Sword Art Online: Likes and Dislikes (First Impressions)

MMOs are srs business

Now that I’ve finally got around to starting up Sword Art Online (the first three episodes), I finally gathered enough initial feelings about this anime in order to write a thorough impression on it.

I have to be honest here. The only other anime series about “playing an online game” that I ever really liked before this ever came around as an animation was the .hack series, if only for the strong character development, dialogue, and feeling believable as a high-caliber virtual MMO, despite the hazardous sides to it (Morganna, Data Drain, etc.).

So how exactly does Sword Art Online hold up for me in comparison?

Well, I was very surprised. Due to all the hype surrounding it and the massive amounts of average Accel World was to me (which was written by the same writer), I was expecting myself to be rather disappointed by it. On the contrary, I was impressed with the production values and level of emotional potential that the first three episodes managed to show.

Through the main character, Kirito, the series already presents a handful of possible themes it will most likely explore: escape from reality, price of survival, the will to live, appreciating the life you have, etc. Naturally, it hasn’t been necessarily groundbreaking yet, but it does set itself up as an interesting series and does a great job of it. It certainly isn’t as talkative as .hack‘s anime series and shows a lot more instances of the players grinding rather than just hanging around. Yes, people, there’s action!

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few gripes with it. The whole situation surrounding the MMO didn’t really seem to set up a good suspension of disbelief for me, which is a common problem I have with these types of anime. While these may or may not be explained later on in the story (I haven’t read the novel), they still leave a lot of room to think about for people who are following the anime up to this point.

  • Game hardware development in the future seems rather careless, as well as the players. As stated by Kirito, these Nerve Gears are built in a way that gives it potential to fry your brain if programmed so. It’s not like a crazy asshole game developer would do this for the lulz, right? RIGHT? If my Nintendo 64 or Sega Dreamcast had that sort of hazard, I would never touch them. Not even for Shenmue.
  • Why would said developer pull a stunt like this while giving the game a ton of publicity? How is he getting away with this?
  • If he was actually aiming for that amount of popularity for some reason, why would he only create 10,000 copies of the game? For the most popular MMO in Japan, that’s a pretty shitty userbase. Is it an allegory of ten years from now, when the gaming industry goes down the pooper? Called it!
  • On the topic of frying brains, in episode 3, there is an item which allowed the revival of a player within ten seconds of their death. Let me get this straight, this virtual item has the power to unfry brains? Damn, science has gone a long way! Why are they even afraid of death?
  • I’m guessing the players are on some kind of PN support in their households. I mean, how else would their real bodies survive without sustenance? I worry about Klein though, since he said he lived by himself, so no one is there to give him the PN support. He’s obviously not dead yet, though, since your brain stops functioning when you’re, ya’ know, DEAD. So what gives?

7 thoughts on “Sword Art Online: Likes and Dislikes (First Impressions)”

  1. It strikes me that the actual brain frying is likely not instant upon reaching 0 hit points.

    So, the ‘revive within 10 seconds’ probably works out due to the real life death sentence not having been carried out yet.

  2. I’m sure NervGear was guaranteed to be safe. Nobody would have imagined Kayaba would do what he did.
    Kayaba would have to be in hiding. Even if he wasn’t, what would they do if he said “If you put me in prison, I’ll kill all remaining prisoners.” Would you risk all of the hostages to try to capture him, or to try to pick apart his technology?
    He didn’t want more than 10,000 people in his game, probably. He probably wants to watch them all, and it is hard if there are just too many people. Also, there might not be enough hospital space if you start making it too large.
    You can revive them within 10 seconds because it probably fries their brain 10 seconds after they die. If you use it within that time, they don’t get killed.
    A detail mentioned in the novels that was left out – you can be disconnected from the game for about 2 hours. This gives people enough time to move your body to a hospital for long term monitoring and reconnect you. While disconnected, you probably just remain unconscious. I imagine Kayaba gave instructions on the best way/times to do this to ensure the safety of his players (don’t want to disconnect someone in the middle ofa fight). If you aren’t reconnected within the time limit, NervGear kills the you.

