✔️Sword Art’s gaming franchise re-imagined into an open-world JRPG. ✔️Established favourites return, with the player portraying Kirito, the Series’ protagonist., ✔️Strong narrative, dynamic presentation, returning and vastly new mechanics make for a bold take on the genre.
❌Minor framerate dips, nothing a patch can’t fix. ❌Some story arcs that don’t entirely connect within Sword Art Lore.
Sword Art Online has come a long way since its inception in 2002. The franchise itself had dominated the anime market with the notion of encapsulating not only those who love their Science-Fiction/Action-Adventure style fantasy stories, but with the inclusion of Virtual Reality being its focal point in attracting hardcore gamers to the series. Sure, its narrative can be cumbersome and convoluted in some chapters, but overall has delivered a cultural impact like no other before it. While its plot remains intact, the franchise has spun-off into individual chapters within its expansive universe, delivering an array of protagonists and antagonists in hopes of connecting to viewers on an individual basis. With season two concluding its initial story arc, the mainline series took a minor sabbatical in favour for “Sword Art Online: Gun Gale Online”.
Met with a mixed reception, Gun Gale was criticised for completely disconnecting the franchise from its lineage and central characters. Originally released as a light novel in 2016, GGO was a confusing approach to many faithful that had hoped for a fresh take on the novelisation, while maintaining prominence and character development within its established cast. While not poorly received, it was quite evident that GGO had less of an impact within the industry due to its line-up lacking diversity. Sword Art Online returned to its mainline narrative, announcing the return of popular protagonists Kirito and Asuna, and while we do see the return of familiar faces within the fantasy fable, a slight disconnect remains prominent with the sub-header “Alicization”, rather than chronologically acknowledging its association by labeling it a sequential season.
Loosely adapting its new series from 2017’s Project Acilization, the anime initiates a new arc for the franchise introducing a new world, a diverse range of characters, new heroes and vindictive villains. The series presents itself in a reboot-like format, introducing Kirito as a child within an unestablished reality, with his friends Eugeo and Alice. So the question is, does this title’s plot connect within Sword Art Online: Alicization’s core story? Once again, it’s hard to say. Its where-about’s briefly touches base upon connecting the Manga, Anime and Video game adaptations, however it omits any settled story developments that may have occurred prior it’s individual entry point, making Lycoris its own chapter within the Acilization narrative.
While a retelling of Project Acilization, Lycoris’ includes a barrage of original story beats that allows you to traverse liberally, and forge your own path within the virtual macrocosm. This being the first Sword Art JRPG entry that allows the player to portray the series’ key protagonist Kirito, you immediately get the sense that we’re in for something unique compared to its prior entry’s. While the Sword Art gaming franchise has borrowed many key elements from core dungeon crawlers, namely the Persona franchise, Lycoris diverts from the norm and disposes of its tired blueprint in favour of a fresh sandbox-style open world. Gameplay has ultimately been reformed to take a modern Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy-like approach, developing a free-form battle system that allows Kirito to sling his blade whimsically, however placing importance on the player’s intricacies and pacing.
The fundamentals placed within Lycoris core combat system are quite easy, and will have you mastering its myriad of techniques in no time. Initiating an encounter is as simple as approaching an enemy, with the battle immediately engaging. Attacking by simply pressing the action button (on the PlayStation 4, this is Square which would translate to X for XBOX One) will deal damage to your opponent. However, be cautious of enemy retaliation as I immediately sustained a hefty blow within my first collision. Learning to parry was immeasurably helpful in these circumstances, which also coached me to be patient within battle rather than proceeding with a steadfast approach. Using your Skill Palette within your upgrade menu, you may unlock a relevant chain method that will improve your sword combat, and help level your SP or “Mana”.
