Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosario Review


Time to look at another Sword Art Online manga. The last one didn’t go very well so of course you may be a little skeptical about this one. Fortunately this is adapting one of the better arcs of the series and the manga didn’t try to add any iffy scenes to mess with it. It’s a solid arc but also one of the more somber ones so prepare yourself for an SAO story like no other.

The series starts with Kirito and the crew hanging out at his (and Asuna’s) cabin. Kirito fell asleep of course and everyone else starts feeling sleepy as well. To stay awake, Lizbeth tells Asuna about a new swordsman who has been destroying opponents left and right. He goes by the name “Absolute Sword” and seems to be the strongest fighter ever. Even Kirito was (yeah right) soundly defeated by him. Asuna decides that she wants a crack at this fighter and heads over to fight him. The big twist is that Absolute Sword is a girl with the same first name as Asuna’s last name. Asuna puts up a good fight so Yuuki asks for her help in defeating a boss with Yuuki’s crew. Asuna is thrilled at the opportunity but will she be strong enough?

Meanwhile Asuna has human world troubles as well. Her Mother wants her to go to a different school since the current one is rather lackluster. Asuna doesn’t want this because she has already decided to support Kirito in her future path. Naturally this is very upsetting for the Mother since that doesn’t really even count as a career path. Asuna’s video game hobby has also started to turn into an obsession as she loses track of the time and starts to prefer being there than in the real world. Asuna’s Mom has to put an end to this, but how?

I already went into this for the anime version but I’ll quickly touch on the plot here as well. Asuna’s Mom is absolutely right here. The only chink in her argument of always looking out for Asuna is that she has set her up with potential marriage options one or two times. This seemingly goes against the rest of her message about being independent. Still, she has no problem with dropping that tactic when Asuna brings it up and I’m inclined to believe that Asuna had never expressed her disapproval for it before. Asuna seems like someone who won’t mention any objections to something in the moment and will just use it as ammo in the future which is definitely no good. Beyond that, Asuna is the one who is losing every argument. She could have brought up valid reasons for wanting to stay at a sub standard school but I wouldn’t say that hanging out with friends is one of them. The Mom was also willing to let her keep using the NerveGear but then Asuna started getting increasingly irresponsible with it so of course the Mom wouldn’t be a fan. So in the end, Asuna’s plot is definitely not as engaging as the Yuuki one.

As for Yuuki, she’s a fun character to add to the mix. It is good to finally have another high level fighter who can battle at Kirito’s level. At this point there really aren’t any heroes who can give him a good fight. At best Asuna can maybe be good for sparring practice, but with Yuuki Kirito can’t afford to hold back. Wanting to win one last big battle before going away is definitely a solid goal and one that I can get behind. The rest of her crew are fairly generic and not very memorable so I can’t say quite as much in their favor, but ultimately Yuuki is the only one who matters. They are just there to fill in the ranks. It’s a shame Yuuki doesn’t stick around since she would really give the main cast a boost.

Kirito mostly gets the shaft in this trilogy since it is all about Asuna and her development, but he still gets his share of hype moments. One such scene is when he rushes into the boss area and holds off hundreds of other players on his own. It’s an amazing scene that was extremely intense in all 3 mediums. (Book, Anime, Manga) It may not be Kirito’s adventure, but at the same time I am not surprised that he got the best scene in the adventure. His fight against Yuuki was a lot of fun as well of course and the series did a good job of playing up how smart Kirito was as well. He figured out Yuuki’s secret immediately and then even found out where she was in the real world all in a very short amount of time. It is almost scary just how good he is.

As for Asuna, she is fairly good here. I never disliked Asuna before this as she was solid in Arc 1, didn’t do much in arcs 2-3, so she was about the same now as she was in the past. She had lost some confidence as you might expect thanks to recent events, but regains it by the end of this adventure. She is still a strong fighter and I have to agree with the peanut gallery that it was odd how Asuna went for a mage role instead of a front line fighter. It seems like she enjoys the latter a whole lot more. Yuuki gave Asuna a valuable lesson on how being polite and talking things out won’t always work so sometimes you have to just jump in and start fighting. The sky’s the limit from there.

The art looks fairly good here. It’s the character designs that are a little off. In particular Kirito and Asuna look a little chibi or maybe just younger than usual. Aside from that, the artist does a good job with the fight scenes and it doesn’t look like a cash in. The trilogy has quite a few different fights and they are all visually engaging. Unfortunately while the trilogy does manage to stick away from fanservice, we do get one such bath scene as even on its best day it appears that the series can’t play it straight here.

