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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Anime-inspired action games enliven PlayStation 2 universe

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

Microsoft's Xbox may have the marketing muscle and Nintendo's GameCube can boast the most beloved "mascot" characters, but these consoles combined can't touch the red-hot success of Sony's PlayStation 2 (PS2).

Sony dominates the console wars, with an estimated 55 million units sold worldwide. That's about nine times the number of units sold by Microsoft and Nintendo, respectively.

Why the success? Great software.

Case in point: Two extraordinary anime-inspired Japanese exports for PS2, both rated for players 13 years and older.

One is an intriguing action/role-playing hybrid, while the other is a fun throwback to arcade fighting games.

Players in ".hack: Infection" must discover why a new computer game is leaving its players in mysterious comas.
".hack Part 1: Infection"; Bandai, www.bandaigames.com, out of 5, $49.99.

In one of the more clever game premises to surface in a long while, .hack (pronounced dot-hack) follows the adventures of teenager Kite, whose friend Orca mysteriously falls into a coma after playing an online role-playing game. In his search for clues, Kite logs in to play The World, and uncovers some disturbing details about the game and its publisher, the CC Corporation.

Much of the game play in .hack is viewed from an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective and takes place inside the fictitious online game, where players travel through huge virtual worlds, meet allied characters, battle against monsters and collect important items strewn across towns and dungeons.

Attractive anime movies are peppered throughout the game to push the narrative forward. And .hack includes a separate DVD with a 45-minute anime cartoon that offers a few clues on how to solve the game's mystery.

The end of this first episode of .hack — dubbed Infection — will leave players hanging and longing for more. Bandai is readying parts two through four for release later this year.

Visit www.dothack.com for more information.

"Guilty Gear X2" sports 2-D graphics, a throwback to arcade classics. It's easy to learn this fighting title, but complex to master.
"Guilty Gear X2"; Sammy Studios, , $39.99, www.sammystudios.com.

Fans of classic 2-D fighting games will feel at home punching, kicking and slashing through Guilty Gear X2, a modest-looking arcade game that will surprise players by how much action it delivers.

Flat, but colorful, graphics don't do justice to this title, which is a cinch to pick up but difficult to master.

Depending on which character a player chooses, he or she must learn a number of attacks, counterattacks, combination strings and finishing blows. Along with the 20 or so over-the-top characters, such as the guitar-wielding I-no and the mysterious Venom, Guilty Gear X2 adds hidden characters and secret moves players can unlock throughout the game.

Naturally, each of the fighters is well-balanced, so choosing one over another doesn't have any distinct advantages.

The game features eight different play modes, including: a Medal-of-Millionaires option that challenges players to collect medals and accumulate points, a Mission mode where players must complete specific objectives, and a story-based game taking place in a troubled 22nd century. The game modes can be played solo or versus a friend on the same TV screen.

There is no multiplayer Internet option, but overall, Guilty Gear X2 is a comprehensive, deep and fun fighting game.