Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment Is Tailor-Made For Fans Of The Franchise

Sword Art Online is a massively popular franchise in Japan. Last year, it was the best-selling light novel series in Japan and in my review of the first half of the anime I called it the smartest anime I had seen in years.

Yet in the half a decade since its first release, this franchise centered around video games has not had its own video game adaptation — that is until now. And as expected of a tie-in game to of a popular series, Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment is a game focused on exciting the imaginations of fans of the series.

Good — A Fun Alternate Reality Concept

Instead of following the common story-to-game formula of retelling the story of the series, Infinity Moment ops to tell an alternate universe tale. Beginning at the climax of the first story arc, the game shows what would have happened if the main character had won his duel with the game's creator and then remained trapped in the game world with the remaining survivors.

For fans of the series, this meta-mystery is the main driving reason to play the game. Why did the changes in the story occur? Why did Kirito win? Why didn't his winning free everyone? What's on the remaining 25 floors of the game? And why do characters from future story arcs like Leafa and Sinon start appearing in the death game world of Sword Art Online?

Good — Looks Like Sword Art Online

While the actual game interface doesn't match what we see in the anime, Infinity Moment does manage to match the art style we have seen in the series. The towns, dungeons, monsters, and sword techniques all look as if they could have been pulled straight out of the anime. In addition, the voice actors from the anime return to their roles, blending with the visuals to make the game unquestionably “Sword Art Online.”

Mixed — Plays Like Sword Art Online... Mostly

When it comes down to the basic mechanics of the Sword Art Online game world, Infinity Moment gets the most important things right. There's no magic, just sword skills. Death is an instant game over, but you regen HP at an astounding rate to combat the lack of healing magic. Clearing and mapping each floor is done in small parties while you tackle the end boss of each floor in a raid. And interestingly for an RPG, like game world on which it is based, Infinity Moment has no save points — though the game does save at each loading screen.

Instead of the action game-like combat you'd probably expect from seeing the series, Infinity Moment plays like a MMORPG, with all your skills on cool down and normal attacks coming at regular intervals automatically. In practice, it actually works quite well, but fast-paced action this is not.

Mixed — 25 Times Through the Cycle

Nearly every floor in Infinity Moment follows the same gameplay pattern: buy/upgrade weapons, find a partner, pick up your new missions, and then explore the three or four different areas on the floor. Once you complete the missions and find the boss room door, you then take on the floor boss in a raid battle and move on to the next floor.

While there is a lot to explore given the many non-linear areas and more than a few minibosses on each floor to be defeated, the repetition of the same basic cycle can get a bit mind-numbing despite the story cutscenes that attempt to break it up.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment is a game for fans of Sword Art Online — be that the light novels or the anime. Everything in the game is built under the assumption that the player is already intimately familiar with the source material. While the gameplay and non-linear dungeons get the job done, it is the story and overall mystery that make this game worth playing. So if you speak Japanese and love Sword Art Online, you will find this game worth its price. But if you're not a fan, this game is unlikely to change your mind.

Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment was released on March 13, 2013, for the PlayStation Portable. There is currently no word on an international release.


Comments

    SAO is still an awful anime by any standard. I dont know why you guys called it smart, even at the first half.

      I agree with both sentiments. It is an awful anime that fell into fan service and made it cringe-worthy. But it also introduced some great ideas
      *Playing with your real face in a video game
      *A "class" system between normal players and betas
      *Can a sword game actually help you in real life sword fights?
      *How the hell would you control flying in a vr game?
      *How can you manipulate pvp systems?
      There are many others.

      It also showed some remarkable restraint and skipped showing some major battles so it can keep pursuing its story.

      I'm not saying its a great anime but I think calling it smart is also fair.

        While I agree that SAO is not awful, its an average Shonen anime with nothing really new to offer. What you are referring to is the Light Novel's author's ideas about an MMORPG that he envision would be fun and popular. The other main concept of a immersive MMORPG that traps its players - inevitably resulting in a death game, has been explored many times already, most predominantly in the .hack series.

        Smart story yes, but unfortunately, the anime had nothing to offer in terms of presentation and delivery.

      probably by your standard, it's a good anime series that stand on its own.

      To say that it was awful is a little extreme. Most 'shounen' genre'd kind of animes you can claim intellectual superiority on because they're not made to be highly intellectual or smart rather just fun, action filled adventures with stereotyped characters we all recognize and love. Even then I disagree, as a shounen, it's shown remarkably more effort and initiative than many of it's contemporaries.

      SAO was highly enjoyable. Poked fun at rpg mechanics, typical fightscenes, OP heroes, OP villains, OP friendship. Animation was excellent, and even with an obvious plot-twist and some cheesy dialogue, it was a good anime. Lots of weight on the interesting virtual/fantasy setting and inter-character relationships.

      Sure it wasn't perfect, but it's definitely far from awful. It played to it's strengths and should be recognized for how well it managed to pull it all together.

      I personally found it to be a great anime which I very much enjoyed.

    if you call thiss awful .... that mens you aare no t wwaching anime (idiots)

    SAO has to be one of my favorite miniseries, I'm actually watching it as I type. brilliant story line but it's a bit iffy about how it will translate to actual game play but i suppose I'll see when the international release gets to Australia ^_^

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