There’s not a whole lot to say here since this is basically identical to the anime version so in a sense I already reviewed this saga. As long as the medium did it justice then there is no reason why it would be weaker than the anime version. If anything the pacing is better here since you can read faster than characters can talk so the exposition goes by at a nice pace. We already understand that Yuuki’s situation is rather tragic so you don’t need to know a whole lot about it beyond that. It will be nice to see Asuna use the new combo that Yuuki gave her in one of the anime seasons someday. We have the movie, but that wasn’t exactly a one on one fight and I’d like to see it in more of a traditional combat setting.

Overall, Mother’s Rosario is definitely the most serious of the SAO arcs. It’s certainly pretty sad to have a character who is doomed to die from the start since there’s no way that could end up being a happy ending. At least the series never tries to give you any false hope that she might survive as that would have made everything turn out badly. As it stands, Yuuki’s backstory is definitely very tragic but at least the trilogy handles it well. The series is actually light hearted for about 80% of the chapters and Yuuki isn’t too mopey about her future either. She takes it all in stride. I’d recommend checking out this manga, especially if you usually don’t like the series since this one takes it in a very different direction.

Overall 7/10

8 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Review


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)

Overall 8/10

Asuna Battles, Battles, Kirito Battles

Kirito vs Asuna


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Kirito is on a roll and he’s not done just yet. Asuna is known as The Flash because of her blinding attack speed and she was one of the most powerful fighters in SAO. That being said, Kirito was at the absolute top of the game and she simply can’t beat him. They fought once and it was actually reasonably close, but Kirito’s battle experience and heightened reaction times will always grant him the win in the end. You need reactions like that to parry Asuna’s rapier. Kirito wins.

5 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Sword Art Online Lost Song Review

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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!

Overall 5/10

4 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Sword Art Online II Review

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The first Sword Art Online show had started off as an all star but quickly turned into a trainwreck. This one doesn’t crash and burn in such a way, rather it suffers from a myriad of issues from the get go. The sequel just seemed to have lower standards across the board. I still can’t call the show good as a result, but we do get some nice fight scenes. This series has 3 arcs, but most of the review is spent on the first one, as it is the longest. Get ready folks because there’s a lot to bash here! That being said, this still manages to beat season 1!

Kirito doesn’t really want to go on dangerous virtual reality missions anymore. Why would he want to do this after nearly dying right? Well, things change when the government makes contact with him regarding two pieces of important intel. Someone has been terminating players in the new Gun Gale game. Kirito quickly reminds the agent that it’s impossible to injure a real person from a video game. The agent agrees, but he wants Kirito to investigate a little anyway. Kirito heads into the game and things get personal when he finds out that this “Death Gun” character may be a Sword Art Online survivor. Can Kirito really take this guy down or will his long break from playing shooters come back to haunt him? Granted, Kirito finds a beam sword, which greatly helps him in the battles.

Meanwhile, there’s a new character in the mix. Her name is Sinon and she intends to win the big gun contest so that she can get over her fear of those weapons. It’s an intriguing way to cure her fears although I do see the logic in it. Still, it’ll be very tough to win the contest when Death Gun and Kirito have also entered to complicate the situation rather dramatically. Kirito is and always will be known as the ultimate gamer so he’s not going to just let Sinon win when there’s still a job to do.

One gimmick that the anime decided to use for this arc was for Kirito to be in a feminine designed avatar. Another character makes it clear that it’s still a male one so that’s good for Kirito, but he still manages to look like Lucina and decides to mess with the other characters a bit. It’s rather unnecessary if you ask me and I missed his standard design. Kirito’s normal design is just so cool that you didn’t need to mess with it.

This does lead into the animation angle a little. The first show’s animation was top notch. Some of the best animation in the business and it was at a theatrical level. Every episode felt like a movie. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in this show. It looks good for the most part, but it never comes close to looking like the first show. It still keeps the theatrical feel to an extent, but there are episodes where the budget is noticeably low and the quality really falls. Most of the fight scenes aren’t very exciting and that’s why we always need Kirito to save us. If it’s an action scene from Sinon, you can expect the animation to not be all that great. The anime uses more shortcuts and simply feels a little more like a cash in sequel. It’s rather unfortunate.
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As for the soundtrack, it gets completely lolstomped by the original. Disclaimer: it’s not a bad soundtrack. Sword Art Online II still does the world proud and I like the battle theme. It also reuses a lot of themes from the original to help itself out. That being said, you won’t be blown away like you were with the first show. It’s sad since more techno music would have been appropriate for this season, but we only got a few really good tunes. Again, that’s impressive for the average show, but it’s not enough to even come close to topping the original.

