The goal of this guide is to set you up with the original retail copy of .hack//fragment in English and with the new address to the new online server, and to play on your choice of real Playstation 2 hardware or emulation on PC, Linux, Mac. And possibly on backwards compatible or custom firmware Playstation 3, Xbox One X|S, and Xbox Series X|S.
If you read my previous guide from last year 2020, you may have learned that you can play .hack//fragment as of the time you reading this topic. However, that guide was written in Summer of 2020, and it was more of a as the development progressed, so things are in out of order and the guide doesn't flow from A to B to C, more like A to D back to B and then C. With this 2021 guide and with the progress made in the past 6 months, this discussion will flow easier and sensible for you who may have never attempted this. Let me assure you ANYONE can do this, so that means YOU can play .hack//fragment today if you wanted.
Here's the short back story of things, .hack//fragment was developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Bandai as a stripped down version of .hack//Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, Quarantine that has no voice overs whatsoever in any language and no FMV's. So what you have is a game that has a character creator, root town, shops, items, fields, dungeons, monsters; the base game you may have experienced in the IMOQ games.
There is a short story in .hack//fragment's "Offline" mode, all text no audio. The most important part of this offline mode is to acquire "data drain" for your character's, and this is the only means to get this skill for your characters. You can create a character in either offline or online mode, your characters are transferable between the two modes. But the part in offline mode tutorial where you play with Mia, this is when your character permanently acquires the skill Data Drain. The rest of the Offline mode consists of following characters from .hack//SIGN, .hack//Infection, and even .hack//Legend of The Twilight acquiring everyone's Member Address and allows you to summon these NPC's in root towns to join your offline adventure. By the time you acquire the last member address, Helba, concludes the offline mode's "story" which is basically an extended tutorial. But you can always return to offline mode and grind fields/dungeons with your NPC's who's levels range between level 15 all the way up to level 99.
.hack//fragment was released in November 2005; first with it's Early Released Version on the 2nd and it's full Retail version on the 22nd. The Early Release Version is an online mode only version of .hack//fragment, there is no Offline mode, further it does lack several character creation options. But the one everyone should be playing is the retail version. Please do not play any version other than the retail version, you will not find any support here if you choose to play the Early Release Version or the modified Coldbird version referred to as Build 7 and Build 8.
The official service ended on January 18th 2007, in order to to conflict with the scheduled sequel series release of .hack//G.U. Rebirth. Fans took it upon themselves to rebuild the server with limited capacity with the Coldbird server from December 25th 2013 to December 8th 2016. The online server Coldbird's team created was for a time open source on Github and the Netslum community revived it quickly after on December 8th 2016 and continues to be available today in 2021. The Netslum community has even gone a step further and fixed the limitations of the Coldbird team and restored full access to the Guilds, BBS, Rankings, and Mailer that were absent since 2007.
When to play?
Anytime! Play offline by yourself with your NPC team, play online solo, help your friends find this guide to learn and setup to play, and join us every week on Friday's for the scheduled Fragment Friday meetup on our Dothack Discord server (DHN). Text the @Fragment group, add yourself or remove yourself with the t!selfroles or !fragmentplz comands. Or join the voice calls to coordinate with others to play with on PC and PS2.