The original .hack series left many gamers feeling unsatisfied. The four titles all took place in the same world, with no change to graphics, or (relevant to this review), sound. Other than the opening and ending tracks, most of the music was shared among the four games.
While I am not certain that G.U. will have entirely different sets of music for each of its three volumes, the tracklist to the G.U. O.S.T. suggests that we are indeed looking at the soundtrack to Vol.1 only. We will know for sure in the coming months.
What I do know about the soundtrack is that it features the same sound team from the last series, headed by Chikayo Fukuda. It’s no surprise that the style of the music is quite similar to what we heard last time around. However, there is a general improvement in sound quality, and a stronger emphasis on tonality. There are also a significant number of vocal tracks, including silly songs with male vocalists (the new Piroshi theme is one of the two fun-loving jaunts, the other being Mecha Grante).
Matching its predecessor in style, the G.U. O.S.T. demonstrates an adequate mix of techno-pop, ethereal vocals, and captivating orchestral work, oftentimes featuring the piano as a key instrument. Fukuda did an excellent job with the piano tracks; they were generally my favorite pieces.
As I said earlier, I was pleased at the level of tonality found on this soundtrack. In other words, nearly every song has a clear melody that can be learned and repeated at one’s leisure. The original .hack included a number of battle themes that were ultimately forgettable as they were used only to enhance the in-game experience, not to promote any sort of musicality.
The ending vocal is found on both discs, first in English and second in Japanese. The English version, while not suffering from “engrish” per se, sounded noticeably off. The vocalist seemed to struggle with syllabic emphasis, something that usually is more a problem in spoken word than in song. Obviously, I prefer the Japanese version.
A third disc came with the soundtrack as well. Though DVDs are a common bonus with soundtracks, this was actually a CD that had easily-accessed, unencrypted movie files and sound bytes to enhance one’s PC experience. We have included a clip from one of the three movies available: a trailer from TGS. Had I understood the humor behind it, I would have also had much to say about the quirky “Online Jack Scenario #1.” The video shows a guy interviewing people and asking them about, I’m guessing, MMORPGs. They don’t seem to like being asked about it. It’s silly, and it’s the sort of thing that helps to flesh out the nature of a fictional universe, such as the one created by CyberConnect2.
I hope that fans of the .hack universe haven’t given up on it after what I would consider a false start. If the music is any indication, G.U. is going to be a vast improvement on the original. If you liked the music the first time around, you’d be hard-pressed not to like the G.U. O.S.T.; it comes with high recommendations from me to you.