This review has spoilers. Turn back now if you haven’t finished the game!
This review will be separated into parts. Part 1 is the core game, with further parts detailing the upcoming DLC.
Sword Art Online has been around for quite a while and has gartered a huge fanbase of both love and hate. Since the controversial ending of the first half of the first season of the anime, that hate has accumulated and made people bitter. But what if ALO didn’t happen as early or GGO didn’t happen the way the anime did?
That’s the game timeline, which derives itself away from the anime canon. The story is very different and several new characters are introduced along the way. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is the latest installment of the game series and follows right after Hollow Realization. I did play Hollow Realization for a bit, but the game mechanics were extremely similar to Hollow Fragment, which I did not enjoy at all. So I simply went on YouTube to watch other people play it to catch the story.
Fatal Bullet takes places primarily in Gun Gale Online, the virtual reality game that was first introduced in Volume 5 of the light novels, and later adapted for the anime’s first half of Season 2. Not surprisingly, there is little to no connection between Fatal Bullet and previous games, story-wise, with some references here and there and the characters of the previous games do appear here in Fatal Bullet. That being said, most of them are practically just fodder and have little to no role in the story unless you place them in your party and “build” a relationship with them, and eventually romance them if you’d like. As an added bonus, the characters from the Gun Gale Online Alternative light novel series (which is getting an anime in April), make an appearance as extra characters that you can recruit to your party at any time.
One of the things that stand out with this game above others is that character creation is an actual working thing now. In the past, this feature was available in the SAO-setting games, but it in the end it was revealed that you’re basically changing Kirito’s look when not during a cutscene, which really makes no sense. It’s different, however in Fatal Bullet, where your custom character plays an actual role in the game, and your customization options are endless! You get to choose your gender before creation, but story-wise, it makes much more sense to play with a male avatar.
Aside from your original custom character, we do get a whole new cast of characters joining the franchise, and from my experience, they all play huge roles in the story of Fatal Bullet. They are:
Kureha, the main heroine and the childhood best friend friend of the protagonist, which is painfully obvious.
Sometime during the game, she gets mad at you for becoming stronger than you and unfriends you. If you wanted to… you could kill her off for revenge. :XD
Your personal ArFA-sys Type X, the rarest type ArFA-sys available in all of GGO, and she is completely customizable, including her name. However in-game ever all her it. And the others don’t blank out the name you gave her either. They call her “Rei”. Come on seriously… But in which case, I’ll be referring to her as “Rei” for the duration of this review, for simplicity purposes.
Zeliska is a veteran GGO player who’s been around for quite some time and is known as the Queen of the Undefeated. By design, she’s my favorite character and god…. is she hot. Aside from that, she’s one of the characters you can romance, although I haven’t gotten that far with her yet. If you wanted to…
you could kill her off instead.
This is Itsuki, the
main antagonist, and the leader of one of the most powerful squadrons in Gun Gale Online, Alphard. He gives off a vibe that while he’s a well-known celebrity in the game, he tries his best to be “normal”. I remember that before he turned bad, he had asked you how you felt about him. The choices where “You’re a really good friend”, or “I really like you.”. I chose the former, and he started going crazy , and forced the server to a reset. Then when it came back up, everyone acted like nothing went wrong. Although his motives in the end doesn’t really match with the personality he gave off in the beginning of the game, it kinda does with that scene where he deletes everyone from the SBC Glocken. It was a dick move, but a very villainous tactic.
The whole third-person shooter thing is completely new to Sword Art Online, at least for the games, since it was all magic and swords before. But nevertheless, you’ll feel right at home once you begin playing the tutorial, and once you pass it, you’ll feel so much satisfied as you continue shooting down automated robots. We got a wide range of Automatons, bipedal robots that wield weapons ranging from sniper rifles, assault rifles, and suicide bombs. My favorite variant of them are the Facsimiles, who run faster than regular Automatons and fight using Photon Swords. Aside from bipedal robots, there are also floating “crystal” robots that can vary in type, and amongst the most annoying of them are the Healing ones. If you don’t take them out, then all the other enemies you shoot will regain full health if you stop and reload. So either you shoot them all down in one magazine, or go for the healing robots to avoid further trouble.
