As I just completed the original trilogy of this multi-volume RPG, allow me to explain what happened in the ending and some of my impressions. By the way, I will be playing the bonus vol. 4 soon so stay tuned for my thoughts on that shortly.
A deadlier tournament
After finding out the true identity of Tri-Edge in vol. 2, things start to really heat up in terms of story. Yata (the leader of the Raven group) is removed from his post and can no longer order the gang around and CC Corp (the makers of The World) put Sakaki in his place. Apparently, he was right when he said "I am never going to die!" Sakaki has convinced the executives of CC Corp that he can rid The World of AIDA with his first course of action being removing the restriction of no PKing (player killing) in the towns. Players are seen running around killing other players everywhere, trying to get a place in the new tournament that Sakaki set up where the only entrants are those who have killed the most players outside of the tournament itself. Haseo and gang enter the tournament (Haseo has PK'd his fair share throughout the course of the story) and eventually take down Sakaki in an epic fight.
The destruction of AIDA and arrival of Cubia
Yata makes an appearance to fulfill his duties yet again after Sakaki is taken out of the picture and we discover that he is in fact the seventh of the eight epitaph users that we've been looking for. Ovan and his sister arrive on the scene and Ovan starts to explain how he's only doing what he's doing in an attempt to save his sister from her comatose state. He is trying to awaken the god-like entity called Aura in the hopes that they will save The World and rid it of AIDA (and in turn, hopefully awaken his sister).
The gang takes him on and eventually Ovan sacrifices himself. In doing so, AIDA is wiped from the internet and news stories show how it's affecting the digital world outside of the game. However, the destruction of AIDA brings about the incarnation of Cubia; a new evil force to be tackled. If you continue to read the news articles, you'll see how Cubia is so huge that it's about to bring an apocalypse to the real world, taking out nuclear power plants everywhere. Things just got real!
After discovering that Cubia is spawning tons of Cubia Gomora all over the servers, Haseo and gang work together with the leader of Moon Tree to send an email out to all of the players of The World. It asks for their help in destroying the spawn in order to weaken Cubia and slow down its progress in taking over the internet. Players arrive in droves including some who were previously thought of as "Lost Ones" (in a comatose state) that had been awakened after Ovan's sacrifice and the destruction of AIDA.
In between taking out the Gomora, the gang hangs out in a new slum-like town that exists inside and outside of The World while The World is apparently "undergoing maintenance" as the mysterious CC Corp states. En route to the final battle with Cubia, Haseo fights clones of himself and other party members, eventually leaving the original party members behind to take on the doppelgangers while he forges ahead. I left Atoli and Kuhn in my party for the last boss and sacrificed some of the new party members that I barely used (I amassed quite a few by the end of the game). The last boss fight wasn't that tough. In fact, the boss fights earlier in the volume were much harder. Maybe I was too leveled up but I didn't die in the first form and only died once in the second. Anyway, it was satisfying to finally take out the big bad entity and see The World go back to normal, including the real one outside of the game.
An awkward union
Shino finally shows up right at the end of the story and says that she was watching the whole thing. She asks Haseo if he will rebuild the Twilight Brigade with her (the old guild he ran with Shino and Ovan) and Haseo has to make a decision of whether he goes back to Shino or runs to Atoli and he decides to run after Atoli. After the ending scene, I chose to send a note to Atoli that basically asked for her hand in marriage (in the game world, of course). An extremely awkward scene played out where Haseo was his old offensive self and Atoli was just taking it but they did get married. To be honest, it was quite funny to watch and made me slightly uncomfortable. Well, at least it's just a game. Hopefully, the person playing Atoli wouldn't actually fall for a guy like Haseo in real life.
The power of people
When I first started playing .hack//G.U. Last Recode, I was worried that the game might start to feel stale and have shallow undertones due to me effectively playing a game within a game. However, .hack//G.U. very gradually manages to slowly uncover how your actions in The World are actually affecting the real world around you. At first, you can only get a glimpse into this by reading the news and forums that show up on the computer screen that you see when you log out. By the end of vol. 2 and start of vol. 3, players start to talk more openly about what's going on outside of The World and by the end of vol. 3, we find out that it's actually up to the players of The World to save the real world from an impending Armageddon. I feel like this tie-in was done really well throughout the adventure and it offers a fresh dynamic to storytelling when you compare it to more traditional JRPGs.
It's great to see a satisfying conclusion to this three part RPG. As I mentioned, I'll be playing vol. 4 right away so come back soon to read my summary and impressions of it. Also, please leave a comment below and tell me your thoughts on .hack//G.U.