TORT - Episode 41 - "Deck the Halls"

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss Christmas past

TORT - Episode 40 - "Put'em in a Body Bag"

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss The Karate Kid movie

Comic Book Recommendations - Batman - Part 3

Check out Part 3 of my Comic Book recommendations for Batman

TORT - Episode 39 - "It Takes Two To Shenmue"

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss DCC 2014 and Shenmue

TORT - Episode 38 - Iron Man Origins: The Dark World

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss Batman Arkham Origins, Thor the Dark World and Iron Man 3

5 Reasons 2 Hate: Batman Arkham Origins

Don't say I didn't tell ya so

TORT - Episode 37 - "JP3, PS4, USF4"

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss Jurassic Part 3, PS4 and Ultra Street Fighter 4

Comic Book Recommendations - Batman - Part 2

Check out Part 2 of my Comic Book recommendations for Batman

TORT - Episode 36 - "Mr. DNA's Betrayal"

Check out the latest ep of TORT where we discuss The Lost World and Ultra Street Fighter 4

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: .hack//Outbreak



Developed by: CyberConnect2
Published by: Bandai Games
US Release Date: September 9th, 2003
Platform: Playstation 2

Intro

.hack//Outbreak is the third(out of 4) in the .hack game series. Review notes: Some information maybe the same from my Mutation and Infection reviews(like the Controls section). New revisions that were left out of the other reviews will be added and indicated with Updated. Also, the Characters section will be slightly changed including details of what the characters are doing in this game versus the others and will, of course, include my take of the characters in this game. I am hoping that by the time I get to the 4th game, my review of the entire series will be at 100%. This game will be referred to as Outbreak in this review. Like the other games, Outbreak came with a Bonus DVD and will be covered in the review as well.

Story

Outbreak dives deeper in depth with what The World is about and its past origins. The creator of The World, Harald Hoerwick, took the design and idea from the "The Book of Twilight." Everything happening in the game is running simultaneously with the story. The events, the mysterious medical comas, everything. Kite continues his quest for answers and forms an alliance with Balmung. They agree to work together and find the answers to all the mayhem happening in The World. Kite also discovers the purpose for BlackRose's desire to help him as there reasons are very similar. Kite and his gang are approached once again by the hacker, Helba, and an information guru, Wiseman. Together, then try to put the pieces together. Helba and Wiseman explain that the effects happening in The World seem to resemble an event that happens in The Book of Twilight called "The Wave," a supernatural occurrence that threatens to destroy everything. During their planning, they are also joined by the system admin, Lios. Everyone finds out that even though The World is suffering and corrupting, the real world is facing technological danger of its own. With everyone united, Kite and his crew continue their journey to revive the coma victims and save The World.

Balmung decides to do something!

My Thoughts: Story

One word; better. This game throws me off right from the get go. Why? Because of how the game begins, with MASSIVE story and dialogue. Finally, character development and maybe a reason to care a little. The game starts going to from, "oh no, our game is being ruined!" to, "shit just got real, now the ACTUAL world is suffering consequences." This game just comes out of the gate and answers questions I wanted to know. You get the story of why BlackRose follows you around(at last!), you get a chunk of info on Helba and now you find out that the corruption in The World has broken its shell into the real world. Some annoyances though. The story part of the game is TOO FUCKING SHORT. Big issues are now happening, problems are becoming more intense, but the it is too short and you get through it too quick. I know they had to span it over 4 games but I think more effort could have been put into the story. I really want to get into it but the game barely taps the resource of something that could be put into so much more description and depth. I really like that problems are occurring in the outside world and not just in the game. I think out of all the story plots from this game, this one grabs my attention the most. I just wish they would go in more depth then just stupid News articles you read at the Desktop. Another thing. So the story was more interesting than Mutation but falls short due to it being short.

Cast

Kite: The main character of the story. A 14-year old 8th grader that is trying to find what has happened to friend that fell into a coma after playing The World. He is gifted with the ability to change character data(Data Drain) and to hack Protected areas in The World. He joins Helba, Lios, Balmung, and Wiseman in a collaboration to solve and cure the effects of The World.

Orca: His real name is Yasuhiko; is the friend of Kite and shows him how to play The World. Orca is attacked by a foe named Skeith and is Data Drained. Yasuhiko is then hospitalized and is in a coma. Orca is also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sea" and is part of the group "Descendants of Fianna."

Aura: A mysterious girl in The World that bestows the Book of Twilight to Kite. Her origin is unknown but is somehow tied into the events that are happening in The World.

BlackRose: A character that Kite meets in the game. She is the second main character and joins Kite in following the mysterious girl, Aura. Her story is revealed on why she helps Kite and they find that paths are not so different.

Helba: A hacker that randomly helps Kite throughout the game. She is the guardian of a place called, "Net Slum." An area where Trash Data reside. Helba holds knowledge on The Book of Twilight and uses it to predict what is to come in The World.

Balmung: Also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sky," Balmung is a member of a group called "Descendants of Fianna." He is Orca's friend and is also trying to find out what is happening in The World. Balmung joins Kite and the others in a group formed to stop the corruption of The World from spreading.

Lios: A System Admin in The World. He employs Kite to investigate all the problems in the game. He is known to be pig-headed and hopes to end all of the commotion and get all the issues in The World resolved. Lios joins Kite's cause in helping him and the others fix the problems in The World.

Wiseman: A player that holds information on The Epitaph of Twilight. Wiseman uses his vast knowledge on the Book of Twilight to help Helba predict what the future of The World will bring.

