Anime Mediocrity in Sword Art Online: Lost Song - PreviewChris Matulich , posted on 19 October 2015 / 9,211 Views
Back in the early 2000s I was a very big anime fan. Shows like Trigun, Full Metal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, and The Big O on Adult Swim we're always on repeat when I was a teenager. Admittedly, I've been out of the anime game for quite a long time, but I've heard good things about Sword Art Online.
As I was walking by the Bandai Namco booth at New York Comic Con, I noticed that there was a Sword Art Online: Lost Song section with a long line of people cosplaying as characters from the anime. Anime inspired games don't have the greatest track record, and although Lost Song definitely caught my eye right then and there, it may prove to be just another mediocre anime game.
The demo showcased a rather vast map filled with monsters, as well as a giant dragon hovering in the air waiting to be defeated. I was impressed with how large of an area the map displayed; there's plenty to explore, both at a ground level and in the air (the characters can fly). Most games based on anime series usually have strong character models that look rather beautiful, but the backgrounds and enemies receive far less attention. This is not the case in Lost Song; both the overworld and enemies are just as detailed as the three playable characters.
While SAO doesn't fall victim to bland visuals like many other anime games, it’s not able to escape another problem that plagues such titles: repetitive and awkward gameplay. My biggest problem with the gameplay is how poorly characters move. Whether you're in the air or on the ground, it feels like each character is weighed down by an anchor and moves at a snail's pace. Even when blasting through the air at so-called super speeds, it still doesn't quite feel right.
This sluggishness is exacerbated due to the sheer size of the overworld. Not only did it take a good couple of minutes just to make my way to the demo's boss, but every time I was knocked back or taken down from flying, it would take just as long to get back to where I had left off. This may sound like a minor quibble, but when you get dropped from the air or knocked back every other attack it soon becomes incredibly frustrating.
Combat is just as tedious. Attacks are performed by repeatedly using the face buttons, as well as a set of abilities that are attached to the triggers. While you can perform combos against the boss, they don't prove very effective as there is nothing to stop the boss from attacking you. You can try to dodge its attacks, but the sluggishness of the characters makes this nearly impossible to pull off.
I gave the demo three different tries but the beefiness of the boss (it had a whopping seven life bars) and slow pace of the combat made it impossible to defeat within the time limit. The camera and targeting are also a little bit awkward. Getting knocked down will break your target lock, which makes it hard to keep track of the boss as it flies around.
Like many other anime-based games before it, Sword Art Online: Lost Song suffers from a number of different problems which will in all likelihood combine to form an average game at best, albeit one that fans of the series will defend vociferously, much like I did in my youth with the supremely average Full Metal Alchemist PS2 games. Look for Lost Song when it releases this November on PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4, but only if you're a die-hard fan of Sword Art Online.