Prepare to dive into Adventure!
Lost Song is the latest RPG to delve into the story of one of the most popular anime and manga of the current day, Sword Art Online. After last year’s instalment, Hollow Fragment, was popular despite numerous flaws in the gameplay and translations of text, it was decided that Lost song would be released in the west but have they corrected these hiccups or will we be left feeling hollow and confused once more?
The story is very similar in setting to the last, we follow Kirito, the Beta-testing, Player-besting, Harem-questing, Grinding-without-resting protagonist of the series. We are in ALO, Alfheim Online, after the traumatic events of the SAO series that had him and his friends trapped in a VR game for a long period of time before his and his in-game wife/girlfriend managed to conquer the final floor boss and release the people in the game from the trap. It is a story in the vein of SAO so fans will be delighted by the feel and sound of it, all the characters appear much like they did in the anime and we even have new characters to play with that are game exclusive. The story initially revolves around an idol in game and her guild. This idol is taking the worlds (Both in-game and the real world) by storm and Kirito is intrigued and slightly apprehensive about her, so begins an exploration into her motives that leads… mildly shocking results. The characters are where the problem starts. While we have familiar faces like Klein and Sinon (And Sinon is only really familiar if you’ve seen the latest series of SAO or read the manga, She has been added in the games as if she were always in the main story SAO which can lead to confusion.), there are a couple of hiccups with Strea and Phillia. I’ve only really watched the anime so I was unsure if those two existed outside of the previous game but the story seemed to just add them in with little to no preamble.
Sword Art Online did a good job with character development to a part and one of the best reason to play the game is to immerse yourself in the world but it was a glaring fault for me that you have two characters who were said to be part of the original narrative when they were. It seems like the previous game was almost ignored, and while Sinon’s part is mentioned that she was part of the original crew, if you had only seen the first anime, you’d be scratching your head as to who she is. I do love a good story and I can understand when there isn’t enough time to script in lore that is readily available but I feel if you are going to rely on other sources to give the backstory, you should stick to it too. I don’t think the game would have been hurt by mentioning Gun Gale Online (Which features in the second series.) even if it is not playable in game, considering the costumes are in the game also. Likewise with Strea and Phillia, a little introduction or recap of their stories would have been appreciated because for the longest time, I kept mixing their characters up as I found Hollow Fragment rather hard to play with the aforementioned errors in text. With regards to the story, SAO was well executed and had very good points but the story itself wasn’t overly complex. Lost Song is very similar, it tells a story well and has some twists but it does end up mostly how you would expect it to. I wouldn’t go into it thinking you will be impressed with 24-esque style plot twists that will wrench you from your seat but it isn’t just a bland story either. It kept me interested throughout most of the game and I was curious to see the end and how the events would unfold along the way. I was disappointed with the character development because with such an offering of characters, it is unfortunate but expected that not everyone will get to shine for long periods of time; however, I still wanted more from it. You can explore each character a little further with affinity missions, unlocked if you have them in your party for longer, play with them more but even this seemed more like a way to bump up the time you spend playing as opposed to natural progression.
Sword Art is an anime about people stuck in a game, so how does the game about an anime about a game play? Pretty well actually, the controls and systems are very straightforward, requiring a little practice to get the hang of. The combat is very streamlined, allowing you to get the feel of the show as they dance about and fight while actually having to pay attention to the fighting as mistakes can be brutally punished in this game much like in the show. You have access to magic, which requires you to sheath your weapon to use it and each character has three different weapon styles to play about with so you can experiment and customise to your liking. There is so much to do with regards to costumes, weapons and skills that it is unlikely that two people could play the game and go about it the same way which makes for very interesting PvP battles as well, another component of the game. There is a but though, it is very fun and expansive but at times I was very happy with a couple of characters. With the all the three different weapon styles per character, you could always just change up the weapon of character if you needed or wanted to use an axe wielder as opposed to picking the main axe wielding Agil and as character levels don’t go up if they aren’t in your party, it would take an insane amount of time to have other characters you haven’t been using catch up to you(There are about 18 characters, getting each up to level 500 would drive anyone insane). While the levels of each of your members can go up rather quickly, you start at level 100 and I found that after about 3 hours, I was at level 125, it was a very odd feeling as it seemed to go by so quickly and yet I have skills that won’t be unlocked till level 300. I felt that made it seem all the more daunting than it really was. This becomes more chore than a labour of love when you discover most areas and monsters eternally repeating through the game with only some end floor and storyline bosses being different.
The game is not all bad by a stretch, I feel like spent more time on the negatives than the positives in the review and I have this part here because I feel like outside of the looking at the system and analysis of the story that something gets left out because it isn’t necessary to the combat or the story (except for some parts.) That is the fun of flight! You can fly in the game, it was one of the most exciting additions to the game from the previous instalment. You can hover and rise and fall with the tough of a button but when you press up on the d-pad (Vita, haven’t played the Ps4 version.) you get to fly at speed. It is great, it handles well and it gets you around the map quickly too. There is an altitude cap but this can be done away with later on in the game. The mechanics of it are sound and I never really found issue with anything about flight. It is a wonderful feeling though, you do have that wonderful whimsical feeling that you are actually flying and I feel much of the game time between places I was soaring about, getting hopelessly off track from the story that would normally have led to problems had I been in control of the characters from the anime, thankfully the game allowed me to indulge in my drifting.