No wonder the .hack//GU Last Recode Switch port is pretty awesome

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It’s such a strange feeling to be happy that a Switch port of remastered PS2 games turned out well. That probably says something about the general health of the ports on this small system, but I had high hopes for that .hack//GU Last Recode ports when they were announced. There shouldn’t be a reason these ports are low quality at all, but the Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 names have allayed most of my worries. I was amazed at the quality of last year’s Dragon Ball Z Kakarot Switch port, so .hack’s port was well positioned to be great. Luckily it is. While perhaps a less impressive port in comparison, it’s still a huge win for fans and would-be fans who have been waiting to play .hack on the go.

Let it be known, this article is not meant to be an overall judgment on the games themselves as I more or less agree with Josh Torres’ PS4 version review from almost 5 years ago. While I think the entry into the world of GU is a bit slow at first, the charm eventually shines through and this is definitely worth checking out for those looking for an RPG that serves as a time capsule for old MMO and internet culture .

In terms of presentation, I haven’t noticed any serious dips in visual fidelity compared to the previous versions of this remaster. The Switch port, especially on the OLED model’s screen, has some pretty sharp images. Colors all look good and I didn’t find the audio quality of music or voices compressed. When dungeon crawling, I found that the Draw Distance was neither impressive nor restrictive, but noticeably average. That’s nothing to complain about, especially in a game structured like .hack where each dungeon is more or less made up of rooms connected by a series of hallways. There’s also no strong pop-in.

I have two issues with the Nintendo Switch port that seem to be just glaring flaws rather than quibbles because the package is so high quality in every other way. The FMVs tend to be of low quality, which luckily doesn’t happen too often. It makes the disconnect clearer when moving from the in-engine cutscenes, typically devoid of voice moves, to the fancy combat animations that come from the now very compressed and pre-rendered low-resolution videos.

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The next thing I noticed was that the font size for the cutscene subtitles wasn’t upscaling properly for undocked playback. I spent most of my time with the GU collection on my OLED, and while I could still read the text, it was far from ideal. I could only imagine how much this game would strain your eyes if you were playing on a Lite model. I really wish more games would take this into account and scale their UI accordingly based on whether the Switch was connected to a dock. The simplest solution would be to generally only have one large font.

Speaking of text, ironically, the area where the presentation excels is perhaps one of the less discussed aspects of .hack //GU: The Forums. If you want to lose yourself in the universal and almost constantly updated world of .GU, this is the best thing ever. I have a hard time reading large amounts of text on console, so I bounced a few times when trying to play on PS4. This was slightly better when trying to play on PC, but I find it ideal for playing text-heavy games on a portable system. So making myself a warm cup of tea, curling up under a blanket, and scrolling through those old-fashioned forums building the world was probably the best part of my time on this port. The text for each post is also quite large, with no visibility issues like the subtitle fonts.

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One point of contention could be the framerate target, which has been downgraded from 60 to 30 fps. The speed of the game wasn’t affected though, so I wasn’t even sure it was running at 30 until I picked it up and skimmed frame by frame in Adobe Premiere. I’m the kind of person who can sacrifice performance for portability as long as the graphics aren’t compromised too much, and I think most people who consider Switch their platform of choice are in a similar boat. I’ve never noticed the framerate drop to the point where the experience suffers, and combat is preserved fairly well.

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Not too much to say about this pretty awesome port of .hack //.GU. All ports should be as good as this one by default, so it’s nice to find one that lives up to expectations and offers a console-like experience on the go. I’ve seen games that should charge less perform worse on Switch, so maybe this is some kind of brilliant performance that should be applauded. In my experience, .hack is all about giving players a sense of security to emulate nostalgic routines. The remaster works so well because many of the intended viewers are looking for an escape back to a simpler time where they were surfing the internet and playing games during a part of their lives when they had plenty of free time. If the switch port struggled to erase that general vibe, it wouldn’t have been worth it to exist. But it does, and it’s probably the most convenient way to play right now.

Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to the RPG site by the publisher.

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