A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is a role-playing game based on a popular anime TV series. Players take on the role of Kirito, a married man trapped in a virtual video game universe. They'll need to fight and flirt their way through the game to succeed. There are plenty of female characters who are wearing very little clothing, a jealous wife, and lots of ladies throwing themselves at Kirito (including one who buries his head in her nearly bare breasts). Kirito is expected to flirt with and date other characters to build up relationships with his fighting teammates. The game is entirely in Japanese with English subtitles, so it's heavy on reading as well. Players will engage in a lot of combat with many weapons, but, since the game is set in a virtual world, there's little blood; enemies and characters shatter into glass pieces when defeated in battle.
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What's it about?
SWORD ART ONLINE began as a novel franchise and quickly grew into an anime TV series. Lead character Kirito is a beta tester for a new virtual reality MMORPG called Sword Art Online, in which players navigate their way through Aincrad castle. There are 100 floors, each with a hidden boss who must be defeated before players can move to the next level. Players soon realize they're playing with their lives: They're not able to log out of the game, and if someone dies in the game or removes their headset in real life, they die for real. The only way to escape is to battle through the 100 floors and complete the game. Kirito finds himself battling a high-level creature with diminished stats on a lower level. He partners with mysterious women who start to unravel the mystery of what's going on. Throughout the game, Kirito will meet, build relationships with, and fight alongside other characters.
Is it any good?
Fans of Sword Art Online will be excited to play in a beautiful rendering of Aincrad and the Sword Art world. The graphics are stunning. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. Battle mechanics are complex and confusing, a situation that's worsened by the slow release of tutorials for gameplay. Less committed players will be lost before they even have a chance to begin. There's a never-ending stream of dialogue with other players (it can go on for 15 minutes or more at a time, even with quick reading), all of which is poorly translated from the original Japanese and related in subtitles. There are spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as strange uses of punctuation. You might hope that the dialogue would clarify the story line for the uninitiated, but it never quite hits the mark.
The female characters are often scantily clad and, for some reason, besotted with Kirito, the married lead. You'll be encouraged to "date" and flirt with other characters to build up a team with strong morale. It's a tedious addition to the game -- when you choose the "chat" option, you're forced to watch a stream of unintelligible comments from your date and reply on occasion with things such as "Right," "Uh-huh," and so on. The mystery of the plot is somewhat compelling, and it may be that you fall in love with the game once (or, rather, if) you figure out the fighting mechanics, but it's simply too much of an uphill road for the average player to get there.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender stereotypes in Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment. How are women portrayed? Who decided how the women would be portrayed? How can we battle gender stereotypes in daily life?
How is violence portrayed in Sword Art Online? Is it essential to the story? Why, or why not?
Draw your own creature from this game's universe. What would it look like? What special abilities would it have?
- Platforms: PlayStation Vita
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Namco Bandai
- Release date: August 19, 2014
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.