The dread that is Terajima Ryoko

My Thoughts: Cast

Outbreak finally offers character development. BlackRose's mission and desire are revealed, more information is provided about Helba and you really get to see the relationship(not implying that they are together) between Kite and BlackRose take light. Every main character in the game become more serious which makes what is happening more believable(which isn't saying much). You almost start to care about what is happening to them. Except for the fucking character you're playing, Kite. Seriously. What the fuck does this kid do with his spare time? Does he play this game 24/7? Or is the idea that when I'm not playing, Kite isn't either? I mean, you get NO background info on Kite at all. Except that he is in 8th grade and based on his E-mails in the game, really likes Steak and Beef Stew. What the hell? This really dawned on me when playing Outbreak. The main character, the one I'm playing as, is the least interesting character in the entire game. Balmung is a close second. What the FUCK is the point of having this character? He does nothing. He's just extra fodder for the enemies you fight. No major reason has been revealed to why he even gets to be a part of the adventure. And on one quest, YOU HAVE TO USE HIM. God, I HATE this fucking character! Like in the previous installments, you get another character to use(besides that douche, Balmung). Terajima Ryoko, a Heavy Axeman that has ANOTHER HIGH PITCHED, SQUEAKY, EAR RAPING VOICE. And she's the most useless character you recruit. Why? Because you get her in the 3rd game and starts at LEVEL 12. So automatically, I refuse to use her. But wait, she has a quest you can do. FUCK! A part from her and Balmung(that jerkfuck, I really hate this guy), the characters seem to have more purpose and are actually, somewhat, developed. I found it refreshing to at least get SOME insight to these people. But the fact that the main character has no life whatsoever and no back story, makes me scratch me head.

Gameplay Updated

Exploration: Outbreak is setup as an MMORPG. There are towns, or known in The World as "Root Towns"(the area you go to Save the game, Buy/Sell/Store Items, etc). Root Towns change based on what "Server" you are in. There are 5 Servers in all and Outbreak allows access to 4 of them(3 in Mutation, 2 in Infection). Here you can access the "Chaos Gates." Chaos Gates are the device in which the player uses to enter a Field(the level you will battle through). They are compiled of a 3 word system. One word decides the difficulty and monster population, one decides the Element(Fire, Water, Thunder, Earth, Light, or Dark) and the other decides the Special Attributes(anything extra in a Field) that the Field will contain. Example, if you are in the Theta Server, then the area would look something like this: Theta - Capricious Unending Corridor. Also in the Root Towns, you can interact with various NPCs. By talking to the NPCs, you will get a little dialogue and have the ability to Trade items with them. Fields contain locations known as Dungeons. Each Dungeon holds either Treasure or Bosses.

aka Busy Work

Gate Hacking: Through out the game, some areas you attempt to enter will be "Protected." Items called "Virus Cores" must be used in order to access these areas. In order to get Virus Cores, you must use Data Drain on enemies. Once the correct amount of Virus Cores are collected, the areas are accessible.

Combat: Outbreak uses a basic system. A character locks on to a target enemy by adjusting the camera angle and getting in close enough proximity. Actions that can be used are Basic Attacks with weapons, Magic, Item selection, or the use of Data Drain(Kite's ability to change the Data of an enemy and transform them into items). Data Drain can be used whenever an enemy is hit enough times(this will be displayed by the words "Protect Break"). Be cautious; if Data Drain is used enough times it can lead to Death. Outbreak also uses a command for party control. For example, you can select a command to have the entire party use Skills or to Heal. Each character also has its own command control so you can have one character Attack and the other cast Magic. Magic includes Elemental attacks, Heal spells and Buff and Nerf abilities.

Experience and Levels: Outbreak is based on the common RPG leveling system. A player gains levels that increase Stats(Strength, Defense, etc.) by defeating enemies and gaining EXP(Experience Points). Every level is increased by earning 1,000 EXP. Outbreak has a system developed that presets the amount of experience earned based on the character's Level. For example, if your difference in Level compared to the monster is 10 levels higher, then you will earn minimum EXP for defeating that monster. If the difference in your Level compared to the monster is 10 levels lower, then you will earn more EXP.

Desktop: Outbreak features the use of a Desktop. On the Desktop, you can play The World, check e-mails that characters in the game will send you, check News stories detailing random events in the real world, change your background image and music, and save your Game Data. When The World is accessed, you have the choice of either Logging In or checking the "Board." The Board is a Forum in the game that gives hints and details about gameplay, leads you to new areas to explore and discusses random topics.

Johnny Mnemonic anyone?

FMD Goggles: (FMD = Face Mounted Display)The characters playing in The World, use a headset when they play. It allows them to view everything in a 3D Field and talk to other players in The World. The goggles are attached to a controller which is used to play.

My Thoughts: Gameplay

This game is fucking HARD. Once again(as in Mutation), you are given access to a new Server and everyone has new equipment you're drooling to trade for. I thought Mutation was a "constant struggle." It ain't got shit on Outbreak. Dear lord. The difficulty in this game made me want to throw it against the wall. After my first sit down with the game, I dreaded it. The monsters are too strong and can do WAAAAY too much shit and do WAAAAY too much damage. I mean, I find myself healing and reviving and buffing more then I thought I would. I even went as far as looking online for helpful tips thinking I was missing something. Nope. The consensus I saw was that the game is just hard. Period. Now it's not that I hate a challenge, but at least balance it out. Don't just chuck it in my face and say suck it down. Though as I got about half way through the game and gained more Levels, the game started to show me some mercy. I got my strategy down, which is basically buff your stats with items as much as possible and have a Wavemaster in your party that does all the healing. I had a much easier time when I got this down. Once again, the boss battles were tamed and were actually a relief to fight versus the normal enemies. Everything else was pretty much the same. One complaint I have outside of Combat would be the design of the new Server's Root Town. It's really spread out and I got bored walking from store to store. You move somewhat slowly. It got tedious FAST and made it my least favorite Root Town. If the difficulty wasn't so damn hard through 3/4 the game I would have been as pleased with it as the others. But it did make me not want to play the game, and that is pretty bad. It took the one thing that I felt made these games and turned it into more of a gut-wrenching experience. But, it still had the hook and I still grinded for levels. Though I feel the hook starting to loosen.

