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Hands-on Preview -
.hack//G.U. Vol. 3: Redemption
Previewed on 8/26/07

Haseo's Had Enough

.hack//G.U. Volume 3: Redemption has a relationship to its predecessors similar to the relationship shared by the previous four. That is to say, this is called "Volume 3" for a reason, and players of the last two volumes in this portion of the .hack project will feel comfortable hopping into this one.

In true .hack fashion, players of the MMORPG "The World" are going into comas. This time, the culprit is one AIDA bug, which showed up after Haseo defeated the player-killer Tri-Edge. Haseo and company have been defeating some of the AIDA bugs, but now somehow Tri-Edge is back, and someone's gotta teach that sucker a lesson. Expect Volume 3's story to move much quicker than the previous two G.U. games. Right from the start of the game, the story drops a megaton bomb on the player, and Redemption's story is already scoring points. Those who have not played the first two G.U. titles would be encouraged to do so before jumping into this one, as there was no story refresher that I saw, even starting the game up without transfer data.

In combat, players will now be able to use the "Avatar Awakening." You can see an RPG Land-exclusive video of this skill here. This skill is a newer version of the Divine Awakening Haseo previously wielded, and it becomes useable only in a three-member party, when the morale meter is full. Through using the Avatar Awakening, Haseo can snag virus cores from enemies (which, off the record, made me shudder remembering that fiasco in Outbreak and Quarantine), which can be used to power up the Lost Weapons.

Exploration works pretty much the same way it did in previous titles, though Redemption will open a pair of new towns. If pattern follows, however, players should also expect a fair bit of revisitation to previous areas (screaming may occur when players recognize a conversation taking place in a certain...special place during the opening sequence). Also of note is the fact that there are now 22 available characters.

Having been named "Holy Palace Champion," for showing people who the man is, Haseo's Intermediate @ Home (pronounced "at home") is one-upped by the new Advanced @ Home he can access in Breg Epona. It's here that a grunty wearing leather makes fun of Haseo while upgrading the steambike.

From the looks of things, .hack//G.U. 3: Redemption is shaping up to be to the G.U. trilogy what Quarantine was to the original series in much more ways than just being the bookend. The way things went in the portion played for this preview, it will have the best overall gameplay of the three new volumes, and the story will conclude with a bang. Look for RPG Land's official review right around this game's ship date of September 10, 2007.

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-Heath Hindman