By Patrick Aguda / September 2nd, 2020
|Title||Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris|
|Publisher||BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment|
|Release Date||July 10, 2020|
|Platforms||PS4, PC, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is Aquria’s fourth time developing a game for the franchise, the previous titles being Infinity Moment, Hollow Fragment, and Hollow Realization. According to Sword Art Online Game Series Producer Yosuke Futami, this game will be the last title in the SAO Gameverse for the foreseeable future. How well does Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris stack up to Hollow Realization, the game I consider to be the best in the franchise? Will the Gameverse end with a bang or a whimper? Well, let’s find out.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris starts off with a scene familiar to fans of the light novels and anime. Kirito wakes up in an unfamiliar land, with no memory of how he ended up there. He meets another boy named Eugeo underneath a giant tree known as the Gigas Cedar. From there, Kirito learns about the world around him, known as Underworld, and how Eugeo’s friend Alice was arrested by the Axiom Church (the governing body of the Human Empire) for breaking a law in the Taboo Index. Eugeo wants to search for Alice, but his Calling, which is like his life’s mission, prevents him from doing so. His Calling is to cut down the Gigas Cedar, but it seems impossible to do it in his lifetime. Kirito realizes this Axiom Church may have a way for him to escape this world, so he helps Eugeo complete his Calling, teaching him how to use a sword and helping him get stronger along the way. With Kirito’s help, Eugeo completes his Calling and is able to choose a new one, and he chooses to be a swordsman. Now that he has his new Calling, Eugeo sets off with Kirito to head to the capital of Centoria and bring Alice back home.
I cut a lot of stuff out, but that’s basically what happens in the beginning of the game. Now this is where I have to call Bandai Namco Entertainment America out on their false advertising. For as long as I can remember, Bandai Namco Entertainment America has promoted this game as following the storyline of the anime faithfully, and this is just not true. The game follows the general outline of the story shown in the anime, but certain events are changed and characters omitted from the story. For example, Volo Levantein, who is the top student at the North Empire Swordcraft Academy, is supposed to come into conflict with Kirito in the story. However, he is noticeably absent in the game’s story. They also introduce Medina Orthinanos during this storyline, a Gameverse original character who was not in the light novels and anime. Much of the events that occur at the Swordcraft Academy involve Medina, and these events definitely do not occur in the anime. Another thing I want to point out is that the anime storyline only occurs in the first chapter of the game. After Chapter 1, it’s all original story from there. There are 6 chapters in total. I don’t see how Bandai Namco Entertainment America thought it was okay to promote the game as only playing through the anime story when the anime story is only a small portion of the game.
While we’re still talking about the anime story, I need to point out the length of Chapter 1. That chapter is way too long, and it’s basically one big tutorial. It took me about 24 hours to complete the first chapter, and the problem is a majority of that time was just talking and no gameplay. You don’t unlock most of the gameplay aspects until Chapter 2. So until Chapter 2, there’s no multiplayer, character creation, and no freedom to travel to different maps. A majority of the chapter is talk to Eugeo, do a sword skill test, kill a monster and repeat. You can break up the monotony of things by doing the few side quests available at the time, but those can get boring due to them being either gathering quests or monster hunts. Also, some events that were very impactful in the anime, lose their effect because of the way they’re adapted in the game. There are four ways this game tells the story: visual novel style with animated character art, cutscenes using in-game movement, cutscenes using pre-defined movement, and CG animated cutscenes. In the first chapter, they even show stills from the anime. The worst of the storytelling options is the in-game movement cutscenes. The characters are stiff and their faces exude little emotion. And they used this specific style to adapt certain important scenes from the anime, like that infamous scene involving Raios, Humbert, Ronie, and Tiese. While the anime did a great job conveying the seriousness of this moment, the game made it less so with stiff movement, bad lighting and sad looking effects. I would’ve preferred if they went all-in with the original story instead of trying to adapt some of the anime.
The saving grace of this chapter are the events involving Medina. You get to see the discrimination she faces due to her family name, and how she’s working to overcome this. I felt so invested during her scenes that it felt like they passed by in a flash. Once her events in the first chapter were over, it was back to the usual boring routine.
After you finally finish the first chapter, the game original storyline starts in full gear. Certain events happen and now Kirito and his friends have to find a way to cut down a giant tree that sprouts in the capital. With this new tree comes a surge in monsters across the empire. Many friends join the Anti-Cedar Task Force (ACTF) in order to help quell the threat, including Medina. Medina joins so she can bring honor to her family name, and she’s willing to do anything to achieve this goal. She butts heads with Alice due to their differing methods in how to defeat monsters, and the mystery of why the Orthinanos are called defects still looms. Medina’s story takes center stage in these chapters, and her goal evens serves as a point of conflict between her and Kirito at a certain point.
It was interesting discovering what happened to the Orthinanos family and seeing Medina grow as a human being. I certainly enjoyed the original story more than the story in Chapter 1, and the ending was able to surprise me, which was a pleasant surprise. There are also supplemental events which you can view in Kirito’s Tent. Here, you can view events not shown in the main story. These events give more exposition to some characters and also give some more information on Underworld. I haven’t watched them all, but the few I’ve seen were interesting. Overall, I’d say the main story was decent. I enjoyed the addition of Medina Orthinanos, and certain characters like Kayode Norlangarth were very entertaining. It was also great how most of the cutscenes were fully voiced. But the slow pacing of Chapter 1 story takes a lot of willpower to get through.
