Sword Art Online: Last Recollection Preview – A Reunion of Characters and Gameplay Systems

The Sword Art Online video game series has been evolving for the past ten years. While I feel like it’s a respectable adaptation of the source material, I can see how the repetitiveness of the gameplay systems weighed on the overall enjoyment. However, with every release, we see some improvement, none more significant than Alicization Lycoris. Sure, it was released with some questionable performance issues, but the support it received from the development team post-launch is commendable.

Now, with the latest entry, Sword Art Online: Last Recollection, the title opts to utilize more powerful hardware to deliver a Sword Art Online experience that acts as a cumulation of all the previous titles. After playing a brief demo, I saw all the nuanced action systems come together to deliver some pretty entertaining moments of gameplay. That said, strangely, with all of these refined gameplay elements, I feel like this is the last time we’ll see an SAO game like this.

Within the basic structure of SAO games, there’s a simple gameloop: accept a mission, complete it, and progress. The elements of fun come from getting from point A to point B and all the battles and explorable areas that come between. Aside from the combat, it may come as no surprise that the story is a significant factor in making these games so fun.

Sword Art Online: Last Recollection boasts that it has the largest character roster of any SAO game to come before. This means there will be character arcs and maybe even sub-missions that revolve around each character, allowing you to spend more time with this cast. The story closely follows the War of Underworld arc, but there are some original story scenes given that some characters are unique to the game.

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The extensive roster also allows you to build your party the way you want. While playing, I couldn’t mess around with my party too much, but I’m looking forward to creating a team of my favorite girls. See, I’m a simple man, anything that lets me live vicariously through Kirito so I can hang out with his harem, and I’m there.

Action is pretty straightforward, but the more I utilized the abilities and various Switch mechanics, I found some depth. The camera has been wildly improved in this release to show off more of the battlefield during boss fights, which allows you to dodge and react to incoming attacks. The biggest draw for this release is the online multiplayer, which makes this entry feel more like a reunion.

However, this has left me feeling like the developers are treating this entry as a send-off to this style of SAO game. There seem to be many elements of the action and exploration systems that make it feel as if the team is holding back for a future release. In retrospect, this game is more of the same compared to the previous entries, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t the evolution that I was looking for.

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The main takeaway, though, is that it ran wonderfully on PS5. Sadly, the other console version does have some longer loading screens, but the performance in this entry is unrivaled by its predecessors. Every action felt smooth, and the balance of strategy and combat has me eager to fine-tune my harem, I mean, party, to create extraordinary combinations of abilities.

While I wasn’t able to get too deep into this adventure, from what I played of Sword Art Online: Last Recollection, we’re in for an immersive adventure with these characters who we’ve grown exceptionally close to over the past ten years, and I’m looking forward to more.

Sword Art Online: Last Recollection is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam on October 6, 2023.

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.