Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 03.09.2015

Review for Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on PlayStation 4

Sword Art Online was originally a series of light novels by Reki Kawahara and while it enjoyed some popularity in Japan, it wasn't until it received an anime adaptation that it exploded. There was massive success in the West, too, with it becoming one of those that will be remembered and cosplayed for a long time to come. Bandai Namco is smart when it comes to these sorts of series, quickly picking up the licences for its release in the West, knowing there is a fan-base willing to buy. Sadly, for the first release of this title in English, originally on Vita, the release came far too quick and the final product suffered with some of the worst translations since "All your base are belong to us." This latest version has a brand new translation, a few new features, and some upscaled graphics, but how does it survive the jump from handheld to big screen? Cubed3 finds out...

Re: Hollow Fragment is made up of two titles, the first of which, Infinity Moment, was actually a PSP game from 2013 that was bundled with the original Vita release of the Hollow Fragment. Sadly, this newest version on PS4 doesn't add a whole new story. Instead, the new story, Lost Song, is due to be released this holiday season. For those new to the series, a popular virtual reality MMO title suddenly becomes a life and death experience when the creator of the game traps all the players inside, and the only way to escape is to clear the 100-floored dungeon at the centre of the world of "Aincrad." The premise is a familiar one - players getting stuck in their virtual reality games has been used from .hack to Log Horizon, and is a popular trope in today's anime. Sword Art Online (or SWORD ART ONLINE) did it well thanks to the great story and compelling characters, showing everyday people having to adapt to their new lives, deal with the risk of death, and the thought that their bodies may be wasting away in the real world.

SWORD ART ONLINE follows a protagonist named Kirito, one of the best players from the beta of the game as he progresses as a solo player through the world, meeting friends and gathering comrades along the way. The story of Infinity Moment places Kirito at the end of the story of the anime, but instead of freeing him and all of the other players, it instead continues the journey with an alternative story where Kirito and his friends progress through the remaining 25 floors. Kirito's group of friends primarily consists of girls who are smitten with him in a typical anime harem fashion; Infinity Moment expands this cast by adding "Leafa" and "Sinon," fan favourite characters from much further ahead in the SWORD ART ONLINE series that were not originally part of this section of the tale.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on PlayStation 4

Each floor has a few simple maps to navigate around, at the end of which is a dungeon that consists of a handful of maps before finishing in a classic MMO-style boss encounter. These are some of the best parts - learning the bosses' patterns and attacks, while directing a team to take it out. Upon defeat of the boss, access to the next floor is opened and between each, Kirito and crew return to Arc Sophia, the game's hub town. Here gear can be bought or crafted, there is interactions with the extended cast, side-quests to pick up from an NPC, and the chance to take part in side stories with each member of the extended Harem cast.

Hollow Fragment is an entirely original story inside a brand new setting; set within a pocket dimension of the game world, Aincrad. Kirito stumbles into this odd "Hollow Fragment" area and finds himself unable to contact his friends or exit the area but also discovers a massive new landscape to explore, new mysteries to the Aincrad world, new equipment and enemies… and, of course, most importantly a new girl to add to his already considerable Harem... The Hollow Fragment part of the game is quite different to the Infinity Moment section. Not only are there plenty of new MMO side-quests, all listed from the start, as opposed to unlocking as progress is made, but there's quite a compelling main story to play through and plenty of new areas to explore. While the Infinity Moment setting gives a series of maps for each floor to then open the next floor, the Hollow Fragment world is a large single map made up of numerous zones.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on PlayStation 4

Being based on an MMO, the side-quests in both games can be appropriately unimaginative. Go to a specific zone and defeat a set amount of enemies or collect a certain amount of dropped items from these enemies. Worse still are the quests where Kirito helps the NPCs that represent others in the world - they always require the same thing and after a handful of times they become old quickly. The NPC will send Kirito a message asking for help, and they will be on a set floor, in a single map and at either daytime or night time. Once the NPC has been found, they must be followed around and attack any mobs that come near until the NPCs have gathered enough experience or random item drops.

Although the side-quests and new floor exploration can get repetitive and tiresome, the combat manages to remain fresh and enjoyable thanks to the surprisingly deep range of abilities that can be experimented with. There are seven different weapon types, so Kirito doesn't need to stick to his signature dual-wielding one-handed swords and can instead branch out to Katanas, Rapiers, Double-handed weapons and more. Each weapon is worth experimenting with, all having numerous unique abilities to unlock alongside the generic battle abilities that become available as progress is made through each weapon's tree. Some require a specific path to master, and a great deal of time will need to be invested using a weapon to up its proficiency to be able to unlock some of the more exotic weapons, for example, levelling up the one-handed sword proficiency opens up the option to use Scimitars, which when fully upgraded can then unlock Katana mastery.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on PlayStation 4

Both Hollow Fragment and Infinity Moment have similar play styles - there are dungeons to progress through, tons of generic side-quests, along with hours upon hours of narrative, FMVs and cut-scenes, especially when it comes to interactions and the romancing of each girl. The romance aspect is horrendous, however. To garner favour with each girl, it requires sitting with them and going through a strange mini-game where Kirito can reply "Nice!" or "…" to each thing the girl says. Even with the new translation, it's confusing and feels like quite a silly and pointless grind. Thankfully, the unique quests to increase Kirito's popularity with each lady are much better designed. Each character has their own story arc to progress through, with a chapter of each delivered between floors, for example, Lisbeth is looking to regain her smithing skills, Sinon is learning how to adapt the skills she learnt in a modern shooting MMO to the fantasy setting, Silica is hunting ore for her pet to grow, and so on. These moments with the extended cast of the harem will be the reason for purchase for many fans of the series. There are some genuinely well written, funny and heart-warming moments that make up for the appalling design of the romance mini-game.

This releases' new translation has a massively noticeable impact on the story; although the terrible translation on the Vita was bearable, it significantly impacted the overall product. Many moments were filled with gibberish, such as, "You. At this current time, are now positive, you can?" becomes "Are you sure you want to do this?" Across the board from NPC chatter in town to area names to the most important aspects of the story, the new translation is great. On top of this, this new version also received a major graphical overhaul and now looks surprisingly good considering some parts originally debuted on the PSP. It's impressive to see the level of upscaled graphics. Obviously, they don't look quite as good as a full blown PS4 title but they are serviceable enough. Being a remaster of a Vita game, which includes a remaster of a PSP title, some cynical fans may accuse Namco Bandai of beating a dead horse, but considering the ground-up translation and the low price point of only £15.99 the release is justified.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although there are points where the grind becomes dull and seems to be quite endless, the highpoints of the combat, the great fan-service-filled story, and the amount of content, paired with the new translation and low price point make this a worthy purchase for any fan of SWORD ART ONLINE. Following on from Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment, the next release on the calendar to watch out for is the next Sword Art title, Lost Song. For now, though, keeping on enjoying this treat.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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