The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Asuna Yuuki

Sword Art Online II- Review and Impressions After Six

“I run faster with a knife. Everyone runs faster with a knife.” —FPS_Doug, Pure Pwnage

As with Aldnoah.Zero, I’ve opted to do a reflection around a quarter of the way into Sword Art Online II, as both series are going to run for twenty four episodes. In Sword Art Online II, a year has passed since the events of the first season, and Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) has resumed his education, as well as a relationship with Asuna Yuuki. However, a series of bizarre murders in an online game called Gun Gale Online (GGO) leads government official Kikuoka Seijirou to contact Kirito and begin an investigation into the matter. Despite his initial reservations, Kirito takes up the offer and enters Gun Gale Online, discovering another vast game world in the process even as he tries to familiarize himself with the game mechanics and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding “Death Gun”, the player responsible for the murders. Meanwhile, a new character, Sinon, is introduced. After witnessing a robbery, Sinon was forced to shoot the criminal in her past, leaving her with a permanent fear of guns. She plays GGO with a fervour, hoping to overcome her fear of guns. Deaths in a virtual-reality MMORPG served as the premise for the first season, and makes a return in the second season, so the second season should be nothing new to those who finished the first.

  • Asuna and Kirito have become a happy couple in the events following the original Sword Art Online: the last time I watched this anime, it was Autumn 2012, and I was gearing up for a thesis defense. Since then, much has happened, and although I’m not particularly fond of Sword Art Online‘s second half, overall, the anime was quite interesting to watch.

  • This is clearly an imitation of Apple’s WWDC; the latest Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco unveiled the new Mac OS X Yosemite, which will come out in Autumn 2014, along with iOS 8. Yosemite is said to take after iOS 7’s “Flat” UI, unifying the two design paradigms between Apple’s PC and tablet lineups. Depending on where my graduate research needs to go, I may wind up purchasing a Macbook Pro with Retina display.

  • I’m going to assume that readers are familiar with Kirito and Asuna, so there’s no need to re-introduce them. The green-haired girl from the trailers is Sinon, a female sniper in the Gun Gale Online game who developed a fear of firearms after being forced to kill a robber during her childhood.

  • If the light novels are to be believed, Sinon develops feelings for Kirito; I’m hoping that Kirito is open and honest with her to spare everyone else the trouble of having her despair through a greater half of the season. I realise that love stories sell, but they tend to break the flow of things when forcibly added, distracting from Sword Art Online‘s main story about the distinction between virtual reality and reality when death is a possibility in both worlds. Of course, The Matrix offers a more focused, philosophical discussion, but it is interesting to see an anime approach this sort of thing.

  • Lizbeth, Silica and Leafa make a return: of the old crew, despite being one of the duller characters as Suguha Kirigaya, Leafa turns out to be a central character in Sword Art Online‘s second half and was quite entertaining to watch. Here, everyone spends moments relaxing in one of Alfheim Online’s verdant fields. This was an aspect I enjoyed about Ragnarok Online and World of Warcraft: settings were fantastical and a visual treat to take in.

  • Conversely, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though boasting an unmatched single-player experience, was much more grounded in reality. The game looks fantastic, and the landscapes, though majestic, lack the same kind of fantasy feeling as do locations in various MMORPGs or even Lord of the Rings. Kirito and Asuna share a few moments together in game before the former is drafted to investigate phenomenon that one “Death Gun” is responsible for.

  • Shortly after transferring to a new high school, Sinon befriends a male student, who subsequently introduces her into Gun Gale Online. She soon realises that if she can become comfortable with virtual guns, she might be able to overcome her fear of firearms in the real world.

  • Thus, Sinon begins playing Gun Gale Online with a fierce determination, eventually mastering the game’s mechanics and becomes one of the most accomplished players in-game. Gun Gale Online is a massively online shooter with a major emphasis on RPG stats, which is something I would never want in a first person shooter, where performance should be determined by innate reflexes, alertness and adaptability, rather than accumulation of play time to obtain skill points. In most shooters, a time investment either yields customisations (like Battlefield) or else confers superior understanding of the game mechanics (HaloCounterstrike).

  • After a spawn error leaves Kirito with a decidedly feminine appearance, he brushes off advances from the other players and busies himself with an investigation into the matter of Death Gun. Of course, Sword Art Online wouldn’t be thus without some immersion into the game world, and so, Kirito runs into Sinon.

