Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – Review
Follow Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platform: PS Vita

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – Review

Site Score
Good: Strong storyline and interesting characters.
Bad: Easily feels like you have to grind to get from one point in the story to the next.
User Score
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Sword Art Online is a popular anime series that gained a lot of attention in 2012 and tells the story of Kirito, a gamer who gets trapped into the VRMMORPG or Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game.

Despite the fact that Sword Art Online II (SAO II) has started off earlier this year, Bandai Namco Games developed and released a game that takes a new spin on the storyline of the first season. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is the second game of the SAO franchise and like its predecessor it is released only for Playstation Vita.



It is impossible to explain the story of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment without making some big spoilers. If you are still watching the anime and haven’t finished the first half of the series, you might want to skip this part. For those of you that have seen the anime however, Hollow Fragment really takes the story on an interesting trip.

In the story Kirito and about 10.000 others get locked inside the virtual world of Sword Art Online. In order to escape the game they have to clear every floor of the 100 floors, by slaying the boss of every floor. The first part of the anime tells Kirito’s story, up until they fight Heathcliff on floor 75. Heathcliff was the leader of Knights of the Blood Oath, but turned out to be Kayaba Akihiko.

Kayaba Akihiko is the creator of Aincrad, the world in which this all takes place and he is also the man who locked away Kirito and all the others. Heathcliff says that if they manage to defeat him, they are free to leave the VRMMORPG. Kirito fights him, defeats him and in the anime they leave the game. In Hollow Fragment however, things turn out a little different.

Things don’t quite work out like they should and they simply advance to floor 76. It’s up to you to start clearing the remaining 25 floors. The fact that the developers chose to take such a huge spin on the original story is interesting because of several factors. The first is that it seems they want to please the disappointed fans who were angry because of the Alfheim Arc which takes up the second half of the Sword Art Online anime and is not nearly as well received as the first part, the Aincrad Arc.

The second is that we see a lot of previously unknown characters that in fact shouldn’t really be there. Kirito’s sister shows up in her Laefa avatar, as well as Sinon who is Kirito’s companion in the new Sword Art Online II. If you follow the explanations and the timeline of the original story, it is impossible for both Laefa and Sinon to exist in the Sword Art Online world, but this but a minor ‘problem’.


Aside from the storyline of the next 25 floors, Kirito ends up in some sort of extra dimension called Hollow Fragment, in which he can explore dungeons and battle some pretty strong monsters. This is also the part where you can do multiplayer. Inside the Hollow Fragment he meets Philia, a female player who is seemingly stuck inside the Hollow Fragment realm. Her story is very mysterious and the storyline around the Hollow Fragment is a nice addition to the pretty straightforward floor clearing you will be doing in this game.


To put it short, the graphics are not outstanding. They are definitely not bad, but they are not a defining part of this game. The characters, buildings and surroundings are textured overall ok, though sometimes the character models lack a little in detail. The part where this game really shines in graphics is it’s cut scenes.

Our encounter with Philia which we get to see in the beginning of Hollow Fragment for example, is absolutely gorgeous. The parts of the anime we get to see in the beginning are optimized well for the PS Vita screen and the characters that are in manga style are very appealing. This is why I’d like to split up the graphics into two categories. The one that portrays the game world of Sword Art Online and the one that tells the story.

The first category is like I said, not spectacular. Sure the special effects of attacks are well done, but it is nothing we haven’t seen before and definitely not the best we have seen this year. The second category however is very convincing and very engaging. Aside from the cutscenes, static character images are used in the dialogs with a change of facial expressions once in a while. It is somewhat of a standard for the genre, but it works and the artwork is beautiful.


Two things are important when you look at the sound of a game like Sword Art Online. The voice acting and the sound effects that help shape the world. Way too often do the sound effects sound fake or not befitting to the objects they have to represent and that is a big failing point. Soundwise, we can review Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment the same way we did the graphics.


Sound effects, animal sounds, surroundings etc. can be paired up with the previous first category and are like their graphical counterpart not impressive. Sure they are not bad, but they are more like a neutral part of the game. They don’t help the score go up, but neither do they help bring it down.

