Sword Art Online – Lost Song Review (AS) (PS3)

Sword Art Online -Lost Song-

The third game in the Sword Art Online (SAO) series, and the first for the Playstation 3 console, Sword Art Online: Lost Song does a passable job at bringing the world of Alfheim Online to life. Review and (minor) spoilers follow~

Full disclosure: As of writing, I have not played the first two games, Infinity Moment and Hollow Fragment, but have watched the anime up to the completion of the Gun Gale Online arc, and have read till volume 14 of the novel.

Meet the two new characters.
Meet the two new characters: An idol and her stoic watchman

A quick introduction: this game is a direct continuation of the plot of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, taking place in the world of Alfheim Online after Kirito and team’s escape from Aincrad in the previous entry. The gameplay centers around a new area called Svart Alfheim, where Kirito finds himself competing against an idol and her guild in unlocking new areas and completing quests.

The Plus

Flight is awesome.
Flight is awesome.

The first thing you’ll notice during the quick tutorial the game puts you through at the beginning is the ability to fly in this game. And what an ability it is. You have full freedom to ascend/descend and fly about in the field maps of the game.

Naturally, with flight comes aerial combat, which to its credit is also rather smooth. Locking on to enemies ensures you keep vision while flying, and your character automatically approaches the target by moving forward while locked on. Skills are not complex to execute, done mainly by holding down R1 and pressing a second button on the D-pad or the shape buttons, which you can define in the navigation-friendly menu.

In-game conversations change with the characters in your party
Field conversations change with the characters in your party.

The game also encourages you to cycle through the large (by typical RPG standards) roster of characters by giving them unique conversations while exploring on the field, and rarely does the game lock you to any one member of Kirito’s harem group, so you can play as whoever you like (for the large part).

There were complaints about the English localisation for the previous game, and I’m glad to say the problems are largely addressed in this release. Liberties taken in translation are largely seen as an attempt to add appeal to the conversations, and there’s nary a grammatical error in sight.

If you grovel, she will nod.
If you grovel, she will nod.

You can appreciate some of the finer details the game gets into, such as certain NPCs that will respond to your emotes which you can perform with R2 (presumably to make communication easier during multiplayer quests).

The animated sequences, while few in number, are gorgeous when they come on, and the environments and characters are well designed. You also get a few costumes to choose from over the course of the game, and any changes to wardrobe or weaponry will reflect on the character, a very welcomed touch.

The Minus

Sword Art Online -Lost Song- 7
The one screen you’ll see the most.

There’s quite a noticeable bit of loading going on in Lost Song, but the one that will annoy you the most is every time you want to save the game. Unlike other RPGs, where save points are aplenty and scattered across the world map or town areas, this game only has ONE save point, located inside the inn. The problem with that is if you are out in the field (or worse – in a dungeon), you need to first return to town then head to the inn, both instances requiring the game to load. Making any changes to your team members also requires you to enter the inn. And because the loading does take a couple of seconds each, the time wasted quickly adds up.

The plot (or lack thereof) is the next sore point. The antagonists in Lost Song are laughably bad, and could be said to be there only to add to the fanservice that this game stands for. Twists Minor bends in the narrative are spelt out in full for you before the reveal, and much of the banter between characters have nothing to do with the plot.

There's only one town in the game. This one.
There’s only one town in the game. This one.

One other thing you’ll notice is how grindy the game is. Characters all start at level 100, maxing out at 999. Magical skills and weapon skills have their respective levels, and only through using them repeatedly can you raise those levels. Certain abilities (such as the all-important Starburst Stream) have to be unlocked through increasing skill levels, so you’ll be mindlessly mashing buttons in the meantime. It’s also not immediately apparent what raising the skill levels of certain abilities do (for attack spells, the damage and continuous casting increases, but for character boost spells, you can’t really be sure).

The Neutral

Enemy designs are a mixed bag. Most bosses are simple palette-swaps of each other, though at least they are pleasing to the eye. You do get the occasional unique enemy that helps keep things feeling fresh though. Perhaps due to the addition of flight, the developers sacrificed the number of available maps to explore, limiting it to just 4 main areas.

