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Bandai Namco discusses 'Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment' & future 'SAO' games

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Examiner chats with Associate Public Relations Specialist at Bandai Namco Games America Grace Liu about the upcoming PlayStation Vita exclusive Sword Art Online: Hallow Fragment, based off of the popular Sword Art Online anime following a gamer who finds himself trapped in a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game where if you die in the game, you die in real life.

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Examiner: Can you quickly explain to us what Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is about?

Grace Liu: Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment is based off of the anime Sword Art Online and it has its own story separate to the series. And so, there was actually the previous game which was called Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment which came out in Japan on the PSP, and the PSP game is ported into Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, so you have the original game in it, and also an additional area called the Hollow Area, so it’s like you have two games in one.

In the Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment gameplay, you’ve got like an RPG game. You play as the main character, his name is Kirito, and when you go into battle you also take along a partner with you that you don’t directly control, but you can give them some directives such as telling them to switch tank, or telling them to guard or heal themselves and such. And also, in the Hollow Area, it’s built to have an online multiplayer feature, so you could team up with up to three players online, and each player also has like their own non-playable partner, so it’s really like there’s eight players on the screen at once, so it’s more like a raid.

[There are] a lot of reoccurring characters, like Kirito, Asuna, Yui, and a lot of new characters, as well. The major one, her name is Philia. She has this whole new storyline where she was affiliated with this evil guild called the Laughing Coffin, they’re notorious for killing other players in the game, and if you’re not familiar with Sword Art Online, if you die in the game then you die in real life, too. So it has major consequences when you kill a player. When you do a player kill, or PK, then this little symbol on your head goes from green to red, and so this character Philia, her symbol is orange, so she’s kind of in the danger zone. You’re not really sure if you could trust her, but she’s a little more complicated ‘cause she’s like, kind of striving to be a better person.

(Warning: Very minor season one spoiler ahead. Skip to next question if you're looking to start watching the anime.)

Ex: Where exactly would this storyline fit in with the series. It branches out, but where would you place it in the anime?

GL: Somewhere after season one, because you also will run into characters from the ALfheim Online portion of season one, so like Leafa, you’ll see her, so definitely, a little deeper into the storyline. Again, it doesn’t exactly fit, it’s definitely an alternate storyline.

Ex: We’ve touched a bit on combat, but could you explain a little about how the game tries to get that MMO feel?

Sure. Since they’re trying to base it off of this virtual reality MMORPG, for example the NPCs will act like players, so you could put them on your friends list and you could take them along and then also, you’ll engage the enemies that are free roaming, so it’s not like random encounters, where suddenly the screen cracks and you go into this other scene. You also have this huge range of different skills that you could set in skill palettes, and what the skill palettes are, you have your basic four moves, and if you press either the right or left [shoulder] button it changes the palette so you have a whole other set of skills, and you could totally customize it so different skills are in different positions. It definitely emulates the MMORPG element of customizing, which skill is in what slot for each button.

Ex: This is only on PlayStation Vita?

GL: Yeah. PlayStation Vita. Digital download only, and it’s coming August 19.

Ex: Did you ever consider maybe having a console iteration of the game?

GL: Definitely we would look into it, ‘cause Sword Art Online is definitely a series that we really want to make one of our pillar game titles, so definitely as we’re trying to bring more Sword Art Online games we’ll be considering other platforms.

Ex: Maybe we’ll see an MMO one day?

GL: Oh, maybe, who knows? All possibilities are out there [chuckles].

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