It’s time to look at the new Sword Art Online game that recently came out. Fatal Bullet was definitely a game that I was looking forward to from day 1 since it promised to be a title full of action and excitement. Sword Art Online has always been a franchise with a ton of raw potential as it could churn out a 9 star product no problem as long as it played its cards right. Lost Song had been a little disappointing as the hype of the gameplay was reduced by some questionable moments in the game. Fortunately, Fatal Bullet plays it straight as all of those iffy moments (If they exist in this game) are relegated to side quests so you don’t actually have to see any of them. The lower budget may have also helped since the game was forced to stay on target. Anyway, Fatal Bullet actually ended up being a great game.
The story follows a new kid on the block named Terry. He’s always wanted to play a VRMMO game so why not head to Gun Gale Online right? His childhood friend Kureha promises to show him the ropes. However, on their first mission Terry manages to obtain the treasure which is a legendary A.I. robot named Terret. Kureha is mad about this since she wanted to be its partner but Terry made eye contact first so now there is no way to split the partnership up. Iconic players Kirito and Asuna are also upset since they were hoping to clear the quest but too late for that now. Terry quickly catches the eye of top players Zeliska and Itsuki and before long he is known as one of the best in the whole game..maybe even The Best. Kureha is jealous of this and tries to undermine Terry throughout the game while everyone else follows his lead. Terry aims to clear the ultimate once in a life time event quest that has just opened and it will also allow Terret to be reunited with her Mom. They’ll have to be careful though since a guy known as Death Gun is skulking in the shadows as well. Taking him down a few pegs will not be easy!
It’s always an interesting game decision to have the main character be an OC instead of the actual main character of the series. I’m fine with it once I start playing since Terry is just generally hardcore, but otherwise I probably prefer when they just stick to the normal lead. Terry is a cool character throughout though as he makes the heroic decisions when needed. He can be a little slow on the uptake though like when he somehow forgot that Itsuki was basically threatening him for a while there. I guess it’s because he’s portrayed as a big optimist so he always takes things in a positive way. That’s good for Terry I suppose. His main gimmick in this game is that he has a grapple hook which you can use to get to higher areas. I like the concept, but the execution was admittedly not on point. You’ll find that you never really use this gadget in the game because the range is rather short. It should have been longer if you ask me as then it would be fun to zip around the place. I’m sure that it’s fun for PVP though.
Unlike most SAO games, this one is a third person shooter. You can also use a sword to go up and personal but it’s almost always one of the worst options. It’s just a lot more practical to have a gun as the damage it deals is around the same as a sword but you can also be dodging gunfire while using it. A sword is a high commitment option that will usually just get you punished right away. I personally stuck with a hand gun and an automatic gun. Those two were the perfect combo, but I dabbled around with missile launchers, machine guns, and even a sword for a while. They all naturally have their uses, but Hand Guns just seem like the best bang for your buck.
Most of the game consists of you going to various dungeons across the world. You beat all of the enemies in a room and then move on to the next one. The gameplay is handled flawlessly as you can quickly run out of the room to regroup if necessary or plunge into battle. You can give your partners general instructions so they know what to do during battle as well and you can change their instructions while fighting so you don’t have to worry about getting hit. Also, there is no pausing in the game which makes it even more interactive. I mean, you can press the pause button of course, but time goes on normally so whatever you have to do, it can wait until you hide behind the debris. While the A.I. of your allies is pretty bad (probably intentional) the villains are quite smart. They will lead you into ambushes, call for reinforcements, or just generally fight in a tactical way against you.
I can’t stress enough that this game really understands how to be a good third person shooter. The levels are huge and you can move quickly which makes the gameplay feel a lot more dynamic. If there are any problems with the gameplay, it’s just that the bosses may have a little too much health. One boss fight took me almost an hour to complete and the rest were all fairly long as well. The guns just aren’t too strong. It’s a tough balance of course since the game doesn’t want you to mow through the enemies either, but taking a little health out of the equation would have been nice. Beyond that, the difficulty is high but fair.
This is probably one of the hardest games that I’ve played in a very long time. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat as one wrong move can set you back quite a few rooms where the enemies will respawn again. The checkpoints are close enough where this isn’t too bad of course, but it does make you want to focus on playing your cards right. Get too aggressive and you’ll be gunned down by the snipers. There’s also a nice mechanic that lets you grow into a true player. You have an assist option with your gun that will help you hit a target but it is at the cost of accuracy. This may sound contradictory, but basically it widens your gun range by about 50x, but you’ll end up missing a great deal of shots and you also won’t hit the weak point. You can zoom in to take your own shots, but then you can’t move too quickly. If you take the assist off you can control where you shoot at normal speeds, but naturally this is very difficult. I usually just kept the assist on and used the zoom feature for when I was fighting bosses and needed to hit the weak spot. This game forces you to make a lot of tough choices throughout the game.
One big example of this is how the level up system works. As you level up you are given points which you can put into whichever attribute you want. Strength, Vitality, Intelligence, etc. Once you put the points in you can’t take them out without going through some elaborate hoops to get a specific item. I ended up putting the bulk of my points into Strength and Agility if I recall correctly. You need to strength to hold the better guns and Agility is just awesome for many reasons. One of which is that you can eventually outrun laser beams which is incredibly handy. It’s very close, but my speed was slightly faster than the blasts by the end which helped a lot. I also dumped a lot of points into luck which I would probably take back if I had a second chance, but it sounded good at the time. It increases your chances of landing a critical hit.
