Allow me to start this review with a brief quotation from the Sword Art Online wiki.
“The game will follow the events of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. Gun Gale Online was released by Zaskar, following the advent of The Seed. The Seed is a free, preset series of program packages that can be used for creating Virtual Reality (VR) worlds as well as control the input and output of the five senses of the players, allowing players to FullDive into the created world. The Seed was created by Kayaba Akihiko and replaced usual proprietary game systems, like the Cardinal System that Akihiko had developed while working for Argus and which was required to run VR games, but had a terrifyingly huge license fee.”
Did that make sense? No? Well, then don’t play this game.
In Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet, you play as nameless protagonist, a Gun Gale Online noob ripe for the pwning who, in their very first dungeon, gets the best loot in the game; a robot slave… No, I’m not kidding. This starts a sequence of events where you make friends with l33t players, grow as a person and discover new secrets and c’mon guys it’s not Shakespeare, you know where it’s going.
Aside from the simultaneously dull and incomprehensible story (which fans assure me makes sense if you know your stuff), Fatal Bullet isn’t a bad game. The Japanese voice acting isn’t special but isn’t bad, and the lack of English voice acting isn’t a big detraction if you don’t mind subtitles; let’s be fair, the graphics aren’t anything worth telling your friends about, so you may as well be reading. The environments are, likewise, almost impossibly dull, as though the artists fell asleep for three months during development, then panicked and went overboard with copy, paste, and recolour.
The run and gun gameplay is actually a lot of fun when the game lets you do it; you know, when you’re not mashing your way through seemingly endless conversations that you desperately want to skip, but can’t afford to because then you’ll have absolutely no idea what’s happening. There’s a nice variety of weapons, even if your new gun is the same as your old gun but with slightly more damage, and you feel like a badass blasting everything in sight. There’s a bit too much ‘go here, do this, shoot that, repeat’ for my liking, but that’s JRPG 101, so it’s not like they invented grinding.
As a third-person shooter JRPG, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet delivers what it promises: a fun romp through Gun Gale Online, with plenty of Easter eggs and throwbacks for long-time fans of the series. What’s there for anyone else, on the other hand, is highly debatable.
I don’t know, friends, maybe I’m just not the right guy to review this. I’ve played Dimps games before, and they never grabbed me, mostly because of repetitive gameplay and an incessant need to know the source material inside out and backwards to make any sense of the plot. Which I don’t, by the way; this is my first experience with anything SAO based and, frankly, it’s not instilling any desire to find out more.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a bit of a nothing game. It’s not technically bad, but there’s nothing keeping anyone but the most hardcore fans here. If you’re into SAO, really into JRPGs, or don’t mind spending six hours on a wiki, go nuts. Otherwise, this isn’t going to be your cup of post-apocalyptic tea.
Brian reviewed Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet from code provided by Bandai Namco.