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Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: DIMPS
Release Date: Feb. 23, 2018

About Michael Keener

Although you don't know me and I don't know you, I reviewed a game you're obviously interested in since you came here, so that sort of makes us friends now. I hope I'm able to help you decide which game to buy next or avoid wasting money on, new friend!

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PS4 Review - 'Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet'

by Michael Keener on April 6, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Based on the popular anime franchise, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet introduces third-person shooter action along with the traditional RPG gameplay.

Buy Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

"Sword Art Online" is a hit anime series that has spawned various video game adaptions over the years. For those unfamiliar with the premise, it centers around the advancement of virtual reality gaming. There are various adaptions of this game world, each with their own programming and gameplay mechanics. Players, hooked up to their VR headsets, are able to live within the game. Initially, it was almost a lottery ticket for the anime characters to play the first SAO game; it was a lucky chance to take on an adventure that promised to be an incomparable experience.

In Sword Art Online, also abbreviated as SAO, players are placed in a coma-like status when playing the VR MMO. Depending on where you are in the franchise timeline, you may see the characters wielding swords, shooting guns, or flying around with wings.  Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet provides a good summary at the beginning to explain the difference between the worlds and identify which one you're in (Gun Gale Online).

In the first anime series, players became trapped in the VR world and were unable to log out. This resulted in the real-life deaths of many SAO gamers when their VR characters died in the game world. The first game saw the rise and fall of the hero and protagonist Kirito, and controversy with the first game did not mean an end to titles that shared the core AI characteristics, and that brings us to the world where Fatal Bullet is set.


Released in 2016, Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization follows the gameplay style of the older entries in the series. It was filled with button-mashing combos, clumsy AI support, grassy fields, and swords. While the AI in Fatal Bullet isn't overpowering, it's one of the few ways the title remains similar to Hollow Realization. Everything else has received an essential overhaul.

I say "essential" because as fun as these games may be, they border on clich├ęd JRPG elements and are only held together by the excitement surrounding the anime. Players want to be a part of the show and have relationships to the characters they've fallen in love with. Fans of the anime will feel that their money is well spent, but others may struggle to push through the game's flaws.

The gameplay is extremely different, since you use guns instead of melee-based weapons. Assault rifles, rocket launchers, shotguns and snipers mean that you can deal massive damage to your enemies from a distance. Match this with your character's dodging and dashing abilities, and you'll play a game of spraying the enemy while you try to avoid their attacks.


Fatal Bullet can be categorized as a third-person shooter, but for gamers who are used to Western gaming designs, it will feel slightly different. The third-person shooting is more of a secondary mechanic. If you hip-fire, you'll receive a good amount of aiming assistance, as your shooting is directed toward the enemies in front of you. Zooming in allows you to freely aim, and while it can initially feel inaccurate, it's great when your bullets find their mark. The mistake I made was zooming in on every enemy. Doing this when there are several enemies present means you'll soak up some damage while your tunnel vision is focused on one guy. The best strategy is to keep moving, dash around, and spray as much as you can. Ammo is generous and can be found in pretty sizeable ammo crates, which are hard to miss because they glow and stand out in the environment.

If you see enemies or bosses hesitate for a moment, that's when you need to zoom in and deal focused damage. Speaking of bosses, you'll find dozens of oversized enemies to test your skills on. While the majority of the game will feel like a cake walk after the first few hours of slow story building, the bosses always find a way to test your limits. Many battles take place in giant game rooms, so you can run around, remain at a distance, and shoot at them with little stress. If they close the gap and you're not adequate at dashing, you can be in pretty big trouble. Enemies vary greatly in appearance and fighting style, but they're crazy yet appropriate to the anime. For example, one boss is an overgrown canine that can shoot weapons from its forehead, and another is a giant earthworm.

You can team up with other real-life players, as long as they're on the same console platform. Co-op gameplay reduces the dungeon-clearing times but fails to provide anything substantial. The lack of dedicated servers meant that my brother and I, who live on opposite sides of North America, experienced laggy gameplay with a peer-to-peer connection. Because of that, it's better to play with local friends instead.


Many familiar characters make an appearance, but you'll always be the star of the show. One of the biggest improvements that might seem like an extremely minor addition is the character customization. You can choose between dozens of variations to create your ultimate character, including eye style, hair color, hairstyle, height, makeup, scars, tattoos, and voice. Even seeing your name in dialogue boxes adds a great amount of immersion.

The voice acting is done in Japanese with English subtitles, and no English voice acting is available. The Japanese voice acting is good in terms of tone. You'll have a few opportunities to decide how to respond in conversations, but it's usually one of two choices, and they both worded slightly different. I never felt like I had much control over this 20-hour story. It starts off slowly but remains interesting enough to keep you engaged. The gameplay is supposed to win you over in the middle segment of the game, and at the end, the story picks up and finishes in a worthy fashion. I won't provide spoilers, but early on, you come across some valuable loot that is admired and desired by other veteran players.

Overall, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet was not as perfect as I wanted it to be, but it's a step in a very good direction. I thought the previous games were pretty spammy with attacks, and many enemies felt like mobile sponges, and although the same occurs in Fatal Bullet, the enemies are far more badass. The guns lead to ranged combat, and since you see enemy attacks coming from miles away, it can sometimes seem boring, but the game has a way of keeping you on your toes. I don't remember how many fights I thought were going to be quick and easy but ended up being more difficult and tenser. The story may not be good enough to be considered a mainstream option, but for the JRPG community and SAO fans, there is an extreme amount of fun to be had here. If you've played the previous games, Fatal Bullet is an overall improvement and a step up.

Score: 6.5/10



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