I must... speak with Morganna.
To go where she is...
the living flesh poses a hindrance.
But I must... I must go.
For our Aura.
- Helba during the intro sequence for .hack//Mutation ..hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, and .hack//Quarantine. These four games are each "chapters" of one massive game on the Playstation 2, sometimes collectively referred to as ".hack//IMOQ". They take place immediately after .hack//SIGN, and form the core of the R1 storyline of the .hack saga. .hack//Liminality takes place concurrent to the games' story.As the game begins, Kite logs into The World for the first time, his best friend Orca showing him the ropes. However, he soon witnesses Orca get attacked and Data Drained by a strange enemy known as "Skeith", who is chasing a white-haired girl who does not appear to be either an NPC or a player. Kite is whisked away by unknown forces before the same fate can befall him, and receives an item called The Twilight Bracelet, which allows him to use Data Drain himself. Learning that Orca's player has been in a coma ever since being attacked in-game, Kite begins a quest to find out what exactly is going on in The World and how to save Orca.The games are complemented by a quartet of Light Novels titled .hack//Another Birth. These novels follow the same story from Kite's partner BlackRose's point of view. Events that BlackRose was not present for are skipped over in the novels, but they also detail what her offline life is like, and some things she does on her own when Kite's not around.Kite and BlackRose make an appearance in Project X Zone, where they find themselves unable to log out, and when the rest of the group of heroes returns to the real world, they are shocked to find their Character-selves coming with them.See here for character sheets.
These games contain examples of:
- 100% Completion: The Ryu Books and the Item Completion quest from Quarantine.
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Despite that the game has server problems on a few story instances, in-gameplay, The World never experiences lag or server crashes.
- Adults Are Useless: Averted. Though most of the heroes are teenagers or children, one of their greatest allies is Lios, the head system administrator and employee at CC Corp. No one knows Helba's age, but she certainly acts like a woman in her twenties or thirties.
- A Glitch in the Matrix: The otherwise immaculate illusion of realism in The World can be shattered in glitched areas that are afflicted with bursts of static and visual distortions, corrupted textures, and Data Bugged enemies.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Morganna
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: That weird landscape you are transported to when fighting the Phases. Corbenik actually gets two of them. By the final battle with him, Cubia has grown so enormous that he serves as the battlefield himself.
- Anti-Grinding: Each dungeon has a level; fighting below your level gives progressively worse experience rewards, until each foe gives only one experience. This is meant to keep pushing the player into harder dungeons. There is one good use of lower dungeons, though - killing an enemy, regardless of its level, reduces the infection Kite gets from using Data Drain. A sufficiently monster-filled level from the first server can be the fastest way to recover from a near-100% infection level.
- Armor and Magic Don't Mix: Wavemasters are only allowed to wear the lightest armor class.
- Author Avatar: Piros (or Piroshi) is based of game director and CyberConnect2 President Hiroshi Matsuyama.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Later versions of the Data Drain ability. In each subsequent game, the bracelet would get another ability, able to guarantee the best item from a Data Drain, able to hit multiple foes at once, and finally both at once. All of the upgraded versions, however, would jack up the infection rating absurdly quickly, so using them more often than "once in a blue moon" would result in Kite flirting dangerously with terminal corruption.
- Barrier Change Boss: Tarvos the Avenger and Corbenik the Rebirth in .hack//Quarantine. All of Cubia's forms as well. Fortunately, the game tells you what, if anything, every enemy you face is tolerant (immune) to by way of glowing orange text next to its lifebar.
- Big "NO!": Kite, just before the battle with Skeith when Aura gets Data Drained.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The first Another Birth volume has several glaring mistakes, such as getting Kite's and BlackRose's dialogue mixed up in their first meeting, and referring to Skeith as "Death" for most of the book (with a rather pathetic attempt at a Hand Wave when they switch over to his real name). Fortunately, the later volumes have a much better translation.
- Bonus Boss: All four games have a bonus level (including a boss). All combine with Levels Take Flight, Bonus Dungeon and all are Marathon Levels.
- Boss Subtitles: When the Kite and his party is about to fight any of the Phases, the Phase get's a quick intro sequence and a title drop.An example of the first Phase: pHAse: 1, The TERROR of DEATH: SkEITH
- Call-Back: Recreated events from .hack//SIGN.
- Canon Immigrant: Tsukasa, Subaru and Sora can all be added to your party by the end of the fourth game. Macha in it's cat form from SIGN also appears in a bonus dungeon.
- The Cameo: A few Sign characters can be found in some flashbacks, while Mimiru shows up physically. None of it is plot-relevant, though.
- Chekhov's Skill: Drain Heart in Quarantine. Given to Kite at the beginning, then used by Corbenik at the end.
- Data Drain.
- Climax Boss: Skeith, Fidchell, and Macha, the only Phases other than Corbenik with any importance besides being a Phase, though Skeith moreso than the other two.
- Cryptic Conversation: Any conversation with Vagrant AI's or Harold remnants.
