Double Agent
Can .hack hack it? - February 1, 2002 - Erin Mehlos

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. Someone didn't pay the music bill again. Don't say we didn't warn you.

No intro for you.

Lovin' the language

Erin -

Dude...I want .hack. I mean, online RPG WITHOUT the cheaters and LuZoRz. On top of that, it's going to have a STORY!!! How revolutionary!!! Okay, not, but you get the idea. I'm not sure what to add...except that I hope the ambitous project lives up to its own demands.

Slightly to the side from that..I'll answer your question. Parappa 2 will be knocked for its lack of innovation while RPGs will be upheld for their tradition simply because of the syle of gameplay.

With a pick-up-and-play title such as Parappa or DDR, you are generally looking for more of a quick fix deal, with fairly engaging and enjoyable control schemes. If two titles are the same, it get's boring.

With an RPG, however, it's more like reading a book. Not having to learn a new language before reading really helps. Being able to simply pick up a new RPG and get right into the world and story makes it a lot easier. Maybe the language comparison is a touch drastic, but you get the idea.


Ray Stryker...everybody is life...

The RPG genre has kind of broken away from the the rest of the industry in this regard. It may perennially rely on tried-and-true play mechanics, but it employs them in concert as a storytelling medium -- a language, to stick with Stryker's analogy, we geeks are comfortable with and enjoy receiving ideas through. This language may fluctuate in reflection of the day and age, but by and large, those fluent can always negogiate it pretty effectively. This is important -- when an English-speaker is trying to struggle through Victor Hugo or the philosophical perspectives of Sartre, having to hobble through French text is a frustrating, sometimes impossible hindrance.

On the other hand, when the control scheme itself is at the heart of a game's focus, innovation is a must to hold a player's interest. A multi-lingual etymologist with a love of esoteric languages is bound to get bored with a steady diet of modern English.



What I forgot to put in my last letter about our rappin' doggy friend is that there's really nothing more to say about the game that wasn't in the review on this site. Except that Hairdresser Octopus's song is better than Guru Ant's by just a tad. But those are the only two good songs anyway. NanaOnSha (I dunno if those are all spaced out or what) just really gave us the first game with a different story and not as cool songs. And they gave us Boxy Boy. That alone should make everyone upset. Curse you Boxy Boy. He's not even paper thin for goodness sakes!

Lack of innovation isn't bad at all when you get down to it. Heck, DDR *just* put in those freeze arrows and we're around a million mixes into the series, yet people still come back for more stomping goodness. The difference is that it has more good songs than bad. Yes, even Solo Bass has more good songs than bad. Same with DDR USA. And even our own little Lammy was PaRappa with a guitar, but it had an interesting 2 player mode and the songs were mighty fine. I actually didn't like playing through that game with PaRappa because the songs were very much not to my liking.

PaRappa 2 had potential, but I think the lack of good memorable music coupled with Boxy Boy and a pretty bad two player mode kinda put its flame out.

Now on to .hack. I want. I want REALLY bad. I can't quite explain why though (but I guess I have to atempt to). The thought that I'd be playing a game that's kinda like Phantasy Star Online but offline, but online in the game's world (and no fees to play!) is super nifty keen. Some of the elements of the story, such as something is going wrong in this computer generated world, sound a bit like Mega Man Battle Network, and that being one of my fave games, appeals to me greatly. The designs for the characters look nice as well (I wanna be Elk!), but those hardly influence my decision on thinking .hack looks interesting.

More than anything though, I really like the idea of the accompanying TV series. More games should have that, um except that it would probably not be worth it to make it for most. Its a neat way to explain the backstory without having to sit through mind numbingly boring NPC dialogue windows just to explain why so-and-so town is named whatever it is or why the money grubbing mayor is so mean. Besides, how could you really tell the backstory of an online world with people who are in this world to play. They wouldn't want to spend their time helping newbies *cough PSO cough* let alone answer their questions. I know we have no shot at getting the shows over here, but I think enough people would be interested in the actual game that some developer could pick it up.

