Review: .Hack//G.U. Vol. 4//Reconnection
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Available On: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
THE FINAL CHAPTER - Introduction
It all comes down to this title; a sequel, to a sequel, 15 years in the making. I couldn’t even begin to describe the utter excitement in the pit of my stomach. Coming into .Hack//G.U. Reconnection, my first question is if it manages to fit seamlessly. More importantly, are the voices intact?
Perhaps those that couldn’t return for various reasons aren’t included. After all, .Hack//G.U. Redemption has quite a definitive finale to bookend some arcs. On the other side, the loose ends justify Vol. 4. How will the MMORPG known as The World: R2 play without glitches?
Many questions are floating about, but above all, I hope Atoli returns. I married her in-game, for God’s sake. Don’t judge me harshly, alright - I did say she had me smitten.
GOTTA GO FAST! - Writing
.Hack//G.U. Reconnection isn’t long, clocking in at about two hours. It was expected, given that it only came into existence solely to patch up plot holes. Character stories are done, and we’ve seen everyone develop as much as possible within this universe. I’m not going to discuss details because the short length doesn’t afford me that luxury - anything I say would be thought of as a spoiler. I won’t discuss the current state of the MMORPG either or what became of that. I will, however, mention that the game wastes little time introducing a short mystery. It was decent and does what it needs, but it comes with a caveat. See, I believe that, unless you’re engrossed in the story of .Hack from the beginning; the appeal may be lost to you. It’s exceptionally barebones, and that’s not even my biggest gripe.
FAST AND (SORT OF) EFFICIENT! - Writing
The narrative’s rushed. There’s no desire to squeeze every ounce of extra juice from the cherry on top. Again, it relies on the past three beefy entries to help lay the groundwork. Reconnection has one purpose; to answer lingering questions, and it does that but leaves one floundering. Well, allow me to be more precise on that statement. What I’m referring to does get closure, but it’s a blink, and you miss it. It’s mentioned nonchalantly during a brief discussion, and unless your focus is at peak capacity, it’s possible to miss it. The thing is, even if you hear it, nothing about the tidbit screams concrete. I acknowledge the sly tease of continuing .Hack in some form, though I couldn’t say if a revival is coming or an anime adaptation. With the brisk duration of the title, the rush job makes sense, but it’s still a shame.
Maybe I want too much from a companion title tacked on 15 years after the fact. .Hack//G.U Reconnection was conceptualized with a goal in mind, and nothing more was promised. What I should be acknowledging is the way everyone’s personality has an effortless continuity. They retain their quirks but also show a degree of growth within each. You know, If I weren’t constantly nailing home that the G.U. titles were initially a PS2 trilogy, I don't believe anyone would be the wiser. That’s how bloody meticulous it is. It was nice to have such a seamless glue job, but, much like the core short story, without previous commitment, it may not resonate for you like it’s managing with me. Regardless, seeing loose threads tied up sufficiently is satisfying. To see characters in a new light, even if it’s brief, was fun.
BATTLING IS NO PROBLEM! - Gameplay
Being the last entry into the quadrilogy, you're likely wondering what I could realistically discuss. While there aren’t many new mechanics, there’s still a lone one that may not alter how combat functions, but it does bolster the fun factor. See, melee attacks gain a heightened smoothness. I was able to ravage enemies with slick precision, opening the door to some kickass abilities. They prove disastrous and are accompanied by a sleek presentation. Speaking of the combat, it’s worth reiterating that my session only lasts two hours. I admit the reasoning behind that is because as I was neck-deep in Redemption, I was determined to be supremely all-mighty, reaching the cap of 150. Not only was I absurdly overpowered, but I also wore the item that voided encounters unless I chose to exercise my freedom to mutilate. It was a cakewalk to the final, final boss.
ENTER THE ANIMATION! - Performance/Presentation
There are nifty animations with high-quality in-game pixel models, expanding through the three prior releases. .Hack//G.U. Reconnection takes the concept and reimagines it with cutscenes that lean heavily on the anime style. It’s beautiful, transitioning cleanly into a whole cartoon aesthetic. Character models are also enhanced with an increased polygon count. I was charmed by it, but what hinders it from becoming my favourite aspect is the damn stutters. Yeah, the robotic movements of Rebirth return. It’s strange because it isn’t a widespread plague, with some being as silky as Atoli’s skin complexion. Nothing about these screams taxing, and the visuals look basic enough for the Nintendo Switch to handle. Fortunately, the new attack animations are as smooth as my face after a shave and wash. It shouldn’t even come as a surprise that’s the case since graphically, the environments are still drab.
WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT! - Sound Design
I’ve been consistently middling in voice acting. It ranges from being decent to good, with flashes of splendour. Atoli, Gaspard, and Haseo are names that often stood out because of their spirited performances. Well, I’m happy to report that not only does everyone maintain their distinct identities, but thanks to the 15 years in-between entries, there are vast improvements across the board. For starters, all voices have a more mature sound with a deeper tone. Their delivery and cadence are the best it has ever been, though one does sound modestly different, losing his sultry-like tone. I wasn’t convinced it was the same actor until I looked up. The others weren’t victims to that confusion, sounding like themselves, but a refined version. It fits terrifically with the 18 months that have canonically passed since the events of Redemption.
Finally, there’s a potent show of development, but not in the classical sense. It isn’t explicitly said but is, instead, implied. To coincide with the bolstered calibre of voice design, emotion is another aspect that receives a boost. It’s easier to discern and recognize. From .Hack G.U.//Rebirth onwards, everyone is given a personality trait that essentially defines who they are for the entirety of the trilogy. While some are laced in confidence, a few are steeped in fright and nerves. It’s fascinating to see their evolution in the space between Parts three and four, not through dialogue but their mannerisms. Of course, this could all be directly caused by the actors honing their craft. Even if that’s the case, though, there’s something about growing alongside their digital selves that is truly poetic.
RECODING AN OLD JRPG! - Collection Overview
As a bundle, .Hack//G.U Last Recode is a spectacular, wait, no, a friggin amazing remaster of classics from a bygone era. What helps propel this collection over the PS4 counterpart is the portability. Because of my gripes, such as constantly jumping in and out into your faux desktop, the ability to lie in bed and relax is perfect. I can’t explain it, but I guess it, I don’t know, feels right. It was bliss for me to revisit the MMORPG world and rediscover its secrets. There are also recaps of the first quadrilogy. It’s perfect for newcomers interested in diving in with knowledge of prior incidents. As a nice bonus, there are a couple of redubbed parody scenes I’d suggest saving for the end to avoid spoilers. They’re wild and genuinely hilarious.
AND THE RECONNECTING VERDICT IS…
.Hack//G.U. Reconnection is, without a doubt, just the cherry on top of this gaming sundae. If the length is a worry, it was never advertised as an extra full-fledged adventure - this is a companion title. Hearing all those voices I’ve grown used to returning for a last hurrah is heartwarming. We even got to see those that came into the plot late into Vol. 3 get slightly fleshed out, so they don’t feel so shoehorned into the lore. What you get is as advertised - any loose ends are tied up in bows. I wish there was a bit of effort to realize the little mystery here. There’s a flawless transition into a continuation that’s half my age, and yet, the same care wasn’t put into the experience. It’s a grossly subjective opinion, but at the end of the day, I’m satisfied.
I loved revisiting .Hack//G.U., and now have a potent hunger for those that started it all. Just give me Kite, give me Blackrose. I recommend this whole collection - it’s an unbelievable value.
Special thanks to Bandai Namco for providing the code used for this coverage.