No surprise, the .hack//G.U. Last Recode Switch port is pretty great
It’s such a weird feeling to be happy that a Switch port of remastered PS2 games came out well. That probably says something about the general state of ports on this little system that could, but I had decent hopes for the .hack//G.U. Last Recode ports when they were announced. There shouldn’t be any reason these ports would end up low quality in the first place, but Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2’s names being attached assuaged most of my worries. I was stunned at how high quality the Dragon Ball Z Kakarot’s Switch port last year was, so .hack's port was well positioned to be great. Thankfully, it is. While it's maybe 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 piece is not meant to serve as an overall judgment of the games themselves, because I more or less agree with Josh Torres’ PS4 version review from nearly 5 years ago. While I think getting into the world of G.U is a bit slow at the start, the charm ultimately 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 cuts in visual fidelity compared to the previous releases of this remaster. The Switch port, especially on the OLED model screen, has some pretty crisp visuals. The colors all look good, and I didn’t find the audio quality on music or voices to sound compressed. When dungeon crawling I found that the draw distance wasn’t on either of the extremes of impressive or restrictive, but it was noticeably average. That’s not something worth complaining about, especially in a game structured like .hack where every dungeon is more or less rooms connected by a series of hallways. There’s no severe pop-in either.
I have two issues with the Nintendo Switch port, which only seem glaring flaws instead of nitpicks because the package is so high quality in every other aspect. The FMVs are rather low quality, which is thankfully not too common. It does make the disconnect more apparent when it goes from in-engine cutscenes typically without voice movements to the fancy battle animations that come from the now very compressed and low resolution pre-rendered videos.
The next thing I noticed was the font size for cutscene subtitles wasn’t properly scaled up for undocked play. I have spent most of my time with the G.U. 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 playing on a Lite model. I really wish more games would take this into consideration and scale their UI accordingly depending on if the Switch was connected to a dock. The easiest solution would be to just have a big font in general.
Speaking of text, ironically the area the presentation excels at is maybe one of the lesser discussed aspects of .hack //G.U: The Forums. If you’re looking to lose yourself in the in-universe and almost constantly updating internet of the world of .G.U. this is the best it’s ever been. I have a hard time reading large amounts of text on console, so this made me bounce off a few times while trying to play on PS4. This was slightly better when trying to play on PC, but I find it ideal to play text-heavy games on a portable system. So making myself a warm cup of tea, getting under a blanket, and scrolling through these old-fashioned forums to build the world was probably the best part of my time with this port. The text for every post is rather large as well, with no visibility issues like the subtitle fonts.
One source of contention could be the framerate target, which has been downgraded from 60 to 30 fps. The speed of the game has not taken a hit, however, so I wasn’t even sure it was running at 30 until recording it and skimming frame by frame in Adobe Premiere. I’m the kind of person that can sacrifice performance for portability as long as the visuals don’t take too much of a hit, and I feel most people who view Switch as their preferred platform are in a similar boat. I never noticed the framerate drop low enough to make the experience suffer, and the combat was preserved rather well.
There’s not too much to say about this rather great port of .hack //.G.U. All ports should be as good as this one by default, so to find one that meets expectations and offers a console-like experience on the go is nice. I’ve seen games that should demand less run worse on Switch, so maybe this is some sort of brilliant achievement that should be applauded. .hack, in my experience, is about instilling a sense of comfort in the players to mimic nostalgic routines. The remaster works so well because many of the intended audience look for that escape back to a simpler time browsing the internet and playing games during a part of their lives where they had an abundance of free time. If the Switch port had issues to take away from that general vibe, it wouldn’t have been worth existing. But it does, and this is probably the comfiest way to play now.
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.