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My History With Dot Hack – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Editorials, Uncategorized.
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Nearly two decades ago, before my home had access to G4TV, I would watch the digital cable network over at my cousin’s house whenever he needed me to fix his computer. They were lucky enough to have a house geographically located in a spot that received regular utility service upgrades, and because of that their cable provider was able to offer them digital cable and high speed internet half a decade before they offered it in my area only a twenty minute drive away. In 2003, if you were a gamer, G4TV was absolutely incredible. They even had gamer-focused channel bumpers which showed commercials for new and upcoming games. That’s where I first learned about .hack//.

I know that’s just a silly bumper but it was the best I could recover, but I thought it would be fair to show you how devoted G4 was with gaming back then. My first actual experience with the franchise came when I witnessed a review of the third game in the series, .hack//Quarantine for the PS2. Sadly it has been impossible to find that original review online, but after learning about the game I wanted to learn more.

.hack// (pronounced Dot Hack) was a truly transmedia property made up of video games and animated series. It presented the question of just what it would be like to be trapped inside a VR MMORPG everyone in the world played. Massively Multiplayer Games (MMOs) had taken off in the second half of the 90s and by the early 2000s they were poised to revolutionize how games were played (this would eventually come to fulfillment in 2004 with the release of World of Warcraft). It’s cyberpunk theme, grounded futuristic setting, and honest comprehension of the gamer lifestyle was really up my alley. The only problem was I didn’t own a PS2, and could not afford to play the original games. However playing the games weren’t my only option to getting into the world of .hack//, there was another.

Do you remember when I said that .hack// was a transmedia property, with not just games but animated series to go along with it? At the same time G4 was in its heyday, another US station, Cartoon Network, was airing Japanese-created content in a now-legendary programming block known as Toonami. .hack//SIGN was the first animated series produced for the franchise, and its story tied directly into the events of the original PS2 games. To a kid like me, this was a next level of technological integration. Heck, Toonami would even review the games themselves during channel bumpers.

This was a great time for the franchise and for lovers of games and anime, and unfortunately I missed out on nearly all of it. By the time I finally got my own PS2, it was impossible to find copies of any of the original episodic games on store shelves. Online marketplaces willing to resell used copies demanded high prices (something that continues to this day). In fact the final game in the original series, .hack//Quarantine, is one of the rarest and most highly sought after used game in the entire PS2 library. By the mid-2000s, I had fallen out of following the franchise, however the franchise continued to receive fresh new content throughout the world.

A second episodic game series was primed to come for the PS2 in the second half of the 2000s, .hack//G.U. Three games would get released for that series, and its players (who had played the original games) would unlock some extra in-story nods. On the transmedia front, an exclusive prequel series, .hack//ROOTS, was released to tie into G.U., but it wasn’t very well received by critics or fans. The G.U. games, on the other hand, were better recieved by critics and fans than the original .hack// titles.

The era following the release of the G.U. games was a dark period for fans outside of Japan. .hack//LINK for the PSP was never released in North America, nor was the PS3 .hack// fighting game (which came bundled with a CGI-film was was also never released in North America). Manga was seeing fewer English-language releases due to ongoing issues with the American publisher (Red Bard, who we featured earlier today, had a whole video on it). By the 2010s, it seemed that the West would no longer be seeing anything in the .hack// franchise. At this point I had tuned my attention elsewhere, and it seemed I would be parting with the franchise.

At the end of 2017, something I never would’ve imagined happening…happened. BandaiNamco officially announced they were porting all three of the .hack// G.U. games to the PC and PS4 with a whole bunch of new content.

This was the best news I had heard in a very long time. With this HD re-release I would finally get the chance to play some of the .hack// games myself on a platform I actually owned. While I quickly learned they were not porting the original four games, I still appreciated BandaiNamco’s effort and bought a copy with the hope this meant we would be seeing more from the franchise down the roads. The games ran great, kept their original visual aesthetic and had new features. It was everything that should be expected in an HD Remaster of a game.

