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REVIEW | Sword Art Online

By
Posted on October 24, 2012 AT 06:21am

In a not too distant future, a (VRMMORPG) Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game has been released to the public. Players use a piece of equipment called Nerve Gear to control their avatar with their body. Eventually, players discover they cannot log out of the game, because the game creator is holding them captive until they are able to reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. If that wasn’t enough, if they die in the game, they die in real life!

(This review may contain spoilers. So continue at your own risk.)
I’ve been longing for another mmorpg-themed anime ever since the ending of the .hack series and after having Sword Art Online recommended to me by a friend to appease my craving, I decided to give it a watch. As of writing this, I’m only seventeen episodes into the twenty-five episode series, but that’s enough to give dish out a solid premise review of the series from A-1 Pictures, which is based on the light novel series by Reki Kawahara.

Sword Art Online brings us to the year 2022, where virtual reality gaming has hit an all-time peak, bringing some wonderfully detailed worlds to explore. Never Gear products has pushed fueled this advance, providing full connection to this world, allowing players to visually and physically interact with the environment. Sword Art Online is the latest of these games to release with a ten thousand copies limit after the beta. Kirito was one of the beta tester and spent a lot of time familiarizing himself with the world. Upon the release of the full game, everything has been reset and the world is much larger.

Launch day hits, and the ten thousand players, beta and new,  flock in to explore and enjoy the new world. They are unaware of the sinister motives of the game’s creator, Kayaba Akihiko, who has locked the players in the world, making it impossible to remove their gear or log out of the game. If the gear is removed in the real world, the player dies. If the player dies in the game, they also die in the real world. As Kayaba explains this to the players in the beginning town’s square, the equipment begins scan their real face and body structure and transforms their avatars to match, which causes some amusing gender issues for some.

Each player is issued the challenge of climbing one hundred floors of a tower in the game, facing each boss along the way. The only way to return to reality is to take down the final boss on the top floor. Since Kirito fancies himself as a solo player, he goes off on his own to continue to leveling process in order to grow stronger. Being a beta tester has given him an advantage in the world, but on the other hand, he’s also labeled a cheater, or “beater”, which is someone disliked by players because he uses his pre-existing knowledge of the game to get a leg up on the other players and also advance quicker on his own.

Kirito does manage to make a few friends in the game. One of them is an older player named Klein and also a young woman named Asuna. Both are very skilled players. Asuna’s excellent skills lead to her becoming vice commander of a guild. There seems to be a romantic possibility between her and Kirito even though she is not a constant character.

It’s very interesting and entertaining to see some of the things that actually take place in real mmos, such as guilds being formed and disbanded as well as those players that want to level up through fighting and those that want to level through skill gaming in the form of crafting, smithing, etc. Each new floor introduces a variety of creatures to take down.

Kirito’s progression through the game introduces us to a variety of different ways to survive group and solo gameplay and how and why he’s forced to do both at times. We do see players die in Sword Art Online. A few hundred die early on as they are forced out of their NerveGear and another thousand or so die from fighting monsters, bosses, and player killers.

PROS:

  • Great storyline
  • Beautiful enviorments
  • Deep heart-wrenching moments

CONS:

  • The typically overused brooding, emo main character

Summary:
I was really surprised by Sword Art Online as I continued to watch it because based on what I had heard prior to watching it, I wasn’t expecting much more than a .hack remake, but surprisingly, the designs and atmosphere really succeed in separating itself from the previous series. The show is enjoyable to watch as we see Kirito progress from a solo character into more of a leadership role. After many (gaming) years being trapped in the virtual world, their adjustments and growth are interesting to watch. As the remaining episodes go, I’m curious to see if there will be more incorporation of the real world, as well as what the players have to do to survive the game.

FINAL GRADE: 8/10

Source: of Review: Crunchyroll



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