BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe / Studio Artdink
Single-player, Online Multiplayer
Lost Song is the latest entry in the Sword Art Online franchise. Like its predecessors, Infinity Moment and Hollow Fragment, Lost Song is set in an alternative storyline to that of the light novels and anime series. However, unlike its predecessors Lost Song was not developed by Aquria, instead, it was developed by Artdink. With a change in developer, how well does this new entry stand against those before it?
The game takes place in the VRMMO ALfheim Online that appears from volume three of the light novels and the second half of the Sword Art Online anime series. Following the continuity of previous games, which are set in an alternative storyline, we explore the new system update to ALfheim Online known as Svart ALfheim. A series of floating continents that follow a Norse mythology theme, as opposed to the Celtic one of ALO. Kirito and co are eager to tackle this new area and explore its various dungeons.
The story has been criticised already for not having any impending sense of doom and the lack of a main villain. I say does it really need one? Fans of the series have wanted a game of SAO where they can explore and clear dungeons as one would an MMO. Ultimately this isn’t an MMO which is unfortunate, but it’s as close as we may ever get. The story plays out in a very light fashion, giving you only little pieces at a time, which is great because instead of huge text dumps that you would normally see in this genre, we can get straight to the action. There are a lot of little random character interactions hidden throughout the game that can provide an entertaining distraction but can also be easily missed.
Players of Hollow Fragment will find some familiarity here in gameplay while at the same time experiencing a simplified, more fluid control system and HUD layout. Upon starting up the game you’re given the choice of playing out a tutorial even though you have a choice I’d recommend it as there is one major difference in this game – flight. The introduction of flight opens the whole world of ALO up giving you a great sense of freedom, if not for the altitude limit early on. There are two different modes of flight within the game. The floating mode is the easier of the two to control and largely only consists of pressing X to ascend or double-tapping X to descend. You can move freely in this mode using R1 to move slightly faster but still maintaining good control. Flight mode is the faster mode but harder to control, unlike float mode you’re constantly moving forward using the left stick to control your movement including ascending and descending. You can speed up with R1 and even further with R1+X although this will drain your stamina much faster.
The battle system is a lot better than the one found in Hollow Fragment, it has been simplified and the HUD has been overhauled. The whole thing feels so much more enjoyable and less overwhelming. Gone are the agro and praise features that made battles overly complicated and took a while to get a feel for. Weapon skills are now joined by magic spells that can be mapped however you wish, ultimately using an R1+button combination which is very simple. You can switch between weapon skills and magic by tapping the R1 button to draw or sheath your weapons. With the addition of flight battles become a lot more interesting and exciting, its recommend switching to float mode when nearing aerial enemies due to having more control. When engaging in an aerial battle in flight mode you’re more likely you’ll plough right past your target if you do manage a hit you’ll switch to float mode automatically anyway. Combat can seem repetitive at first, but with an assortment of different weapons to try and countless skills to master, there is a surprising depth to an initially simplistic action combat. Online multiplayer is so much fun, allowing you to form four-person parties and tackle quests or compete in PvP battle; you can also participate in PvP individually.
Upon starting the game I did expect to find some sort of save data transfer that will grant bonuses to those who have previously played Hollow Fragment. Unfortunately, however there is no such feature, possibly due to having different developers, which is a shame. The game does feature cross-save for those that wish to play across both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions.
Visually the game is very similar to Hollow Fragment where dungeons can be repetitive as are enemies. It’s nice to see that characters have a good range of different costumes available to them, unlocking new ones throughout the game. Being able to choose which outfit you want your characters to appear in is a good addition, although there are a few that are somewhat risqué. For fans of God Eater, there was collaboration within the game so each character has access to a God Eater outfit. Sadly the same level of detail has been lost on NPCs, most look identical. The character creation is very basic as well, thankfully, however, in Lost Song you can play as any member of Kirito’s group so it’s not all bad news.
There’s no doubt that Sword Art Online: Lost Song is intended for fans of the light novels or anime series. While the game does contain references and characters from Hollow Fragment, it doesn’t have to be played in order for you to enjoy this entry. Newcomers to the SAO series would not do well to jump in here as previous knowledge of the characters is essential, as there is little in the way of introductions. It’s fair to say the game is aimed solely at SAO fans and caters to them well.
Sword Art Online: Lost Song takes what Hollow Fragment made overly complicated, simplifies it, and makes it a much more enjoyable and fun experience. If you’re a fan of Sword Art Online then you owe it to yourself to play this, the ALO story plays no real part in this game, so don’t let that dissuade you. The flight feature works brilliantly and you can have some really epic aerial battles or just take in the beautiful scenery. Sword Art Online: Lost Song is a really enjoyable game whether you play it alone or with friends.