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Sword Art Online: Re Hollow Fragment – First Impressions

I know that this is my third post on Hollow Fragment, but strolling around on PSN, I saw the Bamco anime game sales. I saw that this game was on sale for $5, so I figured why not. I beat the original game, so why not dick around in the remaster?

To be honest, I’m not completely sure why this remaster exists. Is it because they were going to make more money with a PS4 version, because the Vita has fairly lackluster sales? Is this game really popular enough to remaster a remake of a PSP game? If it really was that popular, why is it still only available as a digital download? Hell I might have actually paid $20 for a physical copy. They really should have released this alongside the Vita game, like the other two games, and have it cross compatible.

I was initially content with how the game looked on my Vita screen, and it still looked fairly well on the PSTV (or is it the Vita TV?). Not dogging on how it looks on the PS4, I expected it to look better. Though if you owned the original, don’t get your hopes up that much, as it’s really just a much higher resolution version of the Vita game. I will give Bamco credit for having the decency to not have the lower-resolution Vita cutscenes just upscaled to 1080P, like other remasters have.

The game plays pretty much exactly the same, just ditching touch screen features. Though the game does play at a higher framerate, so grinding affection at dating spots doesn’t feel quite as long. If you own the Vita game, you can transfer your save, and play it as a new game plus. It’s sadly not cross compatible like Lost Song, or Hollow Realization.

The game is supposed to be a director’s cut of sorts, I just haven’t researched into what extra stuff was added. In all honesty, if you own the Vita version, you’re not missing out much. It just feels like a game that should have came out a lot earlier, instead of later. If you didn’t, check it out if you want a lengthy JRPG to spend time on.

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.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – Review

Released in 2014, Hollow Fragment is an enhanced remake of the first Sword Art Online game, Infinity Moment. With updates like better graphics, arguably a better combat system, and an entire new area with its own story arc, the Hollow Areas. Though sadly, the Hollow Area feels like it should have been its own separate game, as it doesn’t flow seamlessly with the main game.

Story:

The game takes place in the virtual game of the show’s namesake, and you play as series protagonist Kirito in the climactic final battle against Heathcliff. The game takes place in an alternate timeline from the anime, where after Heathcliff’s defeat, a glitch in the system prevents them from beating the game, thus keeping them trapped in the game. The characters appear on floor 76, and find out that they are no longer able to go back to the previous floors. They then realize that they must complete the remaining floors and follow the game’s intended purpose of reaching the 100th floor.

This portion of the game is the remake of Infinity Moment, and probably the worst part about the game, especially in the story department. It’s largely non-existent up until you get to floors in the 90 region, and even then, you get random fragments of it here and there until the end.

So prior to the higher floor levels, the “story” is really just snippets of Kirito and his friends doing random things. These occur after clearing a floor, and when you are teleported back to the town, you have the choice of either talking to certain friends, or just ignoring it to go to the next floor. The majority of these scenarios are of the game showing Kirito’s relationship in his harem. These scenes either consist of the various girls trying to get in his pants, or the more humble scenes with Kirito just spending time with his wife Asuna and their “child” Yui. The group scenes usually have Kirito getting bitched at, or Klein being the group punching bag.

In this portion, they introduce Strea, who is only present in the game franchise. Not only is she the most forward with trying to get into Kirito’s pants, she’s also the only one with the story that’s relevant to the plot.

The second portion of the game involves the Hollow Area. This entire segment that’s original to the remake. This is also the part that has the most interesting story. Kirito gets transported to a forest, and comes across a girl with an orange cursor who tries to attack him (the cursor indicates she’s killed someone).

The fight is disrupted when a giant boss creature attacks the two of them, and they cast their differences aside and realize that dying is more important than fighting. After defeating the boss, the girl introduces herself as Philia, and only attacked him because she mistook him for the people who were after her. She explains they’re in a place called the Hollow Area, and she’s trapped there. Kirito decides to help her out while discovering the mystery of the Hollow Area.

This is the more interesting portion of the game. The main game of clearing floors gets kind of bland and boring after awhile, and it shows that the creators ran out of ideas for floors as the game went on. This one is more interesting, as there’s actually a story, and also has the major plus of not dealing with the harem. You can choose whoever you want for your partner in the Hollow Area, but sticking with Philia is the best bet for plot relevancy.

