Cyber Connect's innovative .hack series is ready for round two in North America. While the concept of an RPG about playing an RPG may have initially sounded less than interesting, .hack//INFECTION was fairly well received following its February release, and Bandai looks for even better results with Volume 2, entitled .hack//MUTATION.
The plot of .hack//MUTATION picks up right where the last installment left off, just after the brutal fight against Skeith. Players probably remember the interesting events that followed the battle (don't worry, no big spoilers here) seemingly crying out "sequel!" While some of the mysteries left behind by INFECTION will surely be solved, don't expect MUTATION to end without raising some questions of its own.
All party members and supporting characters from the first title will be returning, and Kite is again the main protagonist (as he is through the whole series). However, some of Kite's companions have mysteriously gone offline, which means that not everyone can join the action right away. Whether these characters are simply busy with their real lives or experiencing Orca-esque difficulties is not known.
Gamers that did not have the chance to play the first game in the series need not worry, as the desktop in MUTATION has all of the key emails from INFECTION available right from the start. The message board also remains the same as it was at the end of the original game. For those that did spend $50 and 25 hours on INFECTION, Cyber Connect has included the ability to download a saved file from the previous adventure, which will grant access to all of the items, personal emails, and keyword combos that players had obtained.
The similarites between the new title and its predecessor do not end with the desktop and inventory, however. The gameplay has remained almost exactly the same as INFECTION's. Enemies still charge at the player from all angles, and must be dealt with in the same action-based combat style as before, while using the analog sticks to make the camera zoom and rotate. The Sprite Ocarina is still needed to teleport out of dungeons and the Fortune Wire is still the item to turn to when "Risky Treasure" appears. The biggest difference from the last installment would be the addition of the Lamda server, which, just like the two that were previously accessable, can be reached via Chaos Gates in the The World's root towns. As would be expected, this new server offers a robust variety of new areas to explore, treasures to discover, and enemies to vanquish.
From the sound of it, fans of INFECTION will likely eat up MUTATION and only want more. This seems fitting, since there are still two more games in the series following Volume 2. Check back for previews of Volumes 3 and 4 in the coming months.