Graphics

Outbreak finally gives you some more to look at. There are more scenes with dialogue and more cutscenes showcasing certain events and monsters. It utilizes more cutscenes with smoother GFX rather then the basic in game scenes. They look great. Though a big change is the scenery in the Root Towns and the Fields. Everything is corrupted so all the objects have tears or distorted colors filled with 0s and 1s. It gets annoying and kind of ruins the feel of the game. Like in the Fields, for instance. I really enjoyed looking around at the crazy shit and amazing colors, but since everything has, what I like to call, the "Corruption Decor," it ruins it for me. Instead of taking my time in Fields, I would head straight for the objective instead of taking in the visuals. It was just an eye sore and, in my opinion, just a bad idea. I always liked the visuals in these games but Outbreak chucks them away.

Sound & Music

Outbreak doesn't disappoint in its Music...meaning that it is the same garbage from its previous installments. The same crap. Nothing stands out, nothing gets you into the game, nothing helps the mood, same boring shit. I suggest muting the BGM in the game and just play the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack off your computer. Makes the game much more enjoyable. And with the addition of the Ryoko, Axeman, bitch, you will be serenaded with the squeaks of a dumb cunt that had her panties wedgied WAAAAY too high. Thank god I can listen to Spike Speigel, I mean, Wiseman, counter the balance between good voice acting and god awful voice acting. Oh but wait, lets not forget Kite's influential speech. He is the leader after all. He must give some great speech to raise everyone's spirits and get them ready to do battle....or you end up getting a child depleting your morale with a monologue filled with "Ums" and Uhs." I don't want to hear that shit. Kite sounds like the love child of Kermit the Frog and Barry White. It's somewhat deep yet something about it makes you want to rip out his vocal chords.

Bonus Features Updated

Grunties: The animal and vehicle in Outbreak. They appear to be a mix between a Cow and a Pig. You raise them by collecting "Grunty Food." Grunty Food are found in Fields and Dungeons. Each one you collect will alter the raising cycle of a Grunty. There are various types of Grunty Food and determining on what type of area you are in will decide what type of Grunty Food will appear. When a Grunty is fully raised, you will have the ability to summon them when you are in Fields. They provide for faster travel. If you continue to raise Grunties, they will become NPCs in Root Towns and you can Trade Items with them. You can raise different types of Grunties. A message on the Board indicates that once each type of Grunty is raised in every Server, you can take part in the "Flag Races." Since only 4 Servers are available in Outbreak, you can not participate yet. There is a new addition on what Grunties can do in Outbreak. When you are on the Field, you can summon a Grunty and have it lead you to Magic Portals, grunty food or the Dungeon.

Sidequests: The sidequests that Outbreak provided are character based. They are optional and only have the goal of adding a new Party Member to your roster. To obtain the characters, you have to fetch the item that they desire from a location. When a character is recruited, you will be able to accompany them in future quests as the story progresses. These sidequests will result in obtaining special items or equipment.

Navigate someone navigating a Desktop

Images/BGM/Movies: Throughout Outbreak, you have the ability to unlock more Images, BGM and Movies that can viewed from your Desktop.

E-Mails: Throughout Outbreak, you can communicate with any character you recruited via E-mail on your Desktop. You can reply with three pre-determined messages.

Ryu Books: There are 8 Ryu Books in Outbreak(and Mutation, Infection). They are obtained by using Data Drain a specific amount of times. These books are Key items that collect data, more specifically, the number of times you perform a certain act(ex: Enemies found, trades made, portals opened, levels completed, etc). You can use these Books in Root Towns. By using them, you can unlock Images, BGM and Movies that can be viewed on your Desktop.

Liminality: A Bonus Anime DVD that tells the story of Kyoko Tohno(more at the end). Bonus Areas can be found by exploring the Liminality DVD and by watching it.

Continual Play: After you beat Outbreak, you can continue to play and explore the game. Bonus areas are also unlocked upon completing the game.

My Thoughts: Bonus Features

Not much is added in Outbreak compared to the previous installments. But first, let me discuss the Ryu Books(since I didn't before). I like them. They add a few extra things to do and are fun if you are a completionist. I like some of the Images you can unlock though I tend to ignore the BGM and I never watch the Movies again. The only new addition in Outbreak is that Grunties are more helpful on the field. I usually use the one that finds the dungeon for me, but that's it. A good feature but something that should have been there since Infection. And, of course, there is NO FUCKING GRUNTY RACING. The only thing I can think of is that it will only be available in the next installment or I'm doing something wrong. I don't even think I care enough to play it whenever the fucking get to. Oh, and Kite continues his runs of "I'm a big dumb fuck and I don't know a god damn thing" in his E-mails. Even the extra area you get after beating the game isn't as cool as the others. The extra features take a backseat in Outbreak. Though, the DVD was the most interesting one yet so not too much is sucked out.

Replay Value

Once again, not really any Replay Value. The story is too far along and isn't good enough to be like, "I just want to replay this part." I wouldn't suggest replaying this game. I would start from the beginning(as I have stated in both previous reviews). I would even say that the replay value is lower than the other two games just because it is so far along in the story. Maybe it is unfair since it is a 4 part game series, but at least they still have the Continual Play.

Closing Thoughts

Outbreak is kind of weird to put my finger on. I enjoyed the story much more than then other two games but I did not enjoy the Gameplay as much. And just like Mutation, is was too damn short. The story has SO MUCH it can expand on and it refuses to. It keeps it simple and straight to the point. So much more could have been done with this game. Though I took what I could get and was happy when some development in characters was FINALLY introduced. Does it really take THREE GAMES just to do that? As for the Combat, fuck it. Too damn hard. I did not have near as much fun as the other installments. The monsters are too powerful and at some points come in too many numbers. I mean, it made me not want to play it. Out of all the games so far, I have not experienced this. I wanted to take the damn game out of my PS2 and chuck it out the window. These games need to ease you into it not chuck you to the wolves. But you have to play it to get the full story. Outbreak got me more interested in the story but less interested in its Gameplay. There's no balance. It's either one or the other. So overall, it is an unbalanced game but a necessity if you want the whole story. I would have to pick Mutation and Infection over Outbreak.