- Cursed with Awesome: Some who are aware of the Bracelet consider it an illegal item due to its Game-Breaker nature, which also leads them to consider Kite a malevolent hacker.
- Since the Bracelet increases the player's infection level upon use, it's a mixed item. You can lower an enemies level, earn rare items such as Data Cores, which become a needed item, but at the same time you can risk getting nothing and get a bit closer to a game over.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Data Drain. Using it on a regular enemy will reduce it to a pathetically weak form that can be beaten in one hit, and it is required in order to defeat hacked enemies. It will also occasionally net you some items. However, the more you use it, the more Kite's data gets corrupted, and the more negative side effects pop up... the worst of which is an instant Game Over.
- The technique becomes doubly dangerous in Quarantine, when you start running into The Guardian from .hack//SIGN. It is difficult on its own, level 80 with high stats, but Data Draining it turns it into The Bracelet, the game's only level 99 monster part from the Phases and Cubia.
- Disc-One Nuke:
- Sora's Blades in Outbreak. You can get them early on from a level 70 dungeon, and as long as you go with a party, you'll be fine, and you'll probably get other excellent equipment as well. They've got the "death" effect on them, which will save you a lot of trouble as you go through the game.
- The Hyakkidouran from the end of Infection, will carry you through most of Mutation.
- Dual Boss: Gorre, although they share the same pool of health, so it doesn't matter which one is focused on.
- Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Mistral refers to her baby as being a boy but it's actually a girl. The same girl who becomes Mireille in .hack//Legend of the Twilight.
- 11th-Hour Ranger: All of the coma victims joining the fight to eliminate Corbenik's Supreme Defense.
- 11th-Hour Superpower: In a villainous example, Corbenik has Supreme Defense for his second form and Drain Heart for his third.
- Enemy Mine: Lios doesn't trust Kite and his crew, and he's had clashes with Helba in the past. However, he recognizes that they may be the only hope of stopping the Eight Phases and cooperates with them. Eventually.
- Eyes Always Shut: Natsume and A-20.
- The Faceless: Morganna, the Big Bad, has no form and is never seen nor heard (except possibly during the final Corbenik fight, where it's suggested that Morganna itself is controlling the Phase). The Eight Phases act as its agents throughout the game, and are the most visible sign of its presence.
- Emma Wielant, herself. Her avatar has no head, but her appearance in-game is also posthumous.
- Fetch Quest: One of the more disliked aspects of the game was the need to go hunting for very specific Virus Cores to open new areas, which would only be dropped by certain enemies when Data Drained.
- Final Boss: By the end of Mutation, provided you know the backstory well enough, you know it could most likely be Cubia, Morganna, or Corbenik. Cubia is taken care of right before Corbenik, and it seems Morganna took over Corbenik's body for his final form. Thus, the final boss is technically Corbenik, but Morganna got involved...somehow.
- Game-Breaker: In-universe, the Bracelet (the item Kite can use to perform Data Drain) due to it's nature.
- Game Over: Having your in-game avatar die when alone, having everyone in your party die if you formed a party with at least one other character, or reaching 100% Infection nets you the dreaded game over screen. It's handwaved that they happen in-universe and that saving in the game is to preserve your current level and data.
- Guide Dang It!: Getting the advanced versions of Data Drain (Drain Arc, 2128 Drain, Drain Heart) require you to Data Drain quite a lot and then taking your save over to the next game and Data Drain a few times to evolve it.
- Due to the game's nature of acting like an actual MMORPG, it makes sense that a few dungeons and items would be Guide Dang It!.
- Hell Is That Noise: The Net Slum BGM. It has voices in the background of the track speaking in some garbled voices.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Three in rapid succession: The first happens after defeating Magus, when Kite and BlackRose return to Carmina Gadelica and find that the city has fallen into ruins as a result of further infections regardless of their efforts; the sound of BlackRose's sword hitting the ground and a cut to black are the end of the scene. Shortly following this, Mistral realizes that she - and her unborn child - are actually at grave risk if she keeps playing, so she breaks down and tells Kite in a sombre tone that she has to leave for her child's sake. This leads into Kite's own Blue Screen as he ponders the severity of what's happening in The World and real life as a result. Thankfully, all three get better, although Mistral is unusuable for a good disc and a half.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Elk throws himself into the path of Corbenik's Drain Arc.
- Iconic Outfit: Kite's signature red costume. It's noted in the novels that that shade of red is not actually available for players to choose, further emphasizing the "above the rules" nature of Kite's abilities. Vaguely alluded to in-game, since Kite becomes known for it (and no NPC wears the same shade of Red that Kite has).
- Interface Screw: Corrupted areas of the game have frequent bursts of static. A large amount of white noise is also a good indication that either Cubia or a Phase is about to show up.
- Leitmotif: Each Phase has their own theme, and they all share something in common: Bells.
- Certain characters also has their own theme, such as Black Rose and Piroshi. In Piroshi's case, it plays anytime he's in the party.
- Marathon Boss: True to being a Final Boss, Corbenik with three major forms.
