Ok I officially am loving the hell out of this series.... I even decided to indulge the .hack//sign anime and get some prequel backstory (although I got to admit the anime is absolutely TERRIBLE.... its still cool to see if your really into it as I am ATM).... Even the gameplay has totally grown on me at this point.... hopping into menus 101 times per battle, while hindering the "action" or "real time" aspect of things, totally reminds me of how single player boss battles felt in secret of mana as kid when the only other neighborhood RPG geek couldn't make it over for couch co-op.
This is really surprising me, my feelings went from "this is really cool narrative but these dungeons and gameplay are gonna get to me..." to "I wonder how many hours of sleep I can cut from my schedule to play more of this"..... If G.U is as big an improvement over the first quadrilogy as the majority here has led me to believe I think I'm in for a real treat :)
Hurray another .hack fan has been born!
And I would definatly say that G.U. is an improvement over the original series in just about every aspect. The gameplay is faster, the visuals are better, and I prefer the G.U. storyline a little bit. Only complaints I have about G.U. are that the party member class balance is really bad(I think you get something like 10 single blade users and zero two handed blade users as an example) and I missed some of the completely random stories you occasioanlly got in the "news" for the original game. Those stories really made it feel like you were on the Internet even if they did serve absolutely no in game purpose.
I know this is pretty late, but apparently fragment (collection of first 4 games) is very cheap on amazon
And link is supposedly a condensed rehash of all 7 games
Fragment was an "MMO" for the PS2. Reason it is so cheap is because the servers were taken down a while ago, so it is probably impossible to actually play.
Link....is a fan service game. I haven't played it myself, but my understanding of the general concept of the game is that the main character has to travel back in time to prevent someone elese from altering events of the .hack series. The gae coverse events from basically every single .hack related work including A.I. Buster, Sign, and even the (implied out of continuity) G.U. movie. So technically yes it does include events from all 7 previous games, but it isn't the games themselves and I imagine it is missing a lot of events considering the sheer scope of works covered.