Being trapped, à la Tron, in World Of Warcraft's Azeroth probably wouldn't faze certain gamers. Bodily imprisonment in the turgid, anime-styled world of .hack//G.U. Vol. 2. Reminisce, on the other hand, would resemble most folks' definition of hell. The sixth in a series of games that dovetails with an extensive anime/manga series, this RPG continues to squander a fabulous metatextual premise. It's a game about people playing a massively multiplayer online game. In this entry, they're zapped into their second lives. Sadly, even The Matrix trilogy better exploits its world-within-a-world premise.

.hack//G.U. Vol. 2. Reminisce inadvertently nails the tedium of in-game socializing. Most of the story is told via dull, show-stopping sequences in which characters stand around and talk, recreating the scrolling chats that players develop during MMO downtime. Rather than using these moments to peel character layers and reveal the souls beneath the avatars, the designers forward the story with enough sci-fi technobabble to make Geordi La Forge blush. At least the action is reasonably engaging. No matter how far we fall down the rabbit hole, monster grinding still offers an escape.

Beyond the game: Certain details from old .hack// save files change the game world. Those masochistic or undiscerning enough to play through the entire series earn access to special in-game bonuses and further glimpses at the complex story.


Worth playing for: Avatar battles are virtual fights that take place in the game's virtual world. They're colorful and intricate to a nearly maddening degree. They're also way too brief. If only the whole game felt this wild.

Frustration sets in when: Terrible voice acting claims another victim. It's high time that video games cut the cord with anime dubs when it comes to localizing dialogue. So long as legions of anime fans settle for this breathless junk, the rest of us will continue to suffer.


Final judgment: At least it isn't an RPG filled with dragons, magic missiles, and kidnapped princesses.