Last November marked my first time delving into the world of Sword Art Online, with my review of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. I ended up liking the game quite a bit. It boasted a large and, although somewhat trope-filled, enjoyable cast, enjoyable story, fun gameplay, and, at the time, a premise that I hadn’t seen since the days of the .hack series.
That was then. It’s now over halfway through 2017 and, while I’m far from being an expert on the works of Reki Kawahara, I’ve watched, read up on, and played enough Sword Art Online and Accel World to no longer consider myself a newbie. It probably isn’t to difficult to imagine how surprised I was when Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight was announced. It was almost like I was, completely unbeknownst to myself, preparing to play this game. You can bet that I was totally pumped to play it when it came out. And, while it might have been just a tad below the my expectations, I was still happy with it overall.
AW VS SAO escalates pretty quickly. The game begins innocently enough within the world of ALfheim Online. After returning from a picnic, MMO power couple Kirito and Asuna and their AI daughter Yui receive a message stating that the game will be undergoing emergency system maintenance, and asking all players to log out. Noticing that Yui seems to be behaving strangely however, Kirito and Yuna decide to pretend to log out, only to give chaise to their digital daughter after she leaves.
And it’s probably a good thing that they did. Yui eventually leads them to the Niebelheim area. Or rather, what used to be the Niebelheim area. What they are met with instead, is a massive, sprawling tower that definitely didn’t used to be there before. Before they can even begin to figure out what’s going on however, they are approached by an all too familiar-looking black robot (psst, that’s Black Lotus) who, after muttering to herself about “target Enemies”, attacks Kirito.
After their fight (which was surprisingly intense for the beginning of the game), the two parties are they approached by a third party – a girl calling herself the Twilight Witch, Persona Vabel. Offering little more than vague explanations and cryptic hints as to what she’s doing, Persona Vabel summons a monster who grabs Yui and seals her away. By that time the mysterious metallic warrior realizes that she has been tricked, and offers to join up with Kirito and Asuna in hopes of taking down the monstrous menace once and for all.
In terms of understanding the story, I lucked out with Hollow Realization. I can safely say that that would not be the case with AW VS SAO. To be fair, the main story is fairly straightforward. I probably wouldn’t have had that much trouble understanding it. The many, many, character interactions would have been completely lost on me had I gone into this not knowing anything about either series however, and that would have been a shame, because that’s where this game really shines through. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that they were both created by the same individual, but the interaction between the SAO and AW characters felt natural, and I very much enjoyed them.
A Fairy Familiar World
AW VS SAO plays remarkedly similar to Sword Art Online: Lost Song. I’d even go so far as to say that if you’ve played Lost Song, then you should already know what you’re doing before you start this game. While most of the SAO games emulate MMOs, AW VS SAO has a more action-oriented feel about it. Because of the fact that the game takes place in ALfheim Online, nearly every SAO character is able to fly. Naturally, the game reflects this. Nearly every area in the features wide-open spaces. These areas are made for easy flight, peppered with handfuls of enemy mobs here and there, and obstacle strewn about.
Of course, not everything is the same. Thanks to the sudden appearance of the accelerated world, ALO has begun to erode. Futuristic buildings have begun cropping up everywhere, infusing ALO’s bright and nature-prevalent world with Accel World‘s dark and often decaying urban environments. The combination of the two might sound weird, and it is. But, to be honest, it gave each of the game’s areas a distinct flavor. While I appreciate that the SAO games do their best to emulate MMO environments, I’ve seen enough forests and deserts and whatnot to last me for a while. AW VS SAO did a nice job of spicing what would otherwise be mundane. I will warn you about something, though. If you buy games for shiny new graphics, this game may not be up to snuff. While each world sported plenty of details, the game’s graphics were pretty sub-par on the whole.
Admittedly, the game might have focused just a bit too much on style rather than substance. While freely flying around each of the game’s areas was fun at first, it got boring after a while. After all, this is an RPG. You can only expect me to be content with aimlessly flying around for so long. Other than monster mobs, and the occasional random quest, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. I’m particularly disappointed with the number of dungeons that this game has. Or rather, the lack there of. Dungeon-crawling is kind of an MMO staple. I’m confused as to why there is so little of that to do in this game.
