As a long-time fan of the .Hack series, once I heard that we were getting a remaster of the entire G.U. series, I was ecstatic. That was back in 2017. There were people vouching for a Nintendo Switch version as early as 2017 when it was about to be released. Bandai Namco cited their reason as that the game was designed for PlayStation consoles in mind due to the exclusivity of the original G.U. titles. After that report, we were told if we had enough people ask for a version of .Hack on the Nintendo Switch, Bandai Namco would allow it if they believed it was worth the sales to port it. I am happy to say that Nintendo Switch and .Hack fans everywhere have succeeded in convincing the team to get a port for Nintendo Switch. How does it perform on the handheld console?
Game Name: .Hack//G.U. Last Recode Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, PC Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Developer(s): Cyberconnect2 Release Date: March 11, 2022 Price: $49.99
This remaster is a collection of three games back in the era of the PS2 as well as a small fourth addition to the entry that adds another five to six hours of content to tie up any loose plot threads the finale held. It is a huge amount of playtime with hundreds of hours of gameplay content in the form of bike races, grinding various randomly generated areas through specific keywords, and fighting off the chaotic PKs all around the servers. The story is one with a huge drive in character involvement with the main character, Haseo, doing all he can to uncover the reasons of why players are falling into comas while playing the online MMO, “The World”.
Haseo begins as a very cynical and loner type of character who only wants to uncover these secrets due to one of his few friends being one of the ones who fall into a coma after meeting with a unique PK (Player Killer) known as Tri-Edge. He devotes himself to becoming strong enough to beat this Tri-Edge. When he finally meets up with who he believes is Tri-Edge he loses. He is then placed back to level one. He has to work his way back up to fight and find this individual as he starts to slowly lose the mentality of needing to do everything by himself.
This game is still as fun and as engaging as ever. It looks superb on the Nintendo Switch with its stylized cell-shaded graphics and its beautifully animated cutscenes. The controls are extremely tight and they perform like a champ on this hardware. Combat is extremely fast-paced, running through dungeons and areas are well optimized. You get a little more issues with pop-in as you run across the open fields but it isn’t enough to take you out of the experience. There are a few cinematics that will stutter on you if they have a lot of effects on the screen at once, an example being the opening cinematic with Haseo taking down the large number of PK’s. It drops frames once he uses his broadsword as a chainsaw. Overall though, it doesn’t come up often in the game as it runs rather smooth.
Epitaph of Twilight
In the game, you are given tasks to do by your party members and you have to take them with you to various game areas in “The World”. You also get access to Haseo’s emails, his desktop backgrounds, his in-game music backgrounds, forums, news channel, and his Crimson VS account. Crimson VS is a card game that lets you have idle battles as you travel or do deeds in the game “The World”. You set up a deck and let it play challengers automatically. When you log out of the game you can check your progress. Depending on your progress, you will get a number of card packs that give you access to more cards to make better decks. The more you progress in the game, the more features you get in all the applications Haseo has access to.
Your general route of play will include Haseo talking to himself about what he needs to do and who he needs to invite. Then you will go to that area fight monsters, unlock treasure chests, get to the Beast Statue, have a cinematic, then return to town. Treasure chests will have weapons, armor, accessories, and items. Every character class has weapons they can wield. Harvest Clerics can use staffs, Warlocks can use grimoires, Blade Brandiers can use swords, etc. Character classes can also only use a certain type of armor. Clerics can use light armor, Blade Brandiers can use medium armor, Lancers can use heavy armor, etc. You have to know which equipment to give to which character will help them be the best optimized being in your party. Haseo is an Adept Rogue who gets access to more and more weapons the further you get into the game. He can wield twin swords, broadswords, scythes, duel guns, and eventually a special unique sword only he can wield.
You can use accessories to give your characters a variety of buffs and passive effects. Some effects can increase the amount of money that is dropped from enemies or experience points you gain to even being able to auto guard enemy attacks. Items can range from scrolls to teach spells, healing potions, buffing or debuffing items to even customization items you equip onto weapons, armors, or accessories for improved passive effects.
