Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Review (PS4)on March 6, 2018 by Mitch Jay
I’ve been wanting a Sword Art Online game based on the Gun Gale Online arc since I it appeared in the anime’s second season. And, with Fatal Bullet, it’s finally here. The fantasy action-RPG elements may be gone, but the slicker third-person shooter gameplay is a welcome replacement, and fitting for Gun Gale.
For the first time in an Sword Art Online game you’re not forced to play as Kirito (okay, you didn’t “have to” in other games — but in those you’d still be referred to as Kirito, regardless of what you named your character or what gender they were). This time, you create your own character and play through a story that’s very much your own. The story crosses over with threads from the anime and its cast, but it manages to never overshadow the feeling of your own adventure.
You play as a character who is brand new to the Gun Gale Online MMO, but you quickly come across a rare ArFA-Sys that makes you the centre of attention. ArFA-Sys is an android AI that is able to think and act for itself, and only a small amount of people have their hands on one. As a fresh face, you and your friends protect ArFA-Sys from falling into other players’ hands, and you take on missions to find exclusive gear to make yourself and ArFA-sys stronger.
This is the first Sword Art Online console game to steer away from its traditional MMORPG elements into third-person shooter territory, and it makes for a breath of fresh air. There’s a hearty challenge, but I never found myself grinding away for hours at a time (well, not for anything other than outfits, at least); and you can use assist mode so to freely shoot away at enemies while running around — though this won’t net you much in the way of headshots.
The fantasy action-RPG elements may be gone, but the slicker third-person shooter gameplay is a welcome replacement.
You can equip two weapons at a time along with several weapon-based skills and items, and you always have your trusty grapple at hand. I spent ages trying to climb a ladder because I forgot that you have the grapple, and I was pretty peeved off with myself when I finally realised one of the game’s best mechanics (this was right near the beginning of the game and I forgot, okay?!) When you get to grips with it, the grapple really allows for freedom with movement and how you engage with enemy challenges.
You can give your ArFA-Sys equipment just as you would your own character, and even customise their looks and voice, too — essentially, they act as one of your primary party members. The AI varies from being useful to useless, so expect moments where you wonder what they’re possibly trying to achieve. Rare as these units may be in the world of Gun Gale, even the advanced, futuristic world’s AI needs a little work, I guess. The controls are tight and Fatal Bullet is a blast to play, and there are co-op and PvP modes online for those looking to play with friends.
The visuals haven’t received any notable upgrades since Hollow Realization, but the change in environment is much more obvious. Gone are the brighter colours and blue skies of Aincrad and Alfheim, and they’ve been replaced by brown, murky colours to fit the apocalyptic world of Gun Gale Online. It might be grimier, but it’s sure to get sci-fi fans more on board — did someone say Phantasy Star Online?
Dungeons ultimately feel repetitive, but the engaging gameplay keeps it from becoming a real issue. Seeing the series characters in brand new outfits is rad, and there are a lot of outfits to unlock for your avatar. The Japanese voice-acting, featuring members from the anime’s cast, is delightful as always, and the music matches the sci-fi environments. Talking about returning talent, the light novel illustrator, Abec, returns, as well as author Reki Kawahara who has penned this story. Even LiSA, who’s lent her voice to the anime’s theme songs, sings the opening tune here.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is proof that the Sword Art Online games get better with each installment.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is proof that the Sword Art Online games get better with each installment, and it’s great to see the series finally tackle the world of Gun Gale Online. There’s plenty to do including side-missions and online PvP, and I’m interested in seeing where the series will go next — maybe the world of Alicization?
Want to read more about the process of making a game based on an anime? We spoke to the producers of Fatal Bullet about just that, and the same producers about the upcoming Little Witch Academia game! Don’t miss them!