While this show doesn’t explode like arc 2 of the original, we get another similar villain. The show seems to be obsessed with this kind of plot. The heroine even gives up once again temporarily and while Asuna had no choice, but to stick around, this other character has no excuse for this brief hesitation and lack of will power. It’s pretty unacceptable. Moreover, the show also has more fanservice than the original. I won’t say that the original completely avoided this trap because it most certainly did not, but this show was more frequent with this issue. Sinon’s costume isn’t terrible and it’s certainly no Satana, but the camera always zooms in on inappropriate angles, which makes it bad.

I’ve always felt that the costume is not much of an issue. You can have a character with Power Girl’s costume and provided that the camera plays it straight and never focuses on the gap, then it’s basically fine. For example, Harribel’s costume never seemed all that bad. Kubo quickly made this an issue by having her super form make it worse, but in the manga there was never any attention drawn to it (Besides the cover) so it was easy to just ignore. The anime completely shuts down that escape option and it’s pretty disappointing. We’ve also got random scenes of Asuna in the bath and the show continues to show why the quality of the original arc will never return. It’s just another thorn in the show’s side.

Finally, before getting into the positives let’s tackle another negative. The show takes itself way too seriously this time around. As a result, the show makes Kirito, Sinon, and most of the characters look bad at different times. Gone are the days when Kirito was completely fearless and picking fights with anyone who crossed his path. He is petrified when Death Gun shows up and constantly freezes up during the series. He nearly cries during a few different moments and while he initially took the Sword Art Online experience pretty well, his personality regresses rather seriously in this title. The show is really trying to appear to be very deep and emtional when it really isn’t. One of the reasons why the original Sword Art Online was so great (Arc 1) was because it was very happy and chipper despite the stakes. The stakes were raised and things got serious in the climax, but it adapted accordingly. The whole plot with Death Gun just feels forced and rather out of place.

Likewise with Sinon. You could have whole episodes about her shaking in front of a gun and reminding us of her origin story. (Which honestly wasn’t even that traumatic considering that she saved everyone in the shop and became a bit of a hero. The whole thing was also super unrealistic since the mother didn’t appear to be pleased, but anyone would be glad to have their life spared and the villain defeated. Sinon should have been looked up to by the masses. It just didn’t make sense) Cut the drama Sword Art Online and let’s get back to what made the show good.
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As for Sinon as a character, she was decent at first. It’s quite sad that one of her very first scenes involves a guy trying to hit on her, showing once again how sad this show has become. Still, in Gun Gale, she is a tough warrior who has a great reputation. She wants to destroy Kirito in the competition for betraying her trust and puts up a good effort, but I can’t stand her human form. It’s probably the worst from all of the Sword Art Online protagonists and it makes it very hard to root for her. It was simply too much of a contrast and is basically like Homura’s form from her origin days…if she had no character development and never gained any strength of self or conviction to make the hard calls. Sinon is decently good with a gun, but is virtually useless in close combat situations. There’s no way that she would have done very good had Kirito not been around.

As for Kirito, he’s still the epic character that we remember from the original show for the most part. He manages to drive something that is almost impossible to drive within seconds and constantly pulls off hype moments like nobody’s business. He even beats a speed challenge that had never been beaten in the history of the game. I feel like the author tried to make Kirito as extremely awesome as possible and it was definitely a good move on his part since that’s why I like Kirito. He’s basically the ultimate character and never loses. How can you not root for him? Well, there are actually a pair of reasons that I can think of.

For starters, he finally made the decision to have a girlfriend in the first show. You all know what I think of the many flawed romances in media, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that this is an okay decision. In that case, then he needs to make this clear to everyone, but when introducing Sinon to the gang, he referred to Asuna as being merely a friend. That’s just terrible writing and really seems out of character for Kirito now that he’s not a free agent. He should have stayed as a free agent, but since he didn’t, he’s got to play by some new rules now. Also, Kirito looks uncharacteristically weak during the final fight against Death Gun.

