By Janelle | September 27, 2009 at 3:47 am
.hack//Link‘s demo went for some nostalgia appeal almost immediately when it started by asking who I wanted to be Tokio’s ally: Tsukasa or Haseo. The full game will feature about thirty playable ally characters from various .hack games, though a party consists of just one ally, not two. I picked Tsukasa, and then afterwards selected the field to enter, a grassy expanse filled with bizarre mushroom monsters.
.hack//Link‘s system is pretty simple. The circle button executes Tokio’s regular attack, and can be chained together when pushed several times in succession. The X button pulls off a dodge roll, or when pressed twice rapidly, a speed dash that caused Tokio to fly straight towards the enemy, good for covering large distances between foes after being sent flying. Square uses the selected item or skill, while the R button plus directional pad lets the player change the selected item or skill. Triangle unleashes a special attack when the gauge on the left side of the screen fills after a long string of successive combos and hits. Finally, the L button is used to call for aid from Tokio’s partner in battle after foes are weakened to a breaking point, to execute a timed button-press combo attack. The foe receiving the brutal beating will be thrown towards Tokio quickly, and buttons must be pressed as the monster reaches a certain distance. A special attack will be executed based on how well-timed the press was, and then the process repeats. If the player misses, a voice loudly booms out “Oh, NO!” and Tokio is hit by the monster and sent flying.
It wasn’t long after hitting the field before I was actually interrupted by Tsukasa. He pauses the action to ask personal questions or play little games with Tokio. Giving an answer that he liked would increase his affinity for Tokio, and sometimes earn the player extra items. Apparently affinity between allies will play an important part in this game. Answering incorrectly, failing to finish battles in a certain time limit, or letting Tsukasa get beat up decreases his affinity. Tsukasa actually asked the same question twice during the course of the demo, so if there is a limited number of these dialogues in the real game, the little interruptions could get old really fast considering their frequency. Another time, he mentioned he was holding an item and asked me to guess which hand he had it in. I guessed correctly and received an item for my troubles.
After hacking and slashing and exploring my way through a few screens, a rare monster appeared called a “Lucky Animal,” and beating it up made it cry and drop a really good item. Awesome. Shortly after, a boss appeared, and using my newfound combo skills and some well-placed speed dashes, I diced him up in short order. He wasn’t as easy to bring down to a Break state, requiring a lot more successive hits, and executed some attacks that required movement and dodging; simply standing next to him and slashing didn’t work out so well, which prevented things from getting button mashy.
.hack//Link was easily my favorite demo from the Bandai-Namco booth at the Tokyo Game Show. It’s an action RPG with a system that didn’t feel out-of-control or too repetitive. The full game doesn’t have a set release date yet, but will probably come out in 2010 at some point.