By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong
IT ISN’T HARD to think badly of Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet (SAO) just from saying the title out loud. SAO games haven’t lived up to the popularity of their anime counterparts, due in large measure to numerous mistranslations, glitchy programming, and generally less-than-stellar game design spread across multiple platforms. While the SAO series has had some interesting releases here and there, fans know better than to hold high expectations for the most part.
At first glance, SAO: Fatal Bullet certainly doesn’t impress. It follows the events of SAO: Hollow Realization and loosely parallels the Phantom Arc portion of the original story, where the SAO main characters create new avatars in a totally different game called Gun Gale Online (GGO). Taking the role of a new player in GGO, you’ve just been shown the ropes by your childhood friend Kureha before you’re suddenly thrust into a story concerning Kirito and his gang, an intelligent AI by the name of ArFA-sys and a narrative that explores the world of GGO and the mysteries it holds.
Essentially, SAO: Fatal Bullet is every SAO story ever told as seen through the eyes of a newcomer. While predictable and, at times, rather boring, however, it thankfully tries to string together the narrative with multiple cutscenes and varying perspectives. While nothing groundbreaking, what it does is at least serviceable, if a little long-winded.
Most importantly, SAO: Fatal Bullet distinguishes itself from its other siblings through its gameplay. Moving away from their slower and cumbersome fighting mechanics, it takes elements from the third-person-shooter genre and incorporates them with role-playing-game elements, creating a welcome blend of story and action. Players can choose from a multitude of ranged and melee weapons. From swords to pistols to shotguns to rifles; name them, and chances are they can be had. The variety is astounding, and, combined with unlockable skills, they add to its already-fast pace. The act and art of weaving and dipping and rolling in the face of enemy gunfire is exhilarating and is definitely its strongest point.
Granted, SAO: Fatal Bullet may well wear out its welcome a few hours in, with bland environments recycled much too often for players not to notice. Enemy and allied AI are also strangely lackluster, and while the quality of the opposition doesn’t really impact the level of enjoyment, it sometimes turns the game into a veritable duck-hunting session, especially when combined with the game’s helpful — and ultimately overpowering — auto-aim system.
Still, SAO: Fatal Bullet has enough going for it to overcome its frailties and emerge as a satisfying third-person shooter. It’s a lot better than its ancestry in style, design, and smoothness. Moreover, it manages to blend its chaotic gunplay with a solid RPG system, offering plenty of choices in equipment and upgrades. For all its seeming lack of difficulty, it’s a good buy for fans of the SAO series, as well as for those looking for depth in their adrenaline rushes.
Video Game Review
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet
• Diverse combat customization options with heady RPG elements
• Good amount of content apart from the main story
• Runs smoothly with no hiccups
• Interesting character design
• Repetitive environments and enemies
• Relative lack of difficulty, with the auto-aim system too much of a good thing
• Uninteresting main story with generic plot twists