Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment (Vita) Review

Jae Lee

Playing an MMO by yourself.

Before I delve in detail about my thoughts regarding this title, I’ll first state that I have not watched a single episode of the anime or read a volume of the manga.

I was actually planning on watching the show at one point due to its positive reaction during the first arc of the season, but I was unfortunately spoiled on of basically all the big plot points by some very obnoxious individuals and after hearing about the fall of quality in the second arc, I decided to skip it altogether.

So when I went into reviewing SAO:HF, I was concerned that my lack of exposure to the series would hinder my enjoyment of the game. While my unease didn’t end up being a significant point of contention, the abysmal localization and a poor mix of complex mechanics made enjoying this title very difficult.

As a matter of fact, YES, ASUNA.

MSRP: $39.99
Platforms: Vita Exclusive.
Voice Acting: JPN only
Multiplayer: Offline Co-Op.
Demo Availability: N/A
Played: 15-17 Hours.

Instead of retelling the stories in the anime, the title explores a different reality and puts the player on a brand new adventure.

While it’s entirely possible to change the name, look and even the voice of the main character, within the context of the story, the players are relegated to the role of “Kirito”.

It was a bit jarring to make a character that suited my tastes to just have everyone refer to me as Kirito anyway, and I pondered why they added that character creation option in there in the first place.

Regardless, the title plays very much like the old JRPG from CyberConnect2, “.hack” where I’m sure it draws much of its inspiration from. It’s a pretend MMO world where every individual is supposed to be a human being playing a videogame, and while the illusion is but a translucent veil, it’s an interesting concept regardless.

The combat seems simple on the surface but it’s actually deceptively deep, with multiple weapon styles, skill load outs and passives to take out in the field. I was usually accompanied by a partner, and issuing the correct commands to them at the right times became the key to success.

While the combat was interesting on the most part, I found myself running into enemies 20-30 levels higher than me often, and dying often. Given there is no real save function in dungeons outside of checkpoints, it meant losing a lot of progress every time I bit the virtual dust.

Still, that was nothing compared to the shoddy localization effort on display, with constant typos and poorly worded sentences that were difficult understand. Given the complex nature of the mechanics, the poorly explained tutorials spelled confusion, and had me often wondering just what I needed to do.

This also directly influenced the poor pacing and direction of the title, as I was often lost on where and what I needed to do, especially in the Hollow Fragment sections of the world.

The combat is quite deep and interesting but is hindered by uninspired level designs and wildly fluctuating difficulty.

At the very least, there’s a ton of content here, and what I can only assume to be references to the anime. Even though I was often lost on exactly what they were talking about, it was mostly harmless bits of humor which served to break up the tedium of fighting the same enemies in the same looking locations.

While the FMVs looked great and the in-game graphics seemed about what you would expect from a Vita game, the frame rates dipped frequently for no real good reason, even when I wasn’t in the midst of battle.

It’s unclear whether or not I would’ve enjoyed this title much more if I were an avid fan of the series, but since I can only speak from my perspective alone, I will say that it was a difficult one to enjoy with a myriad of rough spots that were impossible to ignore.

Fun Tidbit – This game would’ve been perfectly suited to online multiplayer but unfortunately it only offers offline co-op through adhoc for up to four players at once.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Great looking FMVs
  • Tons of content and fan service

Bad

  • Terrible localization
  • Boring objectives that lack focus
  • Poor frame rates
6

Decent

Jae Lee
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.
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