Many fan favorite characters return in this game including Kirito, Asuna, Sinon, Leafa, Lisbeth, Silica, Alice and Eugeo. The game also introduces newcomers such as Medina, Bercouli, Ronie, Tiese and more. I liked how they introduced new characters while keeping some popular characters. I question some character omissions though. Yuuki, Klein, and Agil have been in almost every Sword Art Online game to date, and now they’re noticeably absent from Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris. They’re only mentioned in passing by other characters in the game. I understand the developers wanting to remain faithful to the source material, but I believe you should be able to make exceptions as the Gameverse is already very different from the light novels and anime. I think omitting a popular character like Yuuki was just a bad move, especially since they will most likely be adding her as DLC. Mainstay characters like Yuuki, Klein and Agil should never be an afterthought or DLC. I think this was just a bad decision.
In addition to the main story, you have Bond Events involving Kirito. These events have Kirito interacting with characters like Alice, Eugeo, and Asuna doing different things like training, killing monsters, having a picnic, looking for materials etc. I found these events quite enjoyable, and seeing certain characters interact with each other was a joy. I personally liked the scenes involving Alice and Asuna, as they were constantly at each other’s throats. Alice was ruthless with her insults. The events where the girls all cook a dish for Kirito were also very enjoyable. The nice event CGs that came with them were very nice too. Overall, I found more enjoyment with the Bond Events than the main story.
You also have the option of completing requests given by people across the empire. These requests range from killing monsters to finding certain plants and so on. Performing some requests will reveal general areas where plants and animals appear on your map. I found some of the characters giving quests to be very entertaining. Notable ones include the man who has a strange infatuation with a statue, a woman who doesn’t understand why cats don’t love her, and the girl who wants a taste of city food. While some of these characters are interesting, the quests themselves can become quite a chore. At first, I tried to do the requests as I did the main story, but at a certain point they became so boring I stopped doing them altogether. I wish these requests were more interesting and had an actual impact on the world around you.
Once you’re partway through Chapter 1 you gain access to the hub city of North Centoria. Here is where you can access your Bond Events, have dates with your party members, purchase items and equipment needed for your journey, and craft new items. Once Chapter 2 starts, Kirito’s tent is located here, and is where you access Supplemental Events and Character Creation. Character Creation is a nice touch for people who don’t want to play as Kirito. My problem with Character Creation is that it has few customization options and even though you create your own character, you’re still Kirito in the story and in cutscenes. To me, it’s jarring if you have this created character and then you turn back into Kirito for story cutscenes. If they wanted to put Character Creation in the game, I think they should’ve made the created character the main character instead of Kirito like in Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet.
When you leave North Centoria, you have access to vast maps filled with enemies and nice landscapes. You can fight monsters here, go fishing, find materials for crafting, and even go camping. Throughout the map are Fast Travel Points. At these points you can save, access the tutorial and of course, fast travel to them. There are four empires you can travel through: Norlangarth, Sothercrois, Wesderath, and Eastavarieth. Each empire has their own geographical features, so travelling through each empire always feels like a different experience. As you travel, time will progress so daytime will turn to noon, noon to evening, and evening to night depending on how long you’re in an area. There is also a weather system so it can be cloudy, sunny, and rainy depending on what day or time it is. The weather and time of day affect what monsters appear in certain areas. The time of day can affect which villagers are around and if you can accept a request from them. If you don’t want to wait for the natural progression of time, you can rest at a campfire to fast forward to the time of day you need. There are also smaller villages located in some maps, so you can also restock on supplies there. By pressing the right directional button, you can open up a mini-map on the right side of the screen. Using this, you can see where Main Story objectives are, the location of villages, fishing point, monument locations, treasure chest locations and more.
While these maps are nice to explore, I have some gripes with them. First off, showing where the treasure chests are immediately takes the fun out of searching for them and discovering them. Second, fishing in the game is lame, there’s no mini-game involved with the activity. You just press a button and the fishing is done automatically. I think they could’ve done more with the mechanic but decided to go the easy route. My other problem involves the campsites and villages. I don’t like how you can only fast forward the time of day from campsites. It’s annoying having to fast travel to a monument close to a campsite and run there just so I can change the time of day. There should be a location in villages, like an inn, so you can also change the time of day there. But for some reason you can’t do that there, so really you only go to villages to get new requests and buy items. It would’ve been nice if you could sleep in an inn in the village to change the time of day, as there is always a fast travel point located near them. I also have an issue with the appearance of Fast Travel Points. Before you access them, they have little balls of light which float above them, making it easy to notice them. Once you unlock them the first time, the balls of light disappear. I wish they kept some type of light marker on the Fast Travel Points, even after unlocking them. Sometimes it’s hard to notice these points even with the mini-map. My final gripe with the exploration involves the mini-map. While it is helpful, there is no way to adjust the opacity and size of the mini-map. The mini-map isn’t transparent, so it can sully the appearance of the nice environments. It also takes up most of the right side of the screen, so for a mini-map, it isn’t really small. I’d like it more if the map was more transparent and it took up a smaller part of the screen.
Action RPGAquriaBandai Namco EntertainmentPS4PS4 reviewReviewSword Art OnlineSword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris