Sword Art Online: Lost Song
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Sword Art Online franchise. It’s an anime series that had a good idea and a very strong start, but by the end devolved into a forgettable series that follows many of the tropes that make most people hate anime. Anything with the Sword Art name on it tends to be pretty hit or miss with me, and in case you didn’t scroll down to the bottom of this page yet, let me tell you that Sword Art Online: Lost Song for the PS4 is definitely a miss.
Lost Song is the sequel to Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment. Lost song takes place about a year after Hollow Fragment in a Virtual Reality MMO called ALfheim Online. The confusing thing about these games, especially to people who have watched Sword Art, is that these games take place in an alternate timeline. This means that there are characters here who are not in the anime, and characters from the anime who have their backstories re-written. This isn’t the end of the world, but I had to do a quick Google search to understand why Sinon was talking about having amnesia, and Leafa was described as a “Sword Art Online Survivor.” The new characters that are unique to the game also don’t leave a lasting impression, they’re pretty bland. It would have been very easy for this game to just be a side story separate from the anime, considering most of Sword Art is just a series of short stories. The alternate timeline bit just seems to be an easy way to include the maximum number of pretty girls for the player to flirt with.
Lost Song’s story follows the standard RPG format: You go from area to area, killing bosses and exploring dungeons, and then you fight the big boss and beat the game. The story itself is about some 14 year-old Russian Pop-Star Scientist who’s trying to beat the game before you can, and it’s about as bland and terrible as you can imagine. What I really want to talk about is the number of characters that are in this game! In most RPGs you do this with a team of maybe 6 to 8 characters. In Lost Song you are part of a team of about 15 characters, most of which are playable. During the game’s main story, all 15 of these characters will be constantly talking and fighting for screen time. Simple actions like picking up a special key will result in 10 or more of the characters all giving their two cents on this key. It’s hard to put into words how jarring it is to have twelve anime girls take turns saying “Ooh, what’s that?” and “I wonder what it’s for” when I take a key out of a treasure chest, but it’s enough to give someone a panic attack.
While Lost Song does let you play as a bunch of different characters, their attacks are based on the weapon they’re using. The lack of balance between the weapon types is pretty astounding, and my expectations were already pretty low. Weapons like the Axe and Two-Handed Sword not only feel terrible to use, but they also deal less than half of the damage that the Dual Blades can. Additionally, there’s no real depth to the combat, and once you get used to the cluttered and confusing controls, you’ll just be spamming your most damaging skills until everything is dead.
Along with the character you’re playing, you also choose two Teammates to bring with you. They feel like they have the bare minimum in terms of programming, as all they do is stay glued to your left or right side and attack anything that gets within a certain distance of you, and when I say certain distance, I mean that when I used a bow or magic to attack enemies from far away, my teammates just stood next to me doing nothing until it was close enough to me for them to want to fight it. The AI’s fighting style includes doing a few attacks, then sometimes using a random spell or special attack that they have equipped. This usually results in them getting right up in a large monster’s face so they can cast a very long spell that increases your fire resistance. In the likely event that the monster hits them before they finish casting their spell, they’ll probably keep trying this same tactic until they’re dead. Thankfully, the game is unbalanced enough that with a little creativity, you can turn these useless partners into unstoppable, mindless killing machines! By the last third of the game, both of my AI teammates used dual swords, and their only equipped ability was “Star Burst Stream”. This skill makes them do a long and uninterruptible series of attacks to the nearest enemy, and would stun everything around them. With both of my party members using this nifty ability over and over, I was able to sit in the back and throw ice blasts at everything until the game finally ended.
I realize that I’m being pretty negative, so I’ll take this chance to give Lost Song credit where credit is due. I was expecting the flight and mid-air combat to end with me throwing my controller through my TV. Fortunately for my TV, the flying was actually pretty cool, and midair combat was handled about as well as it could have been, given the state of the regular, grounded combat. Lost Song also runs really well on PS4, which is a nice thing to see in a console generation that’s been plagued with buggy games and bad frame rates. Even in the more open areas of the game where there can be hundreds of enemies on screen there were no hitches or slowdown.
There’s also a pair of multiplayer modes in Lost Song. You can go on quests or fight against other players as any of the characters in the game. The quests I went on just had me and three other players fight one or two of the bosses from the single player mode. It wasn’t terrible, but it was pretty boring. I also tried the PVP mode, where a guy who was level 1000 killed me almost instantly! I didn’t really want to grind up to level 1000 myself to get my revenge, so I stopped playing the multiplayer after that.
At the end of the day, I got nearly no real enjoyment out of Lost Song. While it’s not a completely broken game, I really can’t recommend it to even the biggest Sword Art Online fans. The game feels like a cheap cash-in on people who will buy anything with the Sword Art Online name on it. It doesn’t do anything interesting to make itself stand out, so I would advise anyone who values their time and money to stay away.
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Flying isn't terrible!
- Pretty anime girls?
What I Dislike:
- Terrible main story
- No depth to the combat
- Unbalanced weapons
- Pretty anime girls!