Creating crossovers is risky business. It’s not only one fan base that needs representing, but two, and the game itself has to be good on its own to boot. It’s a tall order, but developer Artdink has brought together the action-RPG realms of Accel World and Sword Art Online to create something. To be fair, the narrative here has its moments, exploring tropes and concepts that befit online environments with some interesting cases for relationships within the virtual realm. To top it off, having these two namesakes meet and work together add some nice variety to character types and styles. But that’s not all there it to say about this crossover.
As is customary with SAO games, the zones are vast but yet quite empty. Enemy groups are scattered around the maps, with occasional items to find in breakable containers, but the zones themselves lack any real depth or significance to make traversing them worth the while. Main and side quests can be picked up to help supplement exploration, but even then the scope is too vast to feel like a cohesive delivery.
To make matters worse, traversing said zones has its own encumbrance. This lies mostly in the act of flight, since navigating and fighting on foot is straightforward. There are two different means of flight, a design choice that contradicts in its intended convenience. The first is something more like a travel mode, where you can fly in any direction and any height by using the right joystick. Then there’s combat flight, which requires some finagling. Double-tapping X descends and holding X ascends you. I feel that the intention here was to keep attention on the face buttons while moving in combat, but since combat is based on the face buttons anyway, your thumbs will have to navigate away from the combat buttons in order to ascend or descend; here, the trigger buttons would be a better utilization method, I think, if the flight control scheme is insisted upon. Either way, seeing a travel mode flight method already in this game makes the combat flight controls more cumbersome than they already are by contrast. There is a better option available, and it should be the universal control scheme.
Combat itself lacks something too. It’s not that it doesn’t work, necessarily. It’s more than there’s very little personality in it. Animations are minimal, which make the short attack list overtly repetitive. An auto-lock, of sorts, exists so that keeping track of enemies while fighting is made easier, but this generally only works on foot. While mid-flight, attacks will lock on the x-axis, but the y-axis still requires adjustment. Here meet multiple issues at once, with frustrating aerial controls and an auto-lock system that only works on one plane. If this auto-lock facilitated some traversal problems while mid-flight, then these issues would be far less significant and, arguably, capable of being overlooked out of habit.
Graphically, this game might as well be a PS3 game. What comes to mind with this is that the visuals were held back so that it could be published on the Vita as well. Take that as you will, but with all things considered, there are plenty of Vita games out there with similar aesthetics that play more cohesively. Enemies are bland and vary very little. Visually, the game hits its visual best in the anime-style dialogue scenes.
Despite these issues, a fair amount of content greets anyone who overcomes the game’s peculiar control nuances. There is a ton of side quests to be had on top of the main storyline, and there’s even an online side of the game to play with friends. Competitive has you pitted against other players, but the problem is that matchmaking, low player counts, or a combination of the two make equal fights few and far between. I either encountered overleveled enemies that wrecked me on sight or low level characters whom I wrecked. The co-op mode is more applicable, as it allows a Monster Hunter-esque (without the depth or mechanics) experience that lets you trudge through side missions and extra bosses with friends.
There is a lot of content to be had here, but the important thing to games like this is functional combat, and Accel World vs Sword Art Online has some growing to do before it becomes a must-buy crossover. With finicky controls and oversized maps, it’s hard to recommend this game to anyone other than those who love the franchise and the two series themselves. The narrative has some good high points, but they’re not enough to justify the slow, cumbersome walk through the game’s online venues.