As many of you may know (and as everyone who cares about good video games should know), there are four .hack games covering one large story. .hack//OUTBREAK is the third installment of the series, and I think anyone who has read my previous review of .hack//MUTATION will know what’s coming next. (If you are one of those people who doesn’t want to be told to play the first two games multiple times, please skip the next paragraph.)
Play the first two games. That’s right—if you want to get into this series, DO NOT start with this game! Starting with .hack Part 3 would be similar to starting at disc 3 of Final Fantasy VIII. You will not get nearly as much enjoyment out of this game as you could if you don’t play the first two…so play them.
In case you are unsure of what order the .hack games come in (even though they clearly state Part 1, Part 2, etc. in the title), it is this: .hack//INFECTION, .hack//MUTATION, .hack//OUTBREAK, .hack//QUARANTINE. Once more, if this hasn’t sunk in already…PLAY THE FIRST TWO GAMES (.hack//INFECTION and .hack//MUTATION) BEFORE PLAYING THIS ONE! Rent them if you have to; they can all be beaten relatively quickly and you will MISS OUT on several SIDE QUESTS as well as IMPORTANT STORYLINE ELEMENTS if you don’t!! Got it? Play. First. Two. Games.
Alright then. If you are re-joining us here from paragraph one, welcome back! The controls and visuals and audio and whatnot have not changed for this installment of the .hack//SERIES. They are still easy to use, and are a pretty and melodious as before, with not really any signs of improvement/ruination. I consider this to be a major plus, since any major change, whether it be an increase or a decrease in any aspect of the game other than the storyline, would throw of my gaming “flow,” so to speak.
The story has, indeed, gotten more exciting in this volume, and some parts will have you saying, “Oh…wha…ahh…oh my…woaah…” It will keep you wrapped up in it until the very end, and when you finish this game you will find yourself quickly shooting off to the store to buy the final installment.
The replay value, as always, is still quite high. There are thousands and thousands of more areas to explore in this game, so you will never finish them all. Simply NAMING all the areas in the game would take way too long to even consider doing. Needless to say, it is very easy to replay this game and find something new to do, especially since, for the most part, the items in all the dungeons are randomly generated.
This series is, hands down, one of the most fun gaming series I’ve ever played. It ranks way up there with series like Lufia, Dragon Warrior, and Final Fantasy. The fact that this is more like an action/RPG rather than one involving random encounters just makes it all the more enjoyable, and all the easier to play multiple times. I have played the games in this series for hundreds of hours, despite each of them being beatable in less than 15-20 hours, without even considering the idea of boredom. If you are even the slightest fan of RPGs of any type, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to play these games. Just make sure you refer to paragraph 2 of this review before you do so.