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 Realization is an action role-playing game. It has a heavy focus on violence, as players use swords, spears, and magic attacks to kill thousands of creatures. There's no blood or gore shown, but they often shout out in pain before disappearing. Female characters are often dressed provocatively, including wearing short skirts and showing cleavage. One scene has a woman naked in a bath with bubbles covering her private parts. The game also makes references to drug addiction and has some mild profanity.
What's it about?
SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION is an action-heavy role-playing game. The game begins with the human character Kirito receiving a cryptic message ("I'm back to Aincrad"), forcing him to dive into the very same world where he was once imprisoned. Kirito and his friends take part in a virtual reality-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called Sword Art: Origin to discover the meaning behind the message, find and help old friends, and take on a new threat by teaming up and exploring this vast digital kingdom. Fans of Sword Art Online will see many familiar faces including Asuna, Leafa, Silica, and Klein, to name a few. Much of the mission-based objectives include fighting enemies big and small, using various melee and range weapons. You'll collect items, solve some puzzles, interact with townsfolk, and increase in strength and abilities over time. The game can be played by yourself or online with other PS4 players.
Is it any good?
If you're a fan of this franchise, you'll no doubt appreciate the familiar story, characters, and locations, but repetition and boredom will keep many players away. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is very faithful in its look, dialogue, and atmosphere to the anime and manga series. There's a ton of content here -- comprising many dozens of hours of gameplay by yourself or online with other players -- and the controls and gameplay are accessible, even for newbie players. While you might think the real-time battle system is mere button-mashing, you'll soon pick up on subtle tactics and strategies to help you take down bigger foes as a team. The artificial intelligence (or AI) of the computer-controlled players is quite smart and will prompt you to switch places during combat. You can also instruct your AI party to perform tasks such as healing and retreating, and they'll comply. Some battles against boss characters can take upward of 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
But the game has its issues, too, such as repetition -- you might get a sense of "rinse and repeat" actions after a few hours of continuous play. More variety in the missions would've been ideal. Plus, you can't skip out of lengthy dialogue sequences, and there are plenty of those. Certainly, those who love the Sword Art Online fiction will eat this up, but it can get pretty boring and seemingly unrelated to the bigger story. All things considered, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is a good but not great role-playing game. Still, there aren't many other PS4 games like it, so it certainly fills a gap -- especially for fans of the franchise, but they're probably the only ones who will gravitate toward it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender stereotypes in Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. How are women portrayed? Who decided how the women would be portrayed? Is it OK if the women look very young in the game and are dressed suggestively if it's considered part of Japanese culture?
How is violence portrayed in Sword Art Online? Is it essential to the story? Why, or why not?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Release date: December 1, 2016
- Genre: Massively Multi-player Online Game (MMOG)
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive 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.