Game Title: Accel World vs Sword Art Online
Developer: Namco Bandai
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 3.0 GB
Availability: Digital Download (Europe, North America)
PSTV Support: Yes
There’s been a running theory about various anime franchises about VR video games actually being linked to the same timeline, showcasing the growth of VR over different times and eras. Obviously, the big hitter when it comes to VR Gaming Anime is Sword Art Online, outside of other franchises that have adopted VR and AR like the critically-hated Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal.
It’s no surprise that the developers of the SAO games would eventually want to cross SAO with another franchise, and the Accel World series was the perfect match. If you watch the anime series or read the manga, you’ll see hints and references that directly connect the two franchises. One episode explicitly talks and shows the Nerve-Gear when Accel World’s MC is researching the history of VR Gaming.
The fact that this cross-over utilized the gameplay engine from SAO: Lost Song got me even more excited about it. So, here is my review of Accel World vs Sword Art Online for PS Vita and PlayStation TV!
The plot of this game takes place some time after the events of Lost Song. While wandering around Alfheim Online, Kirito, Asuna, and Yui notice a massive tower appear in Svart Alfheim, followed by a strange villain known as Persona Vabel. After Kirito locks horns with known other than Black Lotus from the Accel World series, Yui is captured and they are all locked out of the majority of Svart Alfheim when the entire game starts to warp and the system goes into emergency maintenance mode.
After finding out that Black Lotus and others from Brain Burst have arrived in ALO due to a strange portal that appeared in their world, the trio begin searching for their allies from ALO and Brain Burst alike to re-unlock the islands and stop Vabel from hurting Yui.
The story of this game is interesting because 1) it goes on the widely-spread theory that Sword Art Online and Accel World take place in the same timeline and 2) it contains a mash-up of both franchises warping and melding with one another in the form of the new ALO. The entire cast returns from Lost Song, and a good dozen or two Accel World characters join up, so the game really pulls about the same, reference and otherwise, from both franchises instead of just being “Let’s put Accel World characters into SAO for the lulz”.
The main thing is the required knowledge for Accel World. The game does a wonderful job of explaining how Accel World works, from Brain Burst and Legions to the Time Travel and how Burst Points work. What it does not do, however, is explain much about the characters coming from Accel World. Because it takes characters from the part of the AW timeline that only the AW manga has covered, even having watched the anime will not prepare you for every background story and story spoiler the game throws at you.
Like SAO: Lost Song, this is an Action-RPG with flying elements. Although there are several new systems, such as teleportation and enhanced jumping mechanics, the basics of navigating Svart Alfheim remain mostly the same. If you play as an SAO character, then it will be identical, right down to how flying works.
But what’s different here? As far as ALO enhancements, you can now fly in dungeons instead of being stuck on foot and the physical attack skill system has been enhanced to give you one “cinematic” skill and then other skills you can link to shortcuts. There’s also a much shorter recharge time for most skills than before.
The largest changes are the roster and how Brain Burst’s own gameplay elements are incorporated into ALO’s. Counting SAO characters, Accel World characters, Accel Assault characters, and Multiplayer-only characters, there are over 40 different playable characters to choose from. Whether you want to traverse the skies as Leafa, Sinon, and Rain or rush through stages as Silver Crow, Lime Bell, and Sky Raker, there are tons of party combinations that you can use. And because only one or two fights require specific characters, you can use your own party of choice for nearly the entire game.
Duel Avatars and Burst Points are the other major enhancements. Duel Avatars are the Accel World characters and they play and get stronger different from the ALO characters. First of all, only a couple of them can fly, keeping up with Accel World canon. Silver Crow can freely fly while Sky Raker’s Gale Thruster is a timed jetpack for flying. To accommodate, all of them have extreme jumping abilities so they can still reach those high islands as well as the ability to “accelerate” and teleport to locked-on enemies to fight in the air or on the ground.
