Review: Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

Of all the anime to attain mass popularity in the last few years, Sword Art Online is probably the worst. Say what you will about Attack on Titan, but at least that show has a personality. SAO’s basic premise – people getting trapped in an MMO – is so clichéd that Bandai Namco (publisher of the licensed game we’re talking about today) has made use of it in two different games (If you want to see the concept done right, check out Log Horizon). Initially, SAO differentiated itself with a dark pseudo-horror aesthetic, but that was quickly pushed to the wayside in favor of harem anime nonsense and tentacle rape. Yet somehow, despite being irredeemably awful, the show is strangely watchable (part of that may owe to the excellent animation and direction by superstar Sony division A-1 Pictures). The same cannot be said for this game.

Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment takes place in an alternate version of the SAO universe where Kirito defeats Heathcliff without dying and a subsequent glitch prevents the game’s players from logging out. With nothing else to do, they decide to clear the next 25 floors of the game and seek the exit, but along the way they’re beset by further glitches and become aware of a strange conspiracy. That might seem like gibberish to you if you haven’t seen the first half of the anime, but don’t worry, it makes even less sense if you know anything about SAO. See, the glitch also brings Kirito’s sister Suguha and his future gunkata teacher Shino into the game, dressed as their respective avatars from different games in later parts of the series (Alfheim Online and Gun Gale Online respectively). The trouble with this is that, canonically, Gun Gale didn’t exist before Kirito obtained The Seed from the digital remnant of Kayaba Akihiko, so Sinon wouldn’t exist yet and oh god, why do I know this and not calculus? Someone please kill me.

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This thin plot basically exists to propagate fan service and allow popular characters from later arcs to bounce off each other. For the life of me though, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to see more of these characters. Kirito, the protagonist, is a Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues, a perfect paragon of author-insert wish fulfilment fantasy beyond reproach. At the tender age of 14, Kirito is 1) a Kendo expert 2) a genius computer hacker, and 3) the greatest, fastest video gamer to ever video game. To Kirito, all games are single-player, and no problem in this universe gets solved without his intervention. Kirito makes Superman look multifaceted. His only flaw is that he sometimes worries about not being flawed enough.

Shockingly, the rest of the cast is even worse. To a woman (for they are almost all women) the supporting characters of SAO are simpering, indistinct moeblobs whose only – and I do mean only – motivation is that they want Kirito’s dong. The expert blacksmith who managed to craft the finest sword in the world? Did it all for the “D”. The twelve year old girl with a cute pet dragon? She’d chase it to the ends of the earth. His goddamn sister? You better believe it. What’s more, you can unlock uncomfortably sexy CGI of all of them, even – no – especially the twelve year old and his sister. It’s absolutely ridiculous. And if you think I’m harping on this, you should know that around 90% of the cutscenes in this game focus exclusively on these various girls pursuing him. Sometimes it’s one at a time, sometimes all at once, and never, ever is it interesting or entertaining in the slightest.

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Though it does feature combat (which I’ll get to in a moment… it won’t take long), Hollow Fragment is in large part a visual novel, and a particularly awful one at that. As I’m sure you can imagine, with most of the scenes devoted to “wacky” hijinks, the plot moves at a snail’s pace, but even if it were good, you wouldn’t know from Bandai Namco’s translation. It’s not just that they’ve done a bad job translating it, it’s that they haven’t done anything resembling a job at all. Hollow Fragment reads like a Nigerian prince scam, riddled with broken English and typographical errors. If they’d put the game script through google translate the results would be more coherent than what’s here. That sort of thing is understandable (though not actually, you know, understandable) in an independent game like Rainblood Chronicles: Mirage, but a big publisher like Bandai Namco has no excuse selling work this sloppy. Even if it were well-translated, though, nobody ever needs to read a chapter’s worth of dialogue about a bunch of girls eating bison steak and fawning over a guy.

When you’re not reading the awful, awful dialogue, you’ll be reading something else while the battles finish. I wish I was kidding about that, but by and large Hollow Fragment plays itself. The game makes use of an auto-combat system straight out of an MMO (despite SAO in the anime being based solely around skill and reflexes), and while that’s not an inherently awful idea for a single-player JRPG (Xenoblade Chronicles made masterful use of such mechanics), here it’s done about as poorly as anyone could possibly do it. Kirito starts off so ridiculously over-leveled that most early enemies can’t even hit him, so you can literally leave your Vita on the ground and go do something else while he fights. You could use break attacks (which allow you to trigger auto-attacks at any time with the circle button) and special moves to make the battles move faster, but you don’t need to, and in fact some of the special attacks have such ridiculously overwrought animations that it’s faster not to use them. Also, Kirito comes into battle with a companion who deals damage on their own, making the fights even easier.

