The Sword Art Online Project had reached its difficult third act, with the adrenaline of the first two parts and the summary destruction of the killer game platform ebbing away into distant memory, the series fights on. Although it doesn’t quite achieve its goal with flying colours, it remains a thoroughly entertaining experience.
We pick up from where we left off, with Kirito and comrades released from the SAO death camp and their struggle to re-insert themselves into society. Instead of putting the entire ordeal behind him and focussing on his studies, Kirito, driven by his intense and undying love for Asuna, pushes to discover what happened to her and unravel the mysteries of just what on earth happened during what should have been a nice friendly game of slash and parry.
There are some new elements introduced that really do work; the new setting, Alfhiem Online, is the new ‘happening’ place of online nerds to congregate once SAO, quite rightfully, had its plug yanked. It’s been designed with imagination and is very pretty to behold. There are new abilities like flight (yay!)and magic (give it a chance)which nicely diversify the fighting and they pull it off without getting too OTT. Mind you I was surprised that Kirito could even put on his Nerve Gear again without suffering a serious bout of post-traumatic stress disorder after what happened the last time! Teenagers…
Villainy comes in many different forms but so few are quite as intensely dislikeable as this guy. Nobuyuki Sugō (Oberon)is a twisted, amoral, tycoon business-bastard. He is perverse. If HBO’s Game of Thrones has taught us anything it’s that there is nothing more satisfying than a villain so hateful that you are implored to bend physics by reaching your fist through dimensions, gouging out their eyes and eating them. It’s beautiful. Keeping Asuna trapped in virtual reality for his own pleasure as well as keeping tabs on her real body in the hospital… I shudder to think what he does after visiting hours are over…
Deliciously evil gits aside though, the series does stumble on a few details. We have a potential Shakespearian love triangle that develops from Leafa (Suguha Kirigaya), Kirito’s sister (oh no…just no… ew?!). It’s odd and you end up viewing it as annoying. It’s ultimately a little pointless as well as you just know nothing will ever come between Kirito and his girl. The main issue now is peril; there is none. The game is not fatal; players can log out whenever they want and they can die, respawn and run in again Call-of-Duty-style. Without the need to preserve life and carefully plan attacks there is just no tension, they are free to fail and try again another day.
Lacking in some areas but the juicy bits make up for it, part three is a decent run and offers more than enough intrigue for you to want to see it through to the end. Let’s see what the finale has to offer.