Due to the true identity of Death Gun, we learn that he’s actually pretty weak and that Kirito should own him rather easily. Instead, Kirito is actually getting wrecked in the close quarters fight. Gun vs Sword would be fine, but it’s a sword battle so Kirito should have the massive edge. The fight makes no sense and is just very frustrating as the writers clearly have no idea on how they should handle the show anymore. It all comes down to the author of course and I feel like he’s losing his grip on the show. Correction, he already lose his grip on Sword Art Online and I feel like the anime are going to continue to stay in the negative zone. It’s too bad since the show always has the potential to be an 8 or a 9, but it simply can’t live up to that.

For example, if we go to the pros for a second, let’s look at the technical merits of Sword Art Online. As I mentioned, the animation is still pretty good for the most part. The soundtrack is very good as well and the fight scenes are great. They pale next to the original SAO, but shine when compared to the average show. It still feels like a movie and Kirito makes for an amazing main character. However, the fanservice, repeat of the Fairy Dance Asuna plot, and the uncharacteristic moments from the main characters are what really hurts the show in the long run. It just can’t survive these negatives and I feel like the author will just keep on making these mistakes over and over again.

Aside from the main arc, there are two minis that are included. The first one is a quick mission in fairy world as the heroes try to get Kirito a new sword. The animation hits an all time low in this arc and there’s really no point to it. The heroes face some monsters and then they head home. It’s fun to see the whole team together again, but it also makes them all look a little bad as they have a tough time facing off against some monsters. Still, I’ll admit that it’s a little nostalgic and Kirito’s back to his real design so it wasn’t all bad. Klein also got a bigger role, but it’s not much of a role and he’s just around to make Kirito look good. He wasn’t needed as a result since Kirito always looks cool.

The final arc tries to be even sadder and more dramatic than the Death Gun arc and fails miserably. Asuna meets a new fighter named Yuuki, who is supposed to be the strongest swordfighter of all time. She even defeated Kirito. (lol) Asuna agrees to help Yuuki and her team beat a boss in the fairy/SAO merged game so that their names can be engraved for all of time, but will they be able to accomplish this before another team shows up? Well, this arc did have 1 really good moment. Kirito shows up to fend off dozens of teams of players and manages to slice apart a magic blast. That shouldn’t have been possible and led to a lot of hype moments for Kirito, which is always a blast. They hint that Kirito still lost in the end, but it was still a great entrance and probably the best cliffhanger in the entire show. It was an awesome moment. We also got some good fight scenes like Asuna vs Yuuki and Yuuki vs Kirito. I remember the fights only being all right in terms of animation, but it was still nice to see. There was just a lot of plot hax everywhere and I still don’t buy Kirito getting beat, but I’ll just mark it down as him deciding to hold back to spare Yuuki’s feelings. Yuuki was in a difficult position after all and Kirito’s a nice guy so letting himself be defeated is the least that he can do.

If the arc had been played straight with a lot of action and cool moments, it would have been great. Instead, we get some drama between Asuna and her mom as the subplot and the main plot is also bogged down by the drama. For Asuna and her mom’s plot, you could think of it as a classic case of being in a Star Wars discussion. (Epic way to drag the name into my review for more clickz) While everyone is debating whether or not Episode VII or Episode V should be known as the greatest in the series, you’re off to the side shaking your head since you know that Episode IV is the way to go. Why is this relevant? Well, Asuna and her mom are both wrong in their debates.

I was on the Mom’s side for part of it. I agree that Asuna clearly has no idea what she’s doing and she’ll probably regret not having any aspirations or deciding to play video games for so long while she’s abandoning her real world connections. Video games are clearly epic and should be played for at least 20 hours a day, but it starts to get in the way of the real world. Still, the mom decides to give her more arranged dates and has a very old school way of thinking which is completely outdated and makes her look bad. As for Asuna, she looks terrible in the debate the whole time since her answer to everything is that she’ll be okay as long as she’s with Kirito. It’s pretty naive and sad, but she’s right that being paired up with some random joe is even worse and marrying based on social standings is not the U.S. way unless you’re a celebrity. Still, in the end, it’s hard to be invested in the plot.

