History of .hack – Part 2

It’s time to keep marching along! You’ve caught up with the first post, right? This time, we’re going to dive deep into the story of the first series of .hack games. While I’ll go light on the character arcs, aiming to focus on the story beats that’ll help you understand the universe best going into .hack//GU, there will nevertheless be massive spoilers for the first four .hack games ahead! Hit the jump at your own risk!

When we last left The World,  Tsukasa had awoken and so had Aura. While Morganna is still kicking around and going nuttier by the minute, Aura has begun her evolution.

It’s in this state that a young teenager starts playing The World as a Twin Blade named Kite. Brought in by his friend Yasuhiko (in game a well-known Blademaster named Orca), Kite starts learning the ropes from his high-level buddy and starts fighting through his first area and dungeon. Delving into the dungeon, it’s not long before they find a now-older Aura being chased by Skeith, Morganna’s underhanded tactics having given way to direct assault. Orca, as one of the top players in the game, decides to intervene as this is a situation he had not seen before. Cornered and sensing Orca’s power, Aura chooses her as a champion of sorts and bestows him with a strange book. It’s not long before Skeith finds them however, and as the players realize they cannot harm Skeith, Orca encourages Kite to flee. In the chaos, Skeith manages to catch Orca off-guard and Data Drains him. Before Skeith can close in on Kite, Helba finds him and intervenes, booting Kite from the server with book in hand.

Confused by the events, Kite discovers that his friend has been sent into a coma in the real world. Believing this to be no coincidence, he begins to investigate within The World to discover what happened to Yasuhiko, and hopefully, to cure him.

Using the strange book intended for Orca when confronted with a hacked monster, Kite’s character data is modified and he gains a mysterious item called the Twilight Bracelet, granting him the ability to Data Drain. While the bracelet is not visible to those outside his party, his ability to instantly defeat enemies and his ability to use the bracelet to access hacked or closed areas quickly gets the attention of the system admins attempting to solve the network oddities quietly. While Kite is able to find those sympathetic and willing to assist, he also finds himself at odds with those who think he’s a hacker. Worse, Orca’s in-game partner Balmung (an equally legendary player) believes Kite to be a low-life hacker at best, and a danger at worst.

Kite also manages to befriend a Blademaster named Mia and her wavemaster partner Elk. Mia’s character appeared to have been modified to look like a humanoid cat. As such modifications aren’t possible within the base game, Kite’s reputation as a hacker grew by association.

As Kite’s investigation progressed, rumors and news stories of people falling into comas unexpectedly began to appear in forums and on the local news. While many of these stories were covered up quickly, it became hard to avoid the rumors, even if they could be dismissed easily. Aura also attempts to assist Kite by giving him information he can’t find through message boards, though her main method of access is garbled emails as she attempts to communicate outside of the world incubating her.

After spending some time hunting down bugged monsters and looking for clues, Kite finally finds a lead after hearing of another player who disappeared. Investigating the area where the player went missing, Kite and his party find Skeith and Aura. Unable to escape, Aura is data drained by Skeith and split into three pieces. With the power of the bracelet, Kite manages to defeat Skeith, but finds a more terrifying enemy watching: Cubia.

While not yet sure what Cubia is, this entity will be a core antagonist for the series.

Kite’s actions with Skeith lead to more attention from The World‘s admins, who attempt to delete his character. Helba stops this, having put some specialized encrypted data into Kite’s character and encouraging the admin team to observe for a team rather than immediately deleting Kite. The admins, led by a CC employee named Lios, agree and eventually use Kite’s party to investigate several corrupted areas. Kite agrees, hoping this is the quickest way to the truth and curing his friend. As he explores, Kite is forced to fight off Cubia, still uncertain as to what this entity is but certain it’s not a normal enemy within The World. Finding elements in his investigation that line up with the rumored Epitaph of Twilight (including fighting phase 2 of the cursed wave, Innis The Mirage of Deceit, who carries Aura’s first segment), he also begins to seek details on the epic poem in the hopes that it will grant new light to the investigation.

Eventually Kite is contacted by a Wavemaster named Wiseman, an information broker with knowledge of the Epitaph, who both names all 8 phases of the cursed wave and grants them entry into Net Slum. Tired of what they see as Kite’s dangerous actions, Lios and Balmung follow him to the hacked server and attempt to delete both Kite and the entirety of Net Slum. Before they’re able to, another phase attacks: Magus, the Propagation. As Lios and Balmung are driven out, Kite’s party manages to defeat the Phase with the help of Kite’s Data Drain. However, returning to a legitimate server, they find the corruption infecting the broken areas spreading through the rest of The World.

Further complicating matters Kite finds Mia acting lethargically, more easily confused and lacking the energy usually seen. While Kite finds himself doubting his path as the corruption gets worse rather than better, he does manage to secure the assistance of Balmung after helping him defeat a corrupted monster.