 

Gameplay:

The game plays in an action-RPG format, with standard leveling up mechanics. Though you start the game at level 100, and gaining levels actually takes quite a long time. So unlike traditional RPG’s where it implies that you just level up, this game makes you focus more on strategy and skill than just using brute force. You can grind, but for the early parts of the game, it takes a significant amount of time, so you might as well save your time and just take on the challenge.

You have burst attacks which lets you do significantly more damage to enemies. You can activate them by just attacking a certain amount of times to do it. When you learn more skills, you can actually attach them to hot keys to activate them whenever you want. Because of how powerful they are, they place a limit on them by having them take SP. You only get 300 SP and these skills take 100 SP. These do a lot to normal enemies, but when it comes to bosses, or when you’re at a low level with low level equipment, they start doing significantly less damage.

Bosses in Aincrad and the Hollow Areas play a bit differently. The floor bosses are conducted in a raid. So you have a large group of AI characters attacking the boss. They’re largely useless, and you’re still doing all the work, but it keeps the boss off your tail when you need to run off and heal. They also don’t really do much when it comes to attacking. They feel like the regular enemies, but with a large amount of HP.

Hollow Bosses on the other hand, are where the real challenge is. It’s just you and your partner. The bosses also feel like an actual boss, where they have multiple attack patterns. These require a lot more strategy than the floor bosses.

The game lets you go out with a partner, and partners do make the experience a lot better. They can also use burst attacks and such, so essentially adding the damage to bosses. The problem with partners, is that it doesn’t really matter who you have, as they all play the same. So you really just go out on a romp with your favorite girl and just go on with that.

One aspect of the game that’s probably the most obnoxious is dealing with the affection system. Unlike the Persona games where it gives characters advantage in battle, and also lets your summons get EXP boosts, this game doesn’t really do that. The only advantage to increasing affection is that you can change a girl’s equipment. The two ways you increase their affection is by praising them in battle, or by walking around town with them by “talking” to them. By talking to them means that you initiate a conversation in certain areas in town when they pop out a yellow word bubble. This is where you just spam a correct answer until their meter fills up. When their affection reaches a certain level, you can bridal carry them to your room, and you “spend the night” with them.

This feature really does nothing for the game, unless you’re going for trophies. So it’s safe to say it’s there to just please the fans to brag that they slept with their favorite girl.

Visuals:

The graphics aren’t bad. It’s definitely a bit more blocky due to it being a PSP remake, but it’s still a night and day difference. It is kind of disorienting when you get a closeup of the ground, and the texture is pixels, but it really could be a lot worse.

The dialog scenes are all in a visual novel style, where it shows a “cutout” of the characters speaking. The developers probably did this to save time and space with how many there were. It’s kind of boring seeing it this way, but it does let you speed through all the bullshit scenes.

The game does have a few FMV scenes, they could be really enjoyable, and the quality is there, but there’s significant playback issues. It’s really hard to watch a video when its stuttering. It’s like the developers thought that the video should load while its playing, instead of giving you a loading screen, which would be nice, but they didn’t optimize it at all. Luckily the later games are better optimized.

 

Music:

The OST has a style that’s typical to JRPG’s with an orchestrated feel, and it’s well done, but not very memorable. It’s very well done, but with all the different areas and floors, but with a limited soundtrack, it does get kind of redundant after awhile. Particularly with the music in the various floors.

 

Verdict:

Hollow Fragment is a pretty decent game, though heavily flawed in the story department, particularly with the story in Infinity Moment. The fact that every time you clear a floor “rewards” you with a scene of Kirito getting in trouble with one or all of the girls, or just a bullshit fanservice scene sometimes makes clearing a floor not worth it.

The Hollow Area is where the game really shines, the challenging bosses, and pretty interesting story makes this portion of the game worth playing. The entire game as a whole, is definitely catered to fans of the series. Excluding the game original characters, the game basically implies that you already know who the rest of the cast is, and all that happened before the events of the game. So unless you just want to jump in blind, it’s probably best you’re familiar with the show before you go in.

A definite plus about this game, is that there is a lot you can do in the game. It is definitely not hard to drop close to 100 hours in the game. The two main portions of the game are both pretty lengthy, along with the two bonus areas: the Concealed Area, and the Discard Area. The two bonus areas will definitely add several hours to your play time.

The game is definitely worth a play for fans of the show, but if you’re not, and if you definitely don’t like anime harem tropes and scenes, then stay far away.

Music: 6/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.
Story: 6/10.
Content: 8/10.

Conclusion: 7/10