Okay, so we all know the “right” way to play video games. Especially RPGs like the ones found in .hack//G.U. Last Recode. These are games designed to be savored. They mimic the MMO experience, with plenty of enemies to defeat and sidequests to undertake. You could probably beat each one in under 30 hours, if you rushed, but it could take around 50 hours to get the most out of each game in the trilogy. With the introduction of the Cheat Mode, the game becomes more accommodating.
Let’s be frank. The four .hack//G.U. games in this collection are all such fun and a reminder of a series that did something innovative and new. .hack//G.U. Last Recode finds itself in a rather awkward position, however. 2017 has been an incredible year for games, and both October and November are packed months. These are months with more 30-50 hour games, one after another. Something like .hack//G.U. Last Recode could very easily get lost in the shuffle and relegated to a backlog.
This is where the Cheat Mode shines. It is present in each of the four games, even the much smaller .hack//G.U. Vol. 4//Reconnection. It essentially makes players gods. Everyone’s levels, affection, and weapon skills are maxed. They have ultimate equipment. You have as many Chim Sphere and as much GP as you can possibly carry. There are even healing and support items. What is nice about all of this is that it does not give you an instant pass to see each cutscene and swiftly complete the game. You still have to explore, meet people, spend time on quests, and take care of “internet” activities. This mode streamlines things and removes the grind, greatly reducing the time you need to spend playing. But, if you do want to do absolutely everything, it is still going to be a substantial journey.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode does not penalize players for using Cheat Mode, which is another show of goodwill. You still earn achievements/trophies from it. You can’t earn “Knows No Bounds,” which involves getting Haseo to level 150 in the third or fourth game, which in turn means you can not get the “King of the World” Platinum. But such accolades are for bragging rights only, after all. And people could easily go back and replay to reach that height later. Especially since Cheat Mode does not stay active when you carry over data to another game.
Which brings me to another important point. Cheat Mode is entirely optional. People who want that original challenge can have it. People who choose to use it once can always go back and play the “right” way later. There is nothing locking someone out. Rather, it is about guaranteeing an opportunity to use what works best for you and your life right now. When things slow down, perhaps closer to the holiday season, you can put in all kinds of effort and hard work into building characters up on a more classic difficulty.
I felt like Cheat Mode was wonderful for going through and remembering why I enjoyed the .hack//G.U. Last Recode compilation. I can savor the character interactions, gameplay, and story, without getting bogged down in grinding for levels and items. It was there to refresh me. But, when I do have more time and can give .hack//G.U. Last Recode the time it deserves, I can go ahead and do so, enjoying a slightly more balanced and prettier version of a good thing.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC.