It’s rare for a game based off of movies or television shows to stray far away from the source material. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is quite an exception to the rule as it effectively acts as a sequel to the original series. Taking inspiration from the .Hack series from the PlayStation 2 era, Hollow Fragment effectively acts as a simulated MMO with all of the usual conventions one has come to expect, with an actual multiplayer mode thrown in. Is Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment patched to perfection, or is it just another glitch in the Vita library?
Just as with any other MMO, Sword Art Online features a small amount of character customization. Name, face, hair style, and such can all be customized to your liking, but the character you play as for all intents and purposes is always Kirito. Players will refer to the character by name through every bit of dialogue as the name you choose only seems to impact menus or differentiating between players during the multiplayer modes.
Hollow Fragment starts just after the events of Sword Art Online, with Kirito and the Assault Team clearing out Floor 75. There are some huge spoilers that I won’t cover here, but the game does a good job of catching the player up to speed in the initial tutorial missions. The main points of the series are wrapped up quickly just before Sword Art Online opens up with starting up on Floor 76. Kirito remains the highest level character in the game at level 100, with Asuna and other members of the cast barely scratching level 80-90.
Having starting on Floor 76 and being built up so powerfully, the game has to find some way to balance out and bring forth some sort of challenge. Sword Art Online accomplishes this by stripping away all experience Kirito has with his weapon skills. All weapon types are down to zero mastery. Kirito has to start using all of his weapons again in true MMO fashion and grind up mastery by just using the weapons in any combat. Nearly all weapons are available from the start, with the exception of katana/blade and two-handed swords. Being able to use a katana effectively and using skills in combat requires a full 1,000 mastery with scimitars which will take a few hours of grinding to unlock.
The opening hours of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment have you starting out with an overpowered Kirito who’s nearly twenty levels over his competition. Many enemies in the early levels are very easy to take out but the levels and difficulty quickly scale up as you progress through the higher floors. To help level up the other members of your party, usually it’s best to bring them into combat as your partner although some characters such as Silica had sub events that can be unlocked to help boost her level at a faster rate. Most of the 40+ story characters you come across in town can be added to your party, but the game leans towards the six selectable heroines for your harem. It’s not uncommon to get a message out of the blue from a friend to come join them out in the field and take out a Notorious Monster or help grind with them until they level up. Bolstering the levels of your friends is quite important to help keep all of the players alive, especially during the mandatory boss fights.
Hollow Fragment can also be considered a harem game of sorts. Each of the games seven main heroines (Yui, the daughter that Kirito and the heroine Asuna have adopted, is not playable however) have particular scenes as the game progresses. Spending time with these ladies will unlock extra scenes and dialogue that include carrying them up to your inn room for a night of ‘sleeping’. There’s nothing explicit to Sword Art Online‘s fan service, but the dialogue hints certainly leave little to the imagination.