.hack//Liminality Part 3: In the Case of Kyoko Tohno

.hack//google

So basically Tokuoka meets this chick, Kyoko, is a town in the country. They are told that they will be contacted by the hacker, Hebla and must follow clues to find the meeting spot. They exchange their fears and worries and take in the local history and day to day life of the town to help them find their location. They are approached by Helba's aid, Bith the Black, and discuss what is to be done about The World and what Helba can do to help.

My Thoughts: Liminality

The most interesting one so far. It has good animation and the setting is done pretty well. It kind of bothers me that the whole episode seems to be one long history lesson about a town I have never heard of and will never go to. But besides from that, it is well drawn and well written.


One more thing, I don't have Part 4 yet. As soon as I get it and beat, I will complete the 4 part .hack series reviews.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: .hack//Mutation



Developed by: CyberConnect2
Published by: Bandai Games
US Release Date: May 7th, 2003
Platform: Playstation 2

Intro

This is the second game in the 4 part .hack series. Some things to note in this review. Some information maybe the same as in my Infection review. For example, the Controls section will pretty much be the same. If there is anything new for a section it will be labeled. I will refer to this game as Mutation in the review. Also, I will add some more info on somethings I missed in the Infection review(noticeable in the Gameplay section). A red indicator: Updated will appear near the section I added some more info(Compared to the Infection review). As before, this game came with a bonus Anime DVD that will also be mentioned and reviewed as well. One last thing, I will explain the storyline the best I can without any spoilers. I apologize if there are any plotholes or if doesn't make sense at all. It is kind of awkward trying to review a continued story without spoilers.

Story

Mutation continues where Infection leaves off. Kite continues his search for the cause of Orca's medical condition. Accompanied by his new friend, BlackRose(a girl that joined Kite since the beginning), the two find themselves encountered with an administrator of The World named Lios. Lios warns our heroes to stop investigating and meddling with their current affairs. When they are threatened to be deleted, the hacker Helba arrives to advise Lios that it is impossible to delete Kite from The World. Instead of deleting Kite, Lios employs him to search the world for more clues and information. During Kite's investigation, he encounters more players, Databugs(monsters in The World that have been corrupted and can only be defeated by using Data Drain) and several run ins with Balmung(a powerful character in The World that was also friends with Orca), who is on his own quest to discover the secrets of The World. Further investigation leads Kite to find Corrupted NPC data. These are NPC characters from older versions of The World that have not been completely deleted; also know as "Trash Data." Continued mystery and unsolved riddles accompany Kite and his gang as he furthers his search to help his friend and the many others that have suffered from playing, The World.


My Thoughts: Story

I slightly enjoyed the story in Mutation more than Infection. It goes more in depth with what is happening in the game itself instead of the outside world. I like how admins in the game want you to work for them and help them figure out all their problems. You can really feel the story start to expand as certain characters start becoming more involved. But for the most part, it still isn't that great. Even though you learn more about characters, there still isn't enough. I mean, this BlackRose chick follows you around and you have no idea why, STILL. There's some terminology drops that leave you clueless, as if you are supposed to understand it completely. For example, apparently The World is based off of a novel called the Epitaph of Twilight(which is not a real book, it is a book in the game universe). But you have limited knowledge of what it is. Most of the game just feels like blind following. And the dialogue seems to have gotten worse. Perfect example; one characters states, "Lets annihilate all the monsters in the dungeon." And Kite replies with, "So, you want to destroy all the monsters in the dungeon?" This shit happens CONSTANTLY. Once again, the story is not the strong point in this .hack game.

Cast

Kite: The main character of the story. A 14-year old 8th grader that is trying to find what has happened to friend that fell into a coma after playing The World. He is gifted with the ability to change character data(Data Drain) and to hack Protected areas in The World. He is employed by Lios to investigate the troubles in the game.

Orca: His real name is Yasuhiko; is the friend of Kite and shows him how to play The World. Orca is attacked by a foe named Skeith and is Data Drained. Yasuhiko is then hospitalized and is in a coma. Orca is also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sea" and is part of the group "Descendants of Fianna."

Aura: A mysterious girl in The World that bestows the Book of Twilight to Kite. Her origin is unknown but is somehow tied into the events that are happening in The World.

BlackRose: A character that Kite meets in the game. She is the second main character and joins Kite in following the mysterious girl, Aura.

Helba: A hacker that randomly helps Kite throughout the game. She is the guardian of a place called, "Net Slum." An area where Trash Data reside.

Balmung: Also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sky," Balmung is a member of a group called "Descendants of Fianna." He is Orca's friend and is also trying to find out what is happening in The World. He is also employed by Lios to investigate the problems in The World.

Lios: A System Admin in The World. He employs Kite to investigate all the problems in the game. He is known to be pig-headed and hopes to end all of the commotion and get all the issues in The World resolved. Lios is not trustworthy and threatens to delete Kite if he does not comply.

Wiseman: A player that holds information on The Epitaph of Twilight. He offers his information in exchange for a favor from Kite(quest in the game).


My Thoughts: Cast

Mutation has made me dislike the characters even more. Accompanied with the same lack of character development, the small amount you learn is pointless. You still don't know why BlackRose is following you around, Helba is STILL a mystery, Balmung is just a fucking idiot that does NOTHING impressive, just straight up crap. I'm pretty sure all will be answered in the next two games, but it is so poorly prepared that I really don't care who the fuck anybody is why they are doing what they are doing. New characters are available to help you. Rachel, the Blademaster with the most annoying Jersey accent in existence, Nuke Usagimaru, a Long Arm with the WORST stand up comedy invented, Moonstone, a silent Twinblade that is obsessed with working out(seriously, he sends you E-mails with his entire routine, probably pops steroids), Marlo, another Blademaster that is just a straight up dick and my favorite side character, and Wiseman, a Wavemaster that has Spike's voice from Cowboy Bebop, which is fucking sweet. The classes are all the same as in Infection. Nothing new. It is terrible when a games most annoying part are the characters you have to play. There is a chance you will get really irritated with them, as I did.