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The only time when you’ll need anything resembling a strategy is in boss fights, and even then I use the term loosely. For the most part, all you’ll need to do is trigger specials whenever you have enough SP to whittle down the boss’s health, though you might also need to cast buffs and healing spells to deal with effects like poison. It’s still almost entirely a numbers game though, so if the boss has bigger numbers than yours your only option is to go level up or come back with a higher-level companion.

Should you choose to adjust your numbers, you’ll find yourself staring at an incomprehensible skill tree that’s packed with virtually identical options. One of the few things I really liked about the anime was the elegant design of its VR interface, so it’s nice to see that Bandai Namco have completely screwed that up in turning it into an actual game. The only thing worse than navigating the menus is staring at the battle screen, which is absolutely cluttered with icons and prompts. I commend the attempt to emulate the chaotic interface of a real MMO, but it doesn’t work very well on a small screen.

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The game also perfectly emulates your average MMO camera, which is either zoomed in too close or zoomed out too far. The best part is that zooming is mapped to the back touch pad, meaning that in the process of holding your Vita normally you will likely end up zooming in so close as to lose sight of your character. It should be noted that this is the game’s sole useful touch input. That means you must navigate a largely icon and menu-based interface using only the buttons and analog nubs. The team that developed this game aren’t exactly masters of interface design.

It’s only at floor bosses that things get remotely interesting – another term I’m using loosely – because you have to fight them with a larger party. These NPCs don’t actually seem to contribute anything to the fight (their damage output is negligible), but they can die. The only challenge in the game comes from trying to keep them alive, which is especially challenging when your partner’s character portrait is pasted over their health bars and you can’t keep track of their stats. It’s also possible for your partner to die, at which point you get a game-over just the same as you would if Kirito bit it. This means that the entire game is, effectively, a giant escort quest. The PSP version of this game was called “Infinity Moment,” and I can’t think of a more perfect description of how it feels to play it without invoking Purgatory.

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For its Vita incarnation, Hollow Fragment adds an additional layer of nonsensical retcons and tedious grinding to the mix. At any time players can take a break from their main quest to explore the Hollow Area, a secret zone within Sword Art Online that only Kirito can access because he’s the most specialist protagonist there ever was. The Hollow Area contains special gear that ostensibly makes it easier to progress through the main story, though since the primary obstacle there is making it through the cutscenes it doesn’t actually help much. Optimists might say it’s nice of the developers to add what amounts to a second campaign’s worth of content, but it would be more accurate to say it’s cruel of them to subject you to it.

The only thing this game does right is capturing the look and sound of A-1 Pictures’ anime, which as I’ve said before is gorgeous. The blend of digital and fantasy elements is nothing short of artful, and blandly as the characters are written, they have outstanding, colorful designs. This is especially true of the slick pre-rendered cut scenes that punctuate the most important (and fanservicey) plot points. The sprites in the visual novel sections have very detailed animations as well. In-game, each piece of equipment you give to Kirito changes his appearance, which is always a nice touch in an RPG. The music, too, is an pleasant mix of orchestral and choral tracks and synth sounds. It may barely qualify as interactive, but Hollow Fragment makes an awfully nice screensaver for your Vita.

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Closing Comments:

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment isn’t just a bad game. With its awful story, tedious combat, and inexcusable translation, it’s an out and out insult to anyone who might buy it – fans of the series especially. These are people who can put up with – and even enjoy – the most debased, pandering garbage Japan has to offer, but I have a hard time believing that even they could accept this rushed, broken, and imbecilic excuse for software.
score1.5
Platform: PS Vita

  • Gloriam

    Another reviewer also reviewed this game, which rated it pretty high, one that I agreed on when I played Tales Of Xilla, not saying yours is wrong though.

    You made it pretty clear you didn’t like the anime, as such you’d probably never enjoy a game about it.

    I enjoyed the anime to a certain extend, the second series I like a whole lot more though it’s a bit slow on the action at first.

    Gonna wait on some more reviews, preferably some in video form to see the action first hand to make a decision on buying it or not, thanks for the good read!

  • natchu96

    You’d think there’d be a longer paragraph for the Hollow Area when it is pretty much a second main story and has the bulk of the content.

  • Duc PC-QB

    This isnt a review, just a rant from random guy who hate everything from SAO.

    • NB

      I felt he did a good job establishing that unless you want to play the game because it’s a SAO game, you should not purchase this title. He seems to have a somewhat complex appreciation of the series – much more than many of the commenters here! He liked the animation and the fight scenes. He didn’t like the characters or plot after the main character “dies.” The fact that you enjoy something does not mean that it exists without flaws. To me the author seemed to do his job of reviewing the title.

      I thought he gave a series of fleshed out reasons for why this game seems to be subpar- an illogical and poorly paced story, bad UI, sexist and standard anime characterization, few real gameplay mechanics of consequence, and apparently a bad translation.

      The fact that his tone was somewhat forceful doesn’t seem to take away from his basic argument.

      • NB

        Also, while it should not matter, I did watch the series.

