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Sword Art Online: Lost Song (PlayStation 4) artwork

Sword Art Online: Lost Song (PlayStation 4) review


"If youíre a fan of the anime, Sword Art Online: Lost Song might just be the one for you."


Sword Art Online was my life for a few months, when the first season of the anime premiered. Like most anime, however, it dropped off my radar and I never really followed it again after that initial run. It was nice, then, to revisit some of the characters that I grew to love when I recently played Sword Art Online: Lost Song.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song is technically the third installment in the video game franchise based on the anime and light novel series, but it's only the second one to come out in the West. The first two games took place in Aincrad, the game explored in the first half of the animeís first season, while Lost Song takes place in Alfheim, the game that comprised the second half of the anime.

For those who havenít seen that anime, Alfheim is based on Norse mythology and has players take on the role of fairies. It wasnít exactly a popular arc in the anime, since the threat of dying in the real world due to dying in the game was no longer a factor. Lost Song isnít a retelling of the events from the anime though; it's a non-canon followup.

Lost Song opens with Kirito and pals logging back into Alfheim Online, following the release of a new expansion. The new content promises more dungeons and challenges, so Kirito (being the self-professed ďhardcore gamerĒ that he is) canít resist. From there, the game becomes a race to beat the expansion between Kirito and a guild led by a brilliant young VR scientist/idol named Seven. While the scenario is solid, the story goes to nonsensical places that had me laughing at just how ridiculous it all was. Itís certainly something not to be taken seriously, but itís fun for what it is.

As for the game itself, Lost Song is a decently enjoyable, but simple, action RPG. Each character has a basic and strong attack that can be augmented by magic and combat skills that are learned as the character levels up. The big difference between Lost Song and its predecessors is that Kirito and friends can fly, thanks to the addition of wings in Alfheim. It takes some getting used to at first, but itís a blast once you do. Maneuverability is a breeze thanks to flight. It also makes fights, especially those against airborne enemies, super fun.

While the combat is the shining star in Lost Song, the enemies youíll be using your skills on are far less exciting. Youíll be running into re-skins of the same six or so enemies in every world. Thereís this green ball bat thing that shows up in the first world, and then again in various colors throughout the game's remainder. I feel that some JRPGs are unjustly criticized for palette swapping, but it legitimately comes off as lazy in this case.

Bosses are even worse, since the game will have you fight the same boss with the same attack pattern multiple times. The color and stats are the only thing that sets each encounter apart. This becomes more of a pronounced problem in the late game as youíre going through dungeons that have you fighting the same bosses over and over again. It becomes incredibly stale.

Speaking of stale, the dungeons and environments are uninspired and lifeless. Each of the hub worlds in the game are basically the same, just with a different climate. The first is a grassy green area with windmills, while an area later on is just a barren snow field. The environments arenít free from palette swapping, either, as the last zone is literally just the first area recolored black. The dungeons arenít any better, with them all falling in the same framework: a locked door that needs to be opened via a switch located somewhere else in the dungeon, so you'll fight enemies along the way as you go find it.

Despite the unfortunate repetition, I had tons of fun with Lost Song. I even went as far as getting the platinum trophy, which is something I hardly ever do. There was just something cathartic about the simple action gameplay. It drew me in and didnít let me go until I completed everything. The experience's longevity was helped by a post-game that was far more challenging than the main game, and actually kept me on my toes as dungeons finally introduced some unique bosses that required actual strategy.

When all is said and done, Sword Art Online: Lost Song isnít an especially great action RPG, but it does make terrific use of the license. Games based on anime are hardly ever anything to write home about, but Lost Song manages to be engaging despite some uninspired enemy and dungeon designs. If youíre a fan of the anime or just want to lose yourself in a simple, yet fun, action RPG, Sword Art Online: Lost Song might just be the one for you.

4/5

Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (February 05, 2016)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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