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Well, I'm about 11 hours into the game, and so far I've enjoyed it a lot.

One of the things I like about the game, is there is so much to do, and while the actual plot parts of the game may only take upwards of 20 hours or so, there is still a lot of things to do.

Graphically, the game is alright.  The characters look fantastic, the monsters looks pretty good.  Towns are pretty, dungeons are kind of bland, but given the random creation used for dungeons and area's, that's kind of expected.

Game play, it's a standard action adventure set up.  Your character gets close, enemy is targeted, like a real MMORPG, you can slash at an enemy if you are a few paces away, you don't have to be right on top of them.  There is no targeting button, to set a target, though while you don't even notice it, it's VERY easy to switch targets, the set up allows alight movements in direction to change your target.  Spells, and other items pause the action, and allow specific targeting, like a turn based RPG.  The action also pauses when you bring up the command window, to command your players.  You can tell them to attack, use skills, heal and other things.  For AI in a RPG, they are pretty smart.  If a character has died (Including you) and you ask for first aid, they will set revival above healing, and will go right back to healing after that.  They attack well, but you do have to tell them to use skills.

The creation of a fictional MMORPG was done very well.  When in towns and even roaming around dungeons, you will see idle chit chat between characters, just as you would in a role playing game.  You can trade items with other players asking for an item of theirs and choosing a few of your items to give them in return.  Trading is really the only way to upgrade weapons and armor, as the shops in towns only have the low level stuff.  Buying things in towns is only good for healing items and such.  You will find plenty of magic scrolls in the dungeons.  The only way to get money is to sell stuff.  After searching dungeons you will find the treasure room, with an item or two specifically for selling (Or trading).  Trading also has to be done for the other characters, as it seems that while they will level up on their own when they aren't in your party, they won't upgrade weapons and armor.  You find enough things in dungeons and such to keep a good trading stock so it's easy to trade for just about anything you want.
A few other little additions are a message board and email system within the game.  The message board looks like a regular message board, and updates as you progress.  The message board is mostly for learning how to do things, but you will find stuff to progress the story.  Some of your companions will email you at times, and for the most part, it's nothing big, but does serve to give you some insight to your companions in the real world.  I had an hour long email trading with a character called Mistrel about Apple Pie and Beef Stew, not because I had to, it just seemed natural to respond (You are given several pre-set responses).  Some email does progress the story, telling you where a new area is to visit.

The game isn't set in one big world, but rather many area's  The town serves as the hub, and to go to area's you enter a 3 word password system.  Nearly every combination will take you somewhere, so you can always screw around and level up at anytime you want.  And it really is up to you to level up.  The required dungeons will level you up, but not as much as you will probably want.

The story of the game is pretty strait forward.  Your friend (Orca) was put into a com while playing this game.  Your character (Kite), a newbie to the game is given a power to use, identical to the power that put his friend into a coma.  Orca was legendary player in the game, and is even mentioned in .hack//SIGN (the anime prequel) at one point.  During the game you will meet up with numerous characters to hang out with.  While some of them have no point in the game, it's nice to have variety.  The game is a direct sequel to .hack//SIGN (I'm thinking within a day after SIGN's finale).  While you don't need to see SIGN first (And keep in mind the first .hack game was released in Japan VERY early in SIGN's TV run), the ending of SIGN will answer some questions.  Who is Aura, why is she awake?  What was the thing chasing Aura?  Who is Morgana?  Also, don't expect an ending from this first game, being the first of 4, it's not going to end.  People who bash it for not having a real ending are just as stupid as people who backed the LOTR movies for not having endings.

So in the end, I'd go out and buy this game if you enjoy action RPG's, enjoy the .hack//SIGN anime on cartoon Network, or just want to play something different.

Just for note here are dates for the next 3 games.

.hack//MUTATION will come out May 6
.hack//OUTBREAK will come out August 5
.hack//QUARANTINE will come out November 4
(all dates are USA dates)  

Well, I beat the game...  So I thought I'd do an update (In hopes that while no one has responded, people read .  There will be some spoilers in this post, both related to the game and .hack//SIGN, so be warned.

The game took me about 15 hours to beat (I will admit I rushed a bit so that I would be done with .hack before the great Xenosaga release this week).  For being part 1 it had a decent ending (Though no more final than other multi-volume games/movies/books).  Volume 1 did conclude a plot point (it would seem at least) of .hack//SIGN as the last boss of Volume 1 was Skeith (Anyone who has seem the last ep of .hack//SIGN knows what Skeith is).  This brought in that nice little moral dilema of fighting Skeith, who was extreamly more difficult than any other boss in the game.  None of the .hack//SIGN characters made apperances in volume 1, outside Helba, Aura, and Balamung.  Sanjuro, a supporting character in the new .hack//DUSK anime does show up as a playable character in the game.

Few nice tidbits.  One beaten you are given a side quest to complete, which is a nice to add up some replay value.  Also, youre volume 1 data can be transfered to volume 2.  So over the next few months I can play now and then to build up my characters for volume 2.  volume 1 does limit how hard the levels can be in the game (Only going to lvl. 30) so leveling up last 30ish can be very time consuming, as the higher you level, the less a lvl. 30 monster will give, but you can still go arround and try getting all of volume 1's best weapons and armor.

Overal, any anime fan should be picking this game up, as well as the .hack//SIGN series on DVD.  Budget for it, if you are getting volume 1, plan to get the next 3 (Which will all be out this year in USA).   Given the amount of text, and vocals in the game, as well as the two audio tracks (THANK YOU BANDAI!!!!), I don't really mind the game being short, and you can continue palying after you beat the game with rewards that will pay off in future games.  It's a fun RPG, with a diffuculty above average compared to todays RPG's.

this is good news to hear.  I desperately needed the game after seeing the anime.  So his name is skeith now huh.  the poor kid. well thanks for the review, i was actually coming to post asking for opinions on the game


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