It’s important to preface this initial impressions article with the fact that I know absolutely nothing about Sword Art Online. I’m not a fan, nor do I have prior knowledge, and I imagine the game to be far more enjoyable for someone who is already engrossed in the story and the lore and knows what’s going on. However, the game did have an answer to this problem.
Right at the beginning of the game it asks you if you already know the story and want to jump right in or if you need extra story info. Naturally I chose the extra story info. I think it’s important to note (not that I can compare) that the cut scenes take a fair bit of time as do the interactions, so if you’re someone who likes to jump right into the combat side and for the game to be faster paced don’t choose this option.
I have been playing through on the Switch Lite as unfortunately my trusty old regular Switch came into a bit of an unfortunate accident when the charging cable bricked the entire thing so it’s under some much needed repair. If you have the option between two Switches….pick the regular or the OLED for this game because the Lite does seem to struggle a little. However, I don’t know for a fact the other will hold up better.
My next tip is don’t start this game until you have time to sink into the beginning, as it seems to take a while before you unlock save points, especially with the story mode on. Also, don’t sleep your Switch during a cutscene. I did this and when I came back the whole game had crashed and wiped a large bit of progress along with it. The cutscenes are lengthy and so is some of the dialogue, sometimes it feels unnecessary. There was one bit where a female character was talking and all you could see on screen was her chest.
Sometimes the loading of cutscenes can be really slow too (along with a lot of the loading in the game) and you’ll occasionally get a random loading screen where there really does not need to be one after reaching a destination point. Sometimes it can be seconds of gameplay between a cutscene or dialogue and a loading screen, literally only moving about 40 metres on the game world, which can be a little irritating for pacing’s sake.
Speaking of cutscenes, this game is only subbed with no English dub option, so if that’s something which would bother you do keep that in mind.
Onto some actual gameplay: it’s nicely fluid and the battles go pretty well. So far for me they haven’t been particularly tough but it is early days. There seems to be a fair bit to try and remember whilst battling, switching between characters for instance and a lot of different skills to remember. So far I have mostly gotten my way through with some happy hacking and slashing, so the fancy bits at the moment seem to be a bit of an optional extra. You’ll learn different Sword arts and of course there’s an experience tree to think about and level up ( I usually just shove everything into attack because I forget defence moves are a thing). The graphics and frame rate on the Switch do leave a little to be desired, however most Switch players know this and it’s something they’ve come to accept. It’s the trade off for being able to play games like this on a reasonably priced handheld console.
As you play you’ll meet different characters and your party will grow. You’ll also meet people along the way who have sub quests for you. I quite like how you can have your main quest and a sub quest both shown on the left of your screen at once, which is a nice feature that I wish more games would do. You can also build reputation with the NPCs you meet along the way, however I’ve not quite gotten far enough to really know what this does. There’s also cooking and crafting which I always find a fun little extra, however I know some find it taxing.
Story wise everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of amnesia. You’re looking for a girl named Alice, and from flashbacks it would appear you are old, close friends but you don’t really know. The people you meet are also suffering from the same memory loss so I’m quite interested to see where that goes.
Overall, the game does suffer from some pacing issues, some glitchy moments and some moments that seem unnecessarily long or pointlessly placed. The gameplay when you get to it is smooth and there are plenty of skills to learn, levels to level and side quests to quest. If you’re someone who is usually onto this type of game it’s not a bad little time passer and I find myself getting more and more into it as time goes by. Certainly pick this up when you have a few hours to burn through because otherwise you likely won’t get through much of it.
Written by Clarissa.
Edited by Alexx.