Review: .Hack// G.U. Vol.3//Redemption
By: Fernando Da Costa
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Available On: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
MAC ANU, HOW I HAVE MISSED YOU! - Introduction
Here we are; we’ve arrived at the final entry of the original G.U. trilogy. I’ll be forthright with y’all; so far, I can’t recall a damn thing that’s been happening here. I can, however, confirm that my heart is heavy, knowing I’m almost finished with the initial story. It’s also official that I’m unequivocally hooked on the plot and characters. My eyes are glued to my OLED, and I’m yearning to see the final round of Haseo’s journey. When I wrote my review for Rebirth, I questioned if I wasn’t just romanticizing .Hack//G.U. and peering at it with some thick-ass nostalgia goggles. Now that I’m two games deep, and while I recognize problems, I can say as a teenager, I had pretty damn good taste. Another thing else that has stayed prominent is my desire to, once again, revisit the Mac Anu of 2002. Bandai Namco, please?
MAYHEM AND CHAOS! - Writing
.Hack//G.U. Redemption amps up the in-game turmoil and twists the knob to eleven. Everything has fallen into utter anarchy, especially with the last hour never allowing me a second to breathe. Throughout all these reviews, I’ve maintained one ideology; this is just an anime in video game form. My statement couldn’t be more factual after concluding here. Hell, any doubts are eradicated once you see that friendship plays an intrinsic role in the conflict. Sure, you can dock some believability points. Usually, most within the online world aren’t receptive to being helpful. I’d argue the abundance of wholesomeness is why I felt coziness during my session, thus making it worth the absence of toxicity. Don’t fret, though, since you do cross PKers looking to murder unsuspecting NPCs. Awful behaviour is intact, but I very much prefer civilized interactions.
PRESSURE IS ON! - Writing
When finishing up .Hack//G.U. Reminisce, my biggest concern was story convolution. After all, I had already encountered a confusing narrative beat in that session. Well, .Hack//G.U. Redemption tries to nail a morsel of coherence by offering clarification. The good news is, despite having to ponder on the subject critically, my ultimate conclusion wasn’t far off. However, the bad news is the worries have then transferred to some of the characters. In the final hour or so, it’s impossible not to notice everything crammed into those moments. Because of that, there are incomplete threads that need tying up. Ordinarily, I’d lambast the hell out of a title for the failure to communicate. I can’t here, thanks to the additional new chapter mitigating criticisms since questions could find answers there. By proxy, it now sits under a microscope, pressed to deliver fulfilling closure.
OH, NO, I’M INVESTED! - Writing
Have I made abundantly clear how friggin cute Atoli is?
Because if not, this is your daily reminder that she’s adorable. All party members receive development now, and it’s distributed fairly. Some may take the spotlight more than others, but that’s only because of their importance. It was also around this time I came to realize how much of a damn I gave for the majority of these data packages. Friendships have reached the apex heights for how legitimate each one feels. I found myself continuing to be empathetic toward them. It won’t apply to everyone since the playable roster keeps growing, but it does when it counts. I hate that one individual specifically receives the scraps in terms of focus despite joining in the first game. There might be a sprinkling of interactions with them, but it’s a travesty that the appearances aren’t much more plentiful.
I’m not sure if I’ve adequately illustrated my praise. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve played many JRPGs that are more immersive. I’m not here trying to blow smoke up its ass for pandering sake. My standards are elite, and you know, .Hack//G.U. Redemption meets them all. After beating it, I felt an emptiness in my heart. It was like I was saying goodbye to several friends, and that’s a sign of superb literature.
Furthermore, not many titles have choices that leave me torn. The last one that did that was Persona 5, my first perfect score. Everyone maintains their identity, too, never getting muddled. Man, I had the cheesiest smile when speaking to specific characters. I know I’ve said this ad nauseam by this point, but the comfortability of this world is virile.
THE PAIN I FEEL! - Writing
I briefly touched on trauma and manipulation during my review of Vol. 2. .Hack//G.U. Redemption deals in more, and while I had a clue what the endgame would be, it remained an impactful element. I’m primarily a fan of this facet because it caters to a deep belief of mine. Gaming helps with a slew of mental health issues, alleviating the emotional blight of depression, among other ailments. It provides people with an escape, and I adore how .Hack as a franchise investigates that. It also touches on a few other sensitive subjects and tackles the effects they’d have on us. Astonishingly, a title released back in 2007 is referencing matters we, as a world, are currently facing, but I digress. All in all, I can’t wait to dive straight into .Hack//G.U. Reconnection.
