ESRB Rating: Teen
.hack//INFECTION is the first part of a four-part game series, from Bandai. In the game, you play as Kite, a character in the online game 'The World'. Note that you do not actually play online.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR STUFF THAT HAPPENS IN THE FIRST FIFTEEN MINUTES OF GAMEPLAY!
The game takes place in the future, where over twenty million people play 'The World'. Kite's friend Yasuhiko invites him to play, and so Kite logs on and creates a character. Once logged on to 'The World', Kite is greeted by Yasuhiko's alter-ego: Orca of the Azure Sea, a famous warrior. Orca takes you on a short tour of a low-level area, so you know what to do. While in the dungeon, you see a strange sight: A gigantic monster with a red wand chasing a flying, shimmering girl. Unperturbed by this, Orca and Kite continue on. Then, on their was out of the dungeon, the monster and girl appear again. The girl gives Orca a book (used in game to increase statistics or learn skills), but before he has a chance to use it, the red wand monster appears again and thoroughly beats up Orca. There is a system error, and the servers of 'The World' crash, preventing the monster from killing Kite, too. The next day, Kite finds out that Yasuhiko went into a coma after being attacked by the monster.
(no more spoilers)
The game plays well, and generally feels like a MMORPG without all the idiots and overcrowding. Which takes away some of the appeal, I think. Anyway, the basic layout is thus: Each server (there are five, but you can only access two in INFECTION) has a Root Town, which is...a town. You can buy healing items, call up party member, etc. Each town also has a Chaos Gate. From the Chaos Gate, you can input three keywords, which generate a field to explore. Each keyword has different attributes, like monster level or dungeon depth. Once on a field, you can wander around the area, or head towards the dungeon. The dungeon range from two to six floors deep, at least in INFECTION. On the deepest level of the dungeon, there is a Gott Statue, which has three good items.
You can get several characters on your party, most from various plot scenes. There are, however, a few optional characters. The classes of characters in 'The World' are: Wavemaster, Twin Blade, Long Arm, Heavy Blade, and Blademaster. Kite is a Twin Blade, which means he can only equip light or medium armor. About halfway through that game, you'll be able to pick pretty much whatever configuration you want, as you get at least one other character of each class.
You will occasionally (only as bosses in the first game) come across 'Data Bugs', which are monsters that have had their data messed around with because of a virus in 'The World'. The monster name shows up as something like "KHy&l(r 4*a_e", and the HP gauge shows up like "::7F/::0:". This makes them immortal. The only way to defeat them is to use Kite's special ability, Data Drain. This removes the virus and rewrites the monster's code into the normal version of that monster. As Kite uses his special ability, he unlocks the 'Ryu Books'. These books list various interesting information (monsters killed, dungeons cleared, etc) and give you bonuses if you do certain things (activate more then 50 symbols). The bonuses are generally backgrounds or music for your computer (no, not your your, Kite's computer) or in-game scene replays.
And then, of course, there are the Grunties. Once you gain access to Theta server, you can use the Grunty food that grows everywhere to raise Grunties. It's fairly simple, really. You feed the Grunty whatever it wants, and it'll grow up to be the best Grunty, and Iron Grunty. Feed it what it wants occasionally, and it'll grow up to be a Poison Grunty, the second best. Or, just feed it whatever and it'll be a Noble Grunty. The point of Grunty raising is once a Grunty is fully grown, it gains items to trade, depending on how you fed it. Also, you can then use the 'Grunty Flute' on the Theta server to ride around on your Grunty.
The game also comes with a DVD containing .hack//LIMINALITY part 1, which takes place concurrently with .hack//INFECTION. There are also three fields mentioned on the DVD, and if you go to them in .hack//INFECTION you will find rare or unique items. Nifty.
The main problem with this game, I think, is that it's really, really, short. Like, say, around one fourth of a game. I beat it in under fifteen hours. Hopefully the next game will feel more like a standalone game and less like they just cut up one game into four parts.
.hack//INFECTION - .hack//MUTATION - .hack//OUTBREAK - .hack//QUARANTINE