Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet
Well, here is a curious game... when it was announced it did catch my attention and curiosity, even if at the time, I wasn´t much in SOA, but I got confess, that after playing it made sort change the light of how I see SOA, enough to make me enjoy it, despite the flaws. Now the game itself is kind simple, it is a third-person shooter, based in the Gun Gale Online from the Phantom Bullet arc from Sword Art Online (it also featured in the SOA Alternative: Gun Gale). Unlikely the previous mmos of the SOA, this one is post apocalyptic shooter.
The game itself start with you begin dragged to the game by your childhood friend Kuhera, but during a quest you by accident find the very rare and unique ArFasys, a AI android assistant. From them on, is much about finding about the mysterious ArFasys and meeting in a lot of classic character from SOA and new ones. Unlikely other SOA games, where you play as Kirito, in Fatal Bullet you do create an original character (the character creator is really good and outside customizing your character you can also customize the ArFasys) and Kirito itself is one of your npc friends, but he does have a unique story mode, called Kirito Mode which is follows the Phantom Bullet Arc storyline.
As I said, the game itself is a simple third-person anime shooter, where you and plus three other npcs, go around fighting mobs, doing quests (most are either kill x number of enemies or hunt a certain item which is often found a box around the map or a drop), going back to the main city to resupply and sell loot. That might not sound impressive, but what works amazingly is the loop, or rather how its never too long or too short, thanks to the maps size and even quest lengths, so playing different maps a succession, never feels too much long or tiresome, but right on the spot. Play a couple maps, do some quest watch some comedy unfold with Kirito and the rest to the gang, return later....
As one could expect from a third-person shooter, there is several types of weapons (even a sword), each type have it own skills and a "sword art", a special attack that you learn latter on. The game does feature also a grappling gun, which is used once in while, most to reach certain platforms and hunt some treasures, but also could be used to steal things for enemies. One interesting feature direct from the anime/manga is the "bullet line" a red line that came from enemies weapons showing where they are aiming it, you can use this to, much like in the anime, detect enemies and dodge their attacks.
One major change in relationship with the other Sword Art Online games, is that while it does feature a system for relationship with your companions, the system by itself is very simple, which is kind a bless and curse, since in one hand is, well, simpler that the complex gameplay the other games feature, but at the same time, in same comparison, it also might feel too simple and straight forward. Now taking companions with you slowly increases the relationship bar, with a few things making it a bit faster, such as praising them during battles or resurrecting them (maybe quests? but I haven´t confirmed this yet), once you reach certain levels you unlock some minor scenes (many of them are very simple, either cgs or in the style of Visual Novel, with the sprite standing in front of a background) with them including the "pillow talk" scenes . But outside from this there is much not how to interact with them, like in other games where you could go in dates with them and some character might felt a bit just throw there (however most of them have some banters). This mean that in other to fill the bar of various companions might take a while, but in the other hand, due the way the game loop works, this isn´t much a issue, since you mostly like return to some maps to hunt for items or quests.
Also, you only customize more your own character and your ArFasys, either by spending point in attributes or choosing gear, the other character came with their own builds, and much of the game is finding the right combination right situation, such as bringing Kirito with you if you need some extra power, Sinon to help if you need a fight a boss which might require a sniper. Overall, the npc AI is rather ok, you can setup some behaviors and basic commands and similar to previous games, use a "encourage" function, that as the name says, encourage them to do something (in this game, this most yield some medals which you can exchange for different stuff).
The game also feature some online modes, which I confess I haven´t played so I can´t tell much. There is also a Bullet of Bullet, a mode, that could be played as single player, which is reference to the "battle royale" style map which feature in the Gun Gale online anime/manga.
Since launch the game recived some large of Dlcs, which are short stories featuring new maps. Now, I need to try to explain how they work, since its something slight didn´t like, you see - to start this short stories is rather convoluted, since you need to first start a new game, choose your save file, finish the dlc and them return to the normal mode, you can´t continue the normal mode story until you finish the dlc. Most of the dlcs have higher character level requirements and if don´t pay attention you might get stuck. However, the dlcs often add stuff to the main game as well, such as new character, maps, modes and even stuff such as expand your home.
Would I recommend? well, first much weight of how you much you like or not SOA, if you don´t like it - I could not recommend it, since it is a ok third person shooter, but you are maybe willing to try or enjoy it the series, the game might be fun to you. For me this was maybe the best surprise and while not perfect I find myself enjoying it a lot.