-- March 4th, 2003 (US)
This demo was packed in with the limited edition version of .hack//SIGN Vol.1. The copyright says 2001-2002, so maybe this was released in 2002 through some other source?
Right from the start you're treated with something not found in the game itself. You a title screen with two options: play the demo or watch a video explaining .hack. If you select the demo you're warned you can't return to this screen unless you reset the console, so watching the video first seems like a no brainer. The video explains some of the backstory behind the .hack universe, along with covering SIGN, Infection, Liminality 1 & 2, and Legend of the Twilight. Some of the SIGN character voices sound off but that could just be me. There is some spoilery stuff shown but nothing major.
Now onto the demo itself! It warns you that game data cannot be saved and then starts off exactly the same way the full game does. All of the options present in the full game can be found here, including dual language audio. Beginning news, e-mail and message board posts are all there. Once inside the game you even get stuck sitting/mashing through the infamous "eternal" Orca tutorial! After the meeting Mia & Elk scene the game is yours to play as you see fit.
A small thing different from Infection is that many NPCs running around town have 7 or 8 items to trade for, whereas in the normal game their limit is 6. The first 6 are the same as the ones I have listed in the trade list, while additional items are different. Anyway you can talk and trade with them and play the game normally up until you you meet Mistral at the bottom of [Delta] Expansive Haunted Sea of Sand, after which you get a "Coming February 2003" screen and are then kicked back to the title screen.
With 20 1st Words, 18 2nd Words, and 9 3rd Words you can generate over 3,200 areas... I think the highest level are you can create with these words is 19 though. You can do Hero of Zeit runs and even the first Goblin Tag challenge! Plus you can generate Ryu Books which means you can get music and wallpaper! However with BlackRose as your only party member and the inability to save there isn't much incentive to keep playing.
This is quite a large demo and will give you more than enough of a taste of what the game is like. It would have been perfect had they allowed you to save data and transfer it to the retail version of Infection. Still, its worlds better than the G.U. Vol.1 demo and well worth trying out if you are interested in the original .hack games.