Although Western interest in Japanese franchises began to rise during the fourth and fifth console generations, the sixth generation was where the popularity of these franchises in the States took off. The Sony PlayStation may have been home to a healthy assortment of JRPGs and quirky titles such as Tomba! and the original Klonoa. But by the end of its lifetime, the PlayStation 2 was a force to be reckoned with in this department. From the completely off-the-wall Mr.Moskito to the beautiful watercolor landscapes in Okami, there was a lot on tap for gamers wanting that distinct Japanese touch in their experiences.
Of the many RPG franchises that took their first steps on the console, the .hack/gu games are less known than Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X. In the early 2000s, critics were reasonably mixed in their judgment. While some sources praised the overall concept of a game-within-a-game (well before anime such as Sword Art Online popularized it), others felt the gameplay and length were lacking. Gamespot was quick to compare to Kingdom Hearts, calling the first title in the series “reminiscent of but definitely not as good as last year’s Kingdom Hearts.”
In 2017, a remastered compilation housing four titles from the .hack/gu saga arrived in 2017 for the PS4 and PC known as .hackgu/Last Recode. Aside from the to-be-expected visual and frame rate upgrades, Last Recode also made numerous QOL improvements that aimed to remove some of the tedium from the original releases. These changes ranged from increased walking speed to a full on “Cheat Mode” for players who just wanted to kick back and enjoy the plot. Fans of the series will be pleased to know that this collection will soon be on its way to Switch, as Last Recode is slated for a March 11 release date.
Not only is this is a great way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series, but this will also mark the first time the franchise has found its way onto a Nintendo console. Nintendo Switch has wide popularity with visual novels and RPGs to consider. So .hack//G.U. Last Recode shouldn’t have much trouble finding new fans who may have missed out on it during its heyday. You can currently pre-order the Switch version here for $59.99. However, it’s worth noting that the PS4 version is now only a third of that price and has been available for some time now. Beyond missing out on a few physical goodies included with Switch pre-orders, it appears to be the same title by and large.