May as well put this out there now, Yuuki’s a better character than the rest of Kirito’s allies combined. Unlike Asuna who always wavers and went from being a strong female lead to a character who has literally switched game positions to be more of a healer, Sinon who used to be a strong female lead and then had a dose of the real world, Klein…who is Klein, etc; Yuuki’s a strong fighter who never gave that role up. Her abilities were at a high level and she was a determined character who could have easily been the lead heroine in another title. She has the right attitude when teaching Asuna that sometimes you have to fight back against the bullies instead of letting them step all over you and your politically correct demeanor. It’s a shame that due to circumstances she won’t be a main character. She was also needlessly cryptic about the whole thing, but I suppose that she still made a good decision. After all, otherwise she would have to have a long conversation filled with tears and drama from the other characters so maybe it was for the best. Of course, she didn’t count on genius level Kirito being able to track her down from anywhere on the planet. That’s Kirito for ya though.

This series of Sword Art Online may have been bad, but at least it was still epic. Arcs 2 and 3 weren’t, but they were basically the side show bonus stories in the anime as Gun Gale was the main focus. (Alllllll though, if the series had just been Arc 3 or Arc 2, maybe the show could have gotten a solid 6) The first arc still feels like a nice movie event despite it not being quite as professional as the original. It has sown the seeds for future arcs so I’m sure that this villain organization shall return soon. The laughing coffins (And their recycled flashback that appears maybe even a dozen times during the show) will be back and in full force. Hopefully they end up being good villains and hopefully Kirito isn’t depowered since he should wreck those guys with ease.

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Overall, Sword Art Online II feels like a cheaper, cash in version of the original. However, it doesn’t tank quite as horribly as the first show so it still gets the better rating. It’s a bad anime in the end and can’t cross the halfway mark so I don’t recommend it. I’d sooner recommend Attack on Titan actually so if you want a more intense anime with the same English Dub voice actor for the main character, that’s the show to check out. Or Blue Exorcist as well. For Sword Art Online, I’d recommend just watching the first arc of the original show and then pushing the rest of the series to the side. It’s simply not worth the time and who knows how the next SAO show will turn out. It may just be on a downwards slope that will keep on sinking and sinking as time goes on. No matter what else happens though, the series will still have Kirito and that means that it always has a chance.

Overall 4/10

Manga

Sword Art Online Progressive

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It’s time to head back to Aincrad with this series. Seeing as how Arc 1 is easily the best part of the SAO franchise, it’s good to see it again. Unfortunately, the series is already heading into the fanservice trap, which is regrettable. If the series can stay away from that it should be okay, but if not, it’s game over! I’ll have a review for this once the manga finishes. Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Sword Art Online Fairy Dance Review

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The infamous arc has returned as I can now see how it is handled in manga format. That being said, there’s really not much you can do when this is still based off of the same arc that was in the anime. The Asuna subplot still destroys the manga, but either way it was not a solid title. Kirito is still hardcore and one of the more intense protagonists out there, but he can’t hold a whole series.

This arc takes place after Sword Art Online and Asuna never actually made it to the real world. Kirito finds out that her mind has been trapped in another game and he sets off to save her. He has to hurry because it will be too late once the main villain goes through with the wedding. With no time to spare, Kirito must make it to the World Tree and complete this game as soon as possible. To do this, he’ll need the help of his sister, Suguha. Suguha is masquerading as a being named Leafa in the new game and neither one knows the other’s true identity. Drama and tension fill the air as they embark upon the new quest.

Well, this arc basically destroyed the Sword Art Online franchise once it was written into novel format and then adapted into the TV show. Seriously, the author just forgot that the series could have been good and naturally it spilled over into the manga world. The franchise should have ended with the actual Sword Art Online arc, but alas…it didn’t happen. Let’s launch into the various negatives here as it’s a sad read from start to finish.

For starters, the manga thought that it was a good idea to add more emphasis to the fanservice factor in this title. Not a good start. Just about every scene with Suguha has some fanservice in store and naturally the Asuna subplot contains this as well. This guarantees that you will be wincing throughout your reading and we’re just getting started. This is already the sign of a bottom tier title eh? The anime version actually didn’t have too much fanservice for this arc, a few scenes, but not as bad as the manga. I guess we just went from bad to worse.

