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Sword Art Online Memory Defrag Review, A Pleasant Surprise

Animated series derived from a Light Novel of Reki Kawahara, Sword Art Online quickly became one of the most popular anime of the moment (for both good and bad reasons). As such, the series evolved past the animation to be exported to other media, including video games. After various adaptations on the consoles of Sony, each one representing the major arcs of the series, Sword Art Online has just landed on our mobiles. As you would expect with a production of this type, this Sword Art Online Memory Defrag is just another free-to-play multiplayer RPG based on the collection of characters. Does this make it a bad game? The answer is not as simple, as we will explain below.
 
An Amazing Art-Style

Let's start with the point that I found the most pleasant about Sword Art Online Memory Defrag, it’s graphics. If the quality of the graphics games of this type vary greatly depending on the license or the developer, it will be extremely difficult to attack Bandai Namco on the work done here. Everything from the launch screen to the UI of the game is bright and beautiful. Where we usually find ourselves faced with simple UIs, we find here a real gameplay thought for its support, which uses the gestures wisely to create controls both simple and complete. A very good performance that should be underlined. The developers truly did an amazing job and reproducing the atmosphere of the anime. The models of the characters, as well as their animations, were wonderfully directed and will surely delight lovers of Sword Art Online.
 
A Free To Play That Doesn’t Limit Free Players

Like many other titles based on a famous license (movies, TV shows, anime or even other games), this title invites players to relive the great arcs that compose it. In this case, it will be possible to play the intrigues from the first episode of Sword Art Online. Thus, besides the world of Sword Art Online, it will also be possible to experience that of ALfheim Online or Gun Gale Online. Within each major arc, we can find various stories sequences that are replays of the major events in the anime’s storyline, presented as missions that are played before, during, or after major fights. A quest structure that can not be classical, but in this case perfectly adapted, Sword Art Online based on a MMORPG .

As we mentioned in the introduction, this Sword Art Online Memory Defrag takes over the classical mechanics of the mobile free-to-play RPG genre. As always with this type of titles, it will be necessary to scout (summon), equip, train and evolve emblematic characters of the saga in order to fight for you. And as expected of a Fremium model, obtaining the characters and their equipment rests on a Gacha system (a sort of lottery for those not familiar with the term), as well as on a premium currency: the Memory Diamonds. Currency that will be possible to get by completing the levels and missions of the game, or simply by spending money. Basically enough to turn off players that dislike the whole Gacha system. Judging the game on this one point would, however, be a mistake, as unlike most titles of the genre, Sword Art Online Memory Defrag has decided to do things well.
 

To start, the game is very generous in reward, and it is extremely easy to collect enough Memory Diamonds to scout characters and their equipment. Then, and I believe that is a huge step in the right direction, the game does not have a stamina system recharging over time. If recent games like Fire Emblem Heroes and even ArcheAge begins greatly restrict the amount of time free-to-play players can spend in the game through a stamina system. Fire Emblem Heroes has it so bad that it is only possible to complete about 8 advanced levels a day with the current stamina regeneration rate, all to push players to spend money to play more. So you can imagine my surprise when I realised (and it took me quite a while) that Sword Art Online Memory Defrag decided to do away with this mechanic. It is therefore possible to chain unrestricted levels, whether to advance in the story, or simply to grind the required levels and materials to evolve your characters. This change, however minimal it may be, dramatically changes the perception of this title: for once, a free-to-play does not seem to push us to put the hand to the purse. And if you're used to this kind of game, you know how frustrating that can be.

Engaging and Dynamic Combat

Another flaw of the mobile RPG genre is that the player doesn’t always have much to do in combat. In ArcheAge Begins, for example, most of the fighting is done by the AI (raids aside), with players only being able to decide when and on whom to use their characters’ skills. And this could not be more different from the combat system of Sword Art Online Memory Defrag which leans severely on the sides of the Beat'em All and Hack 'n’ Slash genres. From the latter, it keeps the horizontal scrolling, as well as a small level of vertical scrolling, an element far from being insignificant as the placement of the characters proves to be paramount during the combat phases of game. Players indeed need to control the position of their characters on the stage to avoid certain patterns of attack Enemies, but also exploit their weaknesses by, for example, attacking them in the back. 

Beyond just moving, you'll also need to manage your character's attacks, choose when and how to hit. Not only will you be able to exploit many types of simple attacks, but it will also be possible to launch, once you have accumulated enough mana, devastating special attacks that will have to be timed accurately to inflict maximum damage. The Party Switch mechanics which, as in the series, allows party members to switch places in battle and deal a huge amount of damage is also present. Here, it allows you to change the active character in your group (limited to 3 per party), ideal for turning a difficult fight in your favor. 
 
Sword Art Online Defrag thus offers a comprehensive attack panel that you will have to learn to master. There are two additional mechanics devoted to defense. In a very conventional manner. Pressing and holding any part of the screen allows the active character to defend (and swiping while defending allows for a counter attack). As for dodging there are two possibilities; swiping up on the screen to jump, or swiping either left or right to dash in the direction. In the end, we end up with a very engaging combat system, which will require the player to invest themselves at each level traveled without spoiling everything since the whole game is played with a single finger thanks to touch controls that are extremely fluid.

Minor Flaws

Obviously, this Memory Defrag does not avoid some pitfalls, the main one being the obligation to be connected permanently. Beyond the fact that this can limit the playing spaces, this also has a significant impact on the energy consumption of the application. Like many other games of this type, Sword Art Online Memory Defrag will drain your battery quite quickly. A phenomenon accentuated by the absence of stamina which favors the long sessions of game. Another point that can cause problem: the management of the allies by the AI. It will indeed be possible to embark certain allies in every mission launched, so that they fight by your side. The worry is that these characters are controlled by an AI that is not always the brightest.

Conclusion

Yes, Sword Art Online is an umpteenth adaptation of a great Japanese license, in the form of a free-to-play RPG with all that implies, including certain defects inherent to the genre. As usual with this type of game, you will have to go through the eternal stage of the gacha machine, which here allows to recover new characters and equipment in exchange for a few tens of Memory Diamonds, the local premium currency. But the title does a lot correctly, starting with the fact that it is very generous with its players by regularly offering Memory Diamonds. Then, It offers a fairly complete gaming experience, and far from that proposed by its counterparts. Whether through its combat, which is quite technical and demanding, or thanks to small details, like the absence of stamina system that never limits the time the player can spend in the game. In the end, whether you're a fan of the original series or not, this Sword Art Online Memory Defrag deserves at least a try. Even those most refractory to the free-to-play RPG genre could find something to like about this title.

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