  • The first stage in GGO is to pick a weapon. Players start with limited funds and must work with lower-tier weapons, competing in tournaments or other activities in game to earn enough money and unlock more weapons. However, Kirito finds a bit of assistance after beating an in-game game, earning some three hundred thousand credits to purchase weapons with. If rumours are to be believed, the upcoming Battlefield Hardline will allow players to collect XP points and purchase weapons of their choice, rather than unlocking them in a progressive fashion.

Whereas the first season’s first half was a solid adventure, depicting all of the different aspects of an MMORPG in great depth and illustrating the formation of virtual societies as seen with real-world equivalents, the second half was a disappointment, stymied by a forced love story that did not feel too related to the series’ first half. Sword Art Online had a solid premise, but most will recall the botched love story in the second half and consider the anime to have been a grand disappointment. However, it’s only really the second half that was lacking, and as such, when I heard about a second season, I resolved to check it out. I was having a bit of difficulty coming up with something to talk about there episodes in: if I were a government official, the last thing I would do following a string of suspected murders is to ask a high school student to investigate. Instead, this would be an inquiry for the developers and security agency to look into. Similarly, while Sinon’s backstory is plausible, one does wonder why she did not receive more extensive professional assistance to help her following those events. After three episodes, only a little bit of GGO is shown, but otherwise, there was little to talk about besides mentioning how the setup is plausible at best. With Kirito’s entrance into GGO, however, Sword Art Online II returns to its old self, although this time, it’s a murder investigation rather than a fight to survive.

  • Kirito chooses a ‘photon sword’ (which will hereafter be referred to as a lightsabre) as his primary weapon, in keeping with his preference for melee weapons (hence the page quote). This weapon handles like a lightsabre, complete with the distinct hum and ‘whoosh’ of activation/deactivation. Most shooters only provide combat knives, and in the multiplayer, getting melee kills is quite satisfying: recently, I played a round of death match on “Strike at Karkand” and wiped out snipers with the knife.

  • Sinon recommends the FN Five-Seven as Kirito’s secondary weapon: a semi-automatic pistol chambered for the 5.7 x 28 mm round, it was developed alongside the FN P90 programme and, thanks to a smaller caliber round, grants the pistol a larger ammunition capacity and reduced recoil. The smaller round also has improved penetration.

  • Sinon thoroughly enjoys a motorcycle ride with Kirito; the two spend more time with weapon selection and training than originally intended, very nearly being late for the “Battle of Bullets” (BoB) entry. This is a tournament which pits players in a one-v-one match and allows victors to progress, eventually winning real-world currency.

  • I included this moment just so I could mention the unsavoury practises of a certain anime “news” site with a distinct orange triangle logo, where any talk about an anime, such as Sword Art Online, are accompanied by animated gifs of the characters doing something suggestive (even if in context, they are not). Compared to that site, I offer superior discussions, and because of the way things are set up here, my site consumes less bandwidth. It also loads faster.

  • Sinon is understandably upset after Kirito reveals that he’s male, despite his avatar’s appearance. Elsewhere online, some lesser discussions have its participants trying to “talk” to the characters in show. They might call this “analysis”, but I think “a waste of time” is a better way to describe this phenomenon. I’ve seen the episodes myself, thank you very much.

  • The effectiveness of a lightsabre against physical bullets is a hotly debated topic: while fans have theorised that the bullet will melt and spray the wielder with hot metal, or else vapourise completely. While real-world physics suggest partial or complete melting of the bullet, in Sword Art Online II, Kirito bisects bullets with enough force to alter their trajectories such that they do not hit him.

  • Death Gun resembles the Terminator with a metal, skull-like plating and glowing red eyes. Appearing as one avatar, Death Gun is, in fact, three former members of Laughing Coffin in Sword Art Online (the game in the anime, not the anime itself): the light novels reveal their modus operandi, and although I’m quite aware of it, I do wonder if the anime will go about handling things differently.

  • Sinon’s signature PGM Hécate II was unlocked after she entered a dungeon and fell into a trap of sorts. Rather than fighting the boss head-on, she camped outside of its threat detection range and slowly whittled away its health, eventually defeating it and obtaining the Hécate as a reward. In real life, the Hécate is an anti-materiel rifle chambered for the .50 BMG round and has an effective range of two kilometres.

  • Kirito and Sinon meet in a match-up early on; after every shot she fires misses, Kirito decides that a duel might be the best way to settle things. In GGO, whether or not bullets hit are determined by a ray casting randomly in a circle to determine where the bullet will hit, and prediction markers allow player to dodge rounds. Players with a greater skill will have a smaller circle and thus, a greater hit probability.

