Sword Art Online RE: Hollow Fragment (PS4 review)

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Kirito, Asuna and all the rest of the SAO universe is back in Sword Art Online RE: Hollow Fragment for the PlayStation 4. It comes with enhanced visuals, better online services and just has a better overall quality. The PS4 version now includes both the PSP game SAO: Infinity Moment and the previously released PS Vita SAO: Hollow Fragment, which are 2 alternate storylines that begin from where the first story arc of the anime normally ended.

After Kirito’s battle with the game’s creator, Kayaba Akihiko’s avatar Heathcliff, on the 75th floor, a glitch occurs and alters the conditions for clearing the game. This causes everyone to remain trapped within the game instead of being released. Furthermore after they travel to the 76th floor, they realize that certain skills and equipment have become corrupted, and they can no longer return to the floors below. Kirito is also teleported into an alternate part of the game he has never been before, where he meets a mysterious new ally Philia who is unable to leave this new isolated area called the Hollow Fragment.

Sword Art Online simulates the feeling of a virtually massive multiplayer online game, but in the style of a single-player game similar to past games like the .hack series. SAO features tons of action when it comes to combat. You have free control to move around, attack, parry, stun, use skills, and dash to evade attacks. Your commands for teammates can be customized into shortcuts assigned to your shoulder buttons to be used with ease. Characters auto-attack on their own. You also have both an SP and Burst gauge for unleashing your special skills in and out of combat. There’s a risk gauge you will want to manage in order to be the most efficient in combat.

Between exploration and boss raids, you will spend your time in town either stocking up on supplies or spending time with one of the many girls who are all vying for Kirito’s attention. Even though the anime has Kirito married to Asuna, you can sweet talk any girl you choose. You can also visit Lisbeth’s blacksmith shop to either forge new weapons from materials you’ve collected. You can also enhance what you have already found or crafted. Weapon crafting has its ups and downs. While it is fairly expensive early on (costing 3M col) of your starting 3.5 col, this becomes a drop in the bucket after farming chests that respawn in certain locations. Weapons also can only be enhanced a finite amount of times without using a special item to refill its upgrade capacity. Besides, the starting stats will only allow one attribute to be increased, meaning you must choose which stat will be most beneficial on each weapon. One last thing to note is you’re only able to maintain one save file at a time, and the game saves whenever you change zones. After you forge or upgrade weapons, choose wisely on how you proceed, because weapon enhancement has a low success rate. In the earlier stages of the game, it will be roughly 40-60% depending on the upgrade, but this can be improved by completing quests for the blacksmith.

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The biggest enhancement in SAO RE: Hollow fragment besides the graphical update is the implementation of servers vs the ad hoc system in the handheld versions of the game. The multiplayer mode allows you to take your (purely cosmetic) customized Kirito on missions with three other players, each with their own chosen teammate to back each of you up. The host will select a mission for the team to take on, and he can customize the mission with modifiers to increase item drop rates such as increased difficulty or adding sub-missions to complete before the main objective. Although it is now easier to get into a room with other players, this was the only element fixed. You won’t automatically teleport to the mission zone or even receive any notification on which mission you’re undertaking, unless you talk to the NPC at the quest counter yourself. Unless you know exactly where the missions take place, you will most likely find yourself either kicked from parties or teleported back to the quest hub while the rest of your party either perishes or completes the mission.

This however was a minor inconvenience once I joined a chat party and was able to find teammates who would communicate back with me, rather than relying on a preset palette of emotes. Once I got started playing with a solid group of 3 or 4, I didn’t want to put the game down. This was definitely the best way to play SAO; all your stats, items, skill progress and everything else carries over between the single player campaigns and multiplayer mode. Multiplayer also partially removes the threat of losing all progress since your last save if you are to fall in combat, so long as one of your party members remains alive, they can revive you by giving you approximately 50% of their current HP. There are no limits to the amount of times you can revive someone or be revived; however, in order to do so you must disengage from combat and if you’re the last one alive, you must do it without being interrupted by enemy attacks or being killed yourself.

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Final Reaction

SAO sets out to extend the reach of the anime into the hands of more fans and accomplishes just that. The enhanced visuals on the characters and certain portions of the environment are great; however, you will still see some jagged edges that will remind you that this was originally designed and made for a handheld. There is still a ton of content to explore, and if you already purchased a prior version, you will still start from the beginning of the game which is a tad upsetting, but you will carry over certain items and character bonuses to make your previous time spent not feel completely wasted. The character creator was a bit of a let down since it’s purely cosmetic. All the story characters will still call you Kirito, and your skills and bonuses will be exactly the same every time you start a new game. Now that may sound like a lot of negatives, but in all truth they have a very low impact on the enjoyment of the game. Cosmetic changes to your character are for people’s personal enjoyment and would muddle up the story line if the writers had to infuse a whole extra character that just suddenly appears and replaces Kirito.

A majority of the game is voice acted fully in Japanese which is a great treat to fans. There is a nice mixture of CG cutscenes, graphic novel scenes, and they kept the standard JRPG silent text boxes for you to read at a minimum. The online servers held up well with no lag, frame rate drops  or connection issues. I never found myself being disconnected due to a lost connection unless the player chose to disconnect on their own will. While not perfect it is a treat if you are a fan of the anime or JRPGs. Want to try out what a simulated MMO experience would feel like? Then look no further and be prepared to sink a ton of hours into the games exploration and combat.

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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Jada Griffin
Jada Griffin 334 posts

Legends tell of a princess captured and raised by Ninjas to be their future leader. Jada was trained from an early age to max the luck stat, always strike first and to never surrender.