Sword Art Online: Lost Song is a single player third-person JRPG, it is based on a manga and anime series, which you really do need to know about before you can truly enjoy the game. As I found with the previous game RE: Hollow Fragment, it lacks in a lot of detail about the world. However, it does at least attempt to explain things as you go, meaning it is a little easier to get into than that was. Though don’t think you can go the opposite way -- from this to the show -- as the game has its own separate storyline.
Put simply, Sword Art Online features Kirito and his friends and their exploits after they get trapped in a massively multiplayer online game by the same name. Sword Art Online: RE: Hollow Fragment took place inside that MMO. Around the middle of the first season (or a few manga volumes in depending on how you’re following along), they escape and start playing a different MMO.
Starting the game, you get a brief overview of ALfheim Online, or ALO. It has just released the latest expansion pack Svart Alfheim, and everyone wants to race through it and become the first to do so. It apparently uses a lot of the code from Sword Art Online (which would have raised red flags for me, personally), except now everyone has wings as they are various types of fairy. Some can do magic, others are part-cat… There’s about five in total, and using the character creator you can be any of them.
That’s right, you don’t have to play as Kirito throughout the game! Of course, it still doesn’t change the fact that everyone will still call you Kirito throughout the main campaign. One thing that I enjoyed in the previous title was the fact that if you gave your party members new equipment, it would change how they looked in the world. This time, however, you cannot do that. Instead, you unlock several outfits for each character and can have them wear that throughout. Needless to say, I had some explaining to do when my wife saw that I had put everyone in their swimming costumes…
There are loads of characters to unlock and use as party members, but you can only have two at a time. If you want to change them, you have to go back to the inn which houses your save point. I only changed a few times, and that was usually because of certain character-specific side missions forcing it upon me. There’s no need to build up a relationship with the characters unlike in RE: Hollow Fragment, as you get given short storylines with a single character every so often.
The humour of the series is present and correct, best shown after one quest left the team with a risqué magazine. Kirito could only see a blur due to an age filter, whilst Klein could enjoy due to their real-life ages. Of course, Asuna found out about the magazine and your usual sitcom occurred.
The big diversion from the formula, apart from being able to fly, is the combat. And not just the aerial combat, either! It’s actually a disappointment compared to RE: Hollow Fragment, and quite pared-down; there are less special moves, and you can’t give orders to your teammates. You can do two special moves, which are tied to a stamina bar which restricts their usage, unlike the cooldown timers of the previous game. One good alteration is the introduction of weak points, which aren’t always obvious at first.
The additional graphics are an improvement, and even the cutscenes are better. Those are still mostly static scenes, but they look great. During combat, as monsters or your party members take damage they get covered in red slashes which is a great touch. If they had gone for more specific battle damage it would have affected performance, as outside of dungeon combat there are literally dozens of enemies on screen, both on the ground and in the air.
Inside dungeons, however, the very samey interiors are no-fly areas, although no reason for this is ever given. It makes the boring combat even more boring, unfortunately, as the combat can be pretty intense outside. Monsters aren’t the only things you need to watch out for, either, as I got decimated by a bunch of monsters and two NPCs doing a little player-vs-player…
The changes are very noticeable, but they neither improve nor ruin the experience. Fans of the anime and manga will enjoy the alternate reality take of this, and people who want to know what happened next for Kirito and company after Sword Art Online RE: Hollow Fragment are going to continue enjoying this. Newcomers will find this more approachable than the last game, as it does a good job of summing up events so far -- but they do take a while to be explained.
As with the last game, there is a multiplayer component. It again allows you to use a custom avatar in Monster Hunter-style team-ups -- you gather in one area and team up with three other players to do specific missions.
Much more than a graphical upgrade to the Sword Art Online universe, but not the leap forwards it appears at first. Svart Alfheim has several large areas to explore, but it’s much smaller than the 30 floors of Sword Art Online that you had to fight through in RE: Hollow Fragment. It will take around 30 hours to complete, which is about 100 hours less than the last game. It looks great, and gives you more time with the characters, but if you’re not a fan and hate reading subtitled Japanese dialogue, you’ll despise this.
Sword Art Online Lost Song (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
ans of the anime and manga will enjoy the alternate reality take of this, and people who want to know what happened next for Kirito and company after Sword Art Online RE: Hollow Fragment are going to continue enjoying this. Newcomers will find this more approachable than the last game, as it does a good job of summing up events so far -- but they do take a while to be explained.