    • Kyle Solmonson

      Implying there’s anything to like about SAO? :3

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lya292wdpo

  • Niko of Death

    Honestly, while I agree SAO isn’t the greatest LN/anime, I don’t think having someone who dislikes it review it’s game is a good idea.

    It’s like someone who doesn’t like Star Wars reviewing a Star Wars game.

    The only thing I’m really worried about in your review is that you say the translation is bad. I’m hoping it’s at least better than the R3 translation.

    • anon

      its more like having a evangelist holy roller redneck review the satanic bible…. I dont think it will win points for colorful cover design or witty writing structures.

    • Geoffrey Graeme Thew

      Well she’s his adopted sister, and she calls him her brother all the time. I mean, kissing cousins is only marginally less disgusting to begin with.

      Anyway, this translation blows most bad translations out of the water. There are some examples of it in my screenshots. Here’s another one: http://i5.minus.com/j535tQ4mUCZ8e.jpg.

      As for my stance on SAO, I think it’s awful, but as I said in my review it’s very watchable. I’ve seen the whole series and I’m up to date on GGO. You could call it a guilty pleasure.

      The other thing is that I by-and-large liked the Aincrad arc of the series (as in, genuinely liked, not as a guilty pleasure), even if it devolved into stupid mary sue nonsense after Yui showed up. That’s why I signed on to review this game in the first place – that and I was looking for a fun RPG to play on the Vita. What I found was a mess of terrible interface design, terrible combat, and an insipid, pandering storyline that wallows in the absolute worst parts of the series.

      • Gloriam

        Perhaps I’m missing something, but unless you take the penetration as a sexual joke, that’s nothing wrong about that screenshots translation, it talks about a benefit in a mmo world?

        As for the combat, it looked odd in the videos.. so I can’t really judge on that, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since you’ve actually played it.

        • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

          “Siege” or “raid” would’ve sounded more natural in terms of MMO jargon, no? “Penetration” sounds like a literal translation.

      • Niko of Death

        That’s the R3 translation, not the US one.

        • Geoffrey Graeme Thew

          Well the US review code that I got had those translations in it, so unless there was some colossal mistake on Bandai’s part I’m going to assume it hasn’t been updated.

          • Niko of Death

            Or maybe I’m getting the two mixed up.

      • Goku

        Who ever put you in charge of reviewing this game made a huge mistake. It isn’t even a review, just you having a rant on how “bad” the game is. I admit Bandai could of pulled their finger out a bit but to a Sword Art Online fan such as myself this game is a door into the world of Aincrad despite the sloppy graphics, gameplay and definitely the bunk translation it still had potential to be a great game for a fan of sao. Assuming Bandai continue to update and fix many of their error’s.

        • John Mcgone

          Why are you complaining about the reviewer talking about how terrible the game is when you yourself admit it’s terrible with some potential that may or may not be fulfilled?

          • theblackswordsman

            he didn’t say terrible. for all we know he meant it was ok or good just not as great as he had hope. personally, we will need to know more than it had potential to be a great game. to know if that is what he really meant. for a game that fails to live up to its potential doesn’t mean the game its self is out right bad. it could be good, ok. yet could of been something far greater or better than what we ended up with.

  • Kenny Kuang

    This is one of the few good reviews for this game because the game is literally garbage meant to look like a waifu simulator. SAO is garbage and so is anything that has its stupid name attached to it.

    • Niko of Death

      If you think the LN is garbage you’re not a good person to judge a video game based off it.

      • Kenny Kuang

        It is because all of SAO is just a bad version of Dot Hack

      • Kenny Kuang

        Just because I hate SAO doesn’t make me a bad person, it just means I have good taste.

        • Niko of Death

          I didn’t say you were a bad person. Just not the right person to judge a game based off it.

          • Kenny Kuang

            I read the first volume of the stupid LN because I thought it wouldn’t be as terrible as the show and I still hate it. SAO to me is just a poor mans Dot Hack and that’s all it will ever be.

          • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

            SAO has the same problem as many anime franchises: nobody can relate to the characters because they’re all poorly-written and oft-recycled anime stock characters that bear no resemblance to any real person.

        • Nero

          “Just because I hate SAO doesn’t make me a bad person, it just means I have good taste.”

          I’m so tired of people claiming they have “good taste” because they hate SAO. No, you just didn’t enjoy it as much as other people have. Just because you hate something others like, doesn’t mean you have “good taste”.

          • Kenny Kuang

            It means I hate a terrible show. The entire point of SAO is to show off that Kirito is a “bad ass” because literally everything they do in that show relates to his specialties. Even in GGO, oh hey there’s this mini game that literally relies on the exact skill you are perfect at! WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

          • LordTerminal

            THANK YOU! That’s what I’ve been saying to people who pull that kind of BS out of their ass for….well pretty much anything and everything nowadays.

            It’s sounds like “good taste” is synonymous with “I’m always right” and screw anyone w/ that mentality.

