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.hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, and .hack//Quarantine. These four games are each "chapters" of one massive game on the Playstation 2, sometimes collectively referred to as ".hack//IMOQ". They take place immediately after .hack//Sign, and form the core of the R1 storyline of the .hack saga. .hack//Liminality takes place concurrent to the games' story.
As the game begins, Kite logs into The World for the first time, his best friend Orca showing him the ropes. However, he soon witnesses Orca get attacked and Data Drained by a strange enemy known as "Skeith", who is chasing a white-haired girl who does not appear to be either an NPC or a player. Kite is whisked away by unknown forces before the same fate can befall him, and receives an item called The Twilight Bracelet, which allows him to use Data Drain himself. Learning that Orca's player has been in a coma ever since being attacked in-game, Kite begins a quest to find out what exactly is going on in The World and how to save Orca.
The games are complemented by a quartet of Light Novels titled .hack//Another Birth. These novels follow the same story from Kite's partner BlackRose's point of view. Events that BlackRose was not present for are skipped over in the novels, but they also detail what her offline life is like, and some things she does on her own when Kite's not around.
See here for character sheets.
These games contain examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Averted. Though most of the heroes are teenagers or children, one of their greatest allies is Lios, the head system administrator and employee at CC Corp. No one knows Helba's age, but she certainly acts like a woman in her twenties or thirties.
- AI Is a Crapshoot: Morganna
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: That weird landscape you are transported to when fighting the Phases. Corbenik actually gets two of them. By the final battle with him, Cubia has grown so enormous that he serves as the battlefield himself.
- Author Avatar: Piros (or Piroshi) is based of game director and Cyber Connect 2 President Hiroshi Matsuyama.
- Blind Idiot Translation: The first Another Birth volume has several glaring mistakes, such as getting Kite's and BlackRose's dialogue mixed up in their first meeting, and referring to Skeith as "Death" for most of the book (with a rather pathetic attempt at a Hand Wave when they switch over to his real name). Fortunately, the later volumes have a much better translation.
- Call Back: Recreated events from .hack//Sign.
- Canon Immigrant: Tsukasa, Subaru and Sora can all be added to your party by the end of the fourth game. Macha in it's cat form from SIGN also appears in a bonus dungeon.
- The Cameo: A few Sign characters can be found in the game, though not in the main storyline.
- Cryptic Conversation: Any conversation with Vagrant AI's or Harold remnants.
- Cursed with Awesome: Some who are aware of the Bracelet consider it an illegal item due to its Game Breaker nature, which also leads them to consider Kite a malevolent hacker.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Data Drain. Using it on a regular enemy will reduce it to a pathetically weak form that can be beaten in one hit, and it is required in order to defeat hacked enemies. It will also occasionally net you some items. However, the more you use it, the more Kite's data gets corrupted, and the more negative side effects pop up... the worst of which is an instant Game Over.
- The technique becomes doubly dangerous in Quarantine, when you start running into The Bracelet, Morganna's imitation of the bracelet Kite wears. It's a potent foe on its own... but if hit with Data Drain, it instead turns into The Guardian (of .hack//Sign), which is max level and fights as mean as you'd expect something that could One-Hit Kill nearly everything in .hack//SIGN
- Disc One Nuke: Sora's Blades in Outbreak. You can get them early on from a level 70 dungeon, and as long as you go with a party, you'll be fine, and you'll probably get other excellent equipment as well. They've got the "death" effect on them, which will save you a lot of trouble as you go through the game.
- Dub Induced Plot Hole: Mistral refers to her baby as being a boy but it's actually a girl. The same girl who becomes Mireille in .hack Legend of the Twilight.
- Eyes Always Shut: Natsume and A-20.
- The Faceless: Morganna, the Big Bad, has no form and is never seen nor heard (except possibly during the final Corbenik fight, where it's suggested that Morganna itself is controlling the Phase). The Eight Phases act as its agents throughout the game, and are the most visible sign of its presence.
- Fetch Quest: One of the more disliked aspects of the game was the need to go hunting for very specific Virus Cores to open new areas, which would only be dropped by certain enemies when Data Drained.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Elk throws himself into the path of Corbenik's Drain Arc.
- Interface Screw: Corrupted areas of the game have frequent bursts of static. A large amount of white noise is also a good indication that either Cubia or a Phase is about to show up.
- Memetic Outfit: Kite's signature red costume. It's noted in the novels that that shade of red is not actually available for players to choose, further emphasizing the "above the rules" nature of Kite's abilities. Vaguely alluded to in-game, since Kite becomes known for it (and no NPC wears the same shade of Red that Kite has).
- The Nameless: Morganna is never actually referred to as such in the games themselves, though it is in the novels.
- Except in one of Aura's early messages to Kite, where you can pick the name "Morganna" out of the scrambled text.
- Nigh Invulnerable: Any hacked enemy, as well as the Phases, must be Data Drained before any damage can be done to them.
- Corbenik the 8th phase is the one exception due to the bracelet being destroyed in the fight with Cubia.
- Old Save Bonus: In addition to bringing over your characters exactly as they were at the end of the previous volume (likely with much better gear than the default if New Game is chosen), you get access to extra content and quests if you carry an old save over.
- One Game For The Price Of Four: Each of the individual games is full-priced, but they are all essentially the same game, with the same mechanics, setting, and characters. You can import saves from older games into the newer ones so you can continue exactly where you left off.
- The Other Darrin: Balmung was voiced by Doug Erholtz in Infection and then by Crispin Freeman from Mutation through Quarantine.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rachel when summoning spells or calling her attacks doesn't speak in her accent.
- White-Haired Pretty Girl: Aura.