Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, developed by Aquria and published by Bandai Namco, is an action adventure game based on the light novels of Sword Art Online, which puts the main protagonist Kirito, and his friends, back into another virtual nightmare. The game is an entirely offline MMO, where players will interact with and have the ability to recruit roughly 300 NPCs. What draws the players to dive right back into the hell of a game? Seven, the main supporter, has revamped Aincrad, dubbing it Ainground (technically Swoard Art: Origin). There's something strange though once you're inside; there's a character known as "Premiere" who's coding doesn't match up with what it should be. As players progress through the story, answers to who she is and what her purposes are begin to reveal themselves.
You can buy the game on PlayStation Network for $59.99.
The game, while does a lot of things by the textbook for JRPG and MMO games, achieves everything in the style that Sword Art Online fans deserve. It's almost too textbook at times though which will be cause for either massive appeal or some numbering dislikes. Many of the quests that will come up will follow the traditional "fetch" format or "kill so many of this enemy type." It isn't weighed too far down though as the combat moves with a quick pace; your 4 player squad will focus on two different areas of attacking at once. You'll be aiming to build a combo chain with the groups attack, while also managing a special attacks menu. Everything moves briskly when in the heat of combat, but avoids feeling overly difficult. The two face buttons will initiate all of the basic attacks, again keeping it all very organized (but the user interface is anything but organized unfortunately).
It feels overly crowded with different menus and icons filling the screen up. This is probably the biggest hurdle any player will have to get over though. The combat, again, is very well refined as it forces you to not just spam the attack buttons (maybe just a little), but to work as a complete unit. The AI can be a little dumb, especially before you get further into the game, but the overall challenge of everything once you get used to the system is a nice balance for both casual players and experienced players of the genre. Relationships will play a role in the game also, and as mentioned before, players will have hundreds of NPCs to grow with.
Although you'll be playing Kirito, and the beginning will feature some very familiar faces, you can ultimately recruit who you want around the town to take into your party. Another aspect of the game that is extremely noteworthy, but I was unable to try, out is a co-operative raid mode where 4 players and 4 NPC characters. As I wasn't able to test it out, I can't comment on it too much, but it's definitely something that I've been extremely excited to try soon based on the main game itself. The season pass for the game is another form of gameplay extending; it tells the story (an all new story) titled "Abyss of the Shrine Maiden," broken up into 3 different chapters. It also comes with new outfits for the female characters.
Sound and Graphics
To say the game captures the essence of the anime is an understatement. The world is colorful, sharp, and full of unique characters. You can even customize the players with different outfits and equipment to add your own special flair to the experience, not to mention the deep physical appearance characteristics. Enemies are just as amazing in terms of graphical representation with many of them being larger than one warrior would like to encounter. Each unique to their areas around Ainground, it's definetly a great thing to see some diversity, especially when much of your time will be spent slaying them as you run from one quest point to another. The battle animations, as well as all gameplay in general, are super smooth and I experienced a very little amount of glitching or stuttering whilst traversing the world.
The music implemented in the game is just about what you would expect from any JRPG adventure game; a lot of triumphant sounding typical JRPG music. The voice acting in the game is in Japanese, but players will be able to read all of the translations through the text dialoug boxes. When a character comes onto the screen to talk, sometimes a few at a single time, they'll stand still but make subtle movements with their mouths and such. When you see an animated cutscene in the game though, it falls in line with the anime, in that it presents all the same great graphics and details. There's not very many though compared to the roughly 40-50 hours you'll sink into the game, but they're lovely to watch whenever they do occur.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is a game that can be appreciated by all SAO fans, as well as those who may be new to the whole brand. It takes an already great concept and backstory, and crafts something new from the origin. While the story may feel a little slow paced and dragged out at different moments, and the dialogue style with still images of the characters may feel a little reused, it makes for a gorgeous and adventurous feeling game. Where it fails is in the overall flow of the story (and the conversations that try to subtly build upon it and the surrounding world), and it's semi relaxed take on difficulty. In it's own right, the game is great if you're looking for a fun and awesome looking world to explore and enjoy for the mechanics behind, just don't expect a story that will make you feel any grand emotions.
|+ Gorgeous game world||– Crowded screen|
|+ SAO setting and backstory is still amazing||– Story is a little flat/slow at times|
|+ Deep JRPG/MMO elements|
|+ Online co-op raid mode could extend gameplay|