.hack//AI Buster is actually pretty darn good.

I’m impressed, really. When I heard about novels I immediately thought about a non-animated version of //SIGN; you know, with the slow glacial-pace story and the constant every-god-damn-word-I’m-saying-has-a-deeper-meaning, but Tetsuya Hamazaki managed to pull of an unexpectedly light, fast (but not rushed) and entertaining story.

It takes place some good while before //SIGN. The main character is a super-veteran Long Arm called Albireo who had been playing ever since Fragment. The story sort of revolves around him and the quest he is given to by a strange little girl called Lycoris, who he believes is an event NPC. However, the POV switches back and forth between him and a system administrator called Watarai, the leader of the debuggers known as Cobalt Knights (These are CC employees, not like the Crimson). This guy had been in the project since the beginning, and has a lot of interesting information that serves to clear some points like why CCCorp can’t alter the hard code of The World and some pretty funny anecdotes about Tokuoka, who was the leader of the localization and beta project when Watarai had just joined.

There’s also Hokuto, a newbie Wavemaster that forcibly joins Albireo and just annoys the fuck out of him (His irritated self-musings are really funny) and two characters who ask him to join them in a special event. These two are Balmung and Orca, and the special event is none other than “The One Sin” which you finally get to see. By the way, I haven’t tried to input them in the game yet but The One Sin takes place in Ω Captive Fallen Angel.

Like I said, the whole novel is very easy to read and extremely casual. The characters never lose the fact that it’s all a game and it’s entertaining watching them whine about the exact same things we whine about, like unrealistic barriers in certain areas and the like. There’s also, at last, a detailed description of how exactly the Epitaph was lost and why you can only find small fragments nowadays.

To sum it up, it’s a bit short, but definitely worth a read if you are a fan of the series. I don’t know how expensive it is but there’s a scanned version going around the net (Actually, I think I’m accountable for that. I downloaded it from an IRC channel and put it into my eMule shared folder without realizing it). It’s a 185.57 MB .rar file named “dot HACK - AI Buster (English)”.

EDIT: A bit unrelated, but I’ve been checking around and both GameSpy and IGN are also listing //G.U.'s release date as February 1, so I suppose it’s more official now.