  • After displaying Jedi-like powers in slicing apart Sinon’s last round, Kirito convinces Sinon to concede, and the latter angrily remarks that they will battle again. Now that we’re six episodes in, I’m finally feeling the Sword Art Online vibes, and are quite excited for future episodes. I’ll do a talk on Glasslip next, and from there on out, the next set of anime posts related to the Summer 2014 season will probably be their final reflections. Before this month is out, I’ll also try to have a talk on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Synergy out.

After six episodes, Sword Art Online II brings the traditional Sword Art Online feeling back to the table (from the first half of the first season, that is), along with new developments that build up anticipation and suspense for upcoming episodes. With the revelation that Death Gun is a former Laughing Coffin member, the stakes have just increased, and it will be interesting to see how Kirito deals with this threat, as well as what kind of information he will unearth about Death Gun’s modus operandi. Assuming that Sword Art Online II is free to focus on this aspect, unfettered by a forcibly introduced love story, I anticipate a solid anime that will prove to be quite fun to watch. I’m longing to see just how Death Gun works in the anime. It’s mentioned that the new generation virtual reality headsets are designed to emit EMR at safe intensities and physically cannot exceed what is safe, so another mechanism will need to be presented. I understand that the light novel already has explained this point (it’s quite similar to the methods used by members of The Campus in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Jr. series), but nonetheless, it will be a treat to see what Sword Art Online II chooses to explore. The second half of the season will likely deal with the UnderWorld arc, although I will discuss that should it make an appearance.

Sword Art Online: Arc One Reflection

Sword Art Online is probably one of the more polarising anime of 2012, initially starting strong with the Aincrad arc set in and depicting Kirito’s quest to clear all 100 floors of the game to free himself and other players from the game. The Aincrad arc set up great promise for the series, cleverly depicting various MMORPG elements, such as questing, levelling and interplayer dynamics, most notably, with Asuna, a female player that Kirito meets during the course of his journeys. Together, Asuna and Kirito present a side of MMORPGs that most hardcore players do not see: that the world a game is set in is sufficiently complex and detailed such that it may resemble the real world. Indeed, we see that this is indeed the case to some extent, with several characters taking on various occupations to assist other players without risking death on the front lines, including a fisherman who derives great joy from being able to enjoy the scenery. Similarly, Kirito himself opts to capitalise on nice weather in between quests and meets Asuna properly for the first time during one such break, reflecting on how in a sufficiently complex virtual world, there is worth in stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.

  • Readers who’ve been around since this post was published back on December 31, 2012 will have noticed that this post has been given an upgrade so it’s more consistent with the other Sword Art Online posts here. Instead of a shorter discussion, twenty images (and accompanying figure captions, to be added gradually) transforms this into a full-length post.

  • Sachi was a member of the first guild Kirito had joined, and he’d become attached to her. A failed quest left the most of the guild’s members dead, and in spite of a message she leaves him prior to her death, Kirito would not join another guild again until he reluctantly parties with Asuna.

  • While it may have been a short arc and little-mentioned in later instalments of Sword Art Online, there is no doubting that Kirito’s impressions of life and death were impacted by Sachi: he goes on a quest to try and revive her after learning of an in-game item that allows that, but ultimately fails.

  • Silica is one of the first secondary characters to be introduced who survives SAO: as a beast tamer, she’s gained a bit of fame despite being a mid-level player, and Kirito decides to help her revive Pina, her pet, after it is injured during a quest.

  • In aiding Silica, Kirito manages to draw out members of an orange-guild (a guild that commits crimes against other players) and effortlessly mops the ground with them later on. It’s not particularly subtle in Sword Art Online, but the colouring of an environment is a particularly quick way of assessing the mood for a particular section of the story.

However, the Aincrad arc also delves into the complex mechanics in an MMORPG, including job and skill systems, as well as its most distinct element: that players running out of HP will die in reality. This technique would never make it past the development cycles in reality, but does force players in-universe to consider their actions carefully. The overall details placed towards designing a fictional game grant the story a degree of credibility: as a former MMORPG player, I am sufficiently familiar with the essential mechanics, and in this regard, Sword Art Online delivers nicely.

The first arc is broken up into smaller, self-contained stories, and through its 14-episode run, depicts the nature surrounding an MMORPG very well, ranging from player interactions (ranging from guilds to griefers) to the game engine itself. From a personal standpoint, the Aincrad arc is the strongest arc of Sword Art Online, being able to reasonably tell the original story with little unnecessary materials. I am currently on the Alfheim arc, and my initial thoughts are that it is similar to playing a new game, albeit a game that I may not warm up to all that well and quickly find myself uninstalling to free up previous hard drive space. Whereas the first arc was concerned with the game itself (and the corresponding human interactions), the second arc seems to use the game as a catalyst for a story concerning unrequited love. As such, I find that Sword Art Online could have probably been written into a shorter, 12-episode anime and would have lost none of its impact.

