Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is the latest anime-based game to release based on the Sword Art Online franchise. The background of the anime is that gamers purchased a brand new virtual reality system that immersed them into the virtual world of Aincrad in a Matrix-esque fashion. The only problem, they all get stuck in the game and the people in the real world can’t disconnect them as it causes the user to die. Hollow Realization however is based in a new world called Sword Art Online: Origins, a world based loosely on Aincrad called Ainground, but now the users can log off safely.
There have already been several games in the Sword Art Online series, so they must be doing well to be churning them out so quickly. Hollow Realization follows the main protagonist Kirito and his party trying to help a mysterious NPC. A lot of the characters from the anime series make an appearance in this game, and can be a part of your party. There also hundreds of NPCs that you can recruit to your party in the Town of Beginnings that is used as a hub for the game.
Most anime games tend to use static images, or relatively static images for story sequences and cutscenes, and Hollow Realization is no different. Not all of the story is told via these dialogue sections, but a most of it is. In addition to this there are standard cutscenes as well as in-game cutscenes which are also voiced, but there are no mouth movements which is a little disappointing. Fans of the anime will be happy to hear the same voice actors, and English subtitles. One thing I did make a note of is that there are some sections where the English translation has not been checked, such as the opening animation that says “I’m back to Aincrad” on a message Kirito received. There were similar issues in the anime, so it’s not a huge mistake, but is a little annoying.
I personally don’t mind normal animation cutscenes in games, but I hate the static images that speak to you in a dialogue section. Not only are these incredibly lazy on the part of the development team, but there are absolutely loads of them. You can be sitting through 5-10 minutes of these scenes at a time. The game itself is very slow to start up, the first section of the game is simply going to each area to look at it. It’s a waste of time, but that’s what a lot of Hollow Realization seems to be.
The developers claim that the game will last between 70-100 hours if you try to do everything in the game, and if you just play through the main story it is around 40 hours. The reason for this is that there is a lot of artificial padding in Hollow Realization, which can take the form of grinding, or quests that require to pick up a certain amount of an item, or cutscenes that seem to be there for no real reason. If you look at it from a pure content perspective, there’s loads to do, but if you look at it in terms of quality of gameplay, this is one for veteran RPG fans as the grinding aspect can become tedious at times. This tediousness is amplified by the fact that the checkpointing system is quite harsh, as you tend to lose quite a lot of progress when you die in a mission.