When choosing games to play, the JRPG can be an odd one. They have a certain style to them that is easy to love, yet are unashamedly eccentric in nature. That being said, I find I don’t have the time to invest in them. When I had the chance to dive back into the genre though and review Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization on PlayStation 4, I REALLY dived into it.
I’ve not had any experience with Sword Art Online – be it games or the anime/manga – before, so it was a risk that I could easily get lost. Thankfully though there is plenty of chance to catch up on what has happened previously. These recaps are also joined with many instructional screens to inform you how to do things. This includes battle, exploration, and even interaction with other “players”.
In Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization you are a player – Kirito – of a new VRMMORPG. You have a number of friends who are also included in the game. With the game first in Beta, there is always an ominous feel that problems of the past could return. It doesn’t take long before you meet an interesting NPC named Premiere that you take under your wing, promising to find out just what her place is in the game.
The fact that Premiere is an NPC is interesting, because she is something of an anomaly. When it is revealed that NPC characters can also be killed in the game forever, this puts Premiere in danger. Especially because she is something of a unique element in the game that many other characters have the potential to interact with too. It is interesting that as a player you do start to care about this strange character too.
Even before we get into the main exploration and combat elements of the game, there is a central hub, which is a city you can explore. This is where you can interact with other players and NPC characters, and buy and upgrade your weapons and armour. If you choose, a lot of time can be taken trying to flirt with some of the female characters who’ll you notice are the typical anime style.
Looking at the story element of the game, as is typical with anime games, there is a lot of exposition. These come in the form of static screens which feature characters who are taking part in the conversation. It is a shame that this isn’t animation, but in fairness (and thankfully) these cut-scenes never really get dull. The fact that the Japanese voice acting is done well is also a huge bonus here.
When we enter the world outside the city, we do so by picking our destination from a map. This is simple and easy to use, but as more of the world is revealed it can get confusing to find the next element of the story. For those who want to get to the exploring and grinding of levels though, you can just venture out into the world and do any of the missions that are available from the city.
Looking at the battles, and the exploration, there is a definite MMORPG feel to the scenery and it does feel slightly repetitive, as do the battles you take part in. If you enjoy grinding to level up though it is often pleasing to see that your new weaponry or new armour is helping have an effect against whatever you are doing battle with.
The battle system for Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization at first can be confusing, but I found that I soon got into the habit of picking my teams battle style and how we defeat each monster we do battle with. Selecting the palette of special powers, and selecting special skills adds to how badass the team becomes and it keeps it fun. I can understand how this can be complicated though, and may confuse some players.
While I’m new to Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization and I can’t just pull the names of the characters out of my head and don’t know the lore, I found this game easy to play and very addictive. Venturing more into the game, elements such as multiplayer unlock to allow for your friend to enter the game, adding to your team. The fact that you become connected to your original team though and tend to like to stick to them is telling of the strong story telling of the game, and what kept me invested.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is huge, and it will keep fans going for a long time. On top of the main storyline there are plenty of additional story elements, and missions to take part in, so don’t expect to complete this one quickly. If you are a fan of JRPGs though, or want to venture into this style of game, you may find Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is a very good place to start.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita now.