Dot.Hack G.U. Trilogy User Review
Ok, I'm going to start out explaining something to keep everything else ahead straight.
"Dot.Hack G.U." is the title of this trilogy that you are playing. "The World" is the title of the game the character you control is playing. Everything in Dot.Hack takes place in "The World". So, yes... you are playing a game within a game... And the mini games are games within the game that's within the game. So. You and I play Dot.Hack as Haseo. Haseo plays "The World". Sound good?
Now, the G.U. trilogy takes place in the real world through an online video game: "The World". Dot.Hack is not itself an online video game. The story merely takes place within one. The previous Dot.Hack video games took place on the original version of "The World" and followed the character named "Kite". The company which hosts the server for "The World" suffered a terrible fire to their building, and nearly all the data in the original "The World" was lost. The company since designed a second version, called "The World: R2" which is where this trilogy takes place.
The storyline is indeed a deep one as it follows and ties in a total of 2 tv series and 7 video games to tell the entirety of this tale. "The World" has been experiencing strange data anomaly's that seem to affect the physical world through the internet and various networks. At times, events in "The World" cause humans playing these games to go unconscious and become hospitalized for long periods of time, sometimes leaving their consciousness within the game and tied to various artificial intelligences within "The World". It's difficult for me to go into too great of detail without spoiling much of the storyline, but I will say that the storyline and characters are wonderful in this game.
For a late PS2 title, the graphics within the trilogy are pretty good. Everything is clean and clear, and the environments are easy on the eyes. They are not going to blow you away, but it is well programmed. Character designs carry the same anime feel you would get from the television series.
The only real flaw in the graphical design is the distance you must be from a potential enemy or NPC before they actually appear on your screen. If you're too fast, on say a particular vehicle you can pick up in the game, you might pass an enemy before it shows up on your screen.
Gameplay is a mix of redundancy and the spectacular.
On the positive side, you really do engage as Haseo. You may log out of the game to read emails, news articles, watch video updates, and more from the OS. All of this, of course, is within the story line. However, you can decide which characters to send emails to, select from a couple options about what to say, and more. This gives you much opportunity to experience the game in a way that allows you to invest yourself as the main character.
The "offline" features of this game are worth mentioning in a section all of their own. The videos are fully voiced. In fact, there are entire 5 minute episodes that eventually tie into the overall storyline of the game. The things you say to people in emails affect how they view and like you, and ultimately affect how willing they are to party up and help you out. You can even take some virtual post/greeting cards and decide who you want to send them to. Every character, of course, responds differently to each greeting card. Not only do responses vary from character to character, but they vary depending on how much those characters like you. If they hate you, and you send them a "I'm thinking of you" card, they'll think you're patronizing them. If they like you, they may give you an "in-game" gift (don't forget, there's not actually anything that's REALLY online in this game... lol).
There are a few mini-games to take part in to keep up variety, and you can select who your party members are going to be, unless the story does not allow for it. The controls are easy to use, and the variety is far greater than the original four Dot.Hack games we saw for the PS2. In terms of gameplay, these games are a definite progression from the original four that followed Kite.
On the downside, the battles, dungeons, and fields get incredibly repetitive and eventually un-fun. Mind you, the ability of Haseo to change his weapon class is a great addition, but dungeons become monotonous and bland very quickly. It's really too bad, actually, because the storyline is wonderfully done, and I feel it's a shame that the storyline may be the only thing to motivate you to finish the trilogy. This game has SO MUCH to offer you in terms of gameplay, but because the battles are by far the biggest feature of gameplay, it's hard to give this too high of a grade. If the battles didn't get so boring, this could be close to a 10 with so much variety. Since they are repetitive and take up most of your time, battles would be a 5.0 for me, but the other wonderful features salvaged it to a 7.5.
The sound is an above average detail in this game. The effects are appropriate and match, and the music has a very original feel. If you've been a fan of the Dot.Hack shows or games of the past, then you will understand what to expect. Most of the voice acting is great, although I feel some of the Japanese voices matched better. In battle, sound is necessary. Since it is difficult to see and know what your party members are doing in battle, the fact that they say the skill they are using as they use it is very helpful. All in all, the sound is well done and it contributes positively to the game.
Control is straightforward and easy to use. There are a large variety of skills and abilities to use, and they are easy to access. Battles are real time, and the camera is usually very simple to use. When driving your vehicle, however, I feel the camera doesn't keep up as well as I would like it to. Generally speaking, actually, anything with speed doesn't always seem to make much physical sense.
The replay value of this game is low. After beating the three games, I didn't spend much time afterwords. Once you beat the storyline, you can come back to the game and play as if you were apart of the online community. In fact, there's a dungeon you can play through again to meet a certain character from the tv show. But by the time I got to that point, I was so sick of the battle system, I didn't even try.
There are plenty of extra features and challenges galore to work your way through, which is a more than welcome feature to variety, but the means in which you achieve them is through a relatively shallow battle system. That is not to suggest it's a bad system. It actually works very well. However, it's just too shallow to hold you for 3 games. If you play one at a time, it's not so bad. I didn't start getting sick of it until half way through the second, but by the time I worked on the third one, I just wanted to end it. I can't say how unfortunate that feeling was. I LOVED the story and NEEDED to find out what happened next, but I felt like I was WORKING through the battles.
All in all, this is a series any RPG fan can appreciate. True, it's real time battle and not turn based, but you really do assume the role of Haseo. He's your typical dark protagonist who doesn't relate to anyone, but he gradually opens up to the people around him as the story progresses (original, I know... /sarcasm/). The battles can wax thin on you after a while, but the story is great, and the overall quality is very well done. If you can get your mits on these games, I definitely suggest giving it a try.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.