Another bad subplot is the fact that Kirito’s cousin becomes infatuated with him. The fact that they’re only cousins is supposed to be reassuring, but it’s not as the subplot is still terrible and completely unnecessary. At least Kirito basically just denied Suguha and went to Asuna in the anime, but here he tries to be more open ended about the whole thing. He doesn’t return the feelings at all as Asuna is the only person for him, but he still didn’t just tell Suguha to move on as he should. Either way, it’s just another part of the train wreck.

The biggest problem with the arc though still lies in the Asuna subplot. The villains just go way overboard and it’s too extreme. Asuna is held against her will for quite a while and the main villain is sadistically in love with her money. In the real world, she can’t move so there’s nothing that she can do to stop the arranged marriage and the villain abuses his power in the virtual world. Kirito basically has to watch as the villain messes around with Asuna and that’s when I knew that it was game over for the title. That kind of plot will always be a big no no in any title and the fact that it happened in Sword Art Online is just terrible. It’s the main reason why the franchise is essentially dead to me. I’ll always like the first arc, but you simply can’t wash away a stain like this from the title. Whenever I think of Sword Art Online, I’ll always remember this arc. The main villain isn’t the only one who messes with Asuna as he also has two lackeys who are just as demented.

It’s too bad really since the manga had some promise otherwise. Kirito’s still a hardcore main character and we do get some nice action scenes. Kirito goes up against legions of humanoids in the final battle and he also has a nice fight against the big fire general. He does a lot to save Asuna so he certainly puts in the effort. If we took out the fanservice, the Asuna subplot, and the Suguha subplot, this could have been a really fun series. That being said, you can’t just take those things away as they do comprise a rather large part of the arc and it’s why I have to give this title a fail/10 in the end. It simply couldn’t manage to actually be a good story.

The art is better than the first series for what it’s worth. It’s just not worth all that much since the series was doomed from the start. It’s three volumes long and the final volume is pretty thick so it’s closer to 5-6 volumes in length. The arc doesn’t need to be rushed as a result although a rushed pacing would likely have helped the series in this case as it could have dwelt on the negative things a little less.

There are more characters of course, but not many more and there’s not much to say about them at this point. Suguha is essentially impossible to like and the same goes for the main villain. Asuna doesn’t really get a role at all aside from being a damsel in distress, which is sad. So…yeah, this review’s definitely a short one as are most of my 0 star films. One day, they’ll make a Superman comic/movie/something that will be terrible and thenI may have a long negative review at the ready…or it could still be a short one if it’s just that sad I suppose. Either way, the important thing for these titles is to at least cover the negatives and since the mild positives were evidently not enough, they’re barely worth mentioning.

Overall, if you ever wanted to know how a manga with good fight scenes, good art, and a good main character can end up being terrible, this is the manga to check out. However, I highly advise against checking this manga out. You should avoid it like a Mouse evading a Lion. The positives that the manga has are simply overshadowed and this will certainly go down as one of the worst manga titles out there. At least, from the ones that I’ve read. This rivals Black Bird as they’re both really down there, although this is likely a tad better than Black Bird…maybe. It’s like comparing a double cheeseburger to a Mc double at Mc Donalds. They’re more or less the same thing, just packaged differently. Looks like .Hack will be the big virtual reality series once again. Take a big glass of water and then watch Yugioh 3D Bonds Beyond Time. It’s the best thing to do after reading this manga.

Overall 0/10

Asuna Battles, Battles, Leafa Battles

Leafa vs Asuna


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Both of these heroines got an entire arc to themselves and proved their fighting prowess. Leafa actually had the edge for a while thanks to her ability of flight, but Asuna quickly took that away from her. Leafa’s healing abilities would typically give her the edge, but the spells take so long that they may as well not even be there. Asuna is more of an accomplished fighter and her flurry of blows would quickly overwhelm Leafa. We now know who the strongest SAO heroine is! (Until Sinon shows up!) Asuna wins.

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Sword Art Online Review

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Sword Art Online is one of those Mega titles that we shall never forget. For better or worse, it’s basically ingrained in society at this point. I started the franchise out with the anime before checking out the novels and then the manga. This actually doesn’t bode well for the manga since the designs are pretty different and I consider the anime to have the true ones. That being said, I like to think that I wouldn’t have been crazy about the art either way. It’s a decent take on the show, but I think it could have been better.

