Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PC, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: February 23, 2018
This review is based on a review code provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
Let me start by admitting that I followed the anime with enthusiasm.
It was one of my favorites (sans the Fairy Arc, we don’t talk about that), and I came into this thinking that I’ll be following a storyline that centers on the adventures of the main cast.
Instead, I was treated to something refreshing — I experienced the world for myself, with my own character of my own design, and with gameplay that gives off the feeling of being in an online adventure game.
As the title suggests, the world we get to experience is inside the video game of (in my opinion) the best arc of the franchise: the VRMMORPG, Gun Gale Online.
Like a breath of fresh air, the story of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet does not straightforwardly follow Kirito and his friends; instead, it follows the player’s silent character (which you customize before entering the game), a beginner to Gun Gale Online whose unbelievable luck lands him/her a rare AI unit, the “ArFa-sys – Type X,” in his/her first day in GGO.
The sudden stumble on the intelligent, overly-enthusiastic yet clumsy AI during a tournament has gotten the attention of GGO’s both new and familiar players, as well as the instant friendship of Kirito and Asuna who had been seeking the same android. Together, with the friends you meet, you are tasked to find your AI’s missing parts in the vast lands of GGO before the next game update, the SBC Flugel.
The imagination of what it’s like to be in GGO as we watched the anime’s “Death Gun” arc meets expectations coming into Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet: the focus on PvP and bounty hunting are all present, as well as party systems, status builds, and a range of weapons to choose from.
LOOK MA, MY BOUNTY IS AT 1,000,000
The good ol’ days was when, after school, you and the friends would hang around at a net cafe to play online RPGs; Ragnarok, Khan Online, etc. Fatal Bullet feels exactly like that.
Besides the main storyline, the player has the option to take on side quests. Various quests differ, from regular hunting quests, treasure hunting, to finding a notorious player with a bounty on his/her head. It’s a perfect way to get your stats up as while following the main story, you’ll find the need to grind until your level gets high enough or equates to that of the players you can party with. Completing quests or simply going on to the many dungeons and open world arenas increase your bounty in-game and establishes your character as a “ranked player.”
Your stat build (STR, VIT, INT, AGI, DEX, LCK) will rely on what type of player you want to be since the type of gun and the power of your equipment has their pre-requisites. So start thinking, are you a sniper? Close-ranged shotgun/handgun guy? Or are you someone who’d take the thrill in using photon swords?
The game has online PVP as well, however, requires a PlayStation Plus account.
The party and affinity system is just as interesting, but like the anime itself, it comes with its flaws. Kirito, Asuna, their friends, some original-to-the-game characters, and your “ArFa-sys” are all available to be members of your party. With a maximum of four members, including yourself, they are with you as you go through side quests and even the main quest.
While partied with them, their affinity increases. If a character’s affinity “levels up,” you can trigger special events that occur while in the city. Some special events can sometimes feel like a missed opportunity for a side quest instead of a conversation-heavy moment. Ex. One event has my character and Asuna exploring a dungeon in search of new weapons, which could have been an extra mission. It’s the same with other events that talk about exploration and questing.
And despite the pillow talk (*wink*, *wink*) that can trigger with some characters as the affinity reaches Rank 4, it still does not connect you with the characters—which for me is important in an immersive video game—and instead treats them as simple fan service with artwork that depicts them seductively. It’s a weird way of placing a dating game in a world of guns and bullets.
If your question is if Fatal Bullet is worth your time? Well yeah, sure, it can be. Though you won’t find yourself as immersed in the story and the characters as one would hope—the story still feels bland and empty despite having one’s own character. But the thrill and the experiences of adventure is still ever present. Battling monsters and defeating bosses is just the action you’d want at an RPG.
Sword Art Online fans will be thrilled, and even those who don’t care much for the anime or the franchise, in general, will still find themselves having days worth of a good time.
At the end of the day, I still find myself turning my PS4 on and playing until all my quests are complete. Will I play the game all over again though? Probably not. And though the PS Plus feature may be a let down for most, it’s still only a small part of the entire game.