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Review: Sword Art Online: Lost Song

I must admit, I never heard of Sword Art Online before this game landed on my doorstep. Sword Art Online is a popular anima/manga franchise but more importantly, for us, it’s also a game franchise. I’m sure this product is meant for fans and they’ll enjoy the story for sure. If you don’t get the story however, there’s still some fun found in the game.

The story

I’m not going to guess or describe the story of the game, simply because I never played or seen anything of Sword Art Online before. Interesting to know for the fans is that Lost Song is the long-awaited sequel of Hollow Fragment ands follows the alternate-universe that started in Infinity Moment. This automatically forms the first big problem for the story. Infinity Moment released on PSP but only in the Japanese market. Western players missed some key fragments of the story due to this.

Talking about the story, it can’t be taken too seriously. It looks like the developers of the game didn’t understand the storyline themselves. Sword Art Online is well-known for its complex and impenetrable story, even for the fans. The story of Lost Song feels random and awkward at time. The plot can be divided in two main sections. You have that classic Japanese humor at one side and on the other side you have boring Japanese anime girls. The narrative of Lost Song isn’t important or actually that good. Most narrative covers obscure themes and childish shouts. Fans of Japanese anime are used to this weird sense of humor but we didn’t really enjoy the plot or narrative.

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Fly high

Lost Song offers a welcome expansion to the popular universe. Kirito, the lead character and friends are exploring a new impressive floating island called ‘Svart ALfheim’. This island is located in a virtual ALfheim online MMO universe. This means you’re controlling characters that got stuck in a virtual reality. So you’re controlling characters in their own game, played in a video game. Yes, this is Japan at its best!

 

Yes, this is Japan at its best

 

One of the best improvements to the gameplay is the inclusion of a ‘flying’ mechanism. Thanks to flying, you’ll be able to investigate the huge world in a faster way and you’re actually encouraged to explore as much of the world as possible. Flying over the world works fine and feels great. It offers a better impression on how big the world actually is. We had a lot of fun exploring the world and were glad this flying got included. Without flying, it would take forever to see every aspect of the land.

Select your character

Just like the world, character selection is rather big. You can pick seventeen playable characters, each with two computer controller characters by your side. Selecting this amount of characters would have been a big plus for the game but most characters lack depth to be honest. The playable characters lack personality but make up for this flaw thanks to their unique skills and weapons. Each character is different from the other thanks to these skills and weapons. Although their personality is better ignored, it’s wise to select the character with the best skills for your adventure.

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Once you’ve selected a character and party, it’s time to actually play the game. The game follows a traditional RPG formula meaning you’ll discover the world, clear a dungeon, defeat a giant boss; improve your weapons and gear, level-up in order to enter a new dungeon and repeat this process. Thanks to the flying mechanism however, these elements are surprisingly fun. Flying high is crucial to travel faster to your location while hovering is used to take down enemies in combat or collect rare items.

Old-school experience

The problem with Lost Song isn’t the gameplay, since it works and gets the job done as it should, nothing really feels like a modern game. The combat is ok but doesn’t really deliver innovation. Sure real-time battles are fun and a lot of gamers will be pleased to know they won’t get bored with endless menus during combat. But these real-time battles lack a nice flow of movements, other, older games included a better real-time combat system than this one.

The same goes for the dungeons. The dungeons are well designed and offer great boss fights but the puzzles and tasks that need to be solved are done multiple times before. At some points it felt like we were playing a modern NES game. Turning on a switch or finding a key to unlock a door isn’t exciting at all.

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Graphics have the same problem, they aren’t bad and do what they’re supposed to do but that’s it. Nothing special here, characters are designed well but could use some extra details and textures. During narratives, you only see an awkward 2D portrait with bad lip-syncing. It’s a shame the developer didn’t put more effort in their virtual world. The music on the other hand is surprisingly good. Sure, it’s licensed music but some of the score gets the job done perfectly, building tension during boss fights while offering relaxing music during exploration.

Conclusion:

Sword Art Online: Lost Song is a hard game to judge. It isn’t necessarily a bad game but we’ve seen a lot of other games offering the same kind content. It’s a good traditional RPG that fans of the franchise will definitely enjoy. If you’re not a fan of the franchise, it might be a better idea to consider another RPG, the PlayStation 4 has way better RPG’s to offer than this one. Besides that, we definitely understand why gamers will enjoy this installment; the flying for example really adds a lot of greatness to the gameplay.

7/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.