanks in part to its art style. Although the same cannot be said for its gameplay which feels dated and intrusive at times. If you have played through the old trilogy, you also have an option to use a ‘cheat mode’ that basically overpowers you character letting you race your way to the end of the story. This is aimed at those who don’t want to go through the game again just for gameplay, and are looking for getting a recap of the story events.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode is set in a fictional massively multiplayer online world where you control a character called Haseo. It is a tale of revenge and power that starts off typically as you expect from an anime, however over the course of your journey through the game’s world, you will encounter many interesting cast of characters, some of which remain memorable even after your journey ends. I know that most will find the story as a typical anime cliche but I really enjoyed what I played here, although the reference and lore in the story feel a little dated because of how the technology and gaming has evolved now, they do provide some good nostalgic memories of the past.
The best part of the story is arguably how much attention is paid to the characters making sure that their development is handled well. As an example, Haseo will be quite unlikable as a main protagonist at the start of the game, but by the time you reach the end of the first volume, you will have grown fond of his character. This comes at the expense of a slow pace for the story. There will be plenty of cutscenes that advance the plot further and they are not short either.
As good as the game handles story, the gameplay portion is unfortunately rather lackluster. The combat is entirely action based but relies more on button mashing than skills. It also feels limited in term of movement but this feels more like a product of its time. The remaster doesn’t really change the issues here so it is hard to place it at fault, however the world creation is great and the way you go through the randomly generated dungeons is handled in a neat way, which I have yet to see for another game. You will spend most of your time fighting in these randomly generated dungeons. Basically you can collect 3 different keywords that, when combined in a string, can change the appearance of a dungeon, enemies and the loot that you can gather from it. Exploration is not as rewarding though and it is entirely possible to go through the game while just sticking to the standard loot that you can find in dungeons.
The combat allows weapon switching and features party members that can stand very well on their own. It works like an action RPG and if I had to compare it to another game, I would point towards a limited combat version of Tales of series. By far the biggest issue with the combat is its repetitive nature that makes it grow stale rather than keep evolving it as you progress further in the story. It doesn’t help that the enemy variety is not that great although boss battles can prove to be really fun.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode excels at world building and story telling but unfortunately it is not without its flaws. The combat is fairly dull and the loot system doesn’t feel rewarding because you are limited by the gear that you can equip. The game has some nice ideas executed for its MMO world like logging out to read forums or browse online, that can prove to be a fun distraction, and can also get you some nice bonus.
As a remaster, .hack//G.U. Last Recode is a great addition for any RPG fan who is looking for getting into the series. Even though some of its mechanic feel dated, there is plenty of content to experience here.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: .hack//G.U. Last Recode is a single-player action role-playing video game developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Bandai Namco Games for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. It is a remaster of the PlayStation 2 .hack//G.U. series.
This is a great collection of remastered games that aims to improve many of the shortcomings from the original trilogy, although it hasn't aged well in term of gameplay, the story and characters still remain a highlight for the series.