- Meaningful Name: Most Phases have a name that means something, such as Skeith. It's name means "Shadow" in Old Scottish. Also, the fields that contain the Phases are named appropriately. For example, the field where Gorre (a pair of stone masks that mumble with each other to do special attacks) is cornered is "Nattering Ensnared Twins."
- Mystical White Hair: Aura.
- Nerf: There's a random chance of a bad effect occurring whenever Data Drain is used, with both the frequency of this bad effect as well as the strength of said effect increasing as the infection rate increases. Two of the most deleterious are losing a percentage of your hit points (if your health bar is low enough, this alone could result in a Game Over) and losing some of your experience (and yes, losing a level is possible).
- Nigh Invulnerable: Any hacked enemy, as well as the Phases, must be Data Drained before any damage can be done to them.
- Corbenik the 8th phase is the one exception due to the bracelet being destroyed in the fight with Cubia. However, he has Supreme Defense to fall back on.
- No Fair Cheating: In-Universe - CyberConnect tries to put a stop to Kite's obvious monkeying with the source code, afraid that he's the one responsible for all the strange things going on (and to clamp down on his use of the bracelet, which is obviously cheating). However, the bracelet actively prevents CCCorp from being able to do anything to him. Also used to keep the player from using Data Drain too much - sure, it can give you great items when used on a normal foe, but it also transforms them into a level 1 monster that gives you just 1 experience point. Plus, overusing may cause nasty side effects like status ailments, lost EXP, or even a Non-Standard Game Over.
- No Name Given: Morganna is never actually referred to as such in the games themselves, though it is in the novels.
- Except in one of Aura's early messages to Kite, where you can pick the name "Morganna" out of the scrambled text.
- Actually, when Kite must go into the area "Chatting Snarling Twins" alone (were your recruit Balmung), right before you enter the boss room, the last thing the voice talking through out the dungeon says is: "Morganna Mode Gone- She rejects my intervention."
- Kite himself. No one really knows his real name and since he's supposed to represent the player, it's difficult to find anything on him that gives him an identity. Side-material have given him some background information, though.
- Non Standard Game Over: Reaching 100% Infection from using Data Drain. It causes a "SYSTEM ERROR".
- Oh, Crap!: Two of note in cutscenes: The first is the finale of disc two, when Kite and BlackRose return to Carmina Gadelica to find that the infection from the Phases has spread. The second is at the end of the main story when Corbenik uses Drain Heart.
- Old Save Bonus: In addition to bringing over your characters exactly as they were at the end of the previous volume (likely with much better gear than the default if New Game is chosen), you get access to extra content and quests if you carry an old save over. It's even possible to take your save into the G.U. games.
- One Game for the Price of Two: Each of the individual games is full-priced, but they are all essentially the same game, with the same mechanics, setting, and characters. You can import saves from older games into the newer ones so you can continue exactly where you left off.
- In fact, the first game, Infection, has the data for almost every enemy, character, item, equipment, and area of all four games, although it's inaccessible by normal means. Some of this data was changed in the sequels, but they were indeed already there. Plus, all the four games have a huge dump file which serves the only purpose of increasing the disc size so it can fit Sony's minimum disc size requirement for PS2 games. The four games could probably be fit in a single disc.
- Optional Party Member: By following requests in the message boards of The World to their completion, you can recruit more characters.
- Infection gives Natsume (Twin Blade), Sanjuro (Heavy Blade) and Gardenia (Long Arm)
- Mutation gives Rachel (Blademaster), Nuke Usagimaru (Long Arm), Marlo (Blademaster), and Moonstone (Twin Blade)
- Outbreak has Terajima Ryoko (Heavy Axeman)
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rachel when summoning spells or calling her attacks doesn't speak in her accent.
- Puzzle Boss: Magus, the Third Phase. It has an attack that, if left unchecked, is a One-Hit KO even against a max-level party. If the leaves/seeds/whatever it drops are destroyed before they can detonate, however, the effect is negated or at least mitigated, depending on how many are destroyed.
- Reverse Escort Mission: .hack//INFECTION has a tutorial level that has Kite escorted through a basic dungeon by Orca, his friend, who is teaching him how to play The World. Orca is able to take on anything due to his level, and things remain pleasant until the encounter with Skeith.
- Schmuck Bait: Think that using Data Drain is going to make a tough enemy easier? Quarantine has a nasty surprise for you - it pits you against copies of The Guardian from .hack//SIGN. It's strong, but it's not terribly difficult even if you're below its level. Data Drain that and it turns into The Bracelet from the anime, and it's as brutal in the game as it was in the anime, even if your levels are maxed out.
- Terse Talker: Marlo and Gardenia are pretty terse, but Moonstone is this to the extreme.
- The Unchosen One: Kite. Aura gave the bracelet to Orca, but Skeith got to him before anything could happen with it. Kite just happened to be there.
- Victory Fake Out: Corbenik pulls this on you, you get him to just low enough HP and he regains it all.
- Villain Override: Implied that Morganna did this to give Corbenik one last form far different than the other Phases.
give me a little more courage.