Under guidance from Helba, Kite finds and defeats the next phase: Fidchell the Prophet. While he gains the second segment of Aura in the process, Fidchell delivers a prophecy of disaster before dying. True to his word, the shockwaves from Fidchell’s destruction resonate across the network and interfere with networked systems throughout the world and turning The World itself into something akin to a virus. This is the true beginning of the Second Network Crisis, also known as Pluto Again. Lios reveals that CC Corp is willing to shut down The World entirely to prevent this, adding urgency to Kite’s mission as the loss of The World could mean the loss of the growing number of coma patients. Kite crosses Cubia once again, with Lios witnessing the entity for the first time. Witnessing the continued efforts of Kite’s group, Lios finally agrees to aid them.

Wiseman comes up with a plan, Operation Breakwater, to quarantine and attack the Cursed Wave directly. In preparation for this fight, Kite finds Elk, who informs him that Mia is missing. Finally, the plan goes into action, with Kite’s group fighting and defeating the next phase: Gorre, the Machinator. The plan to quarantine the phase works, and for the first time a phase is defeated without ill effects on The World.

While the group works on their next steps, a blackout occurs in the hospital where Yasuhiko is hospitalized. Kite realizes that the corruption is spreading and that their time is running out. Kite continues to collect fragments of the Epitaph, he eventually finds Elk and Mia at the bottom of a dungeon. Here, Mia admits that she has no memories outside of The World. Finally, she transforms into another Phase: Macha, the Temptress, the same phase that both trapped and freed Tsukasa. Kite has no choice but to destroy Macha and regain Aura’s last segment, leaving nothing of Mia and causing Elk to blame Kite for her death.

Elk’s anger at Mia’s loss leads him to abandon his part of the plan to take down the next phase, giving the wave time to create antibodies and become immune to the team’s current method of fighting. However, Kite is able to return the last segment to Aura, who manages to stop the wave’s spread. This gives Helba time to improve their methods and work around the wave’s antibodies, allowing the team to capture and defeat the next phase: Tarvos, the Avenger.

Before seeking out the last phase for the final battle, Kite finds an area left by Harald and seeks out the last answers to the secrets of the world. There he finds Aura, who encourages Kite not to fight Cubia as she reveals Cubia’s true nature. Cubia is the anti-existence to the Twilight Bracelet, a shadow that was created in response to the creation of the bracelet. He cannot be destroyed so long as the bracelet exists, and the bracelet is still needed to end the cursed wave. In order to end Cubia’s relentless attacks, Kite finally has one of his party members destroy his bracelet, both ending Cubia and losing his team their most important weapon.

Sensing the weakness of this group, which would later be known as the .hackers, the wave sends its final phase to finish the war: Corbenik, the Rebirth. While Kite’s party seems to fight a losing battle, the spirits of the coma victims still trapped in The World appear and weaken the barrier around Corbenik enough for Kite to strike a finishing blow. Morganna, sensing that her last options have left her, fuses directly with Corbenik and attempts to destroy the .hackers herself.

The battle begins to destroy the server itself, threatening to destroy The World itself and send shockwaves throughout the rest of the network. However, due to the efforts of others fighting outside The World to save their own comatose friends, the battle is moved to a mirror server to finish in a quarantined, safe space. As Morganna reaches the end of her life, however, she unleashes a wide-scale Data Drain, draining Kite’s entire party. Elk sacrifices himself to save Kite and allow him to finish the job. Enraged at the loss of every friend he’s made, Kite strikes out at Morganna, only to be intercepted by Aura. Realizing the purpose of self sacrifice, Aura takes the blow meant for Morganna, completing her birth as the Ultimate AI and destroying both Morganna and the corruption infecting the network. The coma victims awaken and the network stabilizes, with Aura becoming something of a goddess of the network.

The .hackers would become something of an urban legend as a group that found the final secrets of The World in its first version. Though the bulk of the first leg of .hack ends here, more events unfold over the years before the release of The World R:2 and .hack//GU. While none of these change the lay of the land going into the next series, they do show that no matter what, the world that Harald Hoerwick created was filled with more dangers, the actions of CC Corp continued to precipitate that danger, and the network goddess Aura would continue to have a role to play in the world for years to come.

There is, of course, much more to the series than what I laid out here. The story of .hack focuses strongly on interpersonal relationships, bonding in times of crisis and shared trauma, dealing with the world through nontraditional means, and the deeper views of what each one of these characters is doing in real life. Digging into the universe with the depth it begs for is well beyond the scope of a few blog posts, and experiencing these stories firsthand will give you the best possible view of what makes .hack so special. However, if you’re just worried about missing big references going into .hack//GU, hopefully these posts helped. If there’s more you want to know about the series, feel free to sound off in the comments! With luck, this remake will show Namco Bandai that there’s still some life in this series.

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