You can only choose between 2 types of everything, and 3 types of voices.
You get to choose between 2 types of customization, and 3 types of voices.

Lost Song introduces a new character creation option, allowing you to create your personal character across all the available races, though the customization is limited (only 2 types of hairstyle, hair colour and skin colour), and gender is locked based on race chosen (Female Spriggan, Male Salamander etc.). It’s a nice addition, but as party members outside your adventuring party of 3 do not gain experience, you eventually fall back to playing as Kirito again (because the game forces you to use certain characters at different points of the story for solo duels). “Wasting” an experience slot for the created character is therefore detrimental to progression.

Just like any MMO, there's a chance of failure.
Just like any MMO, there’s a chance of failure.

The ability to enhance your weapons (up to +10) in the game also comes with a catch – enhancing past +5 has a chance of failure. No doubt it is to mimic the MMOs it is based on, but with all the grinding for skills and levels, adding another level of grind for the ingredients of weapon enhancement feels rather brutal to me. Granted, you are unlikely to use this function until the optional battles after the main storyline, as the higher tier (10 tiers in total) weapons you pick up over the course of the game quickly outclasses any enhanced weapons you might be using.

Final Word

Obligatory happy family picture.
Obligatory happy family picture.

So long as you are not expecting a grand story from the game, series veterans will find much to like about Lost Song. The standout feature is of course flight, and all the additional nuggets of interaction you don’t get to see in the anime/manga/novel. Newcomers will probably definitely be lost because of the sheer number of characters in the roster with no option in-game to view their backstories and how they each relate to Kirito.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song is good fanservice for fans, and fans only.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Sword Art Online – Lost Song Review (AS) (PS3)

  1. Having bought the limited edition (Vita) bundle of the game in Japanese just so I didn’t have to wait for localization, and being a massive fan of the anime before the game was available for preorder, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. More Silica is always welcome!

    Not all is perfect though, I agree. Not all characters/races are competitively viable; you are almost punished if you choose to use a Cait Sith, Gnome, Imp, or non-Kirito Spriggan on your team instead of Kirito, Asuna, and Leafa. Building your character’s skill set is very interesting, but once you have all your preferred moves, the rest is just a grind. As said previously, the game is short. And while there is a new game + feature, it really doesn’t add anything at all to the game, besides letting you hear all the lovely voice acting a second time without losing your hard-earned levels and items.

    Leveling up is pretty much the solution to every difficult boss in this game. That, and Asuna’s beam of icy DEATH. Nothing requires creativity with class choice or skill choice. It’s all about reading the boss’s tells. And leveling. And doing STARBURST STREAM with two Excaliburs in hand. I wish there was more to it.

    To compare with previous games in the series:
    + You can form a team without Kirito! Finally!!
    ~ Every character can choose from one of three weapon types. This means Kirito has fewer choices in this game.
    + There’s cooperative play; local (possibly also over PSN?) story mode, and straight 4-player arena versus.
    + The polygon count of characters is much higher than Infinity Moment and Hollow Fragment.
    – While every character has 4-5 alternate costumes, almost all pale in comparison to their starting gear, so you really don’t have a choice. And Seven only has her default costume. In contrast, I loved every single alternate costume in Hollow Fragment for every single character. Where did the HF costume designer go?
    + The playable roster is almost doubled compared to past games!
    – The 3d models for the cast beyond the main girls are not very pretty, especially Sakuya.
    – They took out hand-holding and dating…. ;_;

    1. Thanks for the personal review! 🙂
      It’s a pity they removed the dating element and instead replaced it with a fanservice ‘extra chapter’ of sorts, perhaps due to the developers wanting to keep with the established plot of the first game.

      …And now for an SAO game without the black swordsman, featuring you and all the romance options, from floor 1. ^_^

  2. Appreciate the review! I’m on the fence about getting the PS4 version in November, and while I love the show it sounds more and more like the game just isn’t that great.

    1. Depends on what you’re looking to get from the game. The gameplay is decent, albeit a little grindy. The plot feels more like fanfiction, and isn’t canon to the show/novel. Worth a rent as a fan, but as a purchase it’s slightly harder to recommend. 😀

Drop a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s