Anime hookup games are nothing new. Dragon Ball, My Hero Academia, Naruto, and more have inspired their fair share of games over the years, with various titles released to mixed reception. For each Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot it is a Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles to keep the universe in balance. The core of what makes a tie-in game good can be elusive even well into the modern generation of games. But, .hacka mostly forgotten PlayStation 2 series, gave anime lovers the experience they wanted 20 years ago.
Started in 2002, Project .hack spanned multiple forms of media and had interwoven plots and characters interacting with a mysterious MMORPG called World. Each piece of media served as a piece of the puzzle that, when put together, gave fans a more complete picture of the truth lurking in a seemingly innocuous setting that slowly grew more oppressive and sinister. During the PS2 generation, the series released four tie-in games, which had the player step into the role of Kite, a young man who became involved in the mystery that drew people into .hack//Sign.
.hack Drew players in by making them part of the story
.hack//SignThe main mystery surrounds a young Wavemaster (the game’s equivalent of a mage) named Tsukasa who cannot log out of the game and return to the real world, her real body is locked in a coma. The mystery continues inside .hack//Infection as the player’s adventure begins and immediately sets the stakes incredibly high. Kite’s best friend finds himself among the many experiencing these symptoms, prompting him to take action to try to find a cure for those in a coma with the knowledge that it exists somewhere in World itself.
From the start have .hack game takes painstaking care to recreate the feeling of playing an MMORPG. The anime itself takes place primarily within Worldand the games accurately represent both the feel of playing in the setting and what interaction with the desktop would be like in .hackhis world. Email chains are answered, forums are visited, and real relationships develop between characters, all in ways that feel organic and familiar to both viewers of anime and players of MMORPGs at the time. Players were not only introduced to the party members’ characters, but also the people behind them. They even had the opportunity to make connections with them.
By recreating the attributes of an MMORPG, .hack accurately represented the anime and how the characters interacted. The expanded setting also had direct consequences, as Kite’s adventures had an effect on the entire series going forward. This wasn’t just a one-off story or a way for the player to interact with their favorite characters; this was the player who directly participated in events that would ripple forward for decades.
Modern anime games can learn from .hack’s world building
Project .hack is a unique multimedia experience, and .hack Games are an important factor in it. The games were both part of the series and not intrinsic to the enjoyment and understanding of it, instead standing alone and acting as excellent supplements to the anime. They added value to the series, and gave fans another way to engage with it, which should ultimately be the goal of a tie-in game. Beyond that is .hack games are a fun experience that the player doesn’t have to do too much homework to understand, but they still have an obvious impact on the world they’re in.
By weaving a compelling narrative, introducing players to new and old characters, and deepening the world .hack//Sign the series, the .hack games added value to anime as a whole. Modern anime tie-in games should consider what audiences love about their unique worlds and the many ways they can interact with it beyond fighting. Providing ways for players to deepen their relationship with the universe and even help solve a mystery or two helps keep audiences even more invested, and developers should look to .hack series as a good example of how games can take into account the whole experience.