Honestly, the idea of a game within a game has always seemed silly to me but, there's no convincing Cyber Connect of that. Never mind the fact that the famed .hack series has been receiving a rather unexpected and strong fan base, the constant episodic content drove both series fans and nay-sayers to trepidation (either in anticipation or pure annoyance). .hack revolves around the online MMO known as The World, which the protagonists from the first four games faced. After the building which housed the game's servers burned down in flames, it took a few years before The World R:2 eventually came to fruition.
G.U. replaces the jolly Kite with Haseo, a vengeful PKK (or player-killer-killer) who takes no mercy to online players who pick and tease weaker World members. In no way should this regard Haseo as heroic, since his antics and cranky demeanor eventually cause his own demise. Tri-Edge, a rumored glitch in the system, appears and brutally beats Haseo to a bloody digital pulp. The corrupt player erases Haseo's profile and reduces him to nothing more than a lowly level 1 newb. Furious, Haseo enters The World R:2 once more, seeking not only to rebuild his prolific online entity, but also to take vengeance and intelligence on Tri-Edge.
Rebirth does an excellent job of creating something fresh, yet very familiar to fans.
Looking back at the last four .hack games, Rebirth does an excellent job of creating something fresh, yet very familiar to fans. Gritty, dark environments were replaced with rich, cel-shaded graphics. Battles are now real-time and, upon engaging enemies, lock the player and their party within an inescapable blue dome of energy. How well you perform in battle heavily serves a consequence on the rest of your party, who have a Morale bar that increases and decreases based on their leaders actions. Combos, special attacks and more powerful renditions of normal attacks (known as Rengekis) become available as more and more foes crumble to bits and pieces.
Presentation wise, it does its best at simulating the feel and authenticity of an online game. Whether exiting The World only to be forwarded to your desktop, mail and online forums, or running through villages crawling with leet-speaking players, it's as close as you'll get to logging into Battle.net.
Though aesthetically, the game is quite marvelous, some issues definitely hinder how wondrous The World really could have been. After a few hours, The Arena is unlocked, which is a huge area pitting players against other players. Unlike other RPGs such as the Tales of… series, Rebirth's arena is necessary to progress through the game. Due to this alone, it halts the game's pacing to a sluggish crawl and slowly causes the essence of the game to become dry and uninteresting. It's quite the shame, since Rebirth is excellent on all other points.
Quite frankly, no more fitting title could be given to .hack's fifth. As Rebirth cleverly disguises core elements from past games, it also makes some smart and more engaging choices. With beautiful cel-shaded graphics, a fast and challenging battle system, and over 30 hours of gameplay, it's easily worth giving a look. Most importantly, I could still recommend it anyone who couldn't get into the last games, since I loathed the .hack series, up to this point. Needless to say, it's worth a shot.