Sword Art Online or SAO is an anime TV series loved by many people. Teenagers, adults and children have watched and rewatched this series a countless number of times. Admittedly I am one of those adults. When Bandai Namco released their first Sword Art Online game back in 2015 the SAO loving community was excited and curious as to how this game was going to compare to the actions that took place in the first season of the TV show. But we aren’t looking at that game today, instead we are looking at the fifth game in the Sword Art Online series; But this isn’t just the fifth game, this game was based off of the first arc in season 2 of the series, the Gun Gale Online arc.
Fatal Bullet was (loosely) based on the first half of season 2 of the anime series Sword Art Online. Although having the same characters as the series and matching up to most of the storyline, there are still a few details from the anime which were left out of the games development, I assume that this was to make the game a little more family friendly.
As you’d expect from the series it is an action/shooter game. But as we haven’t developed full dive gaming technology (yet) we play this game in third person rather than first. But this isn’t really a bad thing when we get a chance to look into the customisation features of the game. SAO: Fatal Bullet is the first Sword Art Online game in the series that provides the player with full avatar customization; Almost everything on your avatar can be customised, your height, hairstyle/colour and even the colour of your eyes, which you can have the same colour or different colours if you’d prefer. As you’d also expect, you can name your character however you like too.
Your first ‘quest’ in game is to complete the tournament that you enter which is laid out in the form of a tutorial, teaching you the basic controls, actions, and devices at your disposal. The tutorial brings you to a strange room filled with bizarre machines, which when approached will supply your avatar with an AI, labelled ArFA-Sys. This AI is also customizable to the players preferences, using the same customisation screen and options that were used for your player character.
Many features that you see in the TV show, are also included in the gameplay of Fatal Bullet, two main features are the Bullet Line; A player assist which shows you the predicted path of an enemies bullets and the Bullet Circle; An aim assist program that expands and contracts when you are unfocused on your target, when you fire your gun the bullets you shoot will fire randomly in that circle. The more focused you are, the more accurate your shots will be.
Playing SAO: Fatal bullet is much more different from the series previous games, mostly because it is set in an action packed shooter game, where it’s previous contenders were fantasy based games. But just like in the TV series you can form a party of up to 5 players to tackle the quests in the battlefield or just to go on a hunt. Each party member will have something to contribute and this could be vital to the outcome of your hunt and gameplay.
As you would imagine, we see some rather familiar faces in this game, just as we did the others. Our gilded hero Kirito returns alongside his partner Asuna, also known in other games as The Berserk Healer. Both of these characters maintain some of the attributes they were known for in previous games; Kirito remains the rouge and careless fighter he’s always been and Asuna continues to focus mainly on healing her team members, a useful character to have in your party when you’re out hunting monsters or players on the battlefield.
But these two aren’t our only returning favourites, we also get to see Lis, Agil, Leafa, Silica and of course we get to see the adorable Yui again. Each character you see has their own role to play in the game, and most of them are able to join you in battle. Now if you haven’t played all of the games but instead only watched the TV show, then you’ll run into a couple of characters that you won’t recognize. But they don’t cause interference with the gameplay, and they hardly have dialogue which will cause confusion.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet does have a multiplayer feature which allows players to compete in a four-on-four player versus player match. The deathmatch splits these 8 players into teams of 2 and adds additional computer controlled enemies to each team to make things a little more exciting. There is also an option in multiplayer to form four player co-operative parties, which is a great feature to see how well your friends can play the game, and see how much bounty and loot you can gather up in one hunting session.
The story for this game will seem a little out of place for the fans of the Sword Art Online series, this is mainly because the characters in game will recall events differently from the events that took place in the TV series. An example of a change between the two is that Kirito mentions that he and his younger sister Sugu (player name: Leafa) were both trapped in the original Sword Art Online game upon its initial launch in 2022. Now as any fan would know, Sugu used to hate video games, and went to her Kendo Practise at the same time that her older brother logged onto SAO and become trapped in the game.
Other details also stick out for the TV show watchers as you see certain characters appear that really shouldn’t be in the game, due to the course of the TV show, but I suppose it helps place a new view on the game overall.
In terms of the unique story that is created for the player I think it is a really good display on how the original Gun Gale Online was supposed to be. Going on monster hunts with your party, defending your personal ArFA-Sys from other players, helping your AI to grow and finding its lost parts as part of one big quest. There are several areas across a wide map for you to explore, each area requires you to face and complete a dungeon if you want to access it though. Which shouldn’t be too hard if you’re equipped with the best weapons and armour.
Despite the game having a fixed storyline, you don’t have to follow it straight away; You could spend some time hunting monsters in the field to earn XP and reputation too, the higher your reputation or bounty is, the more rewards you’ll receive. You’ll earn money when you go out into the field and this can be spent on upgrading your current gear, buying new gear and even visiting the dodgy seller to see if you can get your hands on parts to upgrade your weapons to the best they can be.
As with a few games now, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet doesn’t just have one ending to it. There are multiple endings you can unlock by progressing in the game and doing certain actions. But you’ll have to figure those out yourself. As for getting one ending and not liking the way it turned out? Don’t worry. A feature of this game is that you can start again but keep all of your skills, weapons and armour intact. So, you won’t lose that rare weapon you found in a boss fight.
Overall I would say that this game has some real uniqueness to it, which is great for anybody that plays but hasn’t seen the TV show or players that didn’t like the way that the TV show turned out. But for the big fans of Sword Art Online, I wouldn’t come here looking for the same story line you’re used to from our favourite characters, instead try to make your story the best it can possibly be. Try to unlock the “True Ending” and become the strongest player in GGO, alongside all your friends. Although some of the details aren’t what we were used to, this game sure shows a lot of individuality for the player. As well as the chance to start again and keep your skills.
Good luck players!