Now, Burst Points are far more interesting and do stay in-tune with Accel World lore. When you defeat enemies, complete quests, etc, you gain BP (Burst Points) to use at a Burst Point Shop in the hub world. You pay in BP to level up characters (This works for all characters. Not just those from Accel World), buy materials, Buy Playable Characters once you beat the game, and Power Up your Duel Avatar characters. Since there are no “weapons” for Burst Linkers, you increase their power by leveling them or using BP and materials to power them up, as opposed to ALO characters that gain power based on their currently-equipped weapon.
Exploration isn’t a whole lot different, but the island areas are considerably larger. There are now areas underground and much higher than in Lost Song, which easily doubles the amount of space you have to explore. On top of that, a lot of the “Stage Transitions” from Accel World appear as explore-able areas in this game. One in particular, Purgatory, is strikingly-similar to how it’s shown in the anime, right down to the hospital bed where Silver Crow gained his unique ability to fly.
The rest of the game is all down to combat. You fight enemies the same way you did in Lost Song, and many of Lost Song’s enemy and boss types re-appear (but not as Main Story bosses. Those are all new). However, due to all of the new skills available and balancing, it feels easier to play and get fast-paced combos going. In Lost Song, it seemed like you had to always play it safe and carefully throw out skills, while in AW vs SAO, you can really just dive in and lay the smack-down with a string of skills so long as you watch your health.
Now, as far as time is concerned, this game isn’t a massively-long RPG. I reached the end of Story Mode after about 30 hours of play, which comprised of mostly Main Story progression, and a bit of the Side Story stuff you are able to do. That’s also on Normal Mode. On Easy, it might be possible to beat it in as little as 25 hours, or up to 40 if you play the game on Hard.
Controlling the game isn’t too hard. First off, the game is fully compatible with the PlayStation TV, making it the 4th SAO game that can be played on the micro-console, and many controls are different when playing it on a PSTV. Most notably is shifting characters and locking onto enemies. On the Vita, you use R + Touch for switching characters and Bottom-Right-Touch for lock-ons. On the PSTV, you just tap R2 for a lock-on and L1 + R1 for switching characters. And yes, the game will give you different button prompts depending on what system you’re playing on.
The rest is simple and almost mirrored from Lost Song. Left Analog moves you around and Right Analog moves the camera. D-Pad lets you use flying controls (Up for forward flying, Left for Hover, and Down for disabling flight). The L and R buttons can each be held to access shortcut skills for easy use in battle. Then we’ve got Start, which opens the customization menu and Select, which brings up the Commands Menu to issue commands during Multiplayer.
Finally, the face buttons. X is used for jumping and Circle for dodging. Square and Triangle are used for light and heavy attacks. Pretty simple stuff.
Here’s where things get dicey on the Vita. If you recall, SAO: Hollow Realization had the devs cutting a lot of corners and the initial Vita product was a mess that ran poorly. A similar situation has happened here.
With graphics, the character models are detailed, but most of them are a bit under Lost Song’s level. Some of them do look nice, like Lime Bell, but most just look decent. Environments, however, took a massive downgrade. Just like Valkyria Chronicles and Berserk, environment details were dropped to bare minimum for performance.
Except, it didn’t work. The game is filled with frame drops, whether you have a 1 or 3-member party and whether you’re in an open-world island or an enclosed dungeon. You wlll see frames drop not in the form of slowdown, but in the form of the game just freezing for a split-second before resuming. This is far worse in a certain Story Fight at the very end of the game after the Credit Roll where it will start to affect your battle flow. All before that aren’t as bad, but it’s still noticeable and bad, considering how well Lost Song played and it’s supposed to use the same engine.
The only other performance complaint I have is about sound balancing. There are many story-based areas where the music suddenly gets extremely loud and easily over-powers the voice sound. Every time this happens, I lower the BGM volume, but then it happens again and the voice-overs are drowned out again. While it’s true that the audio is Japanese, it’s still a strange problem that shouldn’t be there.
Yeah, I saw those frame drops. Ouch.