Sword Art Online Last Recollection Review – Timely Retrospection
After seeing its peers getting their game out and about, the multi-media series that captured the anime otaku hearts back when it launched a decade ago has returned for a new game, under the Bandai Namco line as usual. Of course, I’m talking about Sword Art Online.
Its latest entry, Last Recollection, kinda fits both the naming convention for its storyline and gameplay, as playing it makes me recollect a simpler time of playing RPGs that were like this back in the early days. So what makes SAO different from its predecessors? Not that much, I’m afraid.
Firstly, Performance on the PC is quite good, considering their experience in the UE4 engine after 3 games so far. makes it run quite well on the aging GTX 1060, with solid 60fps on Medium settings and less pop-in even during intense combat encounters.
But that comes with a caveat, as Last Recollection feels like a game out of time, and that’s by design even with Unreal Engine 4 coursing through its veins. It’s the last of the games within the SAO Gameverse storyline, which began with Hollow Fragment way back in 2014. And its systems, style, and UI do feel like it hasn’t aged up from that first game, unlike say, my personal favorite within the series Fatal Bullet, which had a different developer on that.
Really, it’s kind of a bless and a curse for the game franchise to closely follow the anime and books, but it does lend credence to it being parity to the main stuff like it’s a playable OVA and that’s what I feel the fans of the series want, to play the stuff they have watch and/or read with Kirito and company.
It does still bring in the design of an MMORPG-lite even though it is a Single Player game with co-op capabilities with how the UI and party member is positioned, but it also brings over the long no-dialogue cutscenes that are essentially exposition dumps which drags the playtime longer on purpose at times. Like every new area gets an establishing shot, and that takes the fun out of exploring the place to see every nook and cranny when it’s this restrictive.
Music is also nothing to write about, but at least during the cutscenes and gameplay with dialogue, all of the main cast returns to voice their characters. With the likes of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Kirito and Haruka Tomatsu as Asuna once again, along with all of the voices that longtime fans would know from this decade-old series. They nailed that parity of show and games quite well from the beginning so it is a positive mark to end on.
This is the part where Last Recollection loses a lot of points, because boy does it feel its age on how it plays. I’ve already mentioned how restrictive the world that you play around is, and that’s with the side-quest that feels like padding to help you gain EXP, coupled with how filler some quests that if you’re not a fan of SAO, you might even get lost in the jargon of the series at times.
Combat itself is okay, going for a more action hack-and-slash style that you have come to expect (since the system is similar to their last game, Aliciziation Lycoris), where you can do face-button combos and with your party members can initiate a devastating Finishing Move akin to Persona’s “All-Out Attack”, that can take out enemies health or even take them out completely.
But the saddest part of this new edition is the removal of the dating/romance system to level up your friendship with your favorite NPC, now improving only via in-combat which takes up a chunk of time to level up your next talk with your allies, and the more intimate scenes are locked behind DLC. A shame that they have regressed from the partners’ hand-holding mechanics from the first game to now.
Really, the game is about RPG-ing the mechanics and how to min-max everything to make the gameplay as quick as possible, so if you want to follow the Kirito fantasy, then this gameplay will get you hooked.
SAO is one of those games where if you are seated and are engaged enough, it’s going to go long, like 30 – 40 hours with the main campaign and some side quests along the way. And if you think the final game would be a good entry point for any newcomer to join in, then I’m sorry to say that it might not be such a good idea at all.
It’s sort of a direct sequel to the already mentioned Aliciziation Lycoris so the story beats might feel out of place if you’re joining in for the first time, and the price of it right now also feels overpriced when you can get the earlier titles, which I feel are more superior in design, cheaper nowadays anyway.
Other than that, it’s still one of the rarer JRPG types that manages to be different just by being a spoof of MMORPGs thanks to its storyline, and if it’s to your liking then the content that maybe this one’s for you, dear readers.
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with this series in general, in how the story is basic and the stakes are usually made like impossible feats (like you would in an RPG) before being Deus Ex Machina’s into a happy ending that I feel cheapens the whole arc of the story. And the games are no different either, even my favorite out of the bunch, Fatal Bullet, suffers from this as well.
And Lost Recollection won’t really rock the boat on that opinion at all. It doesn’t do much to convince me that the long-running series is pretty nice enough to come in for but I guess it is for the fans after all, though rumbling on the grapevines does make it seem that even the die-hard fans aren’t like it either so that’s a predicament for the game makers to worry if they continue with this series moving forward.
Sword Art Online’s Last Recollection should have been a neat bow to end their long-running series so far but falls into the standard JRPG with neat gimmicks trap that most big IPs have been struggling to get out of, with fewer features than their older predecessors, it might be a hard ask for newcomers to jump in. Perhaps when the stars align and a sale beckons, it would be the right time to try out this ballad of Kirito and crew.