Gameplay Updated

Exploration: Mutation is setup as an MMORPG. There are towns, or known in The World as "Root Towns"(the area you go to Save the game, Buy/Sell/Store Items, etc). Root Towns change based on what "Server" you are in. There are 5 Servers in all and Mutation allows access to three of them(2 in Infection). Here you can access the "Chaos Gates." Chaos Gates are the device in which the player uses to enter a Field(the level you will battle through). They are compiled of a 3 word system. One word decides the difficulty and monster population, one decides the Element(Fire, Water, Thunder, Earth, Light, or Dark) and the other decides the Special Attributes(anything extra in a Field) that the Field will contain. Example, if you are in the Theta Server, then the area would look something like this: Theta - Capricious Unending Corridor. Also in the Root Towns, you can interact with various NPCs. By talking to the NPCs, you will get a little dialogue and have the ability to Trade items with them. Fields contain locations known as Dungeons. Each Dungeon holds either Treasure or Bosses.

Gate Hacking: Through out the game, some areas you attempt to enter will be "Protected." Items called "Virus Cores" must be used in order to access these areas. In order to get Virus Cores, you must use Data Drain on enemies. Once the correct amount of Virus Cores are collected, the areas are accessible.


Combat: Mutation uses a basic system. A character locks on to a target enemy by adjusting the camera angle and getting in close enough proximity. Actions that can be used are Basic Attacks with weapons, Magic, Item selection, or the use of Data Drain(Kite's ability to change the Data of an enemy and transform them into items). Mutation also uses a command for party control. For example, you can select a command to have the entire party use Skills or to Heal. Each character also has its own command control so you can have one character Attack and the other cast Magic. Magic includes Elemental attacks, Heal spells and Buff and Nerf abilities.

Desktop: Mutation features the use of a Desktop. On the Desktop, you can play The World, check e-mails that characters in the game will send you, check News stories detailing random events in the real world, change your background image and music, and save your Game Data. When The World is accessed, you have the choice of either Logging In or checking the "Board." The Board is a Forum in the game that gives hints and details about gameplay, leads you to new areas to explore and discusses random topics.

Goggles: The characters playing in The World, use a headset when they play. It allows them to view everything in a 3D Field and talk to other players in The World. The goggles are attached to a controller which is used to play.

My Thoughts: Gameplay

My views on the Gameplay remain the same. It is addicting. But one thing I need to mention is the random difficulty this game poses. Each area has a designated Difficulty Level, which isn't the problem. My issue is the flow of difficulty. For example, the game starts off with new areas to venture to with harder levels. The monsters are tough and you can get killed pretty quickly. In order to gain Levels faster, you have to fight in harder areas. So it feels like a constant struggle. And once again, it never seems like you do not enough damage. Battles start taking longer and longer as you progress and you just feel like you are at a disadvantage. This is really annoying. There's no balance. And some of these monsters, fucking FRUSTRATING AS HELL. There are monsters that revive dead monsters, and when you fight THREE of these assholes, you want to destroy your PS2. So I grinded in the game, got to a high level so I can be prepared and started the story missions. Which are EASY AS HELL. Another thing I did not mention in my Infection review was the Boss difficulty. I fought a Boss in Infection, was at a high level(higher than the level was by like 6 levels) and the Boss was killing Kite in one hit. ONE FUCKING HIT. In Mutation, the Bosses seem easier at least it felt that way. The imbalance on difficulty makes the Gameplay a little less desirable, but I was still glued to the game and it is still the strong point of it.

Graphics

The graphical quality in Mutation is the same as in Infection. Everything is colorful and looks pretty nice. A new Root Town is discovered in the Theta Server and it looks sweet. It looks like Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X. A city lighting up the night sky. Very cool. I did watch one scene that annoyed the hell out of me though. It is some dialogue between Kite and Mistral. When Kite speaks, his mouth moves. When Mistral speaks, her mouth doesn't. What the fuck is up with that? It happens randomly throughout the game. Another issue I have is the boss designs. You fight a Wall and a big Leaf. WTF? They look retarded. I think the GFX capabilities of the PS2 could have inspired something better than Walls and Leaves. But overall, it is as enjoyable as Infection.

Music & Sound

I am still stuck with the same feelings about the music. It is bland and you forget it instantly. Nothing stands out in Mutation. The Score is the same Techno garbage. I mean, it would be cool if this game had a great music line up but it is so dull. It's like what elevator music is going to be in the future. A basic tune with random tempo and some beeps and boops. They could at least have ONE SONG that I could enjoy. But no. Sometimes I play this game with the music off. And the voice acting, dear god, is FUCKING TERRIBLE. You meet new characters with different voices and they are SHIT. Except for Wiseman's voice. I like the idea that I'm speaking with Spike from Cowboy Bebop. But the character, Rachel. Oh my god, does she sound horrid. They gave her this Jersey accent and it is FAIL. I want to find that voice actress and slap the ho. And then there are the typical high pitched, whiny, squeaky voices. Seriously, what the HELL is the obsession with these voices? Would you willingly listen someone scrapping bricks on glass? That's what it sounds like. 
Attention Game Companies: NO ONE LIKES ANNOYING SOUNDING BITCHES THAT SCREAM LIKE DYING MICE.

Bonus Features Updated

Grunties: The animal and vehicle in Mutation. They appear to be a mix between a Cow and a Pig. You raise them by collecting "Grunty Food." Grunty Food are found in Fields and Dungeons. Each one you collect will alter the raising cycle of a Grunty. There are various types of Grunty Food and determining on what type of area you are in will decide what type of Grunty Food will appear. When a Grunty is fully raised, you will have the ability to summon them when you are in Fields. They provide for faster travel. If you continue to raise Grunties, they will become NPCs in Root Towns and you can Trade Items with them. You can raise different types of Grunties. A message on the Board indicates that once each type of Grunty is raised in every Server, you can take part in the "Flag Races." Since only 3 Servers are available in Mutation, you can not participate yet.


Sidequests: The sidequests that Mutation provide are character based. They are optional and only have the goal of adding a new Party Member to your roster. To obtain the characters, you have to fetch the item that they desire from a location. When a character is recruited, you will be able to accompany them in future quests as the story progresses. These sidequests will result in obtaining special items or equipment.

