I have very mixed feelings about this game, but I think it’s better than a lot of the RPG Maker junk cluttering Steam, though it’s also not as good as a large number of freely available RPG Maker games out there. I didn’t mind finishing it, but I loathed some parts of the game (core hunting, specifically). There’s also a new game + mode, apparently, and I’m not too thrilled about the prospects there. If you want a TLDR, you just read it - if you want to know more, I’ll start by discussing what I felt was poorly done in the game, then finish on the positive notes.
(Also, item farming spoiler below.)
The first real issue that I want to bring up is that the plot makes itself scarce. The game sort of hinges on being a simulation of an open world where the main character has no idea what’s going on (in a style similar to .hack and its game series), but that makes for very little character or story development. I’m pretty sure most of the game’s story-related dialogue would fit on 3-5 pages, depending on your font choice. It really reminded me of playing .hack on the PS2 because you really don’t get much back-story… but .hack had the breadth of the manga and anime to draw from, where this game sort of leaves you in the dark because you know nothing about the world going in.
Another flaw, or host of flaws, is the lack of polish that the game has in certain areas. To be fair, there was actually a massive graphics overhaul done on this game and it did make it much easier on the eyes… but it made it the spots in the game that were missed in the respriting effort and the quirks caused by bad QC during respriting much more apparent. For example, you can often find NPCs that are a few pixels misaligned on their sprite sheets, which causes floating pixels around them while they walk. Additionally, a number of the sprites weren’t updated to the larger side afforded by the graphics update, so they look *really* out of place when they show up.
There are also a number of typos in item descriptions and even one in the battle status ailment prompts. It’s pretty off-putting.
To wrap up negatives, I’ll bring up what is probably a personal issue brought on by my playstyle in both .hack and Data Hacker: the data core collection. I didn’t really spend a lot of time hacking enemies in this game (or .hack) when I realized that you don’t get experience for battles afterward. In .hack, there’s always the possibility of grabbing an interesting piece of equipment, but you usually just get data cores. In Data Hacker, all you have to look forward to are data cores. When Jaque, a main character to the plot, tells you to sell him your cores the second time you meet, it even makes collecting them seem pointless unless you need money - I can see people that haven’t played .hack making that mistake. But I digress. Farming for cores is time-consuming and rather boring. I spent several hours trying to locate a good dungeon to grab the final “Tz” cores from with any regularity when it came time for their use. In that vein, to anyone who reads this:
Core Farming Dungeons
AlZo Dungeon, second floor near the two doors: Al, Zo, Ki Cores
ZoTz Dungeon: Ma, Ge, Tz Cores
But, now, on to the good: this game is playable. If you like RPG Maker games, Data Hacker doesn’t disappoint because it’s very clearly an RPG Maker game. There are some interesting tweaks to the engine and some clever uses. Even a minigame (which I did manage to lock up the game with - don’t walk up to the tournament NPC from his right side) that’s… pretty similar to that card game from FFVIII. The creator obviously put a lot of work into it and, as long as you don’t focus on things you might want to nit-pick, you should be able to see this game standing quite a bit higher than many of the RPG Maker titles out there.