Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition – PC Review

Genre: Action, Adventure, Casual, RPG
Developer: AQURIA
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Release Date: Oct 27, 2017
Edited by KnightAvenger

The world of Sword Art Online is one similar to that of the Dot Hack universe, where people have asked to be able to experience its world and story in person, and while there is not VR yet of either (to my knowledge), this one gets pretty close to achieving that: Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition is an action, adventure RPG developed by AQURIA, later released by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, that, while being the best representation of Sword Art Online with its world, strong visuals and solid story writing, does come off weak in a few places.

Starting up the game, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition holds no bars against the player as it jumps right into the story, leaving a few things to be questioned for sure as the story progresses. We, the player, start out by building our own character for the game Sword Art: Origins and, once this is complete, are thrown into the world where Asuna and a few of their friends are playing the beta of the game. After going after their first kill, the group returns to town, meeting up with more of their friends from the various other games they have played, including one Yui, the daughter of Kirito and Asuna. The day ends and as the next day begins, Kirito, a.k.a. your character in the cutscenes, meets up with a mysterious unnamed NPC who offers him an escort quest. After he completes it, he receives a single coin of the game’s currency and walks her back to town where the rest of the group meet up. This is where things start to get mysterious, though, as Yui, who can look up certain details, notices she is an NPC with no settings, thus why she has no name and her quest gave so little reward, so the group names her and sets out to discover this mysterious NPC’s true reasoning for being in the game. However, trouble brews, as it always does, for Kirito and the gang, as the deeper they go, the more they uncover about a mysterious and dark intended plot of a player. I will end my synopsis here to avoid spoilers of the story. While I found the story to be, surprisingly, a good time, there are just a few issues with it that pop up.

The bulk of the story issues I found in Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition were mostly small story pieces that stood out to me, one of which I have a big complaint over. My biggest complaint about this game’s story is the simple fact that the cutscenes state and have the voice of Kirito, even when your character is completely different from Kirito himself. I can understand if the game forced you to play as the default Kirito with some small changes in look to keep the cutscenes like this, but when you offer the player the ability to make a character of your own look and name, female characters included, this dampens the story being played, as these characters you make are for multiplayer and in-game single player content. Therefore, why, when my character is a female with a completely different name, do I have to be called Kirito with his voice in a cutscene of dialogue between another character and mine? Add to this the odd dialogue in some scenes that make no sense in the context of what is happening. This was not a big issue, as the scenes I did find it in were very few and far between, but it was confusing in some situations.

Running into combat with a weapon of choice, the gameplay of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition is one of my favorite elements as a complete unit due to the fact that it is a customizable and MMORPG style of gameplay. I won’t talk about all the elements here, as the majority of them I found to be staples of the genre, but there are a few I found worth talking about, starting with the character customization. The game, when it starts, allows you to create a character you will use while running around the town, completing missions, and fighting monsters in the field to your design and liking. This was one of my favorite small elements, as it gave me the feeling like I was actually playing Sword Art: Origins for myself and not through the eyes of Kirito, even with the cutscene issues aside from it. Following this was the combo assist system, which allows you to choose up to one of three partners to trigger a special high damage skill. This system was one of the more challenging to get down, as there were a fair number of characters, each with their own weapon type and skill sets to utilize, from tanks with bulky shields to fast and nimble dagger users.

The next two, I am going to link together because they are connected: the weapon system and multiplayer. The weapon system allows your character to use all different types of weapons from swords and rapiers to the simple dagger, each with its own moveset and style. I like this because it allows you to play as you want, not forced into the traditional swordsman class you tend to see Kirito play as from past games or the anime. This ties into the multiplayer system, though, where you and three other human players can form a party, up to four parties of four and hunt monsters, do some quests and see the originality of the player base, as leveling is fairly easy at the start but gets harder as the monsters and XP required to level become tougher.

While I did not have any issues with the combat as a whole, I did want to bring up two issues in the game that I found to be a problem from the start of the game. The first one of these is the horrendous keyboard controls they gave this game as a default setting. These controls are just bad; many of the keys you would expect to control a certain motion are used by something else and if you plan to stick with it, you have to manually go in and change them to your level of play style. The second issue I found is in regards to controller support, more so how you get the controller to even register for the game. If you try to boot up the game in normal Steam, what will happen is the controller will not even work and it will default to the keyboard controls. The only way I was able to fix it at this point in time, as I have not seen a patch to correct the situation yet, was to go into Steam big picture, manually set the controller preferences, save it and then reboot your whole PC and open the game when, up through the big picture software, it won’t read the controller any other way.

Sticking to their guns, the presentation of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition follows that of the show and previous games, very vibrant and animated visual style, as well as the perky and subtle music choices. Visually, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition sticks to its guns in terms of the visuals, and I felt that was a good choice, as the visual styling of Sword Art Online is one of the better features it has with its vibrancy in color palette and overall design. The backgrounds provided are fully 3-D, allowing you to turn the camera around and explore everything around with many types of locales to explore as you level, such as the vibrant and lush forest outside of town to the dark and mineral-lined walls of caves. The character designs were one of the better elements, as each character got a new look to accommodate the new setting for the game, minus Kirito who keeps a similar but slightly different variant of his look from the anime unless you choose to go as a female character, who then dons a black dress under her jacket.

Taking in the tunes, the soundtrack to Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition keeps the familiar anime tracks with a few new ones for some added locations and themes. Musically, I found Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition was solid, as I was never a big fan of the soundtrack from the anime itself, with the original pieces added to the game, keeping it fresh. The classical tones are here, alongside some more modern instruments like guitar and base to keep it fresh, but it was kept to the background music as a scene enhancer, in this case, driving the scene forward. The sound effects are well done here, something I expected with an MMORPG style game that was being given, as sound effects are a key factor.

Overall, I found Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition to be the best rendition of the series world in terms of visuals, storytelling, and designs but ultimately falling behind in cutscenes and keyboard controls. The massive world to explore and level in, solid storytelling and writing, wide variety of characters from all points of the series, focus on the MMORPG style of gameplay, unique weapon system, strong multiplayer feature, vibrancy, and continuation of art style and solid soundtrack make for an experience any Sword Art Online fan can enjoy, as long as you have a controller.

Pros:

  • A massive world to explore and quest in
  • The solidly told story and writing behind it
  • A wide variety of characters from across the games
  • Focus on the MMORPG style gameplay
  • A unique and interesting weapon system
  • One of the best multiplayer experiences in a single player game to date
  • The vibrancy and continuity of the art style
  • A solid soundtrack to match the game

Cons:

  • Default Kirito for cutscenes, even with female characters
  • Keyboard controls are not good at all
  • Hassle to set up control for game through Steam

DarkLunarDude gives Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition a Drastik Measure 8.5 out of 10.0 (85)

For the price of $49.99 (USD) on Steam, I can highly recommend Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition to anyone seeking an anime game that scratches both the MMORPG and single player itch, as the game offers both with one of the best multiplayer experiences to date. Warning, though-use a controller if you have one, as the keyboard controls are not good in the slightest currently.