Sword Art Online games are known for offering opportunities to get to know your party members. You’re encouraged to interact with people you recognize from the anime and light novel series. While in earlier games, it could sometimes feel like all you were doing was working toward a fanservice scene with your favorite character, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization feels like it makes the interactions feel a little more pertinent to the situation.
Basically, people are able to interact with characters like Asuna, Leafa, Silica, Strea, and so on. These characters have various traits that can influence their actions and personalities. Praising and encouraging them during in the field, as well as taking time to walk and talk with them in town, can alter their behaviors and increase their affection. While this may seem, on the surface, like it’s giving Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization a dating system, it’s actually a means of ensuring the characters act the way you want in battle and get them close enough to join you, receive gifts, and engage in pillow talk.
It’s actually a rather complicated system. Let’s start with Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization’s personality system. Every character can have six traits. Asuna starts out with the fiery, cool, smart, caring, kind, and nosy personality traits. I wanted her to be a dedicated attacker, which meant I needed to focus on improving her red natures, like fiery and warlike. The best way I found to do this was to praise actions in battle that had fiery attached to them. I wanted Silica to buff up and support my party, which means encouraging the green traits like Smart and Timid. It can get pretty complicated, but praising and interacting with people you intend to use often will help you on your way.
But, as complicated as the personality system is, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization’s affection system is easier to understand. Talking with people makes them like you. You actually have to spend free time with them in town, engaging in what is pretty similar to a visual novel or dating simulation. As you spend time together, perhaps even holding hands if you’re close enough, you’ll see a heart above their head. This means you can take part in a chat where you nod yes or shake your head no to indicate interest and engage in interactions. Zooming in lets you agree or disagree. Pulling back lets you press the square button to engage in interactions. A throbbing heart will appear, as well as a feeling gauge in the upper left corner. You want to wait until the heart is a purple color to start spamming actions to increase her feelings, and you can’t do that until you talk first.
Now, here’s why you want to do that, even if you have no interest in Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization’s pillow talk events and virtual relationships with characters. (Though, if you want pillow talk, that happens after reaching level four affinity.) You need to reach certain levels to add people who aren’t main characters to your group, though all of the main characters like Asuna and Silica will already arrive at that level due to your shared history. You also need people to be at the fifth level to actually give them equipment. This is huge as you get toward the endgame, as it means they’ll have stronger, better, and more effective equipment.
It’s a good thing the characters of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization will offer incentive to increase good will, because sometimes the game itself doesn’t do enough to stay in your good graces. It keeps crashing on me. Things have gotten slightly better since the 1.01 patch was released, but this is one of the few PlayStation 4 games that just decides to randomly shut things down. The first three times, it happened when I was in field areas, exploring and battling. Another time, it happened when I sent Kirito over to the inn. It’s an odd feeling and experience, since I have a launch PlayStation 4 with the stock hard drive and have been playing a physical copy of the game. The only other title to ever crash on me was a digital copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
In both anime series and video games, you’re encouraged to get close to characters. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization helps you connect to these characters from the Sword Art Online series in meaningful ways. Yes, spending time with them helps you get to know them. Maybe it even means seeing them when they’re at their most attractive. But, it also means making them better partners for you. They’ll be stronger and more competent if you connect with them, which is a really interesting way to show relationship growth in a game.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is now available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.