Once I had the PS4 game, I quickly realized just how out of date my .hack// knowledge was. I had missed out on not just the original four games but multiple animated series and several books. Thankfully, FUNIMATION had re-released all of the shows produced for North America in DVD boxed sets and I spent a pleasant month tracking down copies of everything I could.

My search was a success, but once it ended, nothing further has been published in the West from the world of .hack//…or has it? I discovered an entire community of gaming enthusiasts, anime fans, otakus and lovers of Japanese culture were out there and they all had a lot they wanted to say about .hack//. That community is part of the reason why I decided to devote this entire day to the franchise. I want to give props to YouTube Channel ModalBeat, who’s in-depth discussion of the first games was instrumental for my understanding G.U.’s background. Since I had previously devoted an entire Sunday to his video series in my Gaming History You Should Know articles, his videos are not going to be featured today but if you haven’t checked out his work you totally should.

Sadly, there hasn’t been much news coming out of BandaiNamco since .hack//G.U. HD was released. At the very least I’ve been hoping they would port the earliest games, or localize a title that had never come to the West, but nothing new has been announced. That’s part of the reason why I’ve devoted this day in tribute to the franchise, because I believe the publisher needs to know how much we love this franchise and want to see it return…again.

If you’re interested in watching anything that is currently available in the US, you have just a few options. .hack//G.U. HD Remaster, which includes HD ports of all three G.U. games as well as a fourth bonus episode, is currently out on the PS4 and PC (through Steam).


The Birth of Modern Isekai – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Uncategorized.
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Welcome back to our .hack// Tribute Day, where we’re highlighting some of the best fan produced .hack// content from across the web (and including some of our own original content) to spread the love of this franchise around the Internet.

I have to admit, I’m not much of an Otaku. I have Otaku friends who have shared their love of various shows and films with me over the years, but I am totally out of my scope when it comes to discussing anime on its own merits, or comparing it to other anime. That is where Glass Reflection comes in

Glass Reflection is an anime-focused YouTube Channel that dissects and reviews various anime, and provides background and analysis. They’re a fantastic resource I recommend checking out. You see, .hack// was the start of something that’s practically become an entire sub-genre in today’s manga/anime landscape, Isekai. Nowadays, tons of anime transplant their protagonist inside of a world other than our own, but back when the original .hack// was released, that wasn’t the case. Give a watch to this video which should explain everything a lot better than I can.

Hope you’re still enjoying our .hack// tribute day. We have a bunch of more creators to highlight today as well as one personal story to go, so stay tuned!

BringBackTheWorld – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

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Welcome back to .hack// Tribute Day, where we’re highlighting the internet’s love of a unique Japanese franchise. Apparently, I’m not the only person on the internet who misses the .hack// games and wishes there would be more news coming out of this once very popular franchise.

YouTube Channel Pixcelation, who clearly holds a soft spot for the .hack// games, tried to start a hashtag movement a few years ago to draw up support for the franchise and produced this video to support it. Take a look.

If you’d like to check out more .hack// content produced by Pixcelation, I recommend their deep dive into the franchise’s disappearance and why they believe we haven’t heard more from the franchise recently. I honestly believe #BringBackTheWorld is a worthy tag that needs to make a comeback. Here’s to hoping the online community takes it and runs with it once again.

Shinta Reviews – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

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If you’re just joining us, we are spending the day celebrating the history of the .hack// franchise. This is not only to share knowledge of the franchise with people who may not be familiar with it, but to show the game’s publisher just how much we want to see more games released in this franchise.

Internet reviewer Des Shinta, host of Shinta Reviews, has reviewed pretty much every piece of .hack// content throughout the past twenty years. He possesses a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the .hack// franchise and has used that knowledge to review pretty much everything available and I mean EVERYTHING. If you want to watch everything .hack// he’s reviewed up to this point we linked his official playlist below. You’re going to need a LOT of free time to watch all this, but his understanding of the game’s deeper lore makes his videos a must watch. Just be aware there will be spoilers.