There were a huge range of bosses, going from a organic lifeform to a flying Mobile Suit Gundam. A boss has three health bars, and as you whittle down a bar, it’ll become stronger, faster, and gain more abilities that are dangerous to you and your team. Some where hard, including the Manhunter boss that if you were low-level enough, it could potentially one-shot your entire party in an instant, and this right at the start of the battle. It’ll later spawn offspring, each as powerful as their parent. It took me at least five tries to actually beat this thing.
Fatal Bullet also adds in a “Kirito Mode”, which is a side story that allows you to play as Kirito for a Death Gun story adapted for the game. Anime watchers will immediately knowthe story and origin of how Death Gun came to be, and the game follows the exact same storyline, so there really isn’t any surprise there. The identity, the motives, and the trick is all the same, so I was a little disappointed they couldn’t add it a twist to make it a little different from the anime, except that Kirito already knew Sinon prior to this event, but that didn’t change their relationship much or add in an extra layer to their chemistry, which is basically non-existent in this entire game. But this mode wasn’t entirely for nothing. In fact, it was apparent that you finish Kirito Mode to advance onto a “good” ending for your character, otherwise
Death Gun ends up killing you all before Kirito is able to catch him. The cool thing is that every skill, item, weapon, and EXP you pick up as Kirito is automatically transferred over to your custom character, so it’s pretty cool. You get to cut bullets down with a Photon Sword too.
One of the biggest gripes about this game is that there are a LOT of gameplay elements that they don’t explain to you, and you end up having to figure it out yourself. An example would be trying to equip certain weapons. Some weapons that you buy or get from enemy drops would be grayed out and you are unable to equip them. This is due to the fact that certain weapons require you to have upgraded your stats to their required level before you can equip them. I know, it sucks. I played the first couple of hours with weak-ass weapons while upgrading the wrong stats this whole time. Another thing that they failed to mention was that I could edit my party, and here I was, trying to grind for hours just to get Kureha and my Arfa-Sys to a high level when I could have easily switched for Itsuki or Kirito.
Apart from battle and characters, Fatal Bullet was obviously designed to be the largest open-world game of the entire Sword Art Online game series. The map is huge… like huge. It’s so huge that you’d want to use fast travel as often as you can, so you can save a lot of time. The SBC Glocken is the main “city” of GGO where players normally spawn as they log in from home.
There is also a hidden dungeon under the SBC Glocken, but you can’t go under there until you get to a specific story point. Your room is also a bore, since the only thing you can do there is customize both you and your ArFA-sys. There is also a locked door in your room, but you can’t open it. What a waste.
The Governor’s Office is the main event hub where players can receive side-missions, participate in online PvP, sign up for the Bullet of Bullets Tournament (a feature not actually implemented for Fatal Bullet, except for Kirito Mode), and shop for battle gear, and customize their load-outs before heading off to the giant teleporter located at the hub. It’s only slightly better than the shop at SBC Glocken, since here at the Governor’s Office, you can do so much more.
The main storyline itself is rather weak… honestly. At least it doesn’t give off a vibe like Millennium Twilight’s, which I really liked. Itsuki was not a very compelling original villain in the game to oppose the protagonist, and Death Gun was only there for a super short time. If they really were going to put him in the game, maybe Kirito Mode wasn’t such a good idea.
VERDICT – 6/10
Honestly, Fatal Bullet didn’t give me quite the enjoyment that I wanted in a game. There were a whole bunch flaws in the game, including lack of explanations, shortage of character development, and a seriously uncompelling villain, but at least the third-person shooting really it garter my interest. Now since we got DLC coming to expand the story, let’s see if they can bump my rating up higher in Part 2.