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.hack//Roots Complete Collection PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 00:00
.hack//RootsTime for another trip into The World... version 2. This version doesn't seem to be quite as friendly as the original, with Player Killing being positively commonplace, and new player Haseo is quick to start wondering if he should ever have bothered joining. But the mysterious Twilight Brigade are equally quick to take an interest in him...

Haseo's discovering the The World isn't all that friendly to new players - no sooner does he join the game than he has a run-in with a player killer. Fortunately for him, experienced player Ovan - the strong, mysterious type - comes to his rescue, although it appears he may have an ulterior motive. Meanwhile, Ovan's player-colleague Shino works on bringing another player, Tabby, into their Twilight Brigade guild, while a rival guild gets concerned about Ovan's plans...

Roots is set in The World R:2, a new version of the game created after a datacentre fire destroyed the original version. The basic idea is the same, but as with all upgrades some things are improved and some aren't. Haseo had heard of the game from a friend who had played "R:1", and it's fair to say his first impressions don't really meet up to his expectations - especially when he's PK'd right off the bat and has to restart before he'd even gotten anywhere.

TabbyOvan

HaseoMysterious killer

As for the story - Ovan and Shino are trying to rebuild their guild, the Twilight Brigade. While never a large guild in the first place, they've lost some members, and Ovan seems to have decided that Haseo meets his membership requirements. He's also sensed something "special" about him. Shino, meanwhile, has been working on persuading cat-girl Tabby to sign up, but from both Ovan and Shino there's a definite feeling that they're hiding something - and the methods they use to recruit Haseo and Tabby are more like manipulation than a direct approach. Other players don't seem to entirely trust them, either, with flying cat-man Phyllo trying to get information from Haseo about his contact with Ovan, and rival guild TaN doing their best to make sure that, whatever Ovan and Shino are up to, they don't succeed.

"Twilight Brigade" gives the strongest hint as to what Ovan's after - R:2 is based on R:1's code, so could the Key of the Twilight has made it intact through the upgrade? Ovan thinks it has, and it's the mission of his guild to try and find it. To most people in the game, though, the Key is just a legend, and not real - and that makes the Twilight Brigade's members almost outcasts in the game.

Love is in the airCaptive

ObserversLogin

As you'd expect from anything .hack, there's a lot of talking throughout the series - but this time it's talking that's interspersed with a reasonable bit of action, most of which centres around the mysterious Tri-Edge, a character who seems inextricably linked to the Key of the Twilight and who is responsible for a number of game-changing surprises around the middle of the series. Roots, over the course of one or two episodes, unexpectedly takes its settings and turns it upside down through the death and/or capture of a number of central characters, events which leave Haseo badly shaken and the Twilight Brigade on the verge of collapse. They're not the only guild to suffer major upsets, either, and the way it's done really did surprise me, as much through being completely unexpected as anything else - no character in this series is indespensible, and the series uses that to really throw the cat amongst the pigeons at times.

Not that that's necessarily a good thing, as instead of these events being the cue for the characters left behind to pick up the pieces and move on, they just begin to wallow in their own self-pity. For three whole episodes. During this arc there's the odd scene thrown in of other plotting going on around the place, but a lot of time is handed over to a detailed examination of the Twilight Brigade's disintegration. Now, it's not riveting viewing - the arc goes on for far too long and there's just not enough material to support it. But it does make for a fairly thorough piece of character development, and after giving a 1,001 shows a drubbing over the years for not doing enough in that department, I can hardly criticise too much for getting a boatload of it here.

Tri-EdgeConfrontation

Rescue rangersAI

The other consequences of the in-game deaths will be familiar to anyone who's been following the various incarnations of .hack, as in-game defeat leads to a real-world coma. You would think that, having been through all this before, the CC Company would have taken measures to get that sort of bug out of their systems (having your players end up in hospital can't be good PR), but it's a part of the mythos of the series that just keeps coming back. Haseo, though - unlike many other .hack protagonists - isn't prepared to take the loss of friends (or potential love-interest) lying down, though: whether he has the game skills to handle Tri-Edge or not, he's going to try and take him down. His rage is probably the first real emotion that anyone in this series has shown, and for that reason alone the latter part of the series becomes quite addictive viewing, even if Haseo's descent almost to madness in the way he pursues his goals makes him positively unlikeable at times.

Presentation-wise, Roots is as you'd expect from a Bee Train series, with the usual lush visuals. Music is as high-profile as ever, too, although this time around Ali Project are responsible for most of the background themes, and I have to say they're not as appealing on the ears as the old Yuki Kajiura themes (which do still appear from time to time, making it easy to spot the difference). Every time I hear an Ali Project soundtrack, it seems worse than the last one, and this is no exception.

The one area where Roots really falls down, though, is that it seems to rely too much on prior knowledge. The series is linked to the latest incarnation of the .hack video games, which haven't been released in the UK, so that line of information isn't available. Having seen .hack//SIGN and .hack//Legend of the Twilight gives the background of Aura and the Key of the Twilight - enough to help, but still not quite what the series seems to expect. If you came to this series cold and didn't understand the significance of the Key of the Twilight, I think you'd be pretty much lost as to what it's all about - and that's a big failing.

Despite that, though, and the huge amount of questions that are left unanswered when the series draws to a close, there's just something about the series that manages to keep me interested, even though I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it. I'm not hugely drawn to the characters, the main plot is in some ways a rehash of SIGN, and the pacing is all off - and yet I still watched it through, still enjoyed the character interactions (if not the characters themselves), and didn't feel the urge to switch off that I used to get from SIGN. I confess that I did eventually give up and head to Wikipedia to help fill in all the blanks left by the series, though - there's a good run-down there of the .hack//G.U. games that the series ties in with that, while it won't answer all your questions, will at least leave you a lot less confused.

I can't bring myself to give good marks to a series that requires additional research, though. Perhaps if the .hack//G.U. games were available here I'd be more generous - hell, I'd probably have played them by now - but that's not the case. It seems strange that the series was even released here when such an important piece of "supplementary information", but it has - and while it's interesting in places and not short on mystery, there's just too much left unanswered for me to be able to wholeheartedly recommend it. More of a rental prospect than a purchase.

For full episode summaries and screenshots, check the reviews of the individual releases:
» Volume 1
» Volume 2
» Volume 3
» Volume 4
» Volume 5
» Volume 6

Rating - ***

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