Hope you enjoyed this article and I totally recommend checking out Shinta’s channel for more than just .hack// game reviews. I totally recommend checking out his Pokémon Colosseum videos (part 1 and part 2) at the very least. At this point he has started the process of remastering his reviews to have them up in HD with better picture quality and with updated information, but his original reviews still hold up just fine. We will be highlighting more fan-produced content throughout the day so stay tuned!

How You Can Watch Dot Hack Animated Shows Right Now – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Editorials, Uncategorized.
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If you’re a new fan to the .hack// franchise and you’re interested in experiencing some of the shows for yourselves, you’re probably wondering where you’ll have to go to do that. If you happen to live in North America (referred to henceforth as DVD Region 1), I’ve got some great news for you. Despite the fact some of the shows are nearly twenty years old, the content is still available through several modern distribution methods, and you can watch whatever you want however you want right now.

Just be aware this information is liable to change at the drop of a hat and because of that I recommend seeking these shows out as soon as possible. In a world where everyone prefers to subscribe to streaming services it means content shuffled around constantly. There’s just no telling what will happen to them when their current distribution deals expire.

As of today, there have been four anime series in the .hack// franchise that have been released in North America in some form. They range in this order, .hack//SIGN, .hack//Legend of The Twilight, .hack//ROOTS, and .hack//QUANTUM. There has also been an an animated adaptation of the G.U. games called .hack//G.U. Trilogy and while it isn’t considered canon to the .hack// franchise, it is still a an adaptation of a great story. Sadly, we are not going to be discussing the four-part .hack//LUMINALITY series, as each animated episode was bundled on DVD exclusively with the original games and were intended to be watched as part of each game. Because of that, they have not received a separate home video distribution and for us to have any chance of watch it now, we’ll have to hope BandaiNamco will re-release the original games on modern platforms.

For those of you concerned about the technical information from the shows, or where it stands in the subs vs dubs debate, this is where you want to read. If you’re only interested in how you can watch the shows right now you can skip the rest of this paragraph. The majority of .hack// shows were produced in a standard definition widescreen format. That means you’ll only be able to find most of the shows on DVD or in Standard Definition digital formats. Only .hack//Quantum was produced in High-Definition and as such is the only show that has received a Blu-Ray Disc release or could be purchased digitally in HD. As for Subs vs Dubs I have good news for both sides. Nearly all of FUNIMATION’s DVD boxed sets include English and Japanese audio along with English subtitles. The only exception is .hack//G.U. Trilogy, which has no English audio dub and can only be watched in English via subtitles. With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about where to watch some anime!

First off, let’s talk about a method that is still a great option for collectors like me, DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. A few years ago, FUNIMATION obtained the distribution rights for North America’s .hack// series, and they have used that right to re-release complete DVD Boxed sets for each of the shows adapted for Region 1. Back in the early days of anime on DVD, .hack// shows were broken up across multiple volumes of episodes, making customers have to purchase separate standalone discs to obtain all of a single show’s episodes. These original discs are no longer in print and while you might still be able to obtain them through the secondhand market you’ll get a much better deal buying FUNIMATION’s re-released complete series boxed sets. There’s no complete .hack// boxed set but each show is available for individual purchase. In one package of DVDs you’ll find all episodes from each series and a few special features along with special OVA’s. HD purists will need to know only .hack//QUANTUM was given a Blu-Ray Disc release, and I recommend getting that over DVD, because FUNIMATION released it as a combo pack and a DVD version of the show is included.

The reason I recommended buying the series on disc as the first option is because once you have the discs, they’re yours forever. Short of your DVD player breaking (a trivial thing to replace) nothing can take your ability to watch those discs away from you, even if the rights to distribute them change, your discs will remain in your collection forever. However, most people aren’t interested in watching films on disc and prefer to keep a purely digital collection of film and television, or prefer to subscribe to streaming services. We got you covered in that respect next.

