If you’re a fan of Sword Art Online, then Sword Art Online: Lost Song offers a lot of different options for you to give yourself your ideal SAO experience. It doesn’t take long to unlock the whole main cast as playable characters (you can even switch Kirito out of the party for another character) and even side characters eventually become playable like Argo, the information broker or the leaders of the races such as Sakuya or Alicia Rue. Each character can be equipped with their own sets of equipment, which is dependant on their character’s race, as well as their own set of skills.
Strea and Philia return from Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, though I didn’t recognize Philia in her ALO form at first as it’s very different from her original appearance! There’s a variety of costumes for each character and all the DLC costumes from the Japanese version is including in the English release. While it seems you can’t switch back to the original Aincrad forms, Kirito and Sinon have their GGO forms as a costume as well as a Gods Eater costume for Kirito and Asuna available from the start of the game.
Once you reach a certain point in the game, the online multiplayer options open up, enabling you to create a custom character. While you can create your character for online play, you’re also able to play the single player campaign using them as well. Unfortunately, the options here are really limited, even more so when compared to the character creator (or rather the Kirito Customizer) that was used in Hollow Fragment. You start by selecting your character’s race from the ones available in the world of ALO, though some races like Cait Sith are restricted to certain genders. Where the real disappointment lies is that as you’re picking out your character’s features, there’s only two options for each selection and your character never really deviates from the default options. What’s worse is that all these custom character models are based on the NPCs you see running around town, so the character that’s meant to look unique and represent you online just looks like an ordinary NPC. It feels like a mode that’s just been tacked on and frankly, you’re better off sticking with the existing characters than bothering creating one of your own.
As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to trigger scenes with various members, some being just for fun and others lead towards extra quests giving you extra experience, weapons and items. Characters do have their own set of quests to complete but these aren’t handled the same way they were in Hollow Fragment. For a start, there’s no romance options and characters don’t follow you around town and you can’t interact with them either. Characters send you in-game messages about their thoughts and feelings about recent events that has happened either in the story or side quests you’ve taken on. You’ll also get messages from party members that you haven’t used in a while, asking to come along on your journey.
It’s a shame then that party members not in use don’t earn any experience points from your battles since they’ll fall behind very quickly and won’t learn some of their advanced skills that are helpful in later stages of the game. While you earn experience just by taking out enemies, in true SAO fashion your skills only level up as you use them. So to increase a healing skill, you have to keep healing, to increase an attack skill, you have to keep performing that specific attack. Likewise your efficiency with your weapons increases as you use them. Using skills and attacks on enemies that are a higher level than you will, increase the rate the skill increases, something to keep in mind when facing a boss if there’s a particular stat you want to increase.
I feel like Sword Art Online: Lost Song has done a good job of including fan pleasing content and I’m a big fan of the alternate timeline approach that Hollow Fragment and Lost Song have taken. I always think it makes it a lot more engaging to play than simply playing through a story you’ve already seen. Sword Art Online: Lost Song does follow on from the events of Hollow Fragment, though it requires no prior knowledge of it. However, it does reveal a spoiler about a certain character early on that’s pretty unavoidable, just something to keep it mind if you’ve set on playing through Hollow Fragment first.