Despite a terrible localisation job, which made the game’s script read like something put through Google Auto Translate, it appears that Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment sold reasonably well in the West. That’s good news for fans of the popular anime series because we can now expect Bandai Namco to bring over more titles featuring Kirito the pussy magnet of the online world. Lost Song is the follow up to the aforementioned Hollow Fragment. The game takes place in Svart Alfheim, a virtual reality MMO loosely based on Norse mythology, where players get to LARP about the land using avatars that resemble pixies, leprechauns and um… cat girls (Viking legends be damned – this is a Japanese game after all.)
After escaping the digital confines of Sword Art Online, the online RPG where hundreds of innocent players lost their lives, Kirito and chums decide to celebrate their freedom by exploring the newly released Svart Alfheim. Gripes, talk about pushing your luck. Kirito sounds like the type of chap who would take up skydiving after surviving a bungee accident. Thankfully for the protagonist of Reki Kawahara’s light novels, Svart Alfheim has safeguards in place to protect the wellbeing of all gamers who log onto its servers. Although the removal of permanent death is much appreciated by Alfheim’s player base, it does mean that Lost Song’s story is less exciting than its predecessor’s tale. Instead of fighting to survive, this time round Kirito and pals race against the Shamrock guild to see which party will clear Alfheim’s final dungeon first.
Lost Song’s most notable feature is that players now have the ability to soar through the skies, which comes in handy when travelling across the world’s various floating islands. Playing as a fairy may not be especially macho, but in terms of reaching your destination flight sure does beat relying on smelly public transport. In terms of combat the game has received a facelift too. Hollow Fragment’s clunky system of auto attacks and abilities tied to cool downs has been replaced with third person real time battles. Square/triangle perform weak/strong swipes whilst unsheathing your blade will allow you to cast magic. Weapon proficiency and the power of your enchantments increase naturally the more times you use a skill.
My rating for Sword Art Online: Lost Song is four stars. The game is a vast improvement over Hollow Fragment thanks to its superior translation, more exciting combat and the huge roster of playable characters you can choose from. Practically everyone from the SAO universe is available to directly control or set as an AI companion in your three-man party. You also have the option of creating your own characters, if you so desire, although the customisation options on offer are extremely limited. Speaking of customisation, you can tweak the appearance of your team by selecting what outfits they wear. The attire you can pick from includes bikinis and a bath towel, which is surprising in this era were bust sliders are banned and bouncy beach volleyball games are not released outside of Japan.
If I wasn’t an SAO fan I may have given Lost Song a slightly lower score because the game isn’t perfect. The graphics for example aren’t state of the art, although that is to be expected given that this is a port of a PS3/Vita release. Linked to the mediocre visuals is a disappointing lack of enemy variety. Much like a Mortal Kombat ninja, many of the foes you encounter are recolored opponents from earlier levels. As alluded to earlier, the story could be better – although I will forgive that failing, as some of the cut scenes are humorous. Much of the comedy centres on Kirito’s harem of spelunking admirers trying to get into his pants. That’s dangerous when you consider that he is already dating Asuna. Tread carefully Kirito. You are a (cat girl) whisker away from being dumped.