After writing about .hack//SIGN and poking around on the fan wiki, I decided I wanted to find out what was going on in the follow-on games (.hack//INFECTION, .hack//MUTATION, .hack//OUTBREAK, and .hack//QUARANTINE.) As I mentioned previously, I don’t have any flavor of Play Station, nor the games themselves, so I sought out condensed playthroughs on Youtube in the hopes that I might at least understand the major plot points and maybe a bit more of the lore of this universe.
While the playthrough I watched was good, the story and character development in the games came across as much more shallow than the original anime. While the mystery affected characters and people, it was not as nuanced as in the anime – characters and people were much closer together and reacted much more plainly and obviously to events. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, so much as an observation about the way an anime story is told and the way an RPG game story is told (with allowance for player agency and need to communicate explicitly to the player through the characters.)
There was, however, a fair bit of lore that got dropped, especially around the Epitaph of Twilight and Harald Hoerwick. While it was still not enough to really put the whole puzzle together, it added a few more pieces to the pile and gave a few more clues as to how they fit. Interestingly, this is all intermingled with the new mystery of the what’s going on with the virus, the coma patients, the Book of the Twilight, and Aura. The two stories of .hack//SIGN and .hack//GAMES appear to have a pretty small intersection in the finished puzzle, but the authors aren’t afraid to intermix the pieces and force the viewer to make the distinction.
That leads me to my biggest gripe, actually – there were some really bad story crossovers from .hack//SIGN to .hack//GAMES. Crim and Mimiru’s cameos were pretty painful, and seemed very out of place. I also felt that the Macha/Mia and Tsukasa/Elk tie in was a bit clumsy and over-the-top. One thing that I really liked about .hack//SIGN vs .hack//GAMES is that there was as little crossover between characters – it made both stories feel complete even if the setting and the mystery was not.
Still, even after catching up with the games, there is more media to consume. I think I’m going to stop here though. I’ve read up on the wiki to fill in some gaps, and delved a bit more into Harald’s backstory and big ideas. While I would have liked to experience the mystery myself, getting the Cliff’s Notes for the last few pieces is okay for now.