Sword Art Online: Lost Song follows central character Kiritio, as he explores an all new update for ALfheim Online, one of the successors to the original game within a game, Sword Art Online. Though it follows on from last year’s game, Hollowed Fragment, ALfheim Online plays host to a world of fairies, which opens up new avenues of exploration and combat over the previous Sword Art games, with everyone having the ability to hover or fly for a period of time.
You initially trundle through a particularly sickly tutorial, while your companion Leafa and AI daughter Yui offer encouragement as you relearn the basics. Combat is similar to any number of titles, with the Square button taking care of weak attacks while Triangle is strong. The Circle button allows you to dodge, and you combine it with R1 to guard. Dodging uses Stamina Points, and guarding uses the Guard Meter, forcing you to keep an eye on how much you use them. As is useful in action RPGs, you will also find that you can lock onto the nearest enemy by holding L1.
Kirito is supposed to be a master swordsman, with incredible agility and abilities, and the game manages to capture that with its swift and engaging, albeit simple, combat. Variety is gained via a selection of weapon types, each of which level up and unlock new corresponding abilities. The game provides lots of enemies for you to take out, though they’re incredibly limited in their design, and their health bars seem over-inflated in order to slow down your progress. Overall, the combat feels like a step backwards from that found in Hollowed Fragment, and it’s a shame that they didn’t choose to expand upon its more involved approach.
Your first destination in the story is the Floating City of Ryne and it’s here that you find the clearest example of the game’s MMO setting, with plenty of character avatars roaming the place. Anyone that played Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment will know about the performance dips that having large number of characters on screen would cause, but here performance is rock-solid. That could of course be due to the fact that the location graphics are incredibly basic, with only the different characters, either playable or not, looking to have any kind of depth.
To put it one way, the games graphics are robust. That’s not to say that it’s an unattractive game, but it’s clear that the PS4 rendition shares a great deal in common with the Vita and Japanese PS3 versions – it could be considered a HD remaster, in that regard. For the really keen Sword Art aficionado, the advantage is that you can cross-save between the PS4 and PS Vita, though personally I don’t think that Lost Song is compelling enough to warrant that kind of commitment. Both versions feature a welcome online multiplayer mode for up to four players, though you can also participate in raids for up to sixteen. The 2D character images that appear through the majority of dialogue are crisp and faithful renditions though, and do a great job of bringing a real flavour of the TV series to the game.
The plot is mostly brought to you by talking heads, with the original Japanese audio and English text. Fans of the anime will recognise the same voice actors from the series which is welcome, but I always find the effectively static images disappointing. What do shine are the fantastic animated cutscenes which are done in a similar style to those found in Fire Emblem: Awakening, but what they really serve to do is highlight how basic the rest of the game looks.
Philia and Strea make a return from Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, as do all of your favourite characters from the anime, from Klein to Asuna. Fans will no doubt get a kick out of spending time with them, and with some of the lesser known characters, though the uninitiated may be overwhelmed by the number of different faces thrown at you from the outset. As with the anime, and the previous title, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the interactions between Kirito and his ever-growing legion of female companions, though some questionable outfits have found their way into the game.
I had to double-check when looking through Asuna’s outfits that it did indeed include both a swimsuit and a bath towel option as standard, neither of which, let’s face it, will be much use for fighting monsters. It’s telling that every single female character has these options, while the male ones do not, but then it seems to be the norm for Japanese game.
Sword Art Online: Lost Song is not a bad title, it’s simply an average one. Fans of the anime will be well served by it’s gentle adventuring and light tone, and the combat may attract those who enjoy the Musou games, but the likelihood will be that it’s not likely to be an experience you’ll remember in a few months time.
Version Tested: PS4