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Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – First Impressions

Bamco has released the third (well technically fifth) game in the popular anime franchise, Sword Art Online, and this time they decided to go back to the style of Aincrad. While these games have been mixed on a critical level, it must be selling fairly well if Bamco is cranking out a third game, with one of them having been remade, and getting a remastered port, because apparently people want to re-visit Aincrad over and over.

Anywho, this game takes place after Lost Song, and we are graced with the game called Sword Art Origin. A world based off of Aincrad (now called Ainground), and the mythology is that it’s the origin (shocking!) of the world of Sword Art Online. Unlike the previous games, this world is entirely non-canonical with the original franchise (I’m basing this on the fact that I haven’t read the light novels).

The developers seemed to have mixed what people liked from the previous two games, and they decided to mix the two together. The combat plays a lot like Lost Song, but the overall way the game plays is very reminiscent of Hollow Fragment. For those who were sad that the dating mechanic was missing in Lost Song, it’s back in full swing in Hollow Realization.

This time maxing out your favorite girl’s affection is a lot more time consuming. I will give them some credit, that with one of the updates, they sped it up significantly. You get to run around town with your favorite girl, and like Hollow Fragment, you take them to special “date spots”, indicated with a heart. Then you can chat them up, and you can either nod or shake your head depending on their questions.

This is actually pretty time consuming if you’re just trying to grind affection (which doesn’t seem to add anything to gameplay, besides trophies and bragging rights). Before the update, maxing out the level 5 affection was obnoxiously long. I grinded the affection for about two hours straight, and I barely saw any progress. Now you can grind a girl’s affection to max in about 45 minutes. Still pretty long, but beats sitting for several hours to max out one level. Don’t worry perverts, you can still bring a girl to bed and sleep with her, I mean “pillow talk” with her. Wow, my head went to the gutter there, because a girl spewing hearts of affection, and wearing sexually suggestive clothing, is going to just share a bed with a guy and not have sex. Hopefully Kirito can’t get virtual HIV from Yuuki. Sorry for the dark joke guys, won’t happen again.

So far the story here is actually kind of interesting. You meet an NPC named Premiere (minor spoiler), and her position in the game is very confusing. She comes off like a defunct NPC, but as the game progresses, you slowly discover her purpose. Also there’s something about NPC’s becoming more humanlike, kind of like Yui and Strea, but for the entire game. Also when they die, they die forever. Hopefully this is actually explored in a good way, because Seven’s experiment in Lost Song was incredibly lackluster.

So far I’m enjoying the game, the goofy cutscenes aren’t as frequent as Hollow Fragment, and so far aren’t as ridiculous. It’s also nice seeing Argo getting a bit more spotlight, as she’s very humorous, and is the only girl (besides Yui for obvious reasons), that isn’t trying to get into Kirito’s pants. Though SAO fans, don’t worry, your hero Kirito is still dimwitted when it comes to girls.

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