We've seen the release of four games and an anime series from Namco Bandai Games' .hack property, but the company isn't going to let it end there. The next title on the agenda is .hack//G.U., which is the beginning of a whole new series in the .hack universe. The storyline in G.U. takes place seven years after the end of the original four-part series, and based on what we saw at a recent press event, it looks like some interesting things have happened in that time.
The first game in the G.U. series revolves around The World, which is the same massively multiplayer game-within-the-game as in previous .hack games. In the previous series, The World was destroyed, but conveniently, it has been rebuilt for G.U. You play the game as Haseo, a young man who was attacked by a bunch of player killers and has since vowed to hunt down and eliminate all player killers in The World. As a result, Haseo has earned himself a reputation as player killer-killer. There is one mysterious player killer that Haseo has his sights set on, and the story follows the unraveling mystery of the identity of this nefarious enemy.
The battle system in G.U. doesn't diverge from its predecessors for the most part. As you move about The World you'll encounter various enemies either by simply running up to them or by sneaking up and landing a preemptive strike. There are the usual monsters and fiends that you'll encounter in a player-versus-environment setting, but in this version of The World you'll frequently engage in player-versus-player combat as well. The battle system is action based, so you can move about freely and attack. Since Haseo is proficient with a wide array of weapons, you can switch weapons in the midst of battle to change up your attack on the fly. The tension gauge and combo system both return, so you can expect the battles to be filled with plenty of button mashing and flashy effects.
In addition to the standard battles, there's an arena mode where you can go fight. Doing so will affect your rank among all the other players in The World, and as you improve your rank you'll earn items as rewards. Items range in value, but you can be sure that you'll be handsomely compensated for achieving a high rank in the game.
You'll still communicate via e-mail in the game, but the interface and functionality of the system have been updated to make it easier to communicate with other players. You can also form a guild and trade items with other players. As an added bonus, if you have a save file on your memory card from the previous .hack game, you'll unlock a special item in G.U.
The look and the tone of the game are somewhat darker than the previous .hack games, but G.U. still shares the same sci-fi anime aesthetic. The landscape looks a bit more drab and depressed, and the characters seem to be designed to convey the collective angst of the inhabitants of The World.
Based on what we saw of the game it looks like G.U. will offer a very familiar role-playing experience, which is good news for fans of the .hack series. If nothing else, the darker tone, new characters, and all-new story could be enough to make it worth your time to give the franchise a second look. We'll bring you more updates, screenshots, and videos before the game ships this fall.