The story does take a long while to get started which isn’t good news for fans who are coming in expecting a game with stakes. This isn’t the game for you then. Out of the roughly 18 hours of the game, the first 15 are just the characters having fun and messing around. They’re just enjoying the game and trying to level up. The whole Death Gun story only takes about an hour and the climax will probably be another hour or maybe a little longer. This is really just a slice of life game with a big climax at the end which isn’t unheard of. Many games take a similar approach like Kirby games to an extent and the payoff works so it’s a decent strategy. I’ll be honest and say that it would have been nice if the whole game was epic as opposed to just the ending, but I guess this franchise just likes its day to day adventures a lot.
There isn’t much to say about all of the returning characters like Kirito and friends since they are epic as always so lets just talk about the new ones. I already talked about Terry and why he is a quality character. Zeliska is a top player who prefers to play solo, but doesn’t mind being in a team with Terry and the others. She is always very polite and courteous to everyone as even though she is a top player she never let it get to her head. Zeliska is portrayed as basically being a perfect character and it works well. How I see it, you don’t need to have a flaw to be a quality character and Zeliska definitely plays a pretty important role in the game. You will see her plot twist coming a mile away though.
Itsuki is the other top player and he is portrayed as the complete opposite of Zeliska. He doesn’t play well with others and is always being sarcastic. He’s quick to put others down and it becomes apparent that Terry is the only person he cares about. He’s rather dismissive of everyone else. He’s always lying and joking around throughout the game as well so it’s hard to know what he is thinking. He’s very suspicious throughout the game and a potential sequel or post game DLC should definitely not try to redeem him. He’s too far gone at this point and Terry needs to make it his mission to take him down. Terry almost seemed sympathetic at the end, but I think that would definitely be a mistake and would end up hurting his character.
There is also Bazalt Joe who is another top player who always tries to steal Terret away from you. He quickly learns that this will never work out but you get to beat him up 3 times before that. He never really becomes likable or fun at all so this is one new character that I definitely could have done without. He didn’t actually add anything to the game if you ask me.
Then of course we have the childhood friend Kureha. Unfortunately she starts out as a decent character and then turns into a pretty terrible one. She is always trying to undercut Terry throughout and never learns her lesson. Even by the end of the game she is still holding a grudge and basically pays a high price for it. During the climax of the game you are given an option on which character you are going to make it your priority to protect during the final battle. Depending on who you choose is who you will die. In one version naturally this is Kureha. I just couldn’t sympathize with her by the end of the game because she was just such a poor sport the whole time. She really didn’t even try to support Terry.
The graphics are also pretty solid as you’d expect. The energy effects are nice and the character designs are on point. Here’s where we transition to a bit of a negative though. The game just feels like it’s relatively low budget though and the story was slapped together. A lot of fights are off screen and scenes will cut and restart rather awkwardly. There aren’t too many cutscenes considering how long the game is and most of the still images from Lost Song seem to be gone as well. While the graphics are good, they aren’t quite as amazing as you’d expect and don’t seem to have really changed at all since Lost Song. There just wasn’t a lot of innovation here. It’s not as extreme as Sonic Forces where the story was really sabotaged but I would have appreciated more actual cutscenes or more vibrant animation. This was supposed to be the next big SAO game after all. Personally, I’m guessing that they just used most of the budget on the gameplay at the expense of everything else.
The soundtrack is pretty solid if a bit limited. There only seem to be a handful of themes in the game so you better get used to hearing them quite a bit. I do like the danger theme and the main menu song. The rest are rather generic, but I suppose they get the job done. They never actually got annoying so I’ll give the game some credit there. A nice insert song would have been cool though. Of course, the game had an opening movie song like Lost Song. It wasn’t quite as good as that one, but was still really solid.
The main story is around 15-18 hours long which is pretty decent. If you stick around to get bonds with all of the characters and try for the Platinum then it should be well over 60 hours with the estimate being around 90. I don’t have that much time to drop on most games so I won’t be aiming for it, but at least the Platinum seems mostly reasonable. The only one that sounds like an insane grind is beating the game on Super Hard difficulty, but hopefully they let you just go to the final boss and then change the difficulty or something. Considering how much there is to do in the game it’s certainly worth spending 60 bucks. I won’t stay and explain all of the different features here, but trust me when I say that the game has a ton of depth. There are many skills to learn, weapon styles to master, and a whole lot to consider while playing in general. My advice is to save your money and SP until later in the game when you are a little more sure of what it is that you want. Until then just enjoy the game and try to get to the end.
Overall, Fatal Bullet is a blast to play. The gameplay is absolutely excellent and while the game may falter on a technical level at times it still holds up well against many others. The story can be a little slow, but it picks up by the end. At this point, SAO isn’t really known for its epic video game stories and you are just playing to see the characters again and enjoy the gameplay. There is a lot to do here so that’ll give you a lot of time with them. I’d definitely recommend checking this game out. It’s a game that you won’t want to miss! Since the game ends with a cliffhanger we definitely need a sequel where Terry settles the score. This could end up being a bit of a revenge run so the game might be a bit darker. (Of course, I haven’t seen the true ending yet so depending on how that plays out Terry may not be too upset)