A Real Grind
Battling baddies should also feel familiar to Lost Song veterans. Combat, like exploration and movement, contrasts with the normal MMO-ness of SAO games, and focuses more on action. Fights much more closely resemble stereotypical hack-and slash, and focus on pulling off combos on your enemies while dodging attacks that they throw at you. Basic combat is far from being the most in-depth ever within an SAO game, but that kind of agile simplicity makes things flow smoothly.
You can also expect to do a good amount of grinding if you want to get strong. Personally, I love grinding in games. I’m what you might call a “level-up junkie”. Leveling up always provides an immense feeling of satisfaction. And boy does this game answer that call! Not only is the character level cap 1000, but you can also level up skills! Needing to level up skills might sound like a chore to some of you, but I wouldn’t worry too much. This game loves making you fight monsters and spam skills. You’ll be getting plenty of skill and character levels under your belt, even if you aren’t trying too hard to.
And of course, we can’t forget about item farming! In true MMO fashion, AW VS SAO doesn’t ever really hand you any good equipment. Can you guess what you’re going to have to do instead? That’s right – farm mobs and bosses for sweet loot! Fun fun fun! I’ll warn you right now – don’t play this if you have little patience for this sort of thing. Depending on what you’re looking for, getting a single good item can take hours. And there are a lot of good items to get. But, considering that this game works largely like an MMO, I’d say that the need to farm is a perfect fit.
Usually I don’t harp too much on technical issues. Things don’t always work perfectly. And, when they don’t, you can often fix them. And even if you can’t fix them, it usually isn’t hard to overlook them. But there was something going on in this game that bothered me a lot; framerate issues. Just in case anyone didn’t know, I reviewed the Vita version. I don’t expect the Vita version of this game to run as smoothly as the PS4 version. However, when a game spawns multiple enemies and freezes after doing so, then I feel the need to say something. Seriously, I was scared that my game was going to crash every time that happened. It never did, but it was still scary. It’s a problem that really needs fixing. Like, soon.
Different Game, Different Rules
One of the coolest things about this game, in my opinion, was the way that they handled the Accel World’s Duel Avatars. Namely the fact that they don’t work exactly like the SAO characters. Now, to be fair, they’re not shockingly different or anything. In fact the two groups share a large number of core mechanics. But not all of them. Instead of slapping a pair of wings onto each AW character and poorly attempting to explain why, Duel Avatars have a unique set of skills that allow them to keep up with the faeries of ALO. AW characters are able to perform Accel Moves, allowing them to perform a light-speed dash in any given direction, and High Jumps, which, as you can probably figure out, allow them to jump incredibly high. Of course, Silver Crow is the exception to this rule. He can pretty much do everything.
Combat also works a bit differently. Due to the differences between the two games, Duel Avatars don’t have an entire laundry list of moves like their SAO counterparts. Their list of available moves is much smaller. They also can’t cast spells. Oh, and they don’t have MP, either Because of this, many Duel Avatars end up being somewhat situational. You can bet that they’re good at what they do, though! Having a set of “situational” characters made switching the characters in my party around more fun. And that’s a good thing, because there are plenty of characters to use.
New Game Plus
As much as I wanted it to be, Accel World VS Sword Art Online wasn’t the best game in the SAO series. There wasn’t enough to do in each area, most of the SAO characters felt same-y, and parts of the game were rather bland. But hey, why let a few bad things ruin an otherwise good game? It may not have been as good as it could have been, but it was still a fun adventure overall. The combat was slick, what dungeons were in the game were fun to play around in, and I absolutely adored how adhesive the crossover between Accel World and Sword Art Online was. If you want a super-solid SAO experience, I’d recommend playing Hollow Realization. If you’re a fan of either AW or SAO however, or are looking for a nice and time-consuming action RPG, then this game definitely worth checking out.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: Vita (Reviewed), PS4 ; Publisher: Bandai Namco ; Developer: Bandai Namco ; Players: 1, 2 – 16 (Online) ; Released: July 7, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $39.99 (Vita), $59.99 (PS4)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher