Genre: Action, Shooter
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Release Date: Feb 23, 2018
Edited by KnightAvenger
After coming off the world created by Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, I was not sure how they would one up the experience that game provided. However, when the next game in the series was announced, I knew I was in for a treat, as it fell back to its roots and brought the Gun Gale Universe to life: Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is an action RPG developed by DIMPS, later released by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment that nearly seamlessly creates an experience for the player in the GGO world but leaves a few missteps that can take away from the overall experience.
Logging into the world of GGO, the story of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet takes place where your decision, as a new character in this game’s world, changes the tale in many facets. We, the player, start out with a character creator, where you make your own character in the game of Gun Gale Online, logging in to meet your childhood friend Kurena, who has invited you to play the game during an event where a rare prize is up for grabs. However, it’s one takes all and as your character enters a mysterious white room, you are forced to jump after hearing a bullet, activating a pod in the middle of the room, which awakens an ArFa-sys, the grand prize. Upon being awoken, you are given the ability to change its appearance and defend it, thus ending the special event. It is discovered then that the ArFA-sys unit you awakened was the special prize, a special unit added to the game that was stronger than any other unit and is highly sought after by other players. It is here we are introduced to Kirito, whom you meet in the final room of the event, as well as Asuna, who takes you to meet the other players from various other games like SAO. The group decides (from that point) that they want to take you, the new player, into the new area once it opens up and vow to help you level up, alongside learning more about your ArFA-sys unit, but be wary, as your choices from here out are going to hurt or help you down the road. I will end my synopsis here, as the story does have some spoiler moments later but these are mostly based off of your choices in the game. The game, however, does not play like the perfect swan song.
Like glitches in an MMO, the story does contain a few issues, mostly ones that border minor on the inconvenience level. The first minor issue I found was the spacing between certain story elements, starting from the get-go of the game. The story, for all purposes, is paced really well, especially with the action scenes, but when there is downtime, the story seems to drop off in energy and loses part of that luster to keep the player in the game. The other story element I had issues with was the side missions, given by certain characters as you played through the game. These missions, for a better term, felt like busy work to get a better connection to certain characters, but it was utilized sparingly so I never looked too down on it.
With bullets flying all around, the gameplay of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet comes in hot and fast, giving a vast (but essential) hub world with different zones outside the city to explore and challenge yourself with. As with all games, I will get to the meat of what makes the game unique without all the filler, so let us start with the game’s hub world. The hub world is broken up into segments, each containing something different that the player will need to improve in the game. The first part of the hub world is a city area, where you can randomly pick up quests and trade for goods like new guns, more ammo, new outfits/accessories, and so forth. Attached to this is the elevator that can get you to your room, where your ArFA-sys can give you new missions as well, usually for components for them, Kirito’s room, where you can go and speak to the gang, and a small hub where you take new missions, go out to the field or engage in multiplayer.
Following this is the appraise, upgrade and costume system, each dealt with while in Kirito’s apartment. The appraise system is where you can bring unlooked-at items to someone in Kirito’s room and, for a select fee, appraise the item to see their stats. Next to this is the upgrade or customization system run by Lisbeth. This is where you can upgrade the strength of your weapons by bringing her special materials from the field, increasing certain stats as they go up. The last system to speak about is the costume system, run by Asuna and her daughter. This system allows you to bring items from the field to her and make special outfits, sometimes new patterns as well, so Asuna can learn and make them for you.
The last area we need to speak about is the field, which is where the combat systems come into play. Combat in Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet plays similarly to most shooter games, where you have certain abilities tied to certain types of weapon styles, but your aim is important, as the game doesn’t offer an auto-aim function until you’re up close at a certain distance from the target, so long-range shooting, like with snipers, can be a rewarding challenge. You are allowed to bring three partners into each zone with you, one being your ArFA-sys, so choosing the other two well becomes important as you go, but the AI for these partners can be less…enjoyable. There were times I would go down due to the AI of the partners just fighting some creature 10 yards back, leaving me to fend for myself and sometimes, they would just run around my downed body for no reason at all. The field is also where you pick up certain materials for the upgrades and costumes as well as unappraised weapons and accessories from the bosses of the wilds.
Bringing in the gloomy dark feels, the presentation of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet brings in the dark and metallic anime visual style, with the heavy metal tones to match the world. Visually, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a darker-themed game, and it shows well in the metal clad world of the city and field to excellent reception. The backgrounds are dark and gloomy, each zone having this change of scenery that adds a new breath of fresh air to this twist apocalypse style the game represents, with each zone being massive and having a lot to explore as you go. The character art is excellently portrayed here from the GGO forms, some new characters from prior games getting new looks to match the theme of the world, with solid facial and body motions to match their expression.
With the air ringing with the sound of bullets flying, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet soundtrack is heavy and intense, paired with sound effects to match this heavier nature. Musically, I fell in love with the heavy metal music used for the game’s soundtrack, as it signals the player to go forth and shoot all the things with guitar riffs and drum slams, swapping to some light tones when needed. The sound effects used here as well are top notch, each bullet sounding like it could be whizzing by you at any given time, in real life.
Overall, I found Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet to be one of the best games in the series to date, only having a few key issues, such as the sporadic AI when in combat, to really take away from the experience. The unique and customizable story experience, ability to play your own character, genuinely appreciated hub-world separation, overall fun gun-play mechanics, the dark but heavy tone of the presentation, wide and vast backgrounds to explore, and the heavy metal-themed soundtrack make this game one worth the leveling grind.
- The uniquely told story experience
- Ability to play your own character for once
- A much-appreciated gun-play mechanics
- The dark, gritty and apocalyptic tone of the presentation
- Vast zones to explore and farm from
- An amazing heavy metal-themed soundtrack
- Too much spacing between the missions in some areas
- The sometimes functional but not so good AI of your comrades
- A multiplayer that is not very active and doesn’t offer anything special to the table
DarkLunarDude gives Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet a Drastik Measure 7.8 out of 10.0 (78)
For the price of $59.99 (USD) on the PlayStation Network, I can recommend Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet to those who love SAO, as the game is a love letter to the GGO concept, or those who want a good action RPG, but I would recommend waiting for a price drop, as the online mode when I was playing didn’t seem very active and the companion AI can leave a bad taste in your mouth.