E-Mails: Throughout Mutation(and Infection), you can communicate with any character you recruited via E-mail on your Desktop. You can reply with three pre-determined messages.

Liminality: A Bonus Anime DVD that tells the story of Yuki Aihara(more at the end). Bonus Areas can be found by exploring the Liminality DVD and by watching it.

Continual Play: After you beat Mutation, you can continue to play and explore the game. Bonus areas are also unlocked upon completing the game.

My Thoughts: Bonus Features

Lets get this out of the way. Why the FUCK would you tell me that I can race Grunties, and not have it available in the game? What is the fucking point? Just to tease me? Fuck you game. Fuck you. Besides from that, the extra activities are about the same as in Infection. Some sidequests and Grunty raising. The DVD is shorter but is actually more exciting(more below). I liked the extra area after you beat the game. It looks awesome. Probably the best designed level in the game. The E-mails are cool and stupid at the same time. The pre determined responses you choose from are stupid. For Example, Natsume likes The Lord of the Rings(as she tells you in an E-mail). But Kite doesn't know what it is. I do. In fact, you get a lot of E-mails detailing what characters are interested in and about 90% of the time, Kite has NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE. It is annoying and ridiculous. And once again, the continual play is an awesome feature. But everything is about the same.

Replay Value?

Ignoring the fact that the whole series should be relayed and not just the second part of the game, the replay value is low. Basically, my thoughts for the Replay are the same as in my Infection review. The continual play makes a good replacement for Replay Value. So I guess the only solid opinion I can give is that I would rather play Infection again then Mutation.

Closing Thoughts

Mutation is not as good as Infection. The game seems really short which leads me to wonder why the series is split into four games. The beginning of the game is pretty overwhelming. I got carried away with trying to get all new equipment from the new Server. Which is pretty cool. But when I went to grind levels, it was pretty annoying. Why do you have to play as a Twin Blade?? I HATE this class. The attacks are worthless and I have no choice but to mash the X button and grumble through it. The new difficulty was annoying as well as the monsters. I think I got pissed way too many times when I was fighting in the game. But still, I was hooked. Going to different areas and finding Rare Items makes all the trouble worth it. I do wish the character development would be, like, EXISTENT. Back to the game feeling short, I didn't gain as many levels as I did in Infection and there seemed to be less story quests. When I beat the game, I was shocked at what the game time was at. But for Mutation overall, it could have been better but it still had the addictive quality.

.hack//Liminality Part 2: In the Case of Yuki Aihara


This quick overview will only makes sense if you read the previous Liminality review. Tokuoka begins to meet people he gamed with in The World. One being Yuki Aihara. Yuki is at the movies when everything starts to shutdown and glitch. She is trapped in the building and has to find a way out. Meanwhile, Mai Minase does research about the guy who created The World. The entire district of Yokohama is shut down and is in smokes and The World has some connection to it. Yuki is joined by Kaoru Asaba in the building and they try to find a way out.

My Thoughts: Liminality

This episodes was shorter than the previous one, but better. It had some more drama and you can tell how The World is affecting the outside world. It's kinda freaky to that computer systems can be corrupted enough to shutdown cities. But then again, it's a fucking game that causing it and that makes the whole idea kinda lame. But ignoring that, this episode of Liminality was pretty entertaining.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: .hack//Infection


.hack//Infection
Developed by: CyberConnect2
Published by: Bandai Games
US Release Date: February 11th, 2003
Platform: PlayStation 2

Intro

.hack//Infection is Part 1 of a 4 game series. I chose to do a review on this game because it is a guilty pleasure of mine. I first played the series back in 2005 and just now got it again. I remember the games being very addicting and wanted to see if they held up to what I remembered. The .hack games are based on you playing the role as someone playing a game so I hope this doesn't get confusing. Before I begin, I would like to also state that the .hack games came with Bonus Anime DVD s entitled, ".hack//Liminality." There is a 45 minute short that goes with Infection. I will also include some information regarding it in this review. Also, some notations: I will be referring to the game itself as Infection, the anime short will be referred to as Liminality and PlayStation 2 will be referred to as PS2. In some of the sections I will give a basis then my thoughts on the subject. In some sections(ex: Graphics) it will just be my thoughts.


Story

Infection follows the story of a 14-year old 8th grade student. The student does not have an actual name but the Default Character Name is "Kite." Kite plays a game entitled "The World," an MMORPG created by the CC Corp for the "Altimit OS"(which is the made up Operating System in which Kite accesses The World, E-mail, etc). The game begins with Kite being invited to play The World from his classmate Yasuhiko, or known in The World as Orca. Orca shows Kite the ropes on how to play The World when they are interrupted by a mysterious flying girl named, Aura, who is being chased by Skeith, a large gray creature that wields a gigantic red cross. Our heroes engage in combat with Skeith only to learn that the creature in invulnerable. During the clash, Aura attempts to entrust Orca with "The Book of Twilight," an item that prevents a user's data from being altered. But before Orca can receive the book, Skeith uses an ability called "Data Drain"(an ability that changes the data of a user) and Orca is no more. Kite then picks up the book and Aura transport him away before Skeith can get to him. As Kite leaves The World, he finds out that his friend Yasuhiko has been hospitalized and is in a coma. Kite also discovers that there have been other instances in which other people have suffered the same fate. This leads to the idea that there is some sort of conspiracy in the CC Corp. Kite believes that the game is responsible and must venture throughout The World and attempt to discover what has happened to his friend and if there is any way to cure him.

My Thoughts on the Story

Honestly, the story is hot and cold. I like the idea that there is some conspiracy with The World and it is somehow affecting people in real life. But the way you have to go about it is by playing the game that is putting people into comas. It's kinda dumb. I mean, I have to play a game in order to crack the mystery of the CC Corp? What the fuck is up with that? I don't think that would be the most likely scenario. If I was playing a game in which people were viciously being thrown into comas, I think I would STOP PLAYING THE GAME. Aside from that, the story itself is ok. The dialogue is standard; nothing really to go crazy about. Basically, you will tolerate it.

