I’ve been a fan of the .hack franchise since the very beginning, with .hack//SIGN, and I’ve wanted to make a video using the original quartet of games for quite a few years, but couldn’t find the right song.
A friend of mine suggested a song by Blackmore’s Night as a possibility, but it didn’t quite feel right to me. But the sound of the group definitely caught my ear, so I listened to a few of their albums to see what else they’d done, and stumbled across The Circle. I’d noticed as the various entries of the .hack franchise continued that there were a common group of plot beats that appeared as the setup and introduction for most of them, so the idea of a cyclical story using Aura as the viewpoint character for the song became the base of my idea for the video.
My original idea was to use all of the video incarnations of the story in chronological order (including SIGN, Legend of the Twilight Bracelet, Roots, and Quantum), but I realized that that would result in alternating between cel animation and CG for each entry in the series, so I decided to focus on the CG entries.
To get the footage, the G.U. movie and Beyond the World movie were easy (just ripping Blu-Rays), and the G.U. games thankfully had recently had a remastered re-release on Steam, so the video files were much easier to get than the PS2 versions would have been. The original games were much more difficult, since the cutscenes mostly weren’t stored as video files, but were rendered in-engine. To get them, I ended up using a PS2 emulator configured to upscale the raw frames and then dump them to a video file. Thankfully, I also had an Action Replay to copy my 100% complete file from my actual memory card to the emulator and unlock all of the cutscenes so I didn’t have to play through the whole series on the emulator (I had over 125 hours of play on the save file).
I also had to decide how to handle the various aspect ratios in the footage. Luckily, the three distinct periods of the video were all consistent with each other (the original games were 4:3, the G.U. movie and games were both 16:9, and the Beyond the World movie was 21:9), so I decided to keep each of them at their native ratios and animate letter/pillarboxing as needed to keep the video project at 16:9, which worked out pretty well, in my opinion.
Execution-wise, I think this video is pretty good, though the pacing, particularly of the first segment, could be better – it’s a rather slow introduction.
This got a decent reaction from several other editors in AWA Pro 2021, but ultimately didn’t receive any finals nominations.
Anime – .hack Franchise (.hack//INFECTION, .hack//MUTATION, .hack//OUTBREAK, .hack//QUARANTINE, .hack//G.U. Trilogy, .hack//G.U. Last Recode, .hack//Beyond the World
Audio – Blackmoor’s Night – The Circle
Completed September 2021