The Terror of Death
Going through areas starts off with an objective. Objectives range from getting three symbols in specific chests to exploring a dungeon to the very depths in order to get to the Beast Statue. These dungeons and areas house monsters. To start combat with monsters you can surprise them and attack them without noticing you or get within their field of vision. Combat will start once either of those options get triggered. Once combat starts your character and party members will pull out their weapons and a blue field will cover a set of areas that encompasses you and your opponents. You can kill the monsters or escape the battle to resume your travels in the area.
Combat is using the attack button multiple times to fulfill a combo, holding down the attack button to do a charge attack, or using the right shoulder button to do a skill trigger attack skill. If you do enough combos to an enemy they will glow blue giving you the chance to perform Rengeki by unleashing a skill trigger attack skill that will do increased damage. Rengeki or support skills will increase your party morale which increases your awakening gauge. When your awakening gauge is full it will allow you to activate a variety of awakening skills. You have Beast awakening that will increase your character’s attack power and attack speed. It will envelop your party until the gauge decreases to 0. You have spirit awakening that will do power based on how many times you press a button over and over. You also have Avatar Awakening that will do a set amount of damage based on your party’s affection level and weapon’s skill level.
Anyone who has seen the recent games of Cyberconnect2 knows that their cell shading graphics are top tier. This game was the beginning to their build-up of cell-shaded graphics. It looked gorgeous back in the PS2 era and the enhanced updates make it still look gorgeous today. The models in-game have aged a bit with not using their mouths to speak or just having very off idle animations, but I think it adds to the illusion of being inside a game within a game. Even in part 4 which was made specifically for this remaster, the graphics are enhanced but still appear to be in the same engine as the previous entries of the G.U. series. The dungeons and areas do look rather repetitive with little change between areas. Environment graphics have not aged very well with the trees or bushes especially looking like they are just updated PS2 textures. This game definitely focuses on the character models above anything else.
The story, the characters and the development of both stand the test of time. Character models still look amazing, even if the areas are a bit blander than I would have liked. Combat is still very fluid and engaging. There is a lot of content here so the price is definitely worth the plunge into “The World” again. The Nintendo Switch version of this game runs like a dream. Very stable, few frame stutters or drops. If you have a Nintendo Switch and have not picked up this game, you definitely should. Though if you have a PS4 you should get it on that system instead unless you really want to play this game portably. One nitpick I do have with handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch is that the minimap is wonky. It blurs the lines of the minimap so it is difficult to see if you have went to an area or not. There were times I had to just open the full map because the minimap was deceptive on the Switch.
The Best Version?
.Hack//G.U. Last Recode has been released on PS4, PC, and now on the Nintendo Switch. So which one is the one that you should get? The original remaster was created with the core of playing it on a PlayStation console. The PC and Nintendo Switch versions are for the most part just ports of that original version. The PC launched with some crashing issues once too much was happening on the screen. For instance, in the finale of Volume 2, you fight a surprise twist villain that adds a lot of enemies that will pop up based on which phase the enemy is in. If too many cover the screen on the PC version, rather than having frame stutters or slowing down the game, it will just crash it.
Luckily the Nintendo Switch has fixed this error, rather than crashing, it just slows down and has a few frame stutters before it goes back to a stable frame rate. If you plan on getting the game and just being able to play for the best experience, I would recommend the PS4 or Nintendo Switch versions. On PC you will have to rely on a few of the mods to get it to run at a stable speed without crashing. With mods, you can also get a lot of new texture packs and reshade packs that will enhance the graphics even further. If you are fine with doing research, getting mods and testing your PC setup go with the PC version. Otherwise, if you just want to stick the game in and play go for the PS4 for the best experience followed by the Nintendo Switch version.
Review Disclosure Statement: .Hack//G.U. Last Recode was provided to us by Bandai Namco for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Character depth and a plot that stands the test of time. .Hack//G.U. Last Recode on the Switch is a masterfully ported game that will be sure to engage you for hours on end. You will wish you were in “The World” for real. The Switch does have some hiccups here and there from frame stutters to wonky aspect ratio messing up the mini map.
One of the best video game character’s arc of all time
A ton of content that will keep you engaged
Cinematics are gorgeous
In-game models aged
Can have frame stutters with intensive graphical effects