Yes, I’ve finally taken down another long RPG! I’ve probably played video games more in these last 2 months than I did for almost 6 months prior to that. It’s been the perfect time to play some RPGs and getting through Sword Art Online was good. I wish the game had kept track of the play time though because I feel like I easily put in 50+ hours on this one. If not, then at least 30+. Ah well, it is what it is I suppose. Unfortunately, elements of the story really hold this game back quite a lot, taking down at least 3 stars with it. So, if you want the maximum amount of enjoyment from this title, focus on the gameplay!
This game takes place after another game which loosely adapted the first arc of Sword Art Online where Kirito and his friends were stranded in a dangerous video game world. They managed to escape so this time Kirito wants to hang out with his friends in the virtual world for fun. Instead of worrying about dying, they can worry about whether or not they will be the first team to beat the game. On their way to the top, they learn of the famous Seven. A little girl who is one of the world’s greatest researchers and also happens to be the number 1 pop idol. That’s a lot of talent for a little kid wouldn’t you say? (We get a big cinematic of her singing and I am not convinced that a little girl could sound like that. Maybe I have simply never heard a prodigy before) Her guild is rapidly making its way to the top and is the only group besides Kirito’s that is doing so well. Obviously something must be up.
Meanwhile, a mysterious girl keeps shadowing Kirito’s group. He quickly finds out about this (He found out instantly because Kirito is perfect at literally everything that he tries. It’s why he is the ultimate main character) She just wants to hang around the main characters to get close to Seven and Kirito’s fine with that. He just wants to have fun after all, but if Seven’s group is going to do anything to jeopardize that enjoyment…well…he may have to take a stand here!
The gameplay is your classic 3D beat em up in a sense. It plays out a lot more like .Hack than Dynasty Warriors for example, but there are still enough monsters for you to not just call this your average Legend of Zelda platformer. One of the coolest parts of this spin is that you can fly indefinitely. That’s a nice spin on the classic beat em up formula. You can choose to attack normally with sword skills and combos or you can opt to use some of your magical abilities from afar. I didn’t use any magic skills at all during the game except for when I was trophy grinding. It is so much more satisfying to go in and take enemies down from up close. That’s how the beat em up genre was meant to be played in my eyes.
When you’re not fighting, you can explore the hub world for all sorts of things. You can enter the Colosseum to have fun in 1 on 1 duels against various opponents and you can also buy items/upgrade your equipment. Upgrading your equipment is very handy and I highly recommend it, but you should certainly be aware of the cost and materials needed. If you’re going to buy a new sword soon anyway, then you shouldn’t upgrade your current weapon. There are also quite a lot of extra story events that you can start while at home. Some lead to actual quests, trophies, and boss levels while others just lead to a series of cinematics so you can learn more about the characters.
The main theme that plays in the opening cinematic for the game is very good and is definitely catchy. This lyrical song also appears at one point in the game. The final boss theme is also very grand and reminds you that the stakes have finally risen a little. Most of the other themes are fairly unmemorable, but two really good themes is already quite solid and the others aren’t bad so I definitely give the game a passing grade here.
As for the graphics, I’d say that they’re pretty good. The cinematics can maybe look a little funny at times compared to the rest of the game. Maybe everyone’s a little too big or something. The sword fight with Kirito and Sumeragi was cool though. I just wish they would have upped the speed a little to make the fight more impressive. From the anime, we know that Kirito’s immensely powerful after all and he’s always fighting at a high level.
There are also a lot of trophies to collect in this game and they’re all fairly reasonable. Keep in mind that while none of them are really all that difficult, they will require a long grind. This game unfortunately does not keep track of your playtime. I’m confident that I’ve spent anywhere between 30-60 hours on this title, but I’ll never know for sure. Either way, some trophies you’ll need include “Reach Level 500, Get a sword spell to level 500, Get a magic spell to level 500 (Or 400) Get someone to a combined skill level of 1600, etc. The grinds are certainly very real in this game and that’s why I always prefer when RPGs have the standard 100 levels system. This one doesn’t even go by EXP and works by damage dealt. I’ve never cared for that style. Still grinding is fun enough. It’s nowhere near as enjoyable as Cyber Sleuth in that respect, but it was good. I did get the Platinum after all and I certainly wouldn’t have done that if I found the grind to be really bad.
I definitely had no problems with the length. You can’t complete Sword Art Online Lost Song in 3 hours You’d be hardpressed to beat the game in 10 hours either. It took me quite a while to beat. Without the extra grinding I’m not sure how long it’d take, but I’d expect that number to easily be in the 20’s to 30’s. (hours) There is also a whole lot of replay value through the trophies, quests, and extra cutscenes that you can activate by talking to people around town. The full experience of this game will last you just as long as any really big RPG.
Great gameplay, lasting replay value, solid soundtrack and graphics…this game must be getting an 8 right? It would have no problem, but the story is unfortunately where things got dicey. I don’t even mind the whole “no stakes” part to be honest. Kirito and friends can hold their own game even if they’re just playing levels for the lolz with no end plot. That being said, the game goes way too far in trying to go for its harem undertones. The TV show (Arc 1 anyway) actually handled the situation pretty well. Kirito doesn’t care for all that stuff anyway and always pulls the friend zone card. That doesn’t change here, but the game does make sure to put him in as many awkward and embarrassing positions as possible.
We’re talking the classic, “walk in while his friends are changing” “grabbing someone’s ears because he couldn’t resist” “getting flirted with by literally every single one of his female partners” “hot springs, festivals, (You have to do the festival with every one of the heroines for a trophy by the way) etc. It goes wayyyyy overboard by the end and it doesn’t help that the only male friend in the group (Klein) is always sure to point out just how crazy these scenarios are. You never get a break from this for the entire game…the entire thing. These plots are always happening and some characters seem invented just for this purpose like an original character who is always hugging Kirito. There’s also the fact that just about all of your partners have a swimsuit costume that you can equip so they’ll be wearing it during the entirety of the game’s gameplay. There are dozens and dozens of other examples that I could give, but you get the general gist. The game is shooting for that angle to appease one segment of the Sword Art Online fans while alienating the rest. Well, I can safely say that this cost the game 3 stars and hopefully the sequel dials this down.
Overall, Sword Art Online Lost Song is technically a great game. Maybe not incredible, but it had all of the tools to be one of the best PS4 games on the block. Instead, the story really played up the harem elements and lowered the quality of the story. As it is, you’ll want to skip all of the bonus quests that you can so you can avoid these scenarios. You can still play this RPG for the gameplay and ignore the story I suppose, but for that you may as well play a better RPG and have fun with both. Final Fantasy XIII-2, Final Fantasy VII, Digimon Cyber Sleuth, and White Knight Chronicles are all far better games than this one when it comes to the plot and have the classic RPG gameplay that I love so much. As much as I love real time, I also reeeeeally like turn based as well. Still, the potential is here so here’s to hoping that the next Sword Art Online game lives up to its potential!