I didn’t expect much when I started playing Sword Art Online Alicization Rising Steel by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment. The Sword Art Online series has been on a rocky road when it comes to the anime and their adaptions. I’m no stranger when it comes to the series’ mundane storylines and weak world-building. They’ve received a ton of criticism over the past few years, but I was pleasantly surprised when playing this hero collecting RPG in the SAO series.
A Comeback for the SAO Franchise
BANDAI NAMCO is known for its lack of innovation when it comes to its Sword Art Online combat systems. Luckily the combat system improved with this title. The gameplay consists of a turn-based combat system with a variety of customizable skills, characters, and flashy animations to go along with it. The player can have up to 4 people in their party with the ability to switch playable characters in and out during combat. You can create combo actions between a variety of heroes, mixing in magic, physical, healing, and party buff skills. SAO offers a variety of content, such as a 12-chapter story quest series. They also provide unique side quests that are event-based and allow players to get limited-time characters.
You gather in-game currency to summon heroes daily. All the heroes are well-known Sword Art Online characters, each with their own unique abilities and combat style. The player has the freedom to customize their party with melee characters, magic casters, or a combination of both. That’s where the gameplay really drew me in. This game does justice to the turn-base combat genre.
The fully animated cut scenes and gorgeously designed combat visuals stunned me. The title’s graphics make it seem as if you are playing the anime. This is something big consoles and PC title’s often struggle with, so seeing it on a mobile platform was even more impressive. The simplicity of the combat system layout makes the gameplay easy to manage. Not only does it look amazing, but it feels fantastic to play. The Japanese voice acting, English subtitles, and soundtrack are all on par with the SAO anime as well. Visually and sound-wise, this game is perfect.
What’s the Catch?
There are a few aspects of the game that didn’t sit well with me and made it difficult for me to want to continue. My biggest issue and something that the Sword Art Online franchise is notoriously known for is its poor narrative design. Since this game is narrative-heavy, it’s something that should be accounted for. The game starts off at a plodding pace. It took me several hours to get through the tutorial phase and into the meat of the gameplay. The game forces the player to re-watch cut scenes and flashbacks of story content that just happened as if the player had forgotten the scene, they watched 30 seconds ago. This is a sure sign of amateur storytelling.
Although the story is different from the original Sword Art Online series, it unfortunately still falls into the same mistakes that the original made. Kirito, the main character in Sword Art Online world, is still the same special boy with over-powered abilities without any explanation to back it up. This leaves him at this fixer-upper character who continuously knows what to do at every moment.
When all is said and done, this is one of the best Sword Art Online games BANDAI NAMCO has produced. It took a while to draw me in, and the narrative was still locked into that cookie-cutter style that the SAO series has been criticized for. Nonetheless, it has gameplay and visual aspects that most mobile games don’t offer and sets the bar high for upcoming SAO games.
Is it Hardcore?
Despite the game falling into a few old habits, Sword Art Online Alicization Rising Steel is a breath of fresh air for the SAO franchise.