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January 23, 2004
.Hack Volume 1: Infection - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
19/3/2004AtariBanDai1$99.95

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Typical RPG type screen.
If someone had asked me a couple of months ago if the .hack (pronounced ‘dot hack’) games would be released in PAL territories I would have given a fairly certain "no" answer. This game (there will be four of them actually) is an undertaking on an unprecedented scale: a beautifully designed and overwhelming manga/anime universe that simultaneously employs 6 separate media: TV anime, Original Video Animation (OVA), videogame, mobile phone game, novel and comic book (manga). Indeed this game will include an exclusive DVD containing a 45 minute original Anime movie! You will have to watch it and uncover clues on how to solve the mystery of .hack!

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Nice graphics there...
As previously mentioned .hack Volume 1 Infection is the first episode in a 4-part game series that pioneers a new direction within the RPG genre by offering a simulated Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) experience. In fact this MMORPG is entirely simulated with no internet connection required to play. My question is, however, that wouldn't a simulated online world meerly be a game with many interactable characters? Still, I haven't played the game yet so time will tell if it offers anything new. The developers are promising that multiple quests will be available with detailed enviromnets that transform in realtime.

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Yes these are Japanese screens.
As Bandai’s biggest project yet, the .hack series gains support from a critically acclaimed design team, composed of Kazunori Ito (screenplay), Koichi Mashimo (director) and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (character designer) - all of whom have gained recognition through contributing to some of the most successful manga/anime of all time (Ghost In The Shell, Evangelion). As you can see the graphics in this game are nice, but nothing to write home about. The texturing looks adequate, as do the character models. It does look pretty nice moving with some nice effects being used in spots. The voiceovers will be available in either Japanese (with subtitles hopefully!) or English to suit your tastes.

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Is that the ILOVEU virus?
To be honest we're not quite sure what to make of this game yet. It is certainly an ambitious project, and one which manga fans will likley get a lot of enjoyment out of - but the general gaming community may not quite get the grand scale of this project.

Is this game going to become a hit? It's unlikely given the rather unique, and quite Japanese, style, but those willing to try and/or persist will likely find a game worthy of the effort you put into it. With the creators of Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion involved with this project it is certain to raise a few eyeborows and indeed the game has been selling quite well in Japan and to a lesser extent America. Expect a PAL release in early 2004.