Parents' Guide to

Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag

By Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Flirty, mildly violent tale trumps repetitive play events.

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This one's a rarity: a quality free-to-play role-playing app that's truly free to play. Fighting doesn't cost energy or crystals (or any other lame currency pretending it isn't a purchase prompt), so you can play as long as you want. Even better, its melodramatic teen-romance storyline makes the built-in repetition of combat fun. Well, mostly fun.

Combat is simple but strategic; create a three-hero party, using one hero at a time to dodge or attack. Diversity is best, because heroes have different weapons and abilities that are more or less effective, depending on the enemy. Each hero also has special attacks, and though these aren't all that flashy to look at, they're fun to use. The combat and the story chug along together great the first hour or two; then the story grinds to a halt due to a rise in combat difficulty. After that, you have two ways to get things rolling again: spending real-world dough to power up your heroes or replaying battles until you have the items to do so. The latter quickly reveals the tedium of tapping through the game's over-complex menu system, but you can counter it a bit by doing themed events and side stories or engaging in co-op play. Yes, Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag falls into the usual bad JRPG habits of enforced repetition and too much interface. Still, it succeeds thanks to its fast-moving, strategic combat and a comic romance story packed with gamer-geek in-jokes. Best of all, it looks so good and you'll have so much fun with it, you'll forget it's a free-to-play app and not a quality paid game.

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