Be aware, the various sword skills exercised will feed on your Mana, so be mindful of how you dispense your artillery. Your health meter will indicate the standard Health Points and Mana the entire duration of the campaign. While using a chain-skill will drain magic, another downside of using the set combo’s are locked animations that may give your opponent the advantage while your character resets itself. I found this to be somewhat meddlesome, slightly interfering within the pacing of each battle. This is where party commands are a notable necessity. Instructing team mates to take aim at a hoard of overgrown ogres is simply a delicious deed that enables you to triumph in an effortless victory, while a majority of this use will apply to the former mentioned. Attaining new skill-chain combo’s to include “snake bite” and “vorpal strike” allows for a seamless attack, however will not allow the same moveset to be executed twice in the existing combo chain.
Downing your enemy will give your party total advantage to lay waste to your opponent. With your foe prone, the best course of action here is to start spamming your attacks. Including commands for party members will land an all-out attack, with great chance of completely annihilating the competition. Certainly one of the more gratifying feats within the title’s overall gameplay. At the forefront of Lyrcoris’ core mechanic scheme, it does require some understanding of how to maneuver Kirito learning his overall skillset, however for those who are acquainted with traditional hack-and-slash titles, the familiarity and instinct between the two genre’s will naturally kick in after a few hours of simply traversing through Lyrcoris’ terrain.
Shine on, my tears…
Amazed by its graphical fidelity, the improvements seen between its predecessors are night and day. It’s made evident with the overall dedication given to crafting Lyrcoris’ original design and concept. New character models, and level design are a resounding improvement from the lackluster dungeon crawler that had become go-to while developing Sword Art’s fleeting gaming franchise. In desperate need of an overhaul, Lyrcoris attempts to take inspiration from popular open-world JRPG’s, while keeping intricacies of its identity intact. There are popular mechanics carried over from prior entry’s but most of its framework has been done away in favour for a “Dragon Quest” like approach, with its stunning terrain and ability to roam through its virtual domain at your own leisure. While there are some minor drawbacks to its polygonal model structure that blockades certain paths, and almost traps itself within its old linear blueprint, its aesthetic remains its appeal with the series’ trademark vibrancy.
Sword Art Online has been praised for its incredible performances from both its original and English cast, however it’s unfortunate too see the localised version neglecting to reflect this. I can understand in our current global climate where some restrictions are placing studios on crunch-time. However, most international VA’s utilise their personal studio from home. But again, it may be a financial thing or it could be difficulty in contracting said voice over artists, so I can’t put the blame entirely on the localisation team. Albeit, having the English cast present would have re-affirmed Lycoris as an entirely new experience for fans. The absence of an alternate audio track is certainly felt within this entry, as the franchise itself looks to have its renaissance period, while re-establishing its international market.
Sword Art Online has always carried an appreciation for its overall delivery in display and sound, and its gaming franchise is no different. With its initial entry bearing such an astounding score, Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris delivers an incredible touch that accompanies its overall presentation. Well established Video Game and Anime Composers Kengo Tokusashi (Devilman Crybaby, Final Fantasy) and Ryouhei Fujieda (Sword Art Online) team here to compile an extraordinary soundtrack that exudes a flurry of emotions that are translated well within each cinematic piece, and calmly displayed through Sword Art’s comprehensive atmosphere. With intensity and impact transitioning so seamlessly to contemporary and charming, the magic of Sword Art Online is truly rendered through its imaginative cast of creators.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is truly the strongest entry into the franchise’s well established gaming library. While the series’ dwindling reception may have left some doubt towards its hopeful delivery in its latest entry, there is no doubt that Lycoris successfully aids its re-emergence. The key factors that firmly cement this as Sword Art’s greatest gaming effort, is its faithful recount of Project Alicization from its novelisation. Portraying series’ protagonist Kirito has been something I have always wanted from its gaming adaptation, and Lycoris delivers on this fantasy. The original arcs that are told exclusively within Lycoris only gentrify admiration told in its the overall narrative. My love for Sword Art Online will remain firm, and Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris resuscitates its stimulus to create an incredible gaming chapter for this marvelous franchise.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris
SWORD ART ONLINE Alicization Lycoris, the latest game based on one of the most popular Anime stories ever made, will immerse you into the perfectly represented virtual world “Underworld” set in the Alicization arc.