  3. @Zoberraz: Hm, that explanation makes sense.
    @anonperson: -The fact that NervGear has the potential for that kind of hazard is already a sign of carelessness. The game was certainly safe when it got a seal of approval, I assume, but I’m guessing all it took was an update that made the game the way it was. That’s pretty dangerous, but I guess the technology was just developed, so it’s understandable. Still, I personally wouldn’t touch that kind of gaming system during that stage. Nerv Gears red ringing on you would suck. From the sounds of it, the realistic sensations from the Nerv Gear makes the games very addicting, and I’d hate to see what happens if it overheats. Having part of my brain’s functions or one of my five senses destroyed doesn’t sound fun.
    -True, Kayaba has death threats on his side, but that goes along with my point above. All it takes is for the developer to go crazy and manipulate the waves emitted by the Nerv Gear, then you have a country’s worth of people at death’s door, considering how popular MMOs are in Japan, China, and Korea.
    2022, Microsoft OS PC gaming has tragically fallen and Apple has risen, gg. xD;;
    – I guess, but now that his game is popular, and he is now a known criminal, what is he going to do after the survivors come back to reality? Commit suicide? I know eventually his motives will be explained, but right now it all seems counter-productive. Also, 10,000 copies doesn’t even compensate for the development of modern MMOs – so I wonder if anyone in-universe questioned why such an overhyped and revolutionary game only had 10,000 copies made for opening release. He’s probably using the popularity to try and get it out to the public for them to witness whatever his vision is, I speculate he may end up being played off as a typical ambitious mad scientist (although a very threatening villain, I suppose).
    – Interesting tidbit from the novel. So my PN support theory was correct. I’m guessing the authorities have a list of the game’s customers so they could get Klein’s body to the hospital as well?

  4. I wished it stayed more relistic or in the real world, frying brains? serious? well maybe so since they are in the year 2020 or something but having them die as well as in rl is kinda stupid in my opinion. So people in the real world would just sit back and watch whoever is playing the game lay on their bed for like 2 years, wouldnt the govenment be involved or something?
    Thats one main factor that i dont like about this novel. also the anime is way WAY to rushed, hopefully it calms its horses lol

  5. Well, in a way I guess frying the brain in real life is a realistic way to kill someone off in a virtual reality game. To be honest, I kind of liked .hack‘s danger of falling into a coma more because there was no direct proof that it had anything to do with the game. Here it’s kind of… yeah. lol
    As anonperson said, I think the government is trying to do something about it but Kayaba has way too much life under his hands to do any explicit actions against him. How a madman became a game designer in the first place just so he could pull this stunt, I’ll never know.

  6. So the anime is actually based off of a light novel, which has been mostly translated, included what the anime will probably cover. Many of these questions are actually answered, though some are not obvious.

    1. Reason for the brain-death/limited population: The game designer wanted to create an alternate world, which infers that he probably didn’t want overcrowding. And a world would not feel real if what happened didn’t matter (like death)

    2. In the unofficial intro to the game, the main programmer states that players are allowed to be disconnect for 2 hours, in order to facilitate transportation to medical facilities. Thus, everyone in game is on life support.

    3. All information from the novel points to death from brain-fry to not be instantaneous, allowing for the 10 second revive window. The brain-fry is obviously not reversible, or the item would allow revival of characters that died earlier.

    Most of this is actually explained in the first part of the series, but gets missed because people are focused more on “ITS A DEATH GAME!”

  7. @Alden: I figured some of these were anwsered in the light novel. Thanks for the extra info. Though my point still stands that it was kind of weird for an intelligent boy like Kirito to believe he could unfry someone’s brain with a game item.
    Not to mention, there should have been SOME eyebrow-raising in regards to the limited number of copies of this overhyped game. I know gaming communities in real life that would find that a strange marketing strategy. Obviously there was a reason for Kayaba to do this, but it’s really strange for people to brush it off.

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