Sword Art Online is a well-known anime and manga franchise, even by those who haven’t seen or read the source material. The story follows a team of hardcore gamers who dedicate their lives to spending time together in a virtual world. However, Accel World might be seen as a little more of a niche series. Both series feature a similar premise in a virtual world and they are also written by the same author, Reki Kawahara.
Taking both of these similar franchises and bringing them into one game might seem like a bad idea to those who wish to view them as separate properties. That said, Artdink has brought these worlds together and, after completing the game, it’s evident that they spent a great deal of time with the story. However, reusing a lot of assets from Sword Art Online: Lost Song is perhaps the only thing that holds this game back.
Accel World VS Sword Art Online opens with a rather interesting premise. After a confusing request by admins to log out of Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito and Asuna sense that something just isn’t right. Evidently, their hunch was right on the nose, because after following a clue they ran into a “witch” who is attempting to destroy the fabric of time with the power of someone close to Kirito.
In order to halt the duo’s attempt at a rescue, Black Lotus is forced to obey the witch’s request to stop them using any means possible. Realizing that she’s been tricked, the three retreat to find their bearings and figure out what they are going to do next. Basically, they need to find their friends and put a stop to this witch’s plans.
Let me just say that I’m a huge fan of time travel, and Accel World VS Sword Art Online handled it in a way that I didn’t see coming, or that I didn’t know was a thing before this game. Supposedly, Accel World‘s timeline is based 20 years in the future from Kirito’s current timeline. Although time travel isn’t possible in the future, the group from Accel World have been brought to the past by the witch’s powers.
I was wildly impressed with all of this: what was more impressive was how the game handled this huge cast of characters. This game has a large number of playable characters, each with their own personality, stats, and costumes. Players can create their all-star party using a combination of any of the two franchises: additionally, the story scenes allow each character a line or two in almost every scene. Handling such a large group of characters must have been tough for the writers, but it turned out to be an enjoyable story.
For those that are looking for something new, the story is what is going to be the best part of this game. The gameplay is very similar to past Sword Art Online game, mainly Sword Art Online: Lost Song. Many assets have been reused, including set pieces, maps, and dungeons: this is disappointing because although I had fun with Lost Song, I spent hours in that world already. I wish the developers used the Accel World setting more in the beginning parts of the game instead of just sending the player back to ALO.
In terms of character designs, I thought the entire cast looked great, even though the Sword Art Online cast featured many of their previous assets. During story scenes, there are some CG events that occur which add to the entertainment of the story. Seeing these well-illustrated scenes with casts from both franchises was welcome, from a fan’s perspective.
Another returning feature in the game are optional quests, which are still as confusing and tedious as they’ve always been. When accepting a quest, such as “Defeat 30 of X enemies,” there is no prompt on which world the enemy is in. Additionally, the developer really needs to add an icon on the map for players to easily see which enemy is a quest enemy, instead of flying up to every enemy in the world to check its name.
Quests aside, I did enjoy the Extra Missions, which usually just transported you to a boss battle. In order to beat them, it’s wise to spend some time leveling up your equipment and characters to the recommended level. Accel World VS Sword Art Online has different shops depending on which franchise you are trying to purchase items for. This is rather confusing in the beginning, but after a while I forced myself to learn it in order to create more powerful characters and weapons: it’s not too bad. This also includes learning how to use the synthesis shop, which I didn’t do for almost half the game because I forgot it was there.
In the beginning of the game, story quest hints will pretty much just tell you to talk to people in town about what to do next. This goes for about the first four to five hours as you encounter many of the characters from each series and fight your way through a couple dungeons. Often I found myself running around town talking to NPCs and wondering if any of them would just tell me what to do, when all I had to do was warp to a certain world and trigger a story scene.
Fighting in Accel World VS Sword Art Online is rather satisfying once you figure out the characters and customize their skills and shortcuts to your liking. The fighting seemed to be greatly improved from Lost Song, which I enjoyed. The combos were smooth, and the Switch mechanic came in handy during boss battles. My only issue was that I wish they would increase the party size to include more than three characters: with a cast of over 50 playable characters, this game begged to have at least a party of six go into a dungeon at once.
There were a few times that the game suffered some frame rate issues at weird moments, such as running up the stairs in the town. During battles it didn’t happen often or as badly when compared to previous Sword Art Online games. I feel like Artdink is on the brink of mastering this fighting system, but perhaps these hiccups with the frame rate will have to wait ’til the next release.
Despite its shortcomings, Accel World VS Sword Art Online is an entertaining and fun game. However, this is coming from a fan of both series who has kept up with the characters and their backstories. In the end, I think that’s who Accel World VS Sword Art Online is aimed for: giving the hardcore fanbase of these two franchises a chance to play through a strong story featuring all the characters.
Accel World VS Sword Art Online had the potential to bring these two words together in a unique way, but that ended up stopping at the story. The similarities between this game and Sword Art Online: Lost Song are just too much to overlook. If you enjoyed the past Sword Art Online games then this is for you, but if you know nothing about either of these worlds and are just looking for a fun action RPG, I’d look elsewhere.