In case you are not familiar with the plot, I shall quickly explain it. Sword Art Online takes place in the future and virtual games are all the rage now. One in particular is called Sword Art Online and it is the first big MMORPG. Everyone is hyped and resident computer whiz Kirito decides to buy it. Suddenly, the players become trapped in the game and they can’t get out unless they complete the title. 2 years later, the story begins as Kirito must try to become the best. Can he really do it as a solo player or will he end up joining Asuna’s (Main heroine) group? Only time will tell!

The actual plot always sounds great no matter how many times I write or hear about it. You simply can’t beat a good sci-fi plot like this or not very easily. Being stuck inside of a video game is a concept that appeals to me in part because it sounds like it would be a fun experience in real life. (To an extent of course) I think that it might be a missed opportunity for the series that they quickly skipped the first two years, but we still get a lot of cool moments so it still works.

The main problem with the series is that the art isn’t very good. The characters just don’t look like themselves and it’s like they’re half chibi. If you’re going to make the characters tiny you’ve got to go all the way or leave them in their normal size. It can also be hard to follow some of the fight scenes although the art gets better as the series progresses in that respect. It’s still pretty below average though. It’s hard to say if I would have liked it more if I had read the manga before the anime or not, but it’ll just be one of life’s mysteries. Either way, I doubt that I would have called it anything above average.

The characters are pretty in character since a lot of the dialogue is almost word for word from the novels/anime. Kirito is still as hardcore and intense as ever. Aside from his unnecessary and disheartening one night stand, Kirito has proven that he has what it takes to be the main character. He doesn’t back down from a challenge and he’s pretty confident in his abilities. That’s why the art always gets me. He just does not look tough! He looks like a kid and his serious scenes just don’t come off as cool as they should this way. It’s not the character’s fault, but the art.

Asuna also makes for a good heroine. She’s probably in the top 3 highest leveled players in the game and her speed is certainly good. She is lacking in attack power as seen in the boss fight, but she always gives it 110%. The one night stand also hurts her character development, but luckily that’s pretty much the last that we’ll see of that. Klein is one of Kirito’s old pals (AKA, they met in the game for like 5 minutes) and he’s actually pretty decent. He’s a nice guy and he actually doesn’t hold it against Kirito that Kirito left to be a solo player. Klein ended up reaching a decently high level himself so it makes you wonder how things would have been if Kirito had stayed with the party. He’d probably be a little lower leveled, but Klein’s group would be higher leveled than they were. Ultimately, Kirito made the right decision, but who doesn’t like hypothetical situations.

The main villain naturally gets to appear since he locks them in the game, but don’t worry…he has plans for them! He’s a pretty good fighter even if he cheats sometimes, but he does fight with just his talent in the end so we know that he’s for real. He’s decently cool and easy to root for. They try to play him off as a sympathetic villain by the end, but it still doesn’t work considering how high the casualties were. You can’t really forget that, but he is still a pretty neat villain. His plan was also intriguing, but I think that the final boss would probably be too much for the heroes.

The speed at which this manga goes is very quick, which can be a good or bad thing. You really breeze through the arc since there are only two volumes and they have a whole lot to adapt. Some scenes are simply breezed over while others are long enough to essentially match their alternate (Novel/Anime) versions. The pacing works for this series although I wouldn’t have minded stretching it out to 3 volumes and extending some of the fights. You can never go wrong with longer fights since they just add to the overall epicness of the series.

In the end, there are to real negatives to this story aside from the one night stand. There’s also a dicey moment that doesn’t make a lot of sense where Asuna falls out of a portal and Kirito essentially panics. That was pretty sad, but at least it’s an extremely brief scene thanks to the pacing. Those two faults are there, but that’s not a whole lot so you may wonder why it didn’t crack the classic 7 rating. Well, the art keeps it from that. Art is more important in comics/manga than in any other medium except for maybe TV shows. (It’s just not typically an issue there) Bad art can overpower good writing just like bad gameplay can override graphics in a video game. That being said, it’s still a good manga, it just could have been even better.

Overall, it’s ironic that this version gets a higher score than the anime even though the anime does a much better job with arc 1. Ah well, it is still a pretty fun premise to play around with and the art may have taken away some of the enjoyment that I could have gotten from it, but there was still enough to go around. Kirito makes for a good main character and there are several fight scenes here. Since this is basically two volumes merged into one, it’s also a pretty nicely sized volume that should last you long enough to really be worth the value. I recommend it to anyone that wants to see a classic fantasy RPG or for anyone who wants to see a cool main character.

Overall 6/10