As soon as .hack//Infection ended, I wanted more. Obviously, I wanted to see what was in store for Kite and his friends. But a strange part of me wanted to hop back into playing it. The gameplay is an area of the series that most people find tedious. No one in their right mind should find the gameplay enjoyable. I guess I’ve never been in my right mind. All that to say, I dove into .hack//Mutation immediately after taking the first game as far as I could.
For those that are curious, there are two major additions to .hack found in Mutation. The first is Grunty Racing. After raising three types of Grunties in the Root Towns, you can participate in a surprisingly addictive and fun time challenge in which you collect three flags scattered around town. The rewards are great, so it’s recommended to give them a try. The second new feature is the Drain Arc. If multiple enemies are hit by Protect Break, then Kite can use Drain Arc to Data Drain them in one shot. I used this twice in my 15 hour playtime. Indeed, Mutation also takes about 15 hours to finish. I inflated my playtime with some extra grinding and farming, but once again, we’ve got a short campaign. Otherwise, you’re essentially getting more of the same that was featured in Infection. If that doesn’t sound fun, then you can stop reading now. If you’re wondering what else Mutation may offer, then continue reading.
Mutation picks up right where Infection left off. Kite and his friends thwarted Skeith, the monster responsible for putting Orca into a coma. Aura was divided into multiple fragments that were scattered across The World. Kite logs out of the game and immediately back in so he and Black Rose can head to the Skeith’s domain, hoping to find some answers. And once again, they’re given very little to work with. Every time something gets answered, a new question gets asked. The brisk, snappy pace from Infection carries over in Mutation. It makes going through the Mutation portion of the narrative just as exciting. New characters will enter Kite’s inner circle, too. Familiar faces such as Mistral, Mia and Sanjuro are back and ready to help Kite as needed. Kite continues to be a likable guy. He just wants to help his friend and will do anything to accomplish that goal. As you continue moving the story forward, you’ll get more news alerts and emails. Again, seeing the .hack version of the Internet before social media and streaming is a fun throwback.
Along with new friends and story moments, Kite has access to a new server. Heading into the Lambda Server’s Root Town of Carmina Gadelica brings more NPCs to talk and trade with. There’s a ton of new equipment for Kite and his friends to acquire. And of course, there are new fields and dungeons to explore that consist of three keywords. Combat is the exact same. I mentioned Kite’s new Drain Arc ability, but that’s it. You’ll be mashing X to perform a regular attack, accessing the menus A LOT to issue commands/making sure everyone doesn’t die within seconds, and switching equipment around to take advantage of elemental weaknesses. I experienced the same level of relaxation and fun I had with Infection. Chances are I’m in the minority; others will likely get annoyed by the lack of new things.
The new Root Town and environments look great. Mutation looks and sounds the same as Infection. Remember, this is one game divided into four discs so there aren’t going to be any graphical overhauls or glow ups. Of course, what’s presented is still lovely. The final boss is one of the most bizarre, creepy looking beings I’ve seen in a while. There are some new regular foes making their debut in Mutation, as well. The soundtrack from Infection had new tunes added for Mutation, and it’s wonderful. I feel like the music in this series is overlooked, which is a darn shame. The same actors/actresses return for their characters and the new voices brought into the mix are solid.
I spent more time with Mutation than Infection since I wanted to gain some extra levels, earn all the rewards from Grunty Racing, and finish all the side missions. You can comfortably ignore these things and finish the game in 15 hours; if not less than that. Just like Infection, the ending in Mutation has a major boss fight and cliffhanger. I made a conviction to not immediately hop into the next part, .hack//Outbreak, because burnout is a possibility. Still, after I finish my “palette cleanser” games I plan to hop right back into The World. The new plot points are enough to make keeping up with .hack worth it. Just don’t come in expecting a complete makeover.
Overall, 6.5/10: The second part of .hack has more amazing story moments, but that’s it. You’re working with the same foundation from .hack//Infection.