Cast

Kite: The main character of the story. A 14-year old 8th grader that is trying to find what has happened to friend that fell into a coma after playing The World.

Orca: His real name is Yasuhiko; is the friend of Kite and shows him how to play The World. Orca is attacked by a foe named Skeith and is Data Drained. Yasuhiko is then hospitalized and is in a coma. Orca is also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sea" and is part of the group "Descendants of Fianna."

Aura: A mysterious girl in The World that bestows the Book of Twilight to Kite. Her origin is unknown but is somehow tied into the events that are happening in The World.

BlackRose: A character that Kite meets in the game. She is the second main character and joins Kite in following the mysterious girl, Aura.

Helba: A hacker that randomly helps Kite throughout the game. Her story is not revealed in Infection.

Balmung: Also known as the "Knight of the Azure Sky," Balmung is a member of a group called "Descendants of Fianna." He is Orca's friend and is also trying to find out what is happening in The World.

Each character is designated a class. Each class has its own pros and cons as well as specific abilities.

Classes

Blademaster: The character class that uses Longswords. They specialize in Defense.

Heavy Axeman: This class uses large Axes. They are the physically strongest class in the game.

Heavy Blade: A class that uses large Swords. They specialize in physical Strength and Accuracy but lack in Defense.

Long Arm: The character class that uses Spears. Specialized in Attack Speed.

Twin Blade: This class uses two Daggers. They are the most balanced class and have a high Hit Rate.

Wavemaster: A class that uses Staves. They are your typical Mages.

My Thoughts on the Cast

The character development for this game is like the storyline. Some characters you get an idea of what they are about and others you have no clue. Of course, it's like this because it is a 4 part game. But sometimes things happen with characters and all you have to say is, "Um, ok." For example, the hacker Helba tells you where to go sometimes. You don't know why but you follow her instructions blindly. Or when you first meet Balmung. You think this guy is going to be more involved in the story. Nope. Gotta wait till you play the next games to find out. There are also other characters that you summon to join with you. They have throw away personalities but it's good to have some help on the battlefield. There's Mistral, a ditzy Wavemaster, Piros, the nerdy Heavy Axeman, Sanjuro, a Yojimbo loving Heavy Blade, Natsume, a friendly Twin Blade, Mia, the Blademaster that has the appearance of a cat, Elk, the Aromatic Grass(a Trade Item) craving Wavemaster, and Gardenia, the short tempered Long Arm. Each character isn't too special. Outside of BlackRose, no one is really too involved in Infection. They are just there to tag along. Two other characters I will comment on are Mia and Elk. They are always wanting a Trade Item called "Aromatic Grass." Seriously, you open a Treasure Chest and they ask if it contained Aromatic Grass. Are these people the stoners of the game? I would have rather preferred Cheech and Chong. Oh, and Kite's voice is garbage. It's some whiny little kid(and I think the voice actor is the same from Full Metal Alchemist; the brother that got turned into a steel knight or whatever). Imagine some epic scene where you need to put evil in its place and some pre-pubirty child squeaks the battle cry. LAME. And if you were hoping for a great villain, forget about it. Skeith just chases Aura and says nothing.

My Thoughts on the Classes

My rant about the Classes is that YOU CAN'T CHOOSE WHICH CLASS YOU ARE. You are stuck with the Twin Blade as Kite. I hate this class. It's too balanced. Not enough HP but not too little. And the damage you do is too low for me. No matter what weapon I use it seems that everyone else does more damage that I do. I hate it. This game would have been light years better if you could customize your character.

Gameplay

Exploration: Infection is setup as an MMORPG. There are towns, or known in The World as "Root Towns"(the area you go to Save the game, Buy/Sell/Store Items, etc) Here you can access the "Chaos Gates." Chaos Gates are the device in which the player uses to enter a Field(the level you will battle through). They are compiled of a 3 word system. One word decides the difficulty and monster population, one decides the Element(Fire, Water, Thunder, Earth, Light, or Dark) and the other decides the Special Attributes(anything extra in a Field) that the Field will contain. Also in the Root Towns, you can interact with various NPCs. By talking to the NPCs, you will get a little dialogue and have the ability to Trade items with them. Fields contain locations known as Dungeons. Each Dungeon holds either Treasure or Bosses.

Combat: Infection uses a basic system. A character locks on to a target enemy by adjusting the camera angle and getting in close enough proximity. Actions that can be used are Basic Attacks with weapons, Magic, Item selection, or the use of Data Drain(Kite's ability to change the Data of an enemy and transform them into items). Infection also uses a command for party control. For example, you can select a command to have the entire party use Skills or to Heal. Each character also has its own command control so you can have one character Attack and the other cast Magic.

Desktop: Infection features the use of a Desktop. On the Desktop, you can play The World, check e-mails that characters in the game will send you, check News stories detailing random events in the real world, change your background image and music, and save your Game Data. When The World is accessed, you have the choice of either Logging In or checking the "Board." The Board is a Forum in the game that gives hints and details about gameplay, leads you to new areas to explore and discusses random topics.

Goggles: The characters playing in The World, use a headset when they play. It allows them to view everything in a 3D Field.

My Thoughts on the Gameplay

This is the part the really hooks into me and keeps me glued to this game. The ability to select numerous Fields to battle through and explore is awesome. It's like a grinders dream. I will spend most of the time going to random locations just to see what I run into or what kind of treasure I can find. This is the part of the game that is addicting and is the strength behind it. I really enjoy trading Items with the NPCs. It can get repetitive. Once you've been to each type of Field, they all tend to look the same. Probably my biggest criticism for the gameplay. But I can manage to push through it and enjoy it immensely. As far as Combat goes, I have kind of a hard time getting my AI controlled party members to do what I want. The AI is actually kind of dumb and puts a dent in the gameplay. For example, I will be fighting a Fire-type monster and I will tell my party to Use Skills. Sometimes the dumb ass will use a Fire-type attack or spell and DO NOTHING to the monster. You can Designate specific Skills for them to use but they only use it once. It is a nuisances. If not for that, then I would say the gameplay was perfect.

