.hack//G.U. vol. 2//Reminisce Preview
We spend a few hours in The World as we check out an English-language version of this MMO-themed action RPG.
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Currently scheduled for release in North America next month, .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce is the second installment in Namco Bandai's .hack//G.U. trilogy, which launched with the release of Vol. 1: Rebirth last year. If you enjoyed that game, there's a good chance that you're eager to get your hands on this one, import your save data, and continue your adventure. If you're not familiar with Rebirth or didn't particularly like it, it seems reasonable to assume that Reminisce isn't going to do much for you, since it picks up where its predecessor left off and appears to add very little to the formula.
Like all of the previous .hack games (this isn't the first trilogy), Reminisce takes place inside a massively multiplayer game titled The World. Specifically, Reminisce takes place inside The World: Revision Two--a lawless fantasy world that has become something of a haven for player killers (PKers). The situation has worsened as Reminisce gets under way, because for reasons unknown none of the players in the world are able to log out and are, in fact, living in the game rather than at their keyboards. The game admins are unable to offer any explanation for this peculiar bug, and so groups of PKers have taken to slaughtering any player crossing their path--figuring that they'll be returned to their normal lives by killing those responsible for the inconvenience. You'll assume the role of Haseo, a player-killer killer whose brief but eventful history in the world is detailed in a lengthy intro movie for those of you who didn't experience it for yourselves in the first game.
Although .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce doesn't feature online support of any kind, the game does a reasonable job of making you feel like you're inside an online world with other players. In other words, the non-player characters that you'll encounter have wildly varying personalities and, for the most part, they don't come across as people that you'd want to "group" with in real life. There are players who have clearly been spending more time in the game than in their real lives, regardless of the current situation; there are players who will go out of their way to help others; and of course, there's at least one player who regularly feels the need to explain that she is in fact a man--scaring off any would-be cyber-suitors.
Much of your time in the early stages of the game will be spent either watching lengthy, conversation-heavy cutscenes or walking around and talking to other players in an attempt to get information. Warp points afford you a quick and easy way to move around in and between areas, and as a level 40 character you'll also have access to a steam bike (it vaguely resembles a motorcycle) from the outset, though its handling leaves a lot to be desired. It won't be too long before you're able to get into some combat, thankfully, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to go up against lower-level adversaries to familiarize yourself with the controls or to farm for items before you attempt any of the missions that are mandatory for the story to proceed.
When attempting missions you'll be able to group with up to two other characters, and you'll be able to control their actions to some degree by selecting play styles for them. To date the only characters we've grouped with have been a healer and a fighter, and both have performed their roles admirably without any assistance. The onscreen interface during combat is reminiscent of that in turn-based role-playing game battles, but all of the combat takes place in real time, with only brief pauses in the action when you activate certain special moves. You can also pause the action at any time if you feel the need to swap out weapons and armor pieces or use items such as health drinks, holy potions, revival medicines, and caramel sauces.
The majority of the battles that you fight will take place in dungeonlike areas where you're attempting to complete specific objectives. Those that we've played through to date have taken the form of numerous small rooms that only can be traveled between using warp points. Because the warp points invariably work in only one direction, the areas occasionally have a puzzlelike feeling about them--challenging you not only to fight your way to where you want to be, but also to figure out the route. Enemies tend to meander around these areas in small groups, and will attack you on sight if you don't manage to beat them to the punch with a well-timed surprise attack. At the end of each area you'll be graded on various aspects of your performance, including how many of the enemies you killed, how many of them you were able to spring surprise attacks on, how many treasure boxes you found, and how many environmental objects you destroyed.
It's clear that you won't need to have played .hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth to enjoy .hack//G.U. Vol. 2: Reminisce, though you'll certainly have an easier time figuring out its storyline if you have. We look forward to bringing you more information on the upcoming game as soon as it becomes available.