Welcome to Cross Edge
Sword Art Online Variant Showdown or VS is an action RPG developed and published by Bandai Namco. Who is celebrating ten years of the critically acclaimed Sword Art Online anime based on the light novels by Reki Kawahara. Players get to play their favorite characters from the series and take on familiar monsters in a whole new game.
Sword Art Online VS gives players an original story set after the Alicization arc. Kirito and his friends play a brand-new VR game; Cross Edge, where it’s rumored that losing a fight to a mysterious player causes memory loss. Kirito and company investigate these rumors to unravel the mystery of said player. Most importantly Kirito must level up to find the truth.
Link, Start, Whatever
The basic premise of Sword Art Online Variant Showdown is completing each stage. You take three characters into each stage. You gain new characters from scouting. This is the equivalent of summoning characters, a trait that most gotcha games share. You trade in-game currency for each summon or as the game calls scouting. You fight various monsters from the series through each stage swapping from one character to another.
Each character has two character-specific sword skills that need to cool down for an allotted time after each use. The three characters you bring into the stage are each able to equip three cards to raise their power in various ways. For example, When Kirito uses a card named “to you, my beloved.” He gets a skill cooldown bonus of minus five percent when an enemy is inflicted with the sleep status. You are graded every time you complete a stage. This is based on how much damage you take, how fast you complete it and how many combos you rack up.
Sword Art Online Variant Showdown blends a fast-paced action game that at times feels like a fighting game due to the importance of timing. Timing when to use character skills and when to switch characters is often the difference between victory and defeat. The controls VS use are pretty basic and for a game that needs perfect timing, it is frustrating. I wish VS employed controller support because a game that wants precision needs accurate controls, something that VS is lacking. If I use a sword skill on a monster, I need that skill the exact moment I input it on the pad. Often a failed attack is the case. However, with additional enemies on the stage gamepad inputs vary.
A Missed Opportunity
As a long-time fan of the anime, I adore the world and characters. Sword Art Online Variant Showdown lets me play as my favorite characters, while giving me an original story. I am the target audience for VS and unfortunately, Bandai Namco managed to only disappoint. The best part of Sword Art Online is the story, the entire story hides from its players. You have to search for it in the user interface. The controls are subpar and Sword Art Online VS just feels soulless, like a missed opportunity.
The animation is beautiful, the music is addictive and the Japanese voice acting is wonderful. I enjoyed spending time with old friends, although I couldn’t help but sigh and say “whatever” the potential Sword Art Online VS has is vast. Unfortunately, the execution is just a missed opportunity. On the other hand, it’s not the worst game in the Sword Art Online franchise however, that’s not exactly an endorsement either.
Is It Hardcore?
While Sword Art Online VS is not a terrible experience, the uneven controls and repetitive gameplay leave players with a subpar encounter.