So yeah, where's the petition to get this baby over onto our shores already? I can make up a few hundred names, I'm sure!

-Shane, who promises to organize his thoughts better one day I finished reading it's preview it made me want to move to Japan just to get a hold of this, I'm really hyped up about it, I don't really know what's so interesting about it, its just so revolutionary. A game like this could change the face of gaming, has that ever even been done in Japan, Anime/game series' that feed off each other for story continuity? Well back to what I make of it. It sounds to me like combining the anime with the game could make this one of the most entertaining games that we've seen in a long time.I like the whole way the two different types of medias interlock to create the big picture: play for twenty hours and then watch the Anime and see the people behind the characters and what they do in real life. Another advantage is being able to experience an online-esque Rpg without dealing with idiots, monthly fees and all the other trouble associated with that particular type of game. I wish we had some sort of say in what was released over here, because I really want to play this game.

Kramer "Kite flies at his enemies with rage, but then gets caught in a tree"

I'll agree that anime accompaniment (beyond the usual brief handful of cinemas) would be a welcome new way to become better acquainted with a game world without having to interrogate thousands of slack-jawed NPCs. Of course, bundling fully-fleshed out episodes of an animated series with game discs would inevitably add a significant amount to the cost, yet it'd hardly be fair to sell separately an animated series containing information vital to completing the game.

Either way, few North American publishers are equipped for such an ambitious localization, including Atlus, whose previous work with Bandai makes them a likely candidate for handling .hack in the unlikely event it heads Stateside.




"At the helm of all things .hack-related are a trio of well-known entertainment figures. Scenario writer Kazunori Ito (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) and animation director Koichi Mashimo (Popolocrois Monogatari, Irresponsible Captain Tylor) join Gainax character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Evangelion, Nadia) who is reportedly working on a .hack manga series as well."

Holy schnizelfritz, Erin! This thing's got the anime equivalent of Chrono Trigger's pedigree. I'd get the blasted game just to watch the cartoons that went with it.

'Course, I'd probably get the game anyway, since the concept is excessively interesting... a MSORPG (Massively Singleplayer Offline RPG's), if you will. Wait, that could be pretty much any Squaresoft game. Well, you get the idea. I just hope the bad guys tell me I'm "ghey" when I first meet them and then howl "Exploit! Cheater! Hacker!" as I smite them righteously down.

There better not be simulated lag, though.

-Northwind, who decrees that whoever came up with "Ragnarokin' the Suburbs" is either the smartest idiot or the dumbest genius the world has ever known.

The intensity of the voice work involved in localizing .hack has given rise to some speculation as to the possibility of WD handling it, thus accounting for one of Vic's "mind-blowing" promises. Myself, I don't really see them taking on dubbing 2 hours of legitimate anime in addition to getting 4 20-hour installments out the door in a manner timely enough to meet the demands of a wholly serial story. Similarly, if an independent group were to handle the anime, they'd very probably beat Vic's crew to the finish line -- by a whole lot. And unlike ADV's release of the AtL series, if .hack is to be at all reliant on these anime, their releases are gonna have to coincide.

In other news, for all the bitching that's been done about those 1337-speaking superIMP69s, part of what makes me so giddy about .hack is the possibility of seeing them wantonly parodied, along with the rest of MMORPG convention.

Out of context

WHen I saw the name .hack, the first thing I thought was that Bandai was doing a graphical console version of one of the classic roguelike games like Rogue, Hack, or Nethack. I was so very excited for a moment. I still am, but not as much so. Anyhow:

An episodic RPG better be either cheap as hell for installments or very, very long. Any other way it's just extra packaging. Anyhow, the integration of game and anime with GOOD staff on the anime side as well seems quite interesting. Hopefully they'll stay distinctly on their sides (anime being real-world, and game being game) and be able to suppelement each other while still being able to stand alone in their respective media.

