The latest game based on Japan's popular trapped-in-an-MMO light novel series is a free-to-play mobile game in which players collect and upgrade characters as they advance through the story of Sword Art Online anime. It's formulaic, but it works quite well.
Licensed character collecting mobile games are all the rage right now. Players gather or buy crystals or chi points or whatever in order to attempt to add their favourite Naruto or One Piece or Transformers or whatever to their lineup. Then they use those characters in card or puzzle or turn-based battle, earning items to strengthen them enough to face the next set of challenges. Hell, even Nintendo is getting in on the act with Fire Emblem Heroes.
Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag is exactly that sort of game. It has a multiplayer hub where countless Kiritos (the series' main character) mingle with co-op questing in the works, but the main drive is collecting and strengthening your favourite characters and going on adventures.
In order to collect characters, players use currency either collected through in-game adventures or purchased in order to recruit friends from Sword Art Online and the other virtual worlds explored in the series.
It costs 25 memory diamonds to recruit one character (15 to purchase a random upgradable weapon). Completing a story mission perfectly grants five memory diamonds. You don't have to spend any money to get a good crew going (though I did take advantage of the one-time 50 diamonds for $1 deal being offered currently).
My current crew. I might have favourites.
Character collection is random, though special events regularly occur in which a higher chance to get specific characters is in place.
I have four guns in my inventory, and not a single gun-user.
What separates Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag from other such mobile games is the way the actual adventuring plays out. It's an action RPG. The player must dodge, block, parry, attack and activate special abilities during staged battles against enemies, using finger taps and swipes to get the job done.
The player forms a party of three, but only controls one character at a time. Tapping on another character's portrait initiates a Switch, with the entering character performing a powerful special move should she or he be able. With different enemies weak and strong against the various weapon types, Switching adds a layer of strategic depth to all the frantic finger poking.
Not only have I been enjoying my time with Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag, it's initial adherence to the anime storyline has gotten me watching the series, while renewing my interest in console games like last year's Sword Art Online: Hollow Realisation for the PlayStation 4. The collectible character genre is getting a bit overplayed, but I suppose it all depends on which characters you are collecting and what you're doing with them.
Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag is available as a free download for iOS or Android devices.