    • LordTerminal

      The game? Yes it’s garbage. SAO in general? No. It’s more of a potentially good thing that was handed off to a bunch of monkeys to adapt.

  • Estuary

    Regarding the people calling out someone who disliked the anime and/or LN being tasked with impartially reviewing the game, well, I can kind of get that.

    But on the other hand it’s still SAO. If you were the type to regard the anime and LN to be a steaming pile of turd then it should be no surprise that the game did not fall far from the butt. Of course it’s liable to share the same failings.

    There are occasions when something is recreated, rebooted or re-envisioned in a different medium and achieves some things it’s source did not, standing on it’s own strengths. This, alack, does not seem to be one of those times.

  • Boudi18

    The only insult I see is this ‘review’ . At least now I know this is a joke site.

  • ⊱•★ ₣яξξ §þïяï† ★•⊰

    I could tell how utterly bias this review would be from reading the first sentence alone.

  • JohnnyMac

    This is the biggest joke troll review I have ever seen. I had never heard of this site before today. I’m sure I’ll never visit again.

    • Kyle Solmonson

      And nothing of value was lost?

  • http://psvitareviews.net/ Trent Berlinger

    So, this site has a writer that hates SAO, and their idea is to let this person review a game that’s about SAO? Logic?

    This isn’t a review, as others have said. You don’t show any journalistic responsibility in this review. Even if you don’t like a game, you have to think outside the box for people who are fans. That’s your responsibility as a writer. I’m sure Namco didn’t give you a review code so you could give their game a 100% unfair childish rant and call it a review.

    You wrote a fair amount, which kudos for writing this out, but what you wrote isn’t in any way a review. As Duc PC said. This is a rant from someone who hates SAO.

    You need to think hard about how you write your reviews. As the comments have shown, you are giving this site a very bad name with this review. The site deserves better, as does Namco for graciously giving you a copy of their game to review.

    • HGNet

      Trent, your crusade against this review is the only thing on this page showing a lack of journalistic integrity and reflects poorly on you. None of our writers would dare go to another gaming site and speak ill about their critic’s reviews and if you want to be accepted in the community, you’ll have to learn to avoid chastising your fellow journalists for expressing their opinions.

      Handing off this review to somebody who doesn’t like RPGs/Visual Novels would be illogical and irresponsible. Handing this off a fan of RPGs/Visual Novels who is an expert on the series is logical and sensible, regardless of his opinion on it.

      This is certainly a review, and quite a well-written one at that.

      Your comment concerning Namco “graciously giving you a copy of their game to review,” equalling having to positively rate it simply speaks to your inexperience in these matters.

      Geoff doesn’t like the game, but he backs up his opinion with valid examples and has judged every aspect of the game.

      We’re proud of how Geoff handled this review and will stand by him in the face of rampant pettiness

      • Mike Smith

        You’re standing on the wrong side buddy. There is no journalistic integrity present in this review whatsoever when the first line of the review is so blatantly biased against the source material. The least you could have done was have someone else check over the reviewer’s work and ensure his clear disgust with everything sao wasn’t so apparent. Shame on you.

      • SquadmemberRitsu

        If you’re against pettiness then why in God’s name would you defend this review?

      • OnePlusOne

        First-time viewer of this website here.

        First paragraph translation: If you disagree with what we publish, then you don’t belong in this community.

        Reaction: People who can’t take fair criticism will never improve. It’s your choice.

        Second and third paragraph translations: Saying that the review is well written and the site did not hand it off to someone who doesn’t like the genre to contradict myself.

        Reaction: The prose may be satisfactory, but either you are blindly defending the article or you misunderstand the adjectives the author of this review used.

        The rest is fine since I disagree with the notion that reviews must overlook flaws in a game because they were merely given a copy of the game to review.

        Regardless, I can say with certainty there is a lack of accountability here and will not be clicking on links to this site anymore.

        • HGNet

          We welcome open criticism of our work. That’s why we don’t delete or censor comments. That comment (quite obviously) was aimed at a fellow journalist/site owner, not at our readers.

          For our stance on the matter as a whole, please refer to this article:

          http://www.hardcoregamer.com/2014/08/20/the-difference-between-a-tv-show-and-a-video-game/99914/

          • yeoman7979 .

            Yes…you welcome open criticism by calling it “rampant pettiness”. I don’t think “rampant” means just a single post, and I don’t think that’s what you meant before the above backtrack.

      • AnotherGameReviewer

        Uh…wow, not the best move.

        Stepping aside from anyone’s personal opinion on this article, just about any article posted on the internet is bound to have some haters.
        Defending it is all well and good.
        Calling someone out and talking them down? Not only is it not going to work, it’s just unprofessional.

        • Nikki

          I hadn’t even finished the review myself b/c the reviewer’s near-hate rant was so awful.

          I’ve seen reviews from people who are fans, lukewarm, or largely ignorant of the source material and it still reads better than this troll article.

