.hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, and .hack//Quarantine - In between my junior and senior years of high school, an acquaintance of mine was lucky enough to attend E3 (back in the days of it being more open to the public). I say acquaintance because we were never really all that close apart from sharing a few classes and extracurriculars. Still, he knew we shared a passion for video games and brought me back a demo disc of .hack//Infection. On a lark, I gave it a try and was immediately hooked.
In the .hack games, you played as Kite, a player of the game within the game The World, a fictional MMORPG. Having never gotten into any of the MMOs myself, the opportunity to play in this fictional one was surprisingly fun. As Kite, you meet fellow players for in-game sessions while in the real world, players are mysteriously succumbing to comas. In a pre-Mass Effect world, each game in the series picked up where the last one left off. Of course, the flip side is also that in a pre-DLC world, you were effectively paying hundreds of dollars for what could have been sold as one game. If the series, winds up coming to the PS4 as PS2 classics, I might revisit them but it would have to be an affordable bundle deal and not $15 per game as is the current norm for the program. Still, I had a great time with it back then. And it's almost certainly something I never would have picked up if not for that E3 demo disc. Shame demos aren't around that much anymore...
LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game - I just got the Platinum trophy on the latest LEGO Marvel's Avengers game a few hours prior to this writing so it seems fitting I take a moment to highlight the one that started it all. I still remember pretty much everybody had their doubts about what a LEGO video game was going to be like. And to be fair, as someone who tried to play LEGO Island back on PC in the late 90s, that fear was absolutely founded.
But then the game came out and everyone was impressed with its action-adventure puzzle platforming but the real standout was its charm and humor. In the days before they were bringing in voice actors or pulling audio directly from the source material, LEGO Star Wars pantomimed its way through the iconic moments of Star Wars with aplomb. Coming out right before Revenge of the Sith hit theatres, it also helped that it landed at a time before the internet and my own maturing tastes made me realize how much I disliked the prequel trilogy. But even as my ability to stomach those films has dwindled, the charm of playing through them in LEGO form survives.
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy - After the surprise hit of the original, it made perfect sense for Traveller's Tales to replicate their successful formula for the original trilogy. Surprise surprise: it worked even better when the source material was much more beloved! The iconic Vader and Luke seen at the end of The Empire Strikes Back still makes me chuckle as LEGO Vader pulled out a family photo of young Anakin and Padme as a stand-in for the iconic line.
With LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens on the horizon, I'm sure I'll be revisiting the franchise soon. Though I am admittedly wary of TT Games only tackling a single film this time out. While I never played LEGO The Hobbit, I thought it was pretty shitty of them to launch the game after only the second film in the trilogy for the cash in and then decide to cancel the originally planned DLC based on the third movie. That's obviously not even the plan this time around as the publisher WB Games will milk a separate game for each new film and it'll sell because of the Star Wars name. Still, having just collected 250 Gold Bricks and over 200 characters/variants for a game covering six films, I'm curious to see how much filler they wind up including on a game only covering one, even if they have been given the chance to provide their own bits of canonical back story here and there.