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   .hack//Mutation - Reader Review  

More Of The Same, But Better
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
10-25 Hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   .hack//Mutation is the second game in the offline MMORPG series .hack. It is still possible to start the series from this point without missing too much, but if you want to collect all the power-ups and such or want to see every moment of the plot, then you should start with the first one. The second game has more of the same from the first game, but it seems they've learned from their mistakes as well. Most of the dungeons, which were probably the most repetitive part of the first game, have now been decreased in size from five floors to only three. Not only does this allow you to speed through dungeons, it also allows the plot to update more often. There are also many more non-data-bug bosses which keeps things interesting as well. As an added bonus, there are grunty mini-games now and an even greater connection to the .hack//Sign series.

   The battle system is almost exactly the same as it was in the first game except for a few new abilities and a lot more summons. They are still handled in the action RPG format with just enough skills to prevent pure hack and slash. Battles are usually quite exciting and end quickly. Unfortunately, the AI for your fellow party members doesn't seem to be improved at all. Sadly, you will still have to often babysit your party when fighting some enemies so they don't physically attack an enemy with physical tolerance or so they actually use an element the enemy is weak against instead of something else. Party members still have a tendency to attack enemies when you tell the to heal as well. There are several new enemies with new attack patterns which is nice, plus three new bosses to keep things interesting in battle.

Yay! I get to keep all my stuff from the first game! Yay! I get to keep all my stuff from the first game!

   The large increase in bosses also results in a large increase in unique boss music. This is an especially nice feature since each boss has a theme that reflects what it stands for. As the plot progresses, so does the music, though dungeon music remains the same sadly. The new boss and plot music is a nice addition, but it is canceled out by the dungeon and field music which you, if you played the first game, are probably sick of by now. The bonus disk, Liminality has some good music on it too, but most of it is the same as well. The graphics seem to be exactly the same with only a few new effects. They're decent still, but they don't exactly stand out either. The few new abilities and summons look a little better, but it isn't a massive improvement.

   The second in the series is actually surprisingly easier than the first. Despite having far more bosses, none of them can compare to the difficulty of the first game's final boss. Most of the little difficulty this game presents comes from trying to get your party members to do what you want them to, which isn't a good thing. Also, since this is the second game in the series, there is very low replay value unless you intend to play the entire series over again. The ability to watch almost all of the important cut-scenes once you've unlocked them and beaten the game further takes away from the need to play this game again. The only real reason to play it again would be to listen to the Japanese voice acting if you played it in English or vice-versa. The decrease in length of the dungeons is great for moving the plot along at a faster pace, but it also takes away some of the time needed to complete the game making it even shorter than the first installment. If they put ! the first two games together they'd still have a game that takes about 50 hours at most which gives you an idea of just how short this one is. In fact, if you were really well-prepared at the end of Infection, you should be able to finish this game in about ten hours if you skip most of the side-quests.

   The interface is the same as in the first game, so despite it not being the best in the world, you'll probably be used to it by now and have greater control over your environment. That still doesn't stop it from being rather annoying to command your teammates in battle or try to get them to hold healing/boosting items and not sell them the second you walk into a town though. The localization is still great though, the dialog is generally well-translated and you can even listen to the original Japanese voice acting if you want. The message board contains plenty of Internet jargon and is fairly accurate.

The plot really begins to pick up. The plot really begins to pick up.

   The story is still where this series really shines. The plot which was introduced in the first game continues to evolve and become incredibly interesting in the second one. It builds well off of what was introduced in the first part and there is about twice as much story as in the first part as well due to the accelerated dungeons. Thanks to the shorter dungeons and larger supply of real bosses, the pace of the plot picks up greatly. Unlike in the first game, there is almost always something exciting going on and the controller is harder to put down. There are some new characters to gain, each with their own unique personalities and there's a lot of character development for the characters from the first game as well. The story and dialog is very well written and continues to be the main reason to play this series. Not only is the story really good, it is also very original as well. Even compared to the first part of the series, Mutation's plot has so many twists an! d turns that it is even individually original in the .hack series.

   Overall, Mutation fixes the problems with the first part of the series and improves the plot dramatically as well. The real reason to play this series is still the plot, not the dungeons. The pace of Mutation is much faster than in Infection which keeps things interesting. The cliffhanger at the end of Mutation is better as well. It takes the sacrifices Infection made and puts them to great use, though in my humble opinion it would have probably been better if they had been combined into a single 50 hour game instead of two seperate games. It is also a shame that they would give a game with such an incredible plot such a poor and repetitive dungeon system. While it's better than purely random dungeons, it still ruins the series somewhat. Had they given greater thought to the dungeons and such, this series could have been much better than it is.

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