Does anyone actually remember this game? Or the anime that happened before the game, but didn’t have the same name as the game? Or the movie that kind of summarized the games, but then sorta ruined the ending? Anyone?
Well for me the .hack//G.U. video game series will always be a treasure. It was filled with angst and resonated with me when I was a thirteen year old edge-lord. And since I’m currently back at my childhood home, the source of all of my angst—the reason I am who I am, I thought it appropriate to talk about the awesome-ness of this video game series (and of course all of the bloody 3edgy5me goodness).
I got this game when I was thirteen. It was eighth grade, my father took my little brother and I to Best Buy to celebrate our good grades for our report cards (yes, I used to be a good student). Of course I went to the video game section and searched through the PS2 games (I had a Gamecube too, but I mean…if it wasn’t a Sonic game, Smash Brothers, or Mario Kart, the game didn’t matter). Searching through the PS2 games I tried to find something interesting, I hadn’t developed a taste in games, yet. My PS2 resume was filled with fighters, platformers, and GTA. The only JRPGs I had played were Kingdom Hearts 1&2 and some turn based JRPG that I don’t really remember, cause I played it for two hours and quit. Oh yeah! There was Pokémon too, but we never really count Pokémon as a JRPG. So as I’m looking through basic PS2 games that are sold in Best Buys (you know what I’m talking about: popular shooter sequel, popular RPG, quirky game, platformer, and Ultra Omega Hyper Sonic Mega Super Street Fighter 3 version 8), a cover caught my eye. There it was. The reason I wouldn’t be a 4.0 student, .hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth.
I asked my father for this game, and he agreed to buy it, but was probably thinking this was the descent for his son who was sort of on the borderline of being that weird kid. I mean, I liked Naruto at the time, and had already shown that I liked anime and didn’t like sports, so my dad buying me this game with edgy anime art on it was pretty much admitting defeat.
So I started to play this game, and I guess at this point I should explain what .hack is. It’s a large multimedia project that covers characters playing an MMO called “The World”. The project began with the anime .hack//Sign which I never really watched, but a lot of people loved. I’m more familiar with the next anime in the series .hack//Legend of the Twilight, because it might have been on Toonami or Adult Swim when I was younger. So the games also covered the idea of characters playing an MMO, and going through struggles—the struggle being that people were playing the game and going into comas. Which woof, that’s rough. I’d like to believe that .hack was the spark for the MMO anime genre (anime about people playing MMOs e.g. Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, or Accel World).
Along with the anime, there were also the .hack games. G.U. was not the first series. First was the .hack series which contained four games: Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, and Quarantine (don’t try to buy these games. They’re expensive now. So rare). I never really played the first series of games, but when I played the G.U. series, I looked it up and saw how much G.U. made references to the original series.
So I was playing a pseudo sequel to a video game series without really knowing. All I knew was that a week prior I watched .hack//Roots and the main characters of Roots and G.U. looked similar. And that’s because the characters were in fact the same. So .hack//G.U.’s main protagonist is Haseo. When we’re first introduced to Haseo, he’s starting the game—he’s a bloody noob. He interacts with two players who seem nice and want to help him on his first quest. This is when you go through the tutorial and understand how the game and certain quests function. At the end of the first quest you find out the two players who were helping you are actually PKs (player killers), and just wanted to kill you because they’re sadistic motherfuckers. You’re then saved by a player named Ovan (spoilers: he’s a pretty big deal in the plot). The game then fast forwards and kind of assumes that you watched most if not all of .hack//Roots (bad assumption), and shows you a scene where Haseo essentially grinds and is no longer Haseo, but famed PKK (player killer killer) Haseo the Terror of Death.
We also saw Haseo’s love interest, Shino, get attacked by a “player” named Tri-Edge and fall into a coma. Haseo then finds and confronts Tri-Edge and gets wrecked. Tri-Edge uses a move called Data Drain and effectively removes all of Haseo’s character data, resetting him to level 1. This is what sets the game into motion as Haseo has to redo everything, get back all of his equipment, skills, and levels, and face Tri-Edge once more to, hopefully, awaken Shino.
Now throughout the series Vol 1-3, Haseo is an edge-lord and very sarcastic, and if sixteen year old me had been playing the first Vol 1 instead of thirteen year old me, I would have noticed that he feels edgy and emo because Haseo is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, voice of most characters I like e.g. Luke fon Fabre & Asch (Tales of Abyss), Sasuke (Naruto), Soma (God Eater), Crocell (Magna Carta 2), and most importantly, Ben Tennyson (Ben 10 Alien Force & Omniverse).
Now I realize that it seems as though I’m ragging on this game, a bit too much, but that’s what I do to everything I love. I insult it, because while I love it, I understand its flaws, and I’m more than willing to point them out. This game at times does fashion itself as mid 2000s Hot Topic the game, but it was really fun. The combat was pretty fast paced for its time, and you could utilize a multitude of combos. Your weapons would vary how your combos would go, and as you advanced Haseo in his adept-rogue class, you’d get a variety of weapons. As for the plot, it was pretty okay (it’s a JRPG, this needs to stop being my excuse), but when it needs to express emotion it does it very well. If I re-watch the cutscene of Haseo summoning Skeith and losing control, I’ll get the same shivers I did when I was thirteen.
Through out the course of the plot, you see a character go from a sarcastic mean spirited edge-lord to a jerk with a heart of gold. There’s an actual multi game character arc for Haseo and it’s done so bloody well and I sometimes wish more games and even shows would use Haseo as a model for character development. And if this game understands anything, it’s complex character relationships, that people can be dependent of another, and that you can still care for a person if they’re doing terrible things. The relationship between Haseo and Ovan is so lovely, so well done, that even though it’s a sort of cliché, it’s still good.
The game also tactfully goes about the issues of depression, not-fitting in, cutting, and suicidal thoughts. In Vol. 2, when you’re trying to save Atoli, and she activates her avatar, you can really feel her pain and as a fucking misfit myself, I needed that moment. I needed this game series. As much angst was in the game, it served a purpose beyond, “Hey. Let’s be edgy.” So… would I recommend this game? Of course. Is it perfect? Hell no, but you should still play it… is what I would say if this game series wasn’t rare and expensive. Vol. 1 sells for about $60-80 now of days, so uh…Sony, Cyber Connect 2, and .hack Conglomerate…uh, PS2 for PS4 please? If you have a chance to play this game, play it. I leave you with a song from .hack//G.U., “Gentle Hands” (Yes. This will be in Japanese).