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Sword Art Online: Lost Song
Score: 65%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: Artdink
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (Offline); 4 (Online, Team Questing); 16 (Online Lobby)
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
The world of Virtual Reality can be a scary place, especially if youíve been trapped there with a constant fear of death looming overhead. Most people wouldnít dare go back into that world, but most people also arenít Kirito. Thatís when we enter Sword Art Online: Lost Song, the sequel to Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, because one deadly adventure isnít enough for brave Kirito and his friends!

Lost Song places the players in the world of Alfheim Online, a new game similar to the Sword Art Online server, but without threat of death, in Lost Song anyway. The world is made up of several islands and players can explore to their hearts content. Graphically, the world looks pretty nice in my opinion. Everything is rendered in 3D with a similar style to some of Bandai Namcoís other titles, like the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Iíve always been a big fan of the graphics and how much it feels like Iím playing one of my favorite anime rather than just any other game. Unfortunately, story cut scenes play out with 2D renders of the characters with text boxes. Itís rather underwhelming, but the scope of the environments to be explored does make up for it somewhat.

The soundtrack is pretty spot on as well. Many of the tracks have a tranquil sound which adds to the layout of the grassy hillside areas, but caves and the like feature a more mysterious tone which reflects the atmosphere of a cave well. Fans of the anime will probably be pleased to hear that Lost Song features Japanese voice acting rather than English voice acting. Donít worry, thereís English subtitles as usual. Iím used to Japanese voice acting, so I wasnít bothered much by this fact. If anything, the voice acting makes the game feel more natural as most players are probably used to this style.


Gameplay:
Sword Art Online: Lost Song isnít a complex game to understand by any means. Players take control of their favorite characters from the series and go off to explore, completing quests and slaying enemies. New to the series is the ability to create your own character to play as, but the game will progress as though you were playing as Kirito whether you use a character from the series or your own custom character. The main hub is the floating city of Ryne. This is where players can purchase new equipment, save, take on quests and change their characters. Saving, changing characters and even viewing art from the game is done in the inn, while the tavern handles quests and certain equipment needs. Youíll also see a lot of NPC players that serve to make the game feel more like an MMO, even though many of them look similar. I still think itís a nice touch to make the game feel more like the show.

The main draw of Lost Song is the combat and exploration. By stepping through the portal in Ryne, players can teleport to an island to explore and slay enemies. The game starts you off as Kirito, but you quickly gain access to more party members from the get go. Youíre able to construct a team of three for explorations, and the game doesnít force you to use Kirito. Youíre able to use any character you like, along with two A.I.-controlled side characters of your choice to complete the party. The A.I. members will follow you around and also help you in fights. Often times, youíll see them go off to fight something as youíre exploring, but you donít need to worry about where they go. At the beginning, players will only be able to explore one island, Woglinde, but more open up as you progress through the game. Once youíre in the field, youíll see a ton of monsters spawning all over the place. I was pretty surprised when enemies just kept popping up endlessly, even though many of them are the same. Theyíre pretty harmless and simply serve as a way for you to level up your character, so donít be too concerned about them. Out in the field, the mini-map is located in the top right while your characterís status bars are in the top left. The green bar is your health, the blue one is your mana, and the yellow one is your stamina. You can press the Options button to bring up a larger map and also check your character information and equipment, party member information, quests, and change settings, so make sure to keep your equipment up to date.

Letís get into the combat and exploration. The Left Analog Stick moves your characters around, and pressing the (R1) button while moving will make your character sprint. Your stamina bar will deplete as you sprint and if it runs out, your character will stop until it refills to full. The drain on your stamina is pretty slow and the refill is really quick, so itís not a big deal. The (X) button lets you jump, and pressing it twice will let you double jump. Jumping is most useful when youíre fighting flying enemies or large boss monsters. You probably wonít use it much outside of that. The (Square) and (Triangle) buttons will be your bread and butter for fighting. (Square) lets you perform light attacks while (Triangle) button lets you perform heavy attacks. Personally, I didnít find the combat to be too thrilling. I felt the attacks would come out and connect too slowly, but Iím a fan of faster-paced combat games such as Devil May Cry and God of War, so perhaps itíll be more enjoyable for others. The combat isnít difficult to grasp nor is it hard to find success in fights. Using the (Circle) button to dodge attacks will be a big help against stronger enemies as you progress through the game, but itís pretty pointless against the weaker enemies. You can just spam (Square) and (Triangle) to take them down a notch. Holding (R1) with (Circle) allows you to guard as well, but the indicator that pops up on-screen shows how long you can hold your guard against enemy attacks. It only drains when you take hits, so keep note of it. Another big help for boss fights will be the Lock On function, which you can perform by holding (L1) briefly. Like any game that features it, locking on will allow you to focus on one enemy at a time and also show their name, health bar, and level. Itís always handy to keep track of what youíre fighting.