As a final note, .hack the game will most likely be a Japan-only release, but as far as the anime goes, I'm sure someone will fan-subtitle it. In which case, you'll only need a high-speed connection and the knowledge of where to look to find it...... That makes me feel a little bit better.

Yes, but if the integreation is what makes it all interesting, watching some badly fan-subbed version of the anime is hardly going to be the same as the interwoven experience. Would we even care about these people without the backdrop of the game? I doubt I would. Who's with me?

Sim luz0r

.hack has to be commended for, if nothing else, at least managing to reach unbelievable plateaus of dorkiness. As a dorky gamer, i'd have to consider it appealing dorkiness, though. Vicariously playing a fictional game through the actions of my videogame avatar...the sheer inanity of that prospect's enough to sell me. i'm crossing my fingers hoping that the designers won't be content to just ride that gimmick...this one has some really testiculartastic potential. i'd cry if .hack's intriguing story ends up as a hackneyed, cliche-ridden work like that of too many games.

Interesting point for a topic, maybe: the gameplay likely will simulate that of a MMORPG. However, the gameplay of the average MMORPG is dull at times, with pretty much all of the time spent either slaughtering endless armies of random enemies to gain XP or on quests for items and equipment to boost your character's stats that wee little bit. Needless to say, .hack's gameplay will likely require major mods to that what direction would everyone like for that to take? An interface which attempts to simulate an MMORPG's design, but a normal RPG's approach to progression? Or, i dunno, what?

-Don Juan King, thinks M.C. Hawking could take Tony Hawking in a fight

Considering what's known about .hack, I'd say the usual humdrum of endless generic monster-slaying is out. At least, within the construct of the game within the game -- it is, after all, on the blink, forcing the player to restore order through whatever means. So here's hoping that, Matrix-like, .hack's all about stepping outside the bounds of the possible within the construct of the game world. The rulebreaking implications of its very premise are another reason I'm so excited about this game.

Joy to The World


I think .hack looks pretty damn cool, at least from what I can tell. I'm just wondering how they're gonna make it so you save the world in a game about an online RPG. Because, if it's an RPG, you gotta save the world. And so far it seems like you'd just be saving a buncha teenagers from buying a different online RPG, now that their favorite is being a bastard.


Don't you see the comedic genius of the pun, my friend? You're not saving the world; you're saving "The World." You gotta love subtlety -- it's such a rare mineral these days.

Dishin' out the love


Considering I probably just failed the *shudders* accounting test I took today, perhaps you could give me a bit of love and print this! Anyone out there read any of Tad Williams' stuff? When I first read the news about .hack, I was instantly reminded of his "Otherland" books. They're (essentially) about some people who hack into an online sim/fantasy world to find out what's wrong with it from the inside, very much like .hack's premise. I really enjoyed the books, so I'm salivating at .hack (good thing I'm getting my minor in Japanese muhahahaha). I also played EQ and Camelot quite a bit but the no plot/ endless competition is pretty weak-sauce, so a MMORPG-esque game w/ a plot sounds pretty freakin' gravy to me. Besides, who likes putting up with unemployed 30-something year old greasy fat guys' egos because they're higher level than you? (nevermind the fact that those of us w/ lives don't have 17 hours a day to devote to DAoC) Also, I hated DWVII for its tired clichés and painful graphics. Oh yeah, and craptastic music.


I know 3 Erins and no Aarons. Weird? Not as weird as changing the name for summoned monsters in every new FF game. Aeons? riiiiiiight.....

I've not yet had the chance to read Tad Williams, but judging from the sheer number of people who've told me to do so, it's pretty obvious that people like Otherland. And as people like Otherland, guys, and .hack is eerily similar in premise, it oculdn't hurt to give them more of what they want, you dig?


Hello Erin!!!

