Sword Art Online: Lost Song (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 23.11.2015

Review for Sword Art Online: Lost Song on PlayStation 4

Bandai Namco brings the latest of the Sword Art Online games West, with the first in the series to move developer from Aquaria to Artdink, a team that is not new to the world of anime spin-offs, having recently produced titles based on Dragon Ball Z and Madoka Magica. The story continues on after the other Sword Art Online releases from Bandai Namco, Hollow Fragment and Infinity Moment. The games have now built their own storyline separate to the light novels and anime series, but following some of the same major story beats. This gives its own unique continuity and allows for things that happened in previous titles to be expanded upon in Lost Song.

The cast has escaped Aincrad and returned to the real world. It's hard to stay away from the attraction of the VRMMORPG, however, and they soon all join the latest big thing: Alfheim Online (ALO). Set in a world based around Norse mythology, ALO puts a focus on PVP instead of PVE, with players taking the roles of different fairy clans. In Lost Song, Kirito and crew are heading to a new area that has opened within ALO, entitled Svart Alfheim, and are engaging in the classic MMO activity of racing to be the first to clear the content. Their competition are a massive guild named Shamrock, led by a girl named "Seven" who lives a double life of a scientist in the real world and a massively popular idol within the virtual world.

Lost Song's story falls quite flat. Much like in the source material, the story of ALO when compared to Aincrad lacks punch. Aincrad was filled with dread, and dying in-game meant death in reality and there were dangers lurking around every corner. Random enemies, psychotic PVP-obsessed players, the potential of the players' bodies wasting away in the real world while they were stuck inside the game and more, which gave the characters the drive to complete everything to escape. ALO, in comparison, just has friends playing together.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Lost Song on PlayStation 4

One of the major issues is that there is not much of an antagonist or story arc throughout to really connect with, or develop. In a way, the guild of Shamrock and one of its leaders, Sumeragi, act as the villains of the story…but it doesn't work. They lack any sort of foreboding or menacing presence and don't end up feeling like much of an enemy to try and overcome. While the story is lacking punch, it is, however, filled with moments and scenes that hardcore fans of the series will enjoy - there are plenty of funny scenes and tons of fan-service. All the Japanese voice cast returns once again, all doing a great job. The phenomenal music talent of Eir Aoi is in attendance, too, quite fittingly since she performed the opening to the ALO arc of the anime, singing a new opening song for this release…and it is simply superb.

The gameplay is drastically different to that of Hollow Fragment, and the new developer has produced something quite indistinguishable to what has come before. Whereas Hollow Fragment felt very much like a faux-MMO, this title actually feels like a Dungeon Crawling Action RPG. The grinding and fetch quests are still a part of the adventure, but they are not so abundant. The combat system is completely reworked to be lighter and quicker, and makes for mindless fun. The awful character affection system is also thankfully gone - no more having to praise team members during combat and no more having to play silly conversation-based mini-games.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Lost Song on PlayStation 4

Lost Song also adds a whole new dimension to play over the previous Sword Art Online games, quite literally, by adding the ability to fly. Being set in the world of ALO, all of the characters are fairies and can fly. This flight can either be simple, slow hovering for combat, or full speed flight across the terrain for exploration. This is available anywhere outdoors with the ability only removed whilst in towns or dungeons, and although it's a little awkward at first, it becomes a great addition, making exploration of the open zones a great improvement over the previous outing. This is a little restricted by adding altitude limits to each of the areas, which act as gating mechanics, requiring different tasks to be completed that can then result in the opening of "jet streams," pillars of wind that propel Kirito and party up past the limit and onto islands high in the sky.

While the flight mechanic can be a lot of fun for exploration, it becomes very obstructive during combat, and it's hard to see any places where it works particularly well. It can be useful to evade attacks or escape completely, yet when turning to the offensive it makes for stunted and broken moments. There are numerous enemies that can fly, and taking them down always feels awkward as they can move slightly out of reach by flying up or down, and one bad timed moment can result in a long fall. While it's easy to recover from the fall, being hit in the air and knocked down gets old quickly.

Just when it seems that Kirito's veritable army of ladies couldn't get any larger, Lost Song takes it to a whole new level. Of course, the game includes Leafa, quite fittingly since it's based in ALO, the series from which she originates, but it also includes Sinon from Sword Art Online III and even the original ladies of Strea and Philia from Hollow Fragment. On top of this, it also expands Kirito's harem with the guild leaders from ALO and some brand new original characters, too.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Lost Song on PlayStation 4

With all these new ladies comes mass amounts of new fan-service, along with adding a physics systems to the female players' anatomy that can feel a bit like the old Dead or Alive games. There are plenty of scenes where the female cast accidentally find themselves around Kirito while half dressed.

From this considerable cast, the party is made up of three players, although who is chosen to make up the team is inconsequential since they are not much help at all. The AI is very spotty and party members can often be found chasing after enemies in adjoining rooms instead of fighting the ones that have been engaged or, even worse, just standing idly by while Kirito gets pummelled.

It is all disappointingly short, as well, weighing in at around fifteen hours or so for those who just play through the story. Completionists can pad this out another five to ten hours with side-quests and the multiplayer aspects. As for the multiplayer, it gives access to a 16-player lobby, from which four-player co-operative or PVP options are available. The co-op is well done and it shows how good this could be with competent AI, and the competitive duels can be fun, too, but lack lasting appeal. The short length actually becomes welcomed towards the end, as although the combat is initially mindless fun and the world seems vast, by the time Kirito and the party reach the final areas of Svart Alfheim, enemies start being repeatedly recycled and areas all begin to look the same.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Lost Song on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

While it's great to see Bandai Namco continue to support Otaku fans in the West, Sword Art Online: Lost Song is a lost cause for anyone who isn't a die-hard SAO fan. With a weak story, recycled areas, and a short length on the whole, even long-term fans won't find much here to keep them entertained. There is one title left to come in the series, Hollow Realisation, returning to the fan favourite setting of Aincrad next year. Hopefully, it can learn from the many mistakes of its predecessors.

Developer

Artdink

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

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   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Ofisil, oroblram

There are 2 members online at the moment.