Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment Hands-On: .hacking Away At A Fun Soon To Be Sleeper…

SAO_keyvisual_w_LogoI was a rather huge fan of the seven .hack games back in the day (well, it wasn’t THAT long ago), so getting the chance to go hands-on with Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment at Bandai Namco’s recent NYC event was a must. The two series are similar on the surface in that you play a character trapped in an (faux) online game’s deadly world and both are solo experiences with no actual online play modes.

The game will also include an HD version of the Japanese PSP-only Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment, meaning you’re getting two games for the price of one, a good deal in this age of consumers wanting more bang for their gaming buck. Of course, you’ll probably be wanting to know if the game isn any god, right? Well, let me soothe any potential fears and report that it’s all good (and hard) in this one so far…

BN’s always smiling Grace Liu was there to show me the ropes and although the demo Vita had a busted right analog stick, I figured out how to nudge the remaining stub to gain better control of the game camera (all the better to see where I was going and not slam into enemies I’d be better avoiding for the moment). The game plays like a MMO with respawning enemies, hotkeys for certain skills and certain enemies that require some time to take down. There was an AI companion that could be given orders with a few button taps, offering up some handy healing or powerful offensive magic as well as a few combination attacks that helped waylay the beefy enemies on the map. While the demo character and enemies had thousands of hit points, this didn’t mean one could auto-battle one’s way through the demo build at all.

In fact, simply jamming on the basic attack button will be almost useless against certain foes thanks to their huge hit points and tendency to smack unprepared players around like a tornado taking on a herd of sheep. This one’s going to be a “pay attention!” game for sure, and with over 100 potential AI allies, choosing the right guy or gal for the job is key to victory. The demo area was twisty and of a decent enough size to get a feel for the movement and combat. Both are very solid and I’m betting Vita owners scoop this downloadable title in droves when it’s released. The only thing I didn’t do was face off against the demo’s boss because I want to go in cold and get surprised in the final build. Knowing IS half the battle and all, but sometimes it’s good to be surprised, I say.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is out on August 19, 2014 as a PSN digital download. Back in a bit with a full review…

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