Controls

The controls are fine in Infection. Everything is very responsive. For example, you can use an Item on yourself and then immediately go back into the Menu Screen and use another Item. It is very user friendly. I guess my only criticism would be when you fight a monster that likes to flee or is really fast. You have to mess with the camera so you can get a fix on them. But that is the monster's advantage though.

Graphics

The graphics are pretty good. It uses the PS2 to some good ability. Most of the graphics are in game and there are not many cutscenes. Nothing really looks confusing or glitched out. I like the way a lot of the characters look. There was great creativity in making their appearances. For example, Piros is a Heavy Axeman character. He looks like a giant mech but his head looks like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber. You don't really get a polygon feel to everything but you can notice some of it. Like in the terrain. objects and some parts of the characters. But overall, it's not the best PS2 graphics but it is decent. Unless it is a story point, the character's mouths do not move when they speak which is kind of lame. But the best visual wonder are the Fields. From colorful and happy to dark and dismal. My favorite Fields are the ones that are covered in sand. Like a huge desert. You will come across gigantic seashells or rocks embedded with starfish. Very cool. The Dungeons are pretty lame though. Most look like copies of other Dungeons but just a different color. The cutscenes are great. Everything is smoothed up and it is what you would expect from the PS2.

Music & Sound

The music is so-so in Infection. I really like the Root Town music. Most of it sounds like your classic MIDI RPG music. Some areas and events have a kind of Techno beat which gets really annoying after awhile. When you engage in Combat, the Music speeds up. It is aggravating hearing the tempo go up and down, up and down. As an overall Score, it's only mediocre. What boggles my mind is when some epic music starts playing during a story point and all you are doing is just talking. I don't need an orchestra busting out the best number it can perform when I'm just asking BlackRose which area she wants to explore. The music is out of place and isn't really one of the shining points to Infection. The Sound Effects are fine. There's never an annoying noise that pierces your ears. Like in Final Fantasy VII, the game would squeak when ever you selected something and it would drive me nuts. In Infection, selections have a slight melody to them instead of one high pitch noise. It is very comforting and doesn't make you dread accessing you Menus. But for the most part the Music and Sound are tolerable. It will not ruin your experience playing the game.

Bonus Features

Grunties: The animal and vehicle in Infection. There appear to be a mix between and Cow and a Pig. You raise them by collecting "Grunty Food." Grunty Food are found in Fields and Dungeons. Each one you collect will alter the raising cycle of a Grunty. There are various types of Grunty Food and determining on what type of area you are in will decide what type of Grunty Food will appear. When a Grunty is fully raised, you will have the ability to summon them when you are in Fields. They provide for faster travel. If you continue to raise Grunties, they will become NPCs in Root Towns and you can Trade Items with them.

Sidequests: The sidequests that Infection provide are character based. They are optional and only have the goal of adding a new Party Member to your roster. To obtain the characters, you have to fetch the item that they desire from a location.

Liminality: A Bonus Anime DVD that tells the story of Mai Minase(more at the end). Bonus Areas can be found by exploring the Liminality DVD and by watching it.

Continual Play: After you beat Infection, you can continue to play and explore the game.

My Thoughts on Bonus Features

I think the Grunties are alright. Some of them can be annoying but it is very humorous when you ride them. Not too many sidequests in this game but to be honest, the game doesn't really need them. Since there are so many areas to explore, the game doesn't really need any additional quests. It kinda feels like you're making the sidequests by exploring different Fields. You get to decide when to grind and explore or move on with the game. Which I like a lot. I also enjoy how Liminality ties in with the game by showing you some bonus areas. Very cool. And the ability to keep playing after you beat the game makes sense. Seeing as how this game was released in 4 parts, you can still screw around and explore waiting for the next installment to come out. And the Anime DVD is really interesting(more details at the end).

Replay Value?

I'm just going to judge this based on the game itself and not the series, so the score will probably be unfair. Infection's Replay Value can only be accomplished if you are planning on playing all the games back to back. It wouldn't be a good game to Replay if this is the only one you are going to replay. Though I obviously has its appeal towards replay considering that I played it again. But I think the fact that you can keep playing the game after you beat it kind of helps replace the Replay value. I can only see someone replaying this game repeatedly if it was in 2003 and the other installments were not released yet. But once again, unless you are going to replay the whole series, then the game itself has little Replay Value.

Closing Thoughts

Like I said before, this game is a guilty pleasure of mine. I am somewhat ashamed to like it. When I first saw this game, I thought it looked fucking stupid. I laughed when I read about "playing a person playing a game." But then I played it and got hooked. It's a game you have to play in order to understand its appeal. I get so much shit from my friends for liking this game. And it makes me laugh. I mean, I don't even know if it is a good game or not. The gameplay and exploration is just so addicting and I like that part, but the story to solve some crisis of people going into comas by playing a Video Game is just totally ridiculous. Maybe I just have the ability to look past it and focus on grinding and exploring. But Infection was a pretty unique game. I don't believe any other game is setup like Infection is. A game within a game. Would I recommend this game to anyone? Maybe. It would depend on what type of gamer they are. Like, if they are in to RPGs and Anime, then I would recommend it. That's another weird thing about me and this whole .hack game obsession. I HATE THE ANIME. I think the Anime is so god awful and is a joke. But I enjoy the game. I don't know, don't ask me.

.hack//Liminality Part 1: In the Case of Mai Minase

A quick overview. I won't give you the professional version like I tried with the game. Basically this chick named Mai is playing The World with her boyfriend. They both explore an area and encounter some events that aren't supposed to happen. Both then hear some weird, high pitched noise and collapse. Mai wakes up and sees that her boyfriend is in a coma. She is then confronted Junichiro Tokuoka a former CC Corp employee. Together they investigate the strange issues that is happening with The world.

My Thoughts on Liminality

I think it's kinda cool. A great bonus with a game is a show explaining what's happening outside of the game. A nice little bonus. The animation is really good, and the story is a basic .hack story. Person falls into a coma and you have to play a Video Game to find out why. What a load of shit. But a nice little something extra nonetheless.