          My first time here but probably my last. This review and the mods who defend this bad excuse of journalism are all unprofessional. Even if no one knew how much the guy hated the source material, this piece still should not have made it past review. How did this get approval?!

  • Adam Billings

    Troll review is funny.

  • Anders

    I’ve seen other reviews that gave the game 4/5 or 8/10 so I was curios to see why you gave it such a low score.

    • Jason Mounce

      Le Cancer Arrows
      >The last of Us effect (Polygon)
      >write bad review for good game
      >anger and clickbait ensues
      >revenue is had

      Zero f*cks given about journalistic integrity, because it hasn’t existed since 2004-2005 :D

  • Lycander

    Have you not played a game where story-essential party members can’t die? If your MC dies in Persona, it’s over. On floors where 4x books cast nothing but Mudo and Hama (instant kill) spells. That must make Persona games giant escort quests.

    This seems more like a passionate hate letter. As one writer to another, when you’re doing journalism like this, inject less personal opinion and more ‘fact’. Why is the combat bad to you? Did you make use of the parry and dodge stuff to offset level differences? You mentioned ‘auto-combat’ but gave no mention of switching, attacking with O to use up your burst / stamina, etc. I wandered into a NM enemy that was lv. 123 while I was 102 and managed to defeat it with careful timing and liberal healing – but at the same time, this series is mired in the MMO gamestyle where levels do matter. Would you try to kill a World of Warcraft boss that’s 90 at 85? Unlikely.

    The translation is poor, I’ll give you that. In cutscenes, it’s largely stuff like using or not using conjunctions or poor grammar, but the ‘chat’ system with the companions has some butchered junk. Hopefully, with enough outcry, there’ll be a cleanup patch from the powers that be to fix it.

    Pull personal bias out of this and write a more objective review, IMO.

  • MikeGseven

    Dude the game don’t suck. it’s you! What a BS. I’ll never again enter this website.

  • Kamille

    the anime so crap that only people with the lowest standards can enjoy it.

    • Nero

      It’s neither as bad as the haters make it out to be, nor is it amazing as the fans make it seem. It’s also completely ignorant to claim people have “low standards” when you have no idea what their standards are to begin with.

  • 大王 アレクサンダー

    Is this supposed to be gaming journalism? No wonder why I don’t visit this site often.

    • Kyle Solmonson

      But you’re here, so you do visit often, enough to read reviews and if it’s one you don’t agree with you feel the need to disagree with it.

      • 大王 アレクサンダー

        I guess this was my 2nd annual visit, which means i DO NOT visit often. This is not a review though, it’s just ranting. /thread

        • Kyle Solmonson

          Don’t see the problem though, if the person here found it to be so bad why shouldn’t he go off on a rant about it to empathize the point?

          Granted yes, if this person in particular never liked the series to begin with, then it probably wasn’t the best pick to review this game, so I can see why some fans being upset because this one person didn’t have anything good to say about what they like, but that’s the thing. It’s ALL subjective.

          Just cause this guy didn’t like it doesn’t mean those who would play it would feel the same way, me I’m not a fan of this series so I won’t say anything about it, but that one shot of the battle screen, total cluster **** there, too much on screen at once if you ask me.

          Still I don’t see why this particular person and his opinions has so many people in an uproar to denounce this site for good.

  • Joseph Carlotti

    I came here expecting to read a review, and found this review to sound more like an angry teen’s manifesto. However, I can respect your opinions and at least the review gave me a few chuckles regardless. I do have a question since you opted to leave the info out of the review. What are the technical aspects of the game. I understand it is digital download only, but do you have the specs? Such as file size, voice over options, etc.

    • Geoffrey Graeme Thew

      I find your evaluation of my writing to be more than a little insulting, but you’re as entitled to your opinion as anyone. To answer your question, the file is 2984 mb and it’s Japanese only, with subtitles (really, really bad subtitles). As for technical issues, you’ll encounter slowdown whenever there are more than a few characters on screen at once, but other than that the game is pretty stable.

      • Joseph Carlotti

        There appears to be a misunderstanding, but thank you for the reply.

  • Faust

    I really don’t get why people rage over that review. This article is written by someone who don’t like SAO anime, and that is a good information for everyone. Why people must hate people with different opinion? I really don’t get why some people want every review to be identical. After reading this review you know reviewer’s tastes, so you should question yourself: “Are these tastes are similar to mine?”. And finally I have a small tip: in real life everyone have different opinion,so don’t rage over it. Instead write your own, or point out valid points.

  • Thanatos2k

    When you start off the review bashing a good anime, you know the bias is going to prevent a proper review. When you notice it’s an outlier on metacritic by 30%, you know it’s worthless.

    • LordTerminal

      Good? Okay I like SAO but even then calling it “good” is a bit of a stretch. It does have some serious flaws and moments that I wish were just written out. It’s more average at best.

      • Nikki

        That’s an opinion up to each viewer. Still does not justify such strong bias in a game review.

  • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

    Great review, I thought about buying this at first but I can’t believe Bandai Namco think they can get away with selling something so poorly translated. Not to mention the rest of the game sound awful too.

    Commenters: Why waste so much time and energy defending a product from an intellectual property that isn’t your own? Metacritic says there’s nine reviews that rate the game higher than this review. Why not go read those instead of being upset here? I love games but I’ll never understand fandom.

  • Martin

    Ok…so I’m not a SAO fan. Never really liked the anime. I didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it. However, even to a Non-SAO fan like me, this review seems unfair. Though you did address the technical issues with the game, so it’s not a totally unfair review I guess. But still, I feel that it could have gotten at least a 3. The game’s not the best of it’s genre, and the story might have holes in it, but I still don’t think that this is trashy. Also, I guess the fanservice counted as a negative factor to you, but for some people who want a dating sim style experience, that won’t be a problem for them. I’m sorry if I sound insulting but this review isn’t a very good one.

  • david

    I don’t even know where to begin with this horrible review. First off know that everything negative this guy said about the game was massively exaggerated. This guy is just really pissy about SAO for some reason… Please do not just read this idiots review, if you had or still have any interest in this game please seek out a real review, metacritic has a lot of good ones

  • EnigmaSJ

    This is totally unprofessional. When writing game reviews you do not have someone that blatantly hates a series perform the task. I have no attachment to this universe aside from watching up to episode 3 of the anime and I find this appalling from every angle. IGN has done similar things like with its review of “Double Dragon Neon” and this is just bad in general for the industry we love. Take Gaming Nexus for example. They gave this game an 8 out of 10 and the reviewer went in knowing nothing of the franchise but the name he herd on twitter. Bad writing, unprofessional, and disgraceful. This is my feeling on this review, and this reviewer. You are allowed to not like things, even down write hate them BUT Going into this game with a pre-disposition that you hate the anime is only setting it up for failure no matter the quality of the game.

  • http://www.digitallydownloaded.net/ Matt S

    There are a lot of people in this discussion thread that need to learn something about criticism before attacking the author’s “journalistic integrity.”

    A piece of criticism is not a piece of objective writing. It’s a subjective opinion and the difference between a good piece of criticism and a bad piece of criticism is whether the author is able to support their opinion. This whole “bias” thing that some people are rabbiting on about below is nonsense because criticism can’t be “unbiased.”

    Cricisism is of poor quality when the writer doesn’t give explicit reasons for thinking the way he/ she does. Which this author has done here. So, no, it’s not “bad games journalism,” and it’s frankly silly for a bunch of people who have clearly never done a class in journalism, much less become a qualified editor, to be acting as though they’re in any position to pass judgement on the professional standard of this review. You disagree with it, and that’s fine, but don’t pretend that you disagreeing with the review is any more than that.

    I happen to like the game. I scored it 3.5/5 in my own review. But I’m not going to pretend that this review is illegitimate because it disagrees with my own tastes. That’s just juvenille.

  • Seink

    Im a fan of the serie, bought the before reading any review.
    Story sux, characters sux, combat is ok…..
    it seems to be a direct sequel to the other SAO game that was made, never played it, cant say for sure….
    they made a bad excuse to make his sister somehow enter SAO so they could add her to the story (just fanservice) and I have no idea why the girl from the THIRD saga(the sniper) is in the game. I mean, in the original story, she was playing a game that was made AFTER the SECOND saga ended and ‘the seed’ be distributed by the internet. (thats half a year after everything is over, if Im not mistaken)
    Nothing wrong with adding new heroines that have nothing to do with the original story, but please dont add bs just for fanservice….
    In the original story, not even 1/5 of the game population were girls, girls were rare, or so it was described….did everybody made a sex-change in this game? I only see girl everywhere. Its not like I like seeing man, but please be faithfull to the original story.
    the game says you cant bring more than one person for hollow area, but why cant I make a bigger party OUTSIDE the hollow area? lots of parties of 3 walking in everywhere(even inside Hollow area), but the player is only able to make parties of 2…
    One last question, WHY DO WE CHOOSE NAME IF WE ARE GOING TO BE CALLED KIRITO ALL THE TIME? No matter what we wear, how is our hair or what weapon we equip matters to the story….
    Instead of calling me Kirito all the time, I really would have liked if I was a simple anom trying to do my part to clear the 100 floors….

  • Adrian Ace

    Why is everyone complaining about whether or not “he likes the anime blah blah”. As a GAME reviewer, liking the anime it comes from should be seperated from thoughts of the game. He reviewed the game for what it was compared to other much more successful JRPG’s. He did what he was supposed to do, and he even listed that this game was terrible for fans of the series as well because of the inconsistencies of the plot. Just be glad he at least watched the anime so that he could make the correct points the game has towards its anime. I like his review, because he reviewed the GAME as a GAME.

