.hack//Quarantine - Reader Re-Retroview  

The End of The World
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

Less than 20 Hours
+ Elements add some strategy to battle.
+ Good graphics.
- Frequent menu perusing in battle.
- Lengthy Virus Core hunts.
- Generally weak storytelling.
- Whole series could have been one game.
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   After about a year of being unfolded, Bandai's .hack series for the Playstation 2 reached its conclusion with .hack//Quarantine, which saw its release in North America at the beginning of 2004. The fourth installment allows data import from Outbreak, and is more or less the same MMORPG simulation that continues its predecessors' plotline and bequeaths their strengths and weaknesses.

   Battles, yet again, are real-time, and occur whenever the player's party, once more including the protagonist Kite and two A.I.-controlled allies, approaches swirling yellow portals on dungeon fields and within dungeons themselves. Aside from a new Data Drain ability allowing Kite to obtain rare items from multiple enemies who've been weakened enough, combat is almost exactly the same, with magical elements again providing some semblance of strategy, depending upon what equipment he and his party is wearing, although frequent menu perusing to heal and use abilities again bog down battle.

   As with most sub-par games, moreover, Quarantine relies on cheap tricks to artificially pad out playing time, in this case, like its predecessors, the need to hunt for Virus Cores needed to hack into areas necessary to advance the main storyline. Depending upon how many types of each Virus Core the player obtained in previous installments, hunts for Virus Cores can be fairly lengthy, and even force the player to retread low-level areas, where weakening enemies enough to Data Drain them can be difficult without accidentally killing them first, although buying and equipping low-level equipment to use weaker skills can somewhat help here.

   Aside from the game's sluggish pacing thanks to said Virus Core hunts, the interface doesn't fare any better, and remains more or less the same as in the fourth installment's predecessors, with character management, given the need to have characters in Kite's party in order to manage their equipment and give them more powerful gear, being irritating at best, and the inability to save anywhere outside towns and the simulated operating system sometimes resulting in loss playing time, given the length of some dungeons. Interaction, generally, could have fared far better.

Made even more so by the menus Hectic battle

   Since Quarantine, like Mutation and Outbreak, is a direct sequel intended to inherit its predecessors' mechanisms, one must be fair when judging originality, with the whole series of course showing plenty of creativity with its simulation of MMORPGs, despite being based on the .hack//Sign anime.

   By this time, the whole narrative of the .hack series has very much worn thin, with severely misguided focus from the very beginning, the goal of bringing Orca's player and other coma victims out of incapacitation seeming distant at best, with the games caught in a myriad of irritating fetch quests that contribute little, if any, to the plot, with little view of any events outside The World, and weak connection to the anime discs included with each game. The story isn't bad, although the shoddy way in which it unfolds hurts far more than helps.

   Music and voice acting are more or less the same as in Quarantine's predecessors, with both being hit-or-miss, with the graphics sharing the same fate, being the best aspect of the game and appropriately simulating the glitch-ridden World, despite some minor blemishes such as weak scenery texturing when seen close-up.

   Thanks to lengthier Virus Core hunts, the fourth installment is perhaps the longest of the series, yet still doesn't break the twenty-hour barrier. In the end, .hack//Quarantine is at best a mediocre conclusion to an already-mediocre series that inherits its predecessors' strengths, such as decent MMORPG simulation and nice graphics, yet sadly their weaknesses as well, such as redundant combat, sluggish pacing, and weak storytelling. Only those who truly enjoyed its predecessors will enjoy the conclusion, but as for other gamers, there's really no sense in spending over a hundred dollars for what could have very, very easily been one game.

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