.hack//Legend of the Twilight Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Release Date: Monday, July 24, 2006

What They Say
Reconnect to The World!!
It's been 4 years since the Twilight incident shook The World, the most successful online role playing game ever created. However dramtically it changed the game, all who witnessed the event have since quit playing and memory of it has gradually faded. The World has moved on, it is a safer place now...

A New Game
Shugo and his twin sister Rena, who live separated because of their parents' divorce, are both new players in The World. They soon become the centre of attention when they win a very special contest, which gives them the appearance of the legendary hackers Kite and Black Rose.

The pair will encounter friends and allies. Among them are Mirielle, the rare-item hunter, the irresistible Ohka, as dangerous as she is beautiful, and the mysterious Lord Balmung, a character from the past that's keeping any eye on our two young players.

It soon becomes clear that they are not ordinary players. Unusual things keep happening around them, but they're too busy having fun to pay much attention to it. It's probably nothing. Probably...

Episodes Comprise
1 - The Legendary Hero
2 - Kite's Bracelet
3 - The Phoenix Feather
4 - Tanabata Night

The Review!
It's .hack, but not as we know it. A few years on from the original .hack//SIGN series, a new set of players have joined The World, and at least this time around they seem to be having fun...

As usual, Beez provide a wide range of language tracks - Japanese, English, French and German - all in 2.0 stereo. I listened mainly to the Japanese track for this review. Audio is very clear " there's not as much emphasis on background music as there was in .hack//SIGN, so speech is always easy to pick out. There's not much in the way of directionality other than during more action-based scenes, but what's there is effective enough. There were no obvious problems.

Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 format, enhanced for anamorphic playback. Twilight uses a more "cartoony" visual style than the previous .hack series, which means plenty of bright colours and a fair amount of detail in the backgrounds, all of which are captured nicely. There were no obvious encoding problems.

Rena, Shugo and Mirille feature on the front cover, looking suitably cute and falling into the game. The rear cover features a series of screenshots along with the usual promotional passage and technical information. The cover is fully reversible, with Ohka taking pride of place on the reverse cover, along with smaller pics of Shugo and Rena, while the alternate rear cover has episode summaries, screenshots, and the usual technical info. All very nice. An 8-page booklet is also included, containing character and creature information along with a timeline of the various .hack projects.

The menus are available in English, French, German and Dutch, selectable when the disc loads. Being a devout monoglot, I went with English. A series of clips from the show's opening sequence lead into the main menu, which features a further montage of clips and a static image of Rena. Shugo and Mirielle, ready for action. The opening theme song plays throughout, although it cuts off rather untidily if left for long enough. Submenus are provided for episode selection, language setup, extras and production credits, with static images of the characters used as the background for each sub-menu. There's a rather annoying burst of "static" used as the transition between screens, which slows things down and quickly gets annoying. A full-length acoustic version of the opening theme is used as the background music on the Trailers sub-menu, and is worth a listen on its own.

Along with the usual creditless opening and closing sequences, 2 sets of translation notes are included, explaining some of the Japanese legends and customs referred to in the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
When Shugo and his sister Rena win a pair of limited edition player characters in The World " replicas of the legendary Kite and Black Rose, who have long since left the game " it's a chance for them to be "together" again, as they've been living apart since their parents divorced. While Rena's quite happy to be just spending time with her brother, Shugo's determined to have a little fun while he's in The World, and so the two soon find themselves joining in the game's events and building up a group of friends and allies " but something's not quite right in The World, and Shugo soon finds himself in trouble, when his character is killed by a high-level monster that really shouldn't have been rampaging through a newbie-friendly area.

Rather than dying outright, though, his suspended character meets a strange young girl, who gives him a bracelet before returning him to the game, with the cryptic message that it will be up to him to save The World. The bracelet comes with an ability, Data Drain, that gives Shugo the ability to rewrite the properties of objects in the game, including monsters " if only he could learn how to control it.

At a guess I'd say the girl was Aura (her name's not given in the show), and there are plenty of references to the return of Twilight and things happening in the game that shouldn't be " just like in SIGN. The main difference here is that, where SIGN was deadly serious with very little evidence that the characters there were having fun playing the game, Twilight takes a much more upbeat and comical approach to The World, with the characters so far obviously enjoying themselves and pretty much oblivious to the problems that are starting to develop around them.

As well as Shugo and Rena, there are a few other characters who make up the central cast. First to appear is Mirielle, a Wavemaster with a penchant for collecting rare items " and with no item are rare as Shugo's bracelet, there's no getting rid of her (reminds me a bit of Lina's obsession over Gourry's Sword of Light in Slayers, really). There's also Ohka, the knuckle-fighting werewolf whose womanly appearance works wonders for Shugo's hormones, and Komiyama, a classmate of Shugo's who loves no-one more than himself " except possibly Rena. Keeping an eye on things from a distance are Lord Balmung, one-time player and now CC Company employee who spends a lot of his time organising The World's special events, and his assistant Reki. Overall, it's a nicely varied group of characters " some fairly normal, some a little more unusual " and they way they get on and interact definitely adds to the show's appeal.

The four episodes here follow pretty much the same pattern " Shugo and Rena decide to join an event, a monster who really shouldn't be there shows up, and Shugo is eventually forced to use his Data Drain to save the day " sometimes with unexpected results. Episode three is the exception, as Shugo takes the opportunity to level-up in the hope of improving his control over the bracelet. This one's a little bit of a cop-out, as it's essentially a rehash of the sick-grunty from SIGN, just with a slightly different ending and a lot more humour.

If I was feeling cruel, I could point to "lack of originality" at quite a bit of what happens here, but that would really be missing the point. .hack//LotT just sets out to have some fun with its setting, and it does that really well, thanks to a bunch of likeable characters and good presentation. The interactions between Rena and Shugo (very possessive one way, suffering from a bad case of sister-complex in the other) are particularly fun to watch. There is a darker story bubbling along underneath the surface, harking back to the same problems experienced in SIGN - it hasn't become the main focus of the story yet, but I'd be surprised if it didn't become a major issue later in the series.

In Summary:
While there are some similarities between Twilight and its predecessor, its still very much its own show and is very different in tone " and for me, that's a good thing. While it's not going to tax the brain cells, this is a good, simple and enjoyable show " which is sometimes just what you need to pass the time. Worth checking out.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,German Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,German Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Creditless opening and closing sequences,Translation Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: .hack//Legend of the Twilight