Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Aquria
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PS4, PS Vita
Tested on: PS4

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Story, graphics, good to be home
Bad: Doesn't feel natural at the start
User Score
8.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)

With the current technology like VR, it is possible to dive into your games and get sucked into a fantasy world. This is, of course, quite awesome as you get the chance to really immerse into this other dimension but there might be some downsides as well. What if you got stuck into this world? If you couldn’t escape the clutches of the game? The manga/anime Sword Art Online revolves around this problem, while this fourth instalment tackles a different aspect. Are you ready to dive into this adventure?

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Story

After the adventures in Sword Art Online, the developers have worked together to build a new Aincrad in Sword Art: Origin. Instead of keeping the tower of doom, the new layout has been changed to a large floor and named as Ainground. Although Kirito and his buddies were a bit reluctant to go back into this world, especially with all they’ve been through in Sword Art Online. Their friend Seven persuaded them to get back into the game as everything was changed as she worked together with the team to reshape everything to a new and safe world. Some of the old systems were deleted and replaced, which needs to guarantee a good and fun game time.

During their first few game sessions in the beta of Sword Art: Origin, they meet with quite a strange NPC. The poor girl’s stats aren’t filled in, meaning she has overall empty or null values. Of course, the team wants to help her and so Premiere is born. Now the question rises if that is such a good idea…

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

The game revolves around a VRMMORPG so it is only natural that there is quite some content to explore. Some of the reactions or actions are predictable but this doesn’t really take away the fun you’ll have when exploring what the game has to offer.

Graphics

There are quite some different styles available in this game, each with their charms. The conversations are done in a 2D style, although the sprites of the character react to the mood or atmosphere, changing their appearance or facial features. One other extra element is that the mouths of the characters move while talking, giving that feeling that they’re really speaking to you.

When venturing the town or battling some monsters, you’ll be greeted by some nicely detailed 3D graphics. The Town of Beginning has several sections for instance, each with their own feel. For instance, the market area is bustling with people while the scenic overview just feels so much more relaxing. The other characters or NPCs that roam the game sometimes look similar but each have some different features, making them unique in their own way. Even more, every character stands out in this vast city as the background seems to blur a bit. Don’t get the wrong idea though, the environments surely are amazing and are filled with color and small details.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Next to these two types of graphics, there is also one other one that rarely pops up. During certain moments in time, the 2D view while talking gets switched to an animated 3D view, but different from the battling field. This feels as an intermediate scene in between the 2D conversations and the top-down battlefield, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Sound

The diversity of the graphics can also be found in the sound section. When first starting the game, you’ll be greeted by some more classical tones, while some other sections get a more dark or even cheery tune. For example, venturing the fields will give you a more uplifted track that fits with this kind of setting. Even more, the conversations are voice acted as well, which surely gives the game that bit extra. Each of the characters have their own particular voice and it fits their personality and mood sublimely. From jolly talks to more serious subjects, you’ll tackle it all.

Sound effects are present as well, giving that extra dimension to a battle. Slashing swords, swinging of maces and incantations, what else do you need? Well, the grunting and ragged breaths of your enemies surely are a nice addition and makes everything more realistic. Since you’re fighting against monsters in a game, they rather vanish instead of leaving with quite a ruckus, fitting the setting completely.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Gameplay

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is an RPG that takes you on an adventure inside an VRMMORPG or Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Talk about inception and acronyms. Although you can create and name a character at the start of the game, the events and such revolve around you being Kirito. For instance, you’ll have a relationship with Asuna, which might seem a bit weird at times if you created a female character. Of course, it is your choice how you want to be profiled in the game. One other aspect you can choose next to appearance is your weapon you want to wield. This is quite important, but we’ll discuss that later on.

As you’re roaming the world of Sword Art: Origin rather than the original Sword Art Online, there is much to discover. The tower of doom is gone and fields have been added, although there is also much to see in the Town of Beginning. Next to the scenic overview, there is also a market area with several shops and cafés. The town is filled with both characters, both ‘real-life players’ that are actually NPCs and real NPCs, whom you can talk with. By doing so, it is possible to establish some friendships and even invite them to your party. Of course, you have your own posse to choose from as well, so you’ll have more than enough possibilities.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

There is a limit on how many people you can take with you to battle, which has been set to four in total. It is a good idea to take a diverse team with you, as some of the enemies can be quite brutal and some healing would be nice. Of course, you can also choose your own skills as well, depending on the weapon you’re using. Each type has their own particular abilities you can learn, making it quite important which one you choose to you bash your enemies. Earning skill points for these new traits is done by excessively using your weapon, so fighting certainly is quite important. Activating these can be done by accessing the skill trees, while afterwards you can change your palette or every skill you can use in battle. It is quite important to be well-equipped as it can mean life or death.

When everything is prepared, you’re able to go out in the field and kill some baddies. The reason for this might be to continue the main questline but there are also some side-quests that will give you some Col or items by completing them, which surely is useful. These extra money-makers will send you out to kill some specific monsters or to gather certain materials for instance. A battle is initiated by getting too close to certain enemies or by engaging them yourself. Your party members will follow your target, although you can guide their actions by shouting certain orders. For example, you can rally everyone to attack a certain enemy together, while when there are some hits being taken you can also make them focus more on healing. Before you jump into battle, you can set some shortcuts on your buttons while other skills can be used by opening the palette menu. Combining some buttons will give combos that increase the damage an enemy takes. Also, this is a good moment to perform a ‘switch’, where someone else takes your place and is able to inflict quite some damage. Also, a linked combo is also possible, where every member in your team executes an attack, although they can’t be hit themselves or it fails. If that isn’t enough, you can also parry, dodge/strife and give compliments to your team members, boosting certain stats and ‘shaping’ them. It’s a lot to remember, certainly at the beginning but it eventually becomes more natural.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Next to the appraisal system in combat, there is also an affection structure while venturing town. You can increase your intimacy level with characters by talking to them or giving them items, which unlocks the opportunity to have some deeper conversations. If your relationship is high enough, you can even hold hands or cradle them in your arms. Don’t worry, you can even take them to your personal chamber in the inn and have some pillow talks, if your affection level is high enough of course. Can’t expect someone to lie down with someone they don’t like. Next to inviting people to your chamber, you can also change your appearance here and check your inventory. It’s certainly a cool aspect to have some personal space, although it would have been nice if there were a bit more customization possibilities.

Conclusion

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization takes you on a trip inside the VRMMORPG of Sword Art: Origin. If you already played some of the previous instalments, it’ll probably be a nice ‘welcome home’ feeling, while there are also enough references to what happened before you entered the new world of Ainground. The graphics and music certainly helps you to immerse in this world, while the story is profound and will take you on yet another adventure.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

1 Comment

  1. […] For those unfamiliar with the Sword Art series, it’s a Japanese light novel series also referred to as manga. In the near future a VRMMORPG is released, this is basically the logical next step in the evolution of MMO games. The player will wear NerveGear a helmet to connect the user to a virtual world. Does this all start to sound like the plot of The Matrix to you? It should as a virtual death of the in-game avatar results in the death of the player as well. Nevertheless the series is very popular in Japan and this next installment will be also available in Europe. Stay tuned as the game is coming in early 2018. You can find our review of the previous installment right here. […]

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