Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag

App review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag App Poster Image
Flirty, mildly violent tale trumps repetitive play events.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

Efficient tap-swipe controls plus strategic combat mean fun, challenging gameplay.

Violence

Combat is almost nonstop, wounded enemies have torn flesh. Heroes only vanish upon death. 

Sex

Lots of mild adolescent talk about dating, marriage. Implied that heroes spend night together; some female heroes wear sexy outfits.

Language

Some mild language such as "damn," "hell." 

Consumerism

Purchase prompts appear on opening game but overall aren't too invasive. Players can progress without buying anything.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag is a free-to-play Japanese role-playing game based on the popular Sword Art Online book series. The game features non-bloody combat that's virtually nonstop, a teen soap opera-like storyline, and countless online gamer in-jokes. Players can friend and follow one another and can chat in town and during co-op play. There's mild language ("hell," "damn") flirty dialogue, some sexy female outfits, and scenes implying that characters spend the night together. The easy-to-read privacy policy details the kinds of information collected and shared. Visit the SAO site to read the privacy policy in full.

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What's it about?

SWORD ART ONLINE: MEMORY DEFRAG is an adolescent soap opera that takes place within an online virtual reality role-playing game. Human players are trapped in game by an unknown entity and told that if they die in game, they die in the real world. The only way to escape is to beat the game, so one highly skilled solo player vows to do just that. While using this hero to work through the storyline, players can collect additional heroes and upgrade their skills and equipment. Heroes have different skills, and progress depends on using them in strategic combination. Special themed events and co-op play give players additional stories and rewards. 

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dating rules. What's an appropriate dating age, activity, and behavior? 

  • Discuss the significance of online relationships. What does it mean for online characters to "date"?

  • Think about appropriate chat room behavior. What topics shouldn't you discuss? 

App details

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