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PS4 Game Review
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is the third MMORPG in the series from Bandai Namco and takes place following the end of the anime show which debuted in 2012.
The central character and his friends are testing a new game, although unlike the anime, where if you died in the game you died in real life, gamers can rest assured that this game will kill neither you nor your characters. You start the game with Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica but this soon extends to the characters from both the show and the previous games, to add a little more spice the game also contains a new unique female character. For teen boys, the game include a small amount of tame fan service.
The game offers various options to play with before the game gets going, but all of these involve changing various levels of the sound, whether it is the vocal acting or the music. You also get an option to cross save your current progress, having first uploaded to the game's online storage.
You start in a large hub world, which is the same as in the anime. Here you can purchase upgrades, items and interact with the show's characters. Interacting with characters in the hub also unlocks side quests and here, with your interaction with your AI team, means that the game both focuses and encourages the player to refrain from taking a passive stance. At times it feels like the game is forcing this interaction. You can upgrade your character and weapons through skill trees as well as add special attributes to your companions by positively interacting with them during battle sequences which improves their overall stats.
The game contains a large amount of story content, so you’ll get to spend a lot of time with your favourite characters, although whether their relentless good mood starts to wear is dependent on how much you liked the original anime. Unlike the anime most of these sequences are little more than static images with only the movements of their mouths discernibly in action.
That said, if you’re heavily invested in either the show or the previous games this part can be a lot of fun, plus the scenes are well voiced by the actors, but at fifty hours of material to wade through it can feel a bit relentless, it also creates pacing issues for the game and at times it can feel like it is going really slow, at worst these sequences can be as long as fifteen minutes. This is a bit of a problem as you have bought a game, not elongated conversations.
Combat happens in a series of interconnecting game areas and any fan of this sort of game will soon be whiling away hours forming teams, levelling them up to return to that particular difficult boss and kick its arse.
Action is triggered by a single button, but this seemingly simplistic approach works well, allowing you to time special and chain attacks. Added to this is the ability to coordinate the AI character to enhance your attacks. This lack of using the bumper buttons also means that the game works very well when using a PSVita to control your PS4.
If the game has a fault it’s the large amount of fetch quests that you have to undertake. Basically you're told to go to a particular location and pick something up. These start to feel a little repetitious after a while.
Visually the game has come a long way from previous versions with bright crisp graphics, which perfectly captures the look and feel of the anime.
Overall, it’s another good game in the series, but perhaps leans too heavily on an expectation that the gamer will be a fan and won’t mind the level of repetition inherent in this approach.
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