Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is a singleplayer RPG title that tries to emulate a MMO from the titular anime series. It was first released on the PSP as Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment, a Japan only title. After the Vita port, we got a sort of “Director’s Cut” with the release on the PS4.
The game is divided into two areas. First one starts at 76th floor of the original tower in the anime with alternate storyline and some of the later characters mixed in. The second area in the Hollow Fragment is the Hollow Area with the addition of a new character, Philia. I welcome this new addition as I found missions with Philia to be far more interesting than fetch quests of the main storyline.
I was surprised to see a character creation screen at the start of the game, but as it turns out all character customization doesn’t really affect anything as everyone in the whole game refers to you as Kirito as well as all cutscenes and dialogue. What’s more you even see Kirito in some of them as he appears in the first season of anime. Too bad, as I think the developers passed up a great opportunity to really immerse the players into the game as the avatar of their choice. On the other hand, all the character customization and the equipped armour and weapons are visible on the character in-game, which is really neat.
Some parts of the game play out like a visual novel where you can see how Kirito interacts with the girls. Most of it will revolve around random stuff like food or training as characters are trying to pass time. These scenes are the main source of fanservice alongside actual dating elements in the game which we will get to later. All the girls in the game have a lot of interest in Kirito, even his sister, Leafa and his in-game daughter, Yui. Even though most characters know he is married to Asuna and point it out all the time, but Kirito doesn’t mind it.
The combat is in real-time with auto-attack where you can issue additional commands like sword skills, magic spells and moves for your companion. You have a skill palette where you can map your D-pad and face buttons however you like. And additionally, you can bring up the skill palette with the trigger buttons for even more options.
Namely, you can have one of the heroines in your party to help you on your quest for the 100th floor. Including more characters to your party would have been great, but this approach gives you the ability to get closer to the girl of your choice.
You can increase your relationship rank by praising a girl in combat and by talking with her. You can even hold hands and carry the heroine of your dreams bridal style. If you play your cards right, you might even get rewarded with a little pillow talk. Moreover, you can buy your girl armour or weapons if they are at a higher relationship level.
Main storyline has typical MMO missions like fetch x of some rare ore or slay x number of certain enemies. You will also use collected items to upgrade your weapons. Upgrading is done by Lisabeth, but she doesn’t have much skill in doing it so most of the time she will fail your upgrade. Also, you can only upgrade one stat at a time.
When you discover the boss room of each floor you need to get back to town in order to plan out the attack. Kirito will also need to do some of the required quests in order to fight the boss. Then you can gather your people and bring along one companion into the fight. Bosses are fairly easy but they act like huge damage sponges that miss your attacks a lot. Most concern is to keep your companion alive as if they die it is a game over for you too.
Hollow Area features an overworld map with a lot of additional dungeons, which are interconnected. At times it can get a bit confusing, but Philia is there to help you. The missions here are a bit more interesting as most of the time you are helping Philia one way or another.
Additionally the PS4 version of the game features added multiplayer for 4 players with their respected heroine companions, but only in the Hollow Area. And then there is simulated multiplayer with AI party members.
It feels a bit disappointing that Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment on the PS4, as the ultimate version of the game, still needs a bit more polish as there are frequent drops in framerate.
If you have never seen Sword Art Online anime series you will be lost, but for the true fans here is a chance to interact with your favourite characters and maybe try and romance a waifu or two.
You can buy Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment on the PlayStation Store.