For many, the dream is for video games to hit a point where virtual reality can match reality. This is a scary concept for some and something explored in a number of anime/manga series. Among the most recent is Sword Art Online, a series that makes a seamless transition from series to game. With the latest release, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, we’re given another adventure in the virtual world and their friends. Will this adventure resonate with fans or will it be another generic anime game that will be quickly forgotten.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization follows in the footsteps of previous games. You and your band of friends are trying the latest and greatest game and reminiscent about the horrors of the original Sword Art Online fiasco. The main issue with this approach is that the dialog doesn’t feel natural. In a lot of ways the story is like a fantasy anime with ties to a video game to increase the appeal.
This isn’t necessarily a problem, just that it can make some of the conventions confusing and make the dialog feel gimmicky. This makes the first hour very slow. A lot of mechanics are thrown at you, along with many of them being worked into the dialog, leaving a tedious beginning. However, once you get into it, it can be a fair bit of fun.
Before you start playing, you need to create your character. Even though the customization system is fairly simple, it offers a good number of variety too. You can change the color of each one of your eyes, create colors, select from a vast array of hairstyles and even adjust your height, gender and bust. Sure it isn’t the most complicated customization system ever, it is surely enough to give fans of this sort of thing plenty to play around with.
Similar to previous titles, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is an action RPG that has some MMO mechanics thrown in. It can be fun seeing a world boss have a bunch of AI trying to take it down that you can join in, with quests you can accept and optional story quests/objectives on the map. These mechanics are implemented well, especially since they’re pretty straightforward, but the combat can be frustrating.
Like a lot of budget titles, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization suffers from clunky controls. Things like the parry skill requires a fair amount of precision to get right and the dodge command can be, well, dodgy. Outside of bringing up the command menu, you also don’t seem to be able to cancel out of attacks, making it easy to take damage or die in situations you really shouldn’t, especially when you consider this is suppose to take place in a virtual reality.
To make matters worse, the AI is pretty lackluster. In my experience I found the AI to be relatively useless unless you took the time to issue commands to them. Not only is this tedious, it can be pretty awkward on the Vita. This becomes more of a problem as you continue to progress, potentially leading to a wipe because of a poor choice or a lack of damage.
Even though Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization has some rough spots, it also has some enjoyable aspects too. Completing quests and the basic combat system offer relatively mindless fun, similar to what you’d expect from Dynasty Warriors. There are also a fair bit of variety, along with the ability to recruit and play with countless randomly generated players. This allows you to find people that suit your play style or just enjoy the thrill of playing with new people.
Another solid aspect is armor and weapons having different looks. This means besides increasing your stats, it will change how your character looks. Naturally this makes a more dynamic experience than just equipping a different named item and seeing your stats change. It also adds a sense of fun to drops, as you never quite know what you’re going to look like after.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization isn’t the best anime RPG game ever, but it is simple fun. The combat system, which could be better, has enough to be enjoyable, especially if you pay attention to attack cues. Sure the story can be rough, the world can feel boring and the enemies aren’t terribly exciting, but if you can look past this you have a decent game that fans are sure to enjoy.
[Editor’s Note: Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization was reviewed on PS Vita platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Review,