  • theblackswordsman

    personally think this review could of been better, if it when more in depth about the combat. all i got was, combat sucks and no idea why it sucks. besides the sword skills taking a long time to finish up. from what i seen of this game, auto attack barely does any damage. while the sword skills do seem to do a decent bit of damage, given the time it takes to use one. also there seems to be a bonus for attacking with your friendly ai pal at the same time with a sword skill.

    animations
    animations

  • Wing Zero5347

    Ive seen other reviews but this, this is just absurd the reviewer showed a pathetic display of ranting and exaggeration. /laugh he must have hit his head hard lol.
    anyways this review is false so dont listen to it guys :)

  • Evil

    at the end of the day its all just fake and made up characters plus the girls didnt want him for the d it was for romance

  • Evil

    and to me i dont care if his cousin is part of the harem because incest is not really worst then gays and lesbians

  • d__t

    I guess you need to take this ‘review’ with a grain of salt.

    You can’t really expect a non-biased review of a game when the reviewer hates the source material… and that point is clearly made in the first paragraph.

  • midnight on mars

    Comment thread full of anime nerds whining about reviewer being “biased” because he didn’t like their crappy anime game. Learn to deal with other people’s opinions folks.
    And there’s nothing wrong with a reviewer reviewing a game from a source material s/he didn’t like.

  • jlol

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_Art_Online:_Hollow_Fragment#Reception

    That wiki-graph says it all. This review is statistically wrong, I haven’t tried the game yet but something tells me it’s not as horrible as this guy makes it sound. In fact, everyone else seems to think it’s a pretty good game. If he’s not biased, he’s just “abnormal.”

    “If you want to see the concept done right, check out Log Horizon” lol Who came to this site looking for your opinion on anime? Hardcore gamer has given a few critically praised games that I’ve purchased poor reviews, they really are hardcore…

  • http://rickymarlowe.tumblr.com/ Ricky Marlowe

    Where are people getting this statement that the reviewer “hates” SAO? I actually see the opposite. I see a reviewer trying desperately to enjoy something that seems to not be very enjoyable. Even calling it a “guilty pleasure”. I would say it’s the same as my opinion of One Piece: Romance Dawn (US Version), which I found virtually unplayable, but did my best to enjoy it because of my love of the series.

    • jlol

      “Of all the anime to attain mass popularity in the last few years, Sword Art Online is probably the worst.”
      It’s the very first sentence of the review!

      • http://rickymarlowe.tumblr.com/ Ricky Marlowe

        That in no way says that he hates the game does it? He’s not the biggest fan of the series, but that doesn’t make his points or opinions invalid. Infact what stood out to me was shortly after your line where he says: “the show is strangely watchable (part of that may owe to the excellent animation and direction by superstar Sony division A-1 Pictures”. Saying it’s the worst anime to attain popularity in the last few years isn’t damning he series at all. Also the fact that he appreciates certain aspects of the show is beneficial to the review because not being a die hard fan allows him to see through the fan service BS that is most like peppered throughout the game. It looks as if this was another one of those rushed out licensed shovel ware games that were meant to be a quick cash-in on a popular series, not unlike the game One Piece: Romance Dawn that I mentioned earlier or even the iPhone and other mobile ports of popular films that often come out shortly before the film’s release. I think reviews like this are needed to remind these companies that we are aware of their attempts to hide mediocre and sometimes outright bad games behind a brand or franchise.

        • jlol

          I bought the game after looking at the overall landscape of reviews, so now I can give my own opinion of how good or bad it actually is. The combat system in this game is actually really fun and innovative. The burst/risk/SP system makes most fights enjoyable, because each has its own mechanics and reward system. The combat gets even more diverse when you unlock different weapon trees, because each tree has one or two sets of skills (5 or 6 skills per set, 2 or 3 sets per weapon, 8 or so weapons) that can be used with any weapon. So leveling up your dagger tree can unlock a skill that can be really useful in your dual-sword skill set.
          The story heavily relies on the fact that people playing the game are already fans of the series, but this is to be expected; this game is obviously made for people who already love SAO.
          Overall, the combat is fun but the story isn’t amazing. The fan-service conversations are there, but I usually speed read them, and the conversations can be interesting or story-related (so they aren’t all bad).
          I know what you mean by games without substance that use a franchise’s popularity for sales (I haven’t bought any One Piece games because I can tell they are very superficial). But, SAO:HF is a legitimate action-RPG experience; the unique combat system combined with the deep skill progression and good loot system makes for a really fun RPG. The story and dialogue requires players to already be invested in the world of SAO, but that is no surprise. The game isn’t designed to initiate people into the world of SAO, it assumes that the people playing it are already fans.
          So, my honest opinion of the game is that it’s good, and it’s fun. I can’t imagine giving it a score of anything less than a 7/10 (most of the press seems to agree, this review is a statistical outlier). I can’t imagine why it got such a bad score from this individual, it’s a big game with lots to do and fun mechanics.

