Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight (PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Released: July 7, 2017 (NA/EU/SEA), March 16, 2017 (JP)
MSRP: $59.99 (PS4) $39.99 (Vita)
Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight finally links together the two most popular worlds created by hit author Reki Kawahara. At this point, Sword Art Online needs little introduction, but Accel World might be a little more obscure. That’s a shame, since I’ve always thought that Accel World was the better of the two.
For the uninitiated, Accel World is another game-based story that technically takes place a generation into the future of Sword Art Online‘s world. In it, people are equipped with “Neuro Linkers,” special collar-shaped wearable computers that can do both Augmented and Virtual Reality, and make Google Glass look about as advanced as a hammer and chisel. Kids battle it out in Brain Burst, an AR/VR fighting game that plays like a hybrid of City of Heroes and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in fantastical landscapes overlaid over the real world, using custom “Duel Avatars” and trading points that grant actual, real-world time-slowing superpowers to use for success in real life.
It’s pretty wild, to say the least, and for me its approach to stakes and characterization worked much better than the more popular Sword Art Online, which to this day lives in the shadow of its original story arc.
Unfortunately, the qualities that made Accel World a better anime series also tended to make it a worse actual game, and a couple of subpar, Japan-only PSP entries are all that form its dedicated game stable. If nothing else, the various Sword Art Online game adaptations were at least solid, if rarely exceptional.
This is all the more disappointing, considering that Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight is doing the right thing, on paper. Rather than risk another subpar attempt of translate the weird qualities of Accel World into a recognizable game, ArtDink essentially wrote a bunch of Accel World characters into the proven skeleton of an existing, decent Sword Art Online game, specifically Sword Art Online: Lost Song.
Indeed, it’s much more informative to see Millennium Twilight less as a crossover game, where the properties involved are presumed to be given equal treatment, than as an expansion to Lost Song. A more accurate title for this game would be Sword Art Online: Lost Song 2: The Brain Burst Incursion.
This truth extends even to the narrative, which mainly focuses on Kirito and Asuna as they rush to rescue their AI pixie daughter, Yui, from the clutches of the malevolent entity responsible for merging their session of ALfheim Online with the mechanics (and players) of a game that won’t exist for at least another twenty years or so. It’s a whole thing.
Sadly, what actually happens in the story isn’t nearly as dramatic as the bonkers premise might imply. Half of the game’s thankfully short running time is spent assembling the combined casts of both series (apparently, no one logs off, even when the game goes down for “maintenance”), leaving plenty of time for Sword Art Online and Accel World‘s characters to mingle, interact, banter, and fight each other. These interactions can be fun, but their impact is dependent almost entirely on prior investment in Sword Art Online. The Accel World characters, being less popular, spend a lot of time having to explain their own setting to the audience. If nothing else, it’s at least more entertaining than reading a Wiki entry.
I wish I could say the same for the gameplay, but unfortunately, having played Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, I cannot. It preserves the core mechanics, graphics, and even enemy assets of Sword Art Online: Lost Song, a game that already felt a little bit too simplistic and rote to be worth recommending in 2015. Characters still conduct combat in a quasi-Warriors-esque melee, learning and firing off skills, and occasionally flying to engage in aerial combat. The only difference, really, comes from the addition of the Accel World guest characters.
Called “Duel Avatars” (the SAO characters are just “fairies”), Accel World‘s cast all rock a series of unique abilities unlinked to their choice of weapon. In fact, a Duel Avatar often is their weapon, such as in the case of Black Lotus, Accel World‘s most visible character and possibly the best girlfriend ever. I’d play a game that was only about this queen made of swords with the hots for chubster protagonists.
Other Duel Avatars include powers like a leopard transformation, rocket boosters, and the ability to summon a giant, immobile missile-spewing fortress mecha. For this puissance, they trade away the ability to fly (barring a couple of special cases), and need to get around Millennium Twilight‘s huge maps by super-jumping like The Incredible Hulk.
This distinction doesn’t work nearly as well in practice as theory, as Millennium Twilight simply isn’t different enough from Lost Song to make playing a Duel Avatar feel fun. Case in point: Fighting one of the game’s many flying bosses sucks if your characters can’t fly themselves. Outside of pure fan enthusiasm, the incentive to actually play as one of the Accel World characters quickly fades once confronted with the game proper.
Ultimately, while Accel World VS Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight means well to try and merge what’s cool about both Sword Art Online and Accel World, its high points are too few and far between to consider it a success.