Sword Art Online: Lost Song starts out as an addictive and fun action role-playing game, but it quickly devolves into a repetitive and boring slugfest.
Based on the popular Sword Art Online anime, Lost Song takes place in a fictional fantasy MMO called Alfheim Online in which you fight a bunch of monster hordes and duel with other characters. The crux of Lost Song’s gameplay consists of flying around in a limited battlefield and pulling off the same combat moves while fighting the same generic monster. Do a couple of sword skills (types of strikes), some magic blasts, dodge a few times and you’re good to go. The controls are intuitive and the flight camera is mostly reliable, and I quickly fell into a comfortable rhythm with my attacks. It only takes a few quick taps on the D-pad’s up arrow to elevate into the sky, and overall the simple controls make for a fun time.
However, it definitely doesn’t last because Lost Song never evolves into being something a bit more complex, challenging, or even interesting. After about four or five hours of playing the game, I was incredibly bored. With role-playing and hack-and-slash games like God of War and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, there’s a natural progression in difficulty and they constantly throw new weapons, combo moves, and other mechanics your way to keep things fresh. Lost Song does not. You can easily memorize all of the monsters’ and bosses’ attacks, and even after ramping up the difficulty the whole affair still winds up feeling numbingly dull. The enemy A.I. is poor.
What you see and experience in the first few hours is basically everything Lost Song has to offer. That’s a shame really, especially because the core idea of flying around and battling monsters using swords and magic is actually pretty clever and exciting. But Lost Song fails to execute on its grand ideas. Lost Song’s seven locations are also uninspiring and relatively small. While the art design is eccentric and colorful, the game still looks painfully outdated.
With relatively boring gameplay the story and characters have to be great, right? Well, those too are disappointments. Lost Song presents an original story in the Sword Art Online universe, but it isn’t that great. The main plot involves a mystery with a group of Shamrocks and their zany leader Seven, but like the rest of the game it doesn’t go anywhere. The main characters, like Kirito, are likeable enough but lack any sort of nuance. What’s worse is the fact that Lost Song makes very little effort to introduce Sword Art Online’s characters, mythology, and world to newcomers. As someone who isn’t all that familiar with the series, I found myself having to look up character bios and read up on what exactly is Sword Art Online all about to even understand what was happening in Lost Song.
It’s pretty clear that the game is aimed at hardcore SAO fans, so they’ll definitely get a lot more enjoyment out of playing as their favorite characters. But it still doesn’t excuse just how uninviting Lost Song is to people who looking to get into the series.
Lost Song’s best feature is its multiplayer. You can team up with up to three other players, in co-op or versus mode, and it’s very easy to access via the town inn. I encountered no lag or any kind of issues. Instead, I was absorbed with my one-on-one duels with other players, testing out my skills in the process, and it’s always enjoyable to go hunting for monsters with other people.
Sword Art Online: Lost Song has plenty of great ideas, but it definitely doesn’t do enough to make them work in a 20-hour game. A better effort is needed next time.