OKAY, NOW IT’S A BIT MUCH! - Gameplay
It was honestly only a matter of when, and not if, dungeon traversal would become tedious. I’m shocked it took until the third, but, alas, here we are. The designs are uninspired, and despite Keywords, the possibilities aren’t infinite - expect redundancy. I now discussed this aspect as I wasn’t bothered at 20, 40, or even 60 hours into the romp. When I began hitting that 70 mark, though, I was fatigued by the constant repetition. Fortunately, it seems CyberConnect2 had a suspicion this would happen. They had the foresight to include an item that repels combat. The best part is, because monsters are on-screen, even though there’s no aggro, you can start a fight, even while wearing the perk. I could control how I’d grind and if I wanted to continue jumping into combat or beeline it towards the end.
IMPOSSIBLE BIKE RIDER! - Gameplay
.Hack//G.U. Reminisce had five separate bike-centric missions that had you compete in an obstacle course. It’s much the same in .Hack//G.U. Redemption, with the second bundle of five. As I attempted to run through them, though, I slowly became aware of something. The dedication to replicating the PS2 classics, while admirable, also applies to glitches. I couldn’t be more ecstatic because trying to achieve a number one rank on the leaderboards without a smidge of exploitation is painful. Even with near-perfect bike handling, I struggled to strike what needed to be struck. It’s frustrating, quickly devolving into a time sink with zero incremental improvements to your muscle memory. So, to exploit it, quickly pull up the map before crashing into a creature. Then, return to the gameplay, and if done correctly, the game registers it as beating the quest.
MORE TO LEARN! - Gameplay
Every new entry sees a plethora of either brand new mechanics or widening the scope of what already is in existence. .Hack//G.U. Redemption is no different, expanding upon features in exciting and enjoyable ways. For starters, an undisclosed power received in Rebirth obtains a further effect. Another has Crimson VS getting an update, implementing a nifty little card combo system. It’s up to me to determine which ones sync, and while that’s a trial and error process, the rewards are worth it. Besides, once you find some, it suddenly clicks in your head how to go about creating others. Alchemy is another that sees additional means. Although for that, there’s no reason to upgrade since, by default, the top rarity weapons acquired for Haseo all have excellent passive skills, eliminating the need to strengthen in this way. Sure, the damage boost is nice, but passives are better.
ARE YOU UPSET!? - Sound Design
The praise I’ve lobbed at the .Hack//G.U. trilogy for the superb soundtrack is warranted. I’ve also seen how apt my comparison to Nier: Replicant is. Like it, a vocalized portion of the score is sung in a fictional dialect. It works under the same ideology in that, by having a marvellous voice blurting out gibberish, I could absorb the emotion it puts into the instrumental. At the same time, my brain concentrates on the plot line and dialogue of the title. There’s no distraction because the perceived lyrics aren’t a dialect. Those gentle and tranquil piano riffs help it elevate to wondrous status, too. The genericism I mentioned in .Hack//G.U. Rebirth, with scores from dungeons and cities falling in that category, is still that, but Max Anu has also become iconic. In its simplicity, I familiarized myself, turning it into a comforting and highly recognizable melody.
The voice acting continues to coast the line from decent to good, with moments of brilliance in the mix. Look, I know I bring Atoli up often, but she remains impressive. I agree she could profit from polishing up the cadence of her lines, but what’s here is damn good. Haseo’s another that starts to emote his feelings well, be it bashfulness, sadness, or even rage. Please don’t assume that my pointing these two out is denouncing the others as purely rubbish. They were all excellent in their own right, but those two stood out as exceptional. Everyone shows vocal intensity as the event's climax, too, sucking me into the situation's urgency. My only gripe is while there is an explosion of anxiety, their polygonal models remain stone-faced. It creates this disconnect because what’s heard doesn’t match what’s seen. Thankfully, animated cutscenes do not suffer from this.
AND THE REDEEMING VERDICT IS…
.Hack//G.U. Redemption continues the momentum and is a fitting finale to the trilogy. These games will show their age, particularly visually, but that shouldn’t take away from the fun waiting for you. Grinding is, in parity to modern era JRPGs, more respectful of your time - it’s elementary. I eagerly invested in the characters and felt an inner tug-of-war when presented with a tough choice. The sense of humour fires on all cylinders now, garnering more hearty chuckles from me, with smirks being far more commonplace. For those with jobs or families, I invested shy of 30 hours, for a total playtime of 102. Granted, I haven’t collected everything, but the vast majority is done. Between the three, I’ve had an incredible time, and while dungeon music can get tiresome, it’s also the optimal chance to throw on a podcast as you murder.
I’m beyond excited to jump into the newly minted 4th chapter. Given the strong sense of finality in the third, I’m curious to see how it continues. Not only that, but I wonder if the voice actors will return or if there will be a few retcons. As is, of course, I recommend the damn game!
Special thanks to Bandai Namco for providing the code used for this coverage.