FUNIMATION has all of the North American shows up for sale on various digital marketplaces including Apple’s iTunes. Content purchased through iTunes can be watched on Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac, to say nothing of other devices like recent Samsung TVs or Amazon Fire. The prices vary depending on the amount of episodes produced for each series of the show but some shows can be purchased for very low prices. I haven’t checked Google or Samsung’s digital marketplaces at this time but if someone has, they’re welcome to post a comment below with what they’ve found.

If you’re a person who prefers to subscribe to online streaming services, .hack// has also been put on several of them. Most users will be able to find the entire collection through the premium FUNIMATION app, which can be downloaded on multiple platforms including Apple, Samsung and Google. Just be aware, subscribing to that service is not free and if you aren’t a subscriber you’ll only be able to watch a very limited selection of episodes. Those episodes can be watched in English, and the picture quality is very good, despite being in standard definition.

If you prefer to watch on a different service, the free streaming service TUBI has SIGN, Legend of the Twilight and ROOTS available to stream right now for free (with ads). You can get the TUBI app on various devices including Amazon Fire, Apple, Google and Samsung. Heck it even works on the Comcast X1 Cable box. I freaking love this service as it has a ton of great shows and films I have wanted to watch for years now. Just be aware Tubi versions of the show are not of great picture quality, and are currently Japanese audio only, which means you’ll need to enable subtitles to watch them.

And that is currently how you can watch most of the .hack// animated series. The shows used to be available on Crunchyroll in their original Japanese audio, but since the company split with FUNIMATION’s service I don’t think they’re available on Crunchyroll any more.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide information outside of Region 1 for how to watch these shows, but knowing that most of this content was originally produced in Japan (known henseforth as DVD Region 2) it is safe to assume the shows should exist in that region. If you’d like to import Japan’s DVDs or Blu-Ray Discs into your home country, keep in mind that region locks might prevent the discs from playing on your home player. Just make sure to buy a player compatible with your region’s power outlets.

Go forth now, start watching, and explore The World! We will be back soon with more highlights from across the web!

Dot Hack Timeline – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Uncategorized.
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We are continuing our look at .hack//, and while our intention is to spread the love about this great franchise, it is also to remind publisher BandaiNamco of the franchise’s devoted fanbase as we highlight some of the best fan produced content from across the web.

.hack// content has been produced throughout the past twenty years and while some of it has not been released outside of Japan there is a wealth of different stories out there that demand to be watched. However, new people can easily be confused as to how each story connects to the others, or where certain events take place during the franchise’s timeline. That’s where this video comes in. Welcome to the work of YouTube Channel ShadowBlazer3000 who produced a definitive .hack// timeline video.

This video may be a little old, so it doesn’t have the best picture quality, but it’s still up to date. Just be aware, while he does break down the plots of each story, he tries not to include any spoilers in his videos. I’ll leave it to you how successful you think he was with that.

We have still barely scratched the surface of all the great content out there. Stay tuned because next we will sharing with you how you can watch some of the original shows for yourselves!

How Can I Get Into Dot Hack – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Uncategorized.
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We are going to kick off our day devoted to the .hack// franchise by highlighting some of the best fan-produced content from across the web, and what better highlight to start off with than one devoted to how you can get into the franchise.

I’ve become familiar with the YouTube Channel Red Bard for quite some time now, as I’ve appreciated her unique view on anime and manga. In fact, her recent videos have been a great source when researching nearly forgotten history from Japan’s modern classics. Did you know Final Fantasy had some weird product tie-ins? Or the history behind Manga publisher TokyoPop? Now, you do.

It’s not easy to get into .hack//, since the franchise has been distributed across Manga, Video Games and Anime, including lots of content that is sadly no longer in print. Here is Red Bard’s video on how she thinks people can get into the .hack// series.

This is just the start of our .hack// Tribute Day, and we will be highlighting content from all across the web as well as providing our own original content throughout the next twenty-four hours. Stay tuned dear reader and enjoy your look at The World.