The second category goes with the graphics we find in the cut scenes and dialogs and is the category of voice acting. Expect to find the same Japanese voice actors you encountered in the anime series along with some new ones to go with the many new characters you will encounter in the upper floors of Aincrad. In the anime, the voice acting is always combined with moving images that add to the emotions and atmosphere of the series. In the game however, the only help the voice acting gets are some static character images. The fact that the voice acting still manages to get you emerged in the storyline is definitely a strong point.


As with most games, the gameplay plays a very crucial part. Since Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is such a huge game, there is obviously a lot to talk about. Aside from the gameplay revolving combat and dungeon exploring, expect to find dating mini-games, some sort of crafting mechanism, the occasional poker and a lot more.

If we look at the combat system of SAO: Hollow Fragment, we see nothing new. You can choose from about 10 different weapon types, from spears, to Great Hammers, to Kirito’s special dual-wielding swords. Every weapon type has its own set of skills which you can train as you level your way up to the level cap of 250. Small detail: you start off at level 100, so this shows just about how big Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is. The combat itself is rather repetitive and may feel like grinding and skill spamming from time to time. Tactics are optional for boss fights, like which weapon type works best against which boss, but even in situations like that you don’t really need them.

This is something that is a bit of a disappointment, because the combat and the fighting feels like a way to get from one point in the story to another. The fact that you can switch between Aincrad and Hollow Fragment helps to solve this problem a little, but since the combat in Hollow Fragment is the same makes it but a small solution. The only reason Hollow Fragment really helps is because it is more challenging than the first 10 floors of Aincrad. This way you feel like you actually make a difference by timing your skills, using dodging techniques and switching often.


Hollow Fragment itself is a world that consists of dungeons for you to crawl, while Aincrad, the world consisting of the remaining 25 floors, is a little more straight forward. In Hollow Fragment you can do Hollow Fragment missions, and use the points you get afterwards to upgrade, which in turn help you get through difficult Hollow Missions.

Like we said before, Aincrad’s floors are pretty straightforward. In order to fight the floors boss, you have to meet certain criteria. You have to do certain required quests, fight certain ‘lower’ bosses to gather information about what kind of monster the boss is and what it weaknesses are and you have to help fellow players level while you explore the floor.
This last part is something that makes SAO: Hollow Fragment rather unique. The realm is divided into several guilds, some from the anime, some new ones and when you go to the ‘Guilds’ tab in the start menu you can see diagrams about the levels of the remaining players. In every floor you have to help getting the general level a little higher by doing quests and helping out roaming parties of adventurers.

That being said, there are two remaining big parts of SAO that we have yet to discuss. The first part is the crafting and upgrading system which can be done a Lizbeth’s renewed Smith Shop. In your adventures, both in Hollow Fragment and in Aincrad you gather different kind of stones. Each kind is used to upgrade another stat of your weapons. Some upgrade strength, some upgrade vitality and some of the most precious upgrade HIT, which is the one stat to rule them all. Using the stones you can also craft weapons and these weapons have a high HIT stat by standard.

The last part of gameplay that needs to be discussed is the dating. Expect yourself to be surrounded by girls, many girls. They are all somehow romantically involved with Kirito and though it is not an important part of the game, it sure helps take your mind of the fact that you have to do some serious grinding to continue your way through the storyline. Basically you will roam Aincrad and Hollow Fragment with a party of two: Kirito and a companion of your choice. This could be Asuna, your ‘wife’, Laefa, your real sister or Sinon, your companion that actually shouldn’t exist. Dating can only take place in Arc Sophia, the central hub of every floor, but expect chats, taking your date out for dinner, holding hands and doing bridal carries to unlock some nice artwork.



Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is a solid game in all its aspects. The graphics, sound and combat that make up the game are not outstanding, but not bothering either. The fact that you will be grinding a lot to unlock most aspects of the game would be a problem if it weren’t for the great story, the funny dialogs and the nice artwork. You can easily lose 100+ hours in the new instalment of the SAO franchise, so be prepared. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is both satisfying for people who love the anime and people who are new to it. For the anime fans, be ready to get sucked into the world like Kirito and his friends. For new people, pick up that game along with your PS Vita: you have some exploring to do!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.