Ahem, considering the types of RPGs on the horizon, I think .hack is a welcomed change. While I'm sure I'll enjoy games like Suikoden 3, I'm really hungry for RPGs that trully stand out story and design-wise. Wild Arms 3 is a good exemple.

The idea is great, and it fits perfectly in today's gaming industry. It's almost poking fun at online gaming at a moment where its future is completely incertain. And I'm quite glad to see that they actually wrote the whole story already, I certainly wouldn't want to start buying each "episodes" only to see the story drag on and on due to the serie's success until it no longer makes any damn sense.


Not a DBZ fan, huh?

Got beer?

Mizz Erin,

Would I shell out for a serialized game? Are you crazy?! I'm absolutely stoked about Xenosaga. I love games like Suikoden and Arc the Lad that perfectly connect to each other. Only this is one step better, since I know a sequel is on the way. It gives me something to look forward to after I finish, like the Lord of the Rings movies. I eat that stuff up.

Dot Hack sounds very cool, cool in a "now why didn't I think of that?" kind of way. If the games turn out to deliver on the promise of the premise, I'll be among the first in line to cross my fingers and pray. I mean, it's not IMPOSSIBLE, right? Anime has come into its own as a major niche market in the US, right? Maybe a joint effort between a game publisher and an anime publisher could emerge... right? ..... RIGHT? ....

I hate beer, but I'm gonna go get one just so I can cry in it.
El Cactuar

I'm crying right alongside you, mate. This is one I definitely want a shot at.

I have no problem with shelling out for a serial effort myself, so long as it is finite and cohesive, much as Phil was getting at above. Too bad not everyone feels the same way.

None taken

No offense, but I don't think you asked the right question. I think (or at least surmise from these columns) that we'd all like to play something as unique as a serialized continuous RPG, but the real question is:

'Would you shell out for a serialized game that isn't by Square?'

Think I'm exaggerating? Which do you think people are more excited about, Chrono or El Dorado's Gate? The possibility of a continuation of FFX or the possibility of a continuation of Shenmue? I like Square as much as the next gamer, and I'm not trying to give the rabid, 'old-school' anti-Square faction some ammo, but it's pretty hard to deny the meager chances it gives other, less-established developers to capture the hearts and minds of the public, with or without a wild idea.

Gah, I just depressed myself...


I find your logic ironic, considering Square is the company that brought the genre to the unwashed masses and paved the way for a flood of RPGs the like of which had never been seen.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't think that, in the unlikely event .hack were ever brought to North America, it'd be the unwashed masses to whom it'd appeal. It'd be us. The niche gamers. The "old-schoolers." The people looking forward to Suikoden III as much as Kingdom Hearts. The people who got the word out about PaRappa.

So I think I did ask the right question. We support lesser-known series like WA and BoF -- they continue to survive. But would they, necessarily, if you had to buy them incrementally, paying for more extraneous packaging with each installment?

Not a chance


This is one example of a game that I see having absolutely no possibility of being ported over here. Think of the market: a console RPG that plays like a computer MMORPG. Computer gamers won't play it because it's a console game. Console gamers won't play it because it's like a MMORPG. The only people who WOULD play it are those few people that like both types of games; assuming of course they like the idea in the first place and are willing to shell out cash for it.

Bottom line: this isn't a Vib Ribbon. Its an quirky foreign game with about as much chance for success over here as a Tekken/WWF SmackDown! hybrid.

Same genre, completely different audience.

-Red Raven

You know as long as you're gonna call me "EM" you may as well drop the other shoe and prefix it with "Auntie."

Anyway, we've soared with this idea long enough. It's time to confront the bitter truth again - there are a lot of reasons why .hack will never turn up on North American shores.

Closing Comments:

Well. Do Drew the favor of sending him letters. Do me the favor of not having to think of a topic. You guys don't get near enough free topic quality time with your weekend dad.

- Erin Mehlos

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