Sword Art Online is an anime about being within a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Its popularity helped spawn multiple video games that take place at various points of the anime’s storyline. Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment is a rerelease of a game that was originally on the PlayStation Vita and based off the latter half of the show. While fans of the anime will appreciate the appearances of many recognizable characters, they won’t like the issues that are scattered throughout Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment.
The game is an RPG that gives you control of Kirito, the main character from the Sword Art Online anime. You can team up with one of many characters from the show and complete quests much like other basic RPGs out there. The voice acting is done with the original Japanese voices for characters on the show and has a lot of motion graphic cutscenes with story exposition and dialogue. It would have been much better to have more cutscenes with in-game models rather than static backgrounds and character drawings, but the dialogue scenes are still effective none-the-less.
Big issues begin to pop up in Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment once you get into battles and start exploring the environments around you. Battles are done in real-time with enemies visible on the screen before you get into a fight. However the flow of combat and effectiveness of attacks against enemies can be confusing and inconsistent in some areas. Enemies at lower levels can sometimes take an unnecessary long time to defeat despite you being more powerful. You might launch a flurry of attacks and special attacks at an enemy, only to realize you only dealt minor damage to their health bar. This is confusing and in some cases a bit unfair.
The biggest issue with Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment however is how the game poorly conveys what tasks you should be doing to advance the story. There are times your quest log will show what is important for continuing the main story, but will fail to mention key details that extend the time it takes to complete a quest. Random side quests that seem menial at first can end up being super important for accessing a boss fight or new area. The game never makes this clear to you. Navigating maps through areas is also frustrating when trying to reach a specific area to complete a quest or initiate a key battle.
Other technical issues like frame rate drops and unresponsive NPCs can occur frequently in the game’s one and only town area. When a lot of characters are on screen moving around at once, the game slows down heavily until you reach a less dense area of the map. While you can see friendly characters you can partner with on missions walking around town, many of the NPCs are duplicated models placed in random spots of the map. It looks outright silly and a bit lazy on the developers’ part by not having more variety for non-playable characters moving in the town.
Even more frustrating however is the need to search for party members in town when you want to partner up with someone specific. This could have been solved easily by having all the main characters together in one place, rather than aimlessly walking around for me to search for. It’s pointless and does nothing but make gathering party members frustrating.
If you like watching the Sword Art Online anime show, then you may find something of value in Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment. Those looking for a solid game based on the anime show however will be disappointed by the all the prominent issues. Newcomers who aren’t well versed in the anime won’t eased into the game’s back story or characters and will feel a bit left out.
The technical problems and poor design choices really damper on the experience when playing Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment. With all of the better anime games out on the market, it’s a shame to see this anime about video games not be given a better video game adaptation.
This review was based on a digital version of Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment for the PlayStation 4 provided by Bandai Namco.