As you travel, youíll gain experience from killing monsters and also pick up various consumable items like Healing Tinctures or Mana Potions. Once you gain enough experience, your character will level up and be able to handle stronger opponents. As you fight, your own stats will also increase, such as the Dual Blade stat. Leveling your stats will unlock new skills for you to use. Experience also comes from your allies slaying enemies, so whenever the A.I. runs off to fight things, itís not a bad thing. By pressing the Touch Pad, you can bring up an interface that allows you to use items as well as issues commands. Items have different uses, such as restoring health and mana or allowing you to escape from a dungeon. Commands are used to direct your party members so that you can get them to do more of what you want them to do. Items can also help alleviate the effects of status ailments such as poison or paralysis, so it doesnít hurt to keep a decent stock.


Difficulty:
Sword Art Online: Lost Song features three difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, and Hard. The game will automatically select Normal for you, but you can change the difficulty from the Title Screen by going to the settings and changing it there. Once youíre in-game, you cannot change the difficulty, but you can save and return to the Title Screen to change it whenever you feel uncomfortable. Normal seemed pretty standard to play on and was by no means difficult. If youíre looking for more challenge, Hard might help set you straight, but I wouldnít expect too much. The game isnít really designed to be difficult from my experience, but the experience could change based on the player. The most difficult part of the game would probably be the boss fights, but with a decent grasp of how to play the game, you shouldnít struggle too much at all. Iíd say the game is more focused on letting players enjoy the story, as well as get the experience of what itíd be like to play in the universe of the series.

Game Mechanics:
The mechanics in Sword Art Online: Lost Song arenít difficult to grasp by any means. There are a few that players should be aware of and try to use to their advantage, notably the (R1) abilities. Aside from allowing you to run, players will notice a little interface pop up in the bottom right when they press (R1) and the icons present will change based on whether or not you have your weapons out. With your weapon sheathed, pressing (R1) will bring up a selection of your magic techniques. Each character has different magic techniques, and they can be assigned to either (Square), (Triangle), or one of the Directional Pad keys. By holding (R1) and then pressing the desired button, players can unleash a magic ability. Magic varies from healing magic to attack magic, but it also drains your mana, so be mindful of how you use it. Mana regenerates rather slowly, but a potion can regenerate quite a bit.

With your weapons drawn, pressing (R1) will bring up your list of skills. Like magic, skills vary from character to character. They also cost MP to cast, but they do a considerable amount of damage and are very useful in clearing waves or taking down bosses. Attack skills can be equipped to the same buttons as magic spells, while passive skills and battle skills have their own individual slots to be equipped to. Like your stats, using different skills will also grant them experience and theyíll level up after so many uses. This makes them stronger and grants new traits that can be viewed by checking the skills from the Options Menu.

The best way to traverse the field is through the use of flying. By pressing left, right or up on the D-pad, your character will sprout wings and be capable of flight. The mode of flight will change depending on which button you press. Pressing left or right will activate Float Mode, making your character hover in place. You can then press the (X) button once to ascend or twice rapidly to descend. This is the mode for engaging airborne enemies in combat. Pressing up on the Directional Pad will activate Flying Mode and this is the most efficient for traveling. This mode will make you steadily move forward through the air and holding (R1) will increase the speed you travel. Holding (X) in conjunction with (R1) will make you soar through the sky at an incredible speed with Aerial Drive, but this drains your Stamina Bar insanely fast. I really like the flying mechanic, but I found the camera to be pretty wonky during the Flying Mode and especially while using the Aerial Drive. Itís a very useful way to maneuver through the world, but I do like being able to look all around me while moving without problem so it kind of bothered me.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song is an interesting addition to the series of games, but I donít really feel it would cater to people who may not be fans of the series. If you enjoy the regular Sword Art Online series as well as the games, youíll more than likely enjoy this newest addition and I would recommend it to those fans who enjoy both. If you donít, I think you can skip this addition and go pick up some other games to play in your spare time.


-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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