  • Asuki Yuu Kirigaya

    No PC version :(

  • Mark Kazama

    No he is wrong on so many levels….He did not remove his sword art hate from the objective of reviewing the game. Story aside it is a great game.I’m not a fan of SAO story all that much, but you would have to be a fool not to understand the hate this POS has for SAO. 1st 3 lines say it all. Why would you bring up LH? I have played Real MMO’s and yes SAO fall very very short of what a real MMO is like but I dont look at it like that. SAO is about some kid and his loli harem and the nonsense he gets himself into. Log Horizion is about MMO’s and the work it takes to deal with the nature of people and what its like to run a guild. Two completely different storys. Concept are alike but they are telling 2 VERY different storys. Now the SAO:HF is a great game in the same terms. It is about a boy and his loli harem in a MMO like world. It is not a real MMO nor is it trying to be, its trying to be “MMO-Like”…. its like the difference between Tekken and UFC fighting games.
    This “Reviewer” needs to remember what objectiveity is. So do many SAO haters. Is not about MMO’s its about a Boy and his loli harem.

    • jlol

      So, after reading reviews (this one I didn’t pay any attention to because it is so different from the pack). I bought the game, I’m currently 7 hours in and I’m loving it! The only complaint I have is the long dialogues that don’t progress the story much, but they are fan service that some people would like and you can skip them if you want.
      The battle system is one of the best JRPG combat systems I’ve played. The variety of partners as well as Kirito’s own skillsets and armor is staggering, but you need to choose 12 so you can keep tweeking your play style as you like. After doing a bit of the hollow, I did the first floor (boss fight was awesome). Now I am trying a different weapon set, and I went from a DPS machine to a tank. It’s not too complex but it’s so deep and entertaining. I saw a few reviewers who said the game was way too easy, but the hollow is an open world, so I went there and challenged myself. The low level mobs in the first couple floors are so you can level up some of your lower level allies as well as check out the different weapon styles. Really, so far the story is OK, I just don’t like sitting through conversations that don’t have much substance (but that is so minor…I’d give this game an 8 so far, when I get further in I’ll see if that goes higher or lower)

  • WiicardoBA

    What an ASS reviewer. I hope his life Bar “hits Zero” soon.

  • Loki

    First time visiting this site for a review, and after reading this “review” I won’t be coming back. This isn’t journalism, it reads like a spurned lover’s hate mail. If this is the quality of reviewers you hire then good luck, trolls on gamefaqs have more credibility as reviewers

  • Noah Jacob Isaac

    I have the Game and The Translation is godawful, and it is very sexist the part where the reviewer said about the sister is disgustingly right, and the game is really Repetitive after like the first 5 floors and it is easy like really easy, I went into this game with somewhat high expectations and was let down big time. and I liked the anime. but the game is not really good at all

  • Anonymous

    After the first 4 paragraphs, I stopped reading this. I’m just judging this based on the 4 paragraphs though, but from “some” of the comments, I think he makes a decent argument, but well too lazy to read this.

    From all big game review sites, this was the only review that gave this game a 1.5/5 (3/10), so I’ll think again if I want to read a review when I come across this site.
    And based on those 4 paragraphs, this guys just seems to hate everything SAO. I mean he’s comparing the Anime! Seriously, who does that on a game review? This game wasn’t to promote the show in the first place, it’s because the show was successful that this game was made.

    And since you compared the Anime, I think I’ll comment on that as well. This site’s name is “Hardcore Gamer”, and I don’t think this guy is even a gamer if he thinks that Log Horizon is a better anime. You do realize that Log Horizon is getting the same amount of hate like SAO? LH is just over-complicating simple things, simple strategy, and the only characters in LH that actually knows how to play are the main character and Chief Nyaanta, the others are just some random noobs that got to level 90.
    And it’s not “Cliche” when the idea was used once.

  • Anonymous

    After the first 4 paragraphs, I stopped reading this. I’m just judging this based on the 4 paragraphs though, but from “some” of the comments, I think he makes a decent argument, but well too lazy to read this.

    From all big game review sites, this was the only review that gave this game a 1.5/5 (3/10), so I’ll think again if I want to read a review when I come across this site.
    And based on those 4 paragraphs, this guys just seems to hate everything SAO. I mean he’s comparing the Anime! Seriously, who does that on a game review? This game wasn’t to promote the show in the first place, it’s because the show was successful that this game was made.

    And since you compared the Anime, I think I’ll comment on that as well. This site’s name is “Hardcore Gamer”, and I don’t think this guy is even a gamer if he thinks that Log Horizon is a better anime. You do realize that Log Horizon is getting the same amount of hate like SAO? LH is just over-complicating simple things, simple strategy, and the only characters in LH that actually knows how to play are the main character and Chief Nyaanta, the others are just some random noobs that got to level 90.
    And it’s not “Cliche” when the idea was used once.

  • MMOSaga

    Hmm.. I personally feel 1.5 is a bit to low, but I don’t think the review was too bad. He still gave good pointers about the game, pointers that Im sure most people would overlook.