Sword Art Online

In the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if they die in the game, they die in real life. Their struggle for survival starts now…

This is the premise for Sword Art Online, an anime released way back in summer 2012. The basic idea is simple: this is more or less an extension of the impact of MMORPGs on the online community and the ever-changing face of video games, as well as human interaction in response to changing technologies.

On November 6, 2022, the VRMMORPG, Sword Art Online, is officially released, with 10,000 copies released and sold immediately. Kirito, who beta-tested the game, logs-in to the world of Aincrad and meets Klein, a new player, who asks him to teach him the basics of the game including the Sword Skill battle system. Later, after several hours in the game, Kirito and Klein discover that they cannot log out. Shortly after, the pair are teleported to the town square, where they see that all other players have also been transported to the location. A red-hooded Game Master then appears in the sky and reveals himself to the crowd as Akihiko Kayaba, the game’s creator. He tells them that he intentionally removed the log-out option. He cautions that they cannot log-out by simply removing the NerveGear, the VR helmet they use to log-in the game, as it will kill them instantly. The only way to log out is for the players to beat and clear all 100 floors of the game. Should they die in the game, their real bodies will perish as well. As a parting gift, Akihiko gives them a mirror which alters their in-game avatars to resemble their real appearance. Kirito asks Klein to follow him to the next town to level up before resources are depleted, but Klein politely declines as he wishes to remain with his friends. Kirito then heads out, vowing to be free from the game. By the end of the first month, 2,000 players have died and the 1st floor has yet to be cleared.

  • Sword Art Online was first published in 2009, when Cataclysm was announced for World of Warcraft. Most MMORPGs in that era followed the paid-subscription model: purchase of a disk gave a trial for a fixed period, upon which players would need to subscribe to a monthly service in order to keep going. The player-player interactions coupled with the risk-reward-experience system made the genre immensely successful, but most contemporary MMORPGs use the free-to-play model, giving the full game to the player free of charge but also forcing them to shell out real-world money in order to access better, sometimes necessary, items to keep moving onwards in the game.

  • Sword Art Online is set in 2022: while current hardware precludes the level of detail and scale present in Sword Art Online, it is quite possible that in the next decade, ever-advancing computer hardware will make photo-realistic games on large scales possible. The most graphically advanced games of the current era are Battlefield 3 and Crysis 2, both of which are FPS. MMOs have yet to catch up in terms of graphics simply because of hardware limitations associated with depicting the sheer volume of (interactive) things found in this genre.

  • My interest in Sword Art Online was piqued initially by the premise of an anime about MMORPGs and the glorious artwork. High on my list of factors to consider when picking up an anime is the nature of the world is it set in, and befitting of a fantasy world, Aincrad is well designed.

  • In real-world MMORPGs, the addiction factor results from the risk-reward system, with victory being glorified and thus, presented as worthwhile to work towards. Moreover, MMORPGs give a player more control of their environment more so than most real-world occupations; these factors appear to be determinants in why stories of players becoming addicted to them are heard. In Sword Art Online, players are forcibly trapped within the game, and unlike the Matrix, there is no way of re-entering the real world, except by clearing the game.

  • The initial impressions are decidedly favourable, with the speculation on how human interactions progress in a game where the cost of losing is death. As a side note, Kirito’s appearance following the application of the mirror item is preferred over his original in-game avatar in my case.

Sword Art Online takes the (now outdated) model of MMORPGs to its logical conclusion: full immersiveness in a video game has long been cited as a determinant of addiction, but Sword Art Online poses the question of what happens where virtual reality cannot be escaped and its implications. The first episode sets the stage for everything that is to happen in subsequent episodes, and is projected to explore aspects of MMORPGs from levelling to bosses, jobs, quests and player-player interactions as they group together to overcome increasingly difficult challenges. These interactions are as simple as giving tips in earlier levels (as Kirito does for Klein). With seemingly all the loopholes covered, the plate is set for Sword Art Online, and having once been an avid World of Warcraft player with several level 80 characters, this series will appear most promising, especially for MMORPG gamers who have played games like World of Warcraft, Everquest and so on. Modern MMORPGs take a slightly different approach towards marketing and promoting player incentive, meaning the model used in Sword Art Online appear old-school, but that is merely a semantics issue.