The creation of an intellectual property is a challenging prospect. It takes a good mix of skill, science, and art to ensure a brand new IP is able to take flight. But once that happens, it’s all aboard the gravy train!
Look at how well Dragon Ball has doned It’s the envy of many an IP owner, despite the series being a source of endless memes of draggy storylines. The property still remains in the hearts and minds of fans around the world since 1984. Judging by the success of the latest Dragon Ball Fighter Z, it’s amazing how the whole series has done so well even in this day and age.
Compared to its more illustrious competitors, Sword Art Online (SAO) is looking to forge the same path for itself. With Bandai Namco powering the video game side of things for the IP, the series has come quite a long way in a few short years. Five years, in fact, since the very first video game by the company. And thus it marks an important milestone in the franchise’s history to organize a fan event.
Based on the turnout we saw in Tokyo, the Sword Art Online community turned up in droves to try their hands on the latest games, go home with a bag full of merch, and listen to their favourite voice actors.
Braving the cold, fans had to weather the elements to queue and get into the venue.
If you’re a novice at such events, there will usually be a queue just for merchandise and another for the venue. Bring cash too because that’s all they are gonna accept.
Sword Art Online Replication (Almost)
While we are more than familiar on SAO’S recent video game offerings, the next frontier would be for the franchise to exist in the realm of VR just like in the manga/anime and that ideal has moved closer to fruition.
Working off the HTC Vive, Replication has four players experiencing the world of Sword Art Online from the perspective of a no-name hero. After a brief intro in the Town of Beginnings, players will be thrown into an arena where they’ll collectively face off with The Skull Reaper.
The experience is pretty much on rails for this build and you’d be able to defeat the reaper by charging up your sword for a ranged attack, shield against its assault with an appropriate prompt my rasing your left hand and finally slash once the reaper gets up close with the right. All these purely with motion controls .
Because of the nature of VR, the whole experiment sounds more impressive on paper than in game. As the size of the reaper looks more menacing from the distance than up close because players will end up face to face with its body. Perhaps with this in mind, most of the fight had us combating him from a distance.
The experience was over in about 15 mins with a fair amount of arm swinging. While Sword Art Online Replication looks great in game, the gameplay potential remains to be seen. Given the VR space being rather narrow at this point of time, Sword Art Online Replication would really have to work hard to own that space in order to become the killer title which everyone wants to grab hold of. Co-developed by NTT DoCoMo, there might be even little chance that this title might seen life outside of Japan, but one can always hope.
Total Fan Service
While we usually hear tales of celebs being total divas, the voice actors of Sword Art Online showed up and turned on their charm. Featuring in at least three of the four stage sessions, the voice actors hyped up the crowd as best they could. Judging from the audience’s response, pretty sure the voice actors made it well worth their time and braving the cold weather for this event.
In fact, one observation made was that many fans hardly moved from their positions for the entire afternoon. This was at the expense of the many other festivities happening around the event space. That’s kike going to theme park and trying out only one ride. Repeatedly.
The only thing which could have made it even better was an autograph session for the fans. Considering that the voice actors even went on stage to participate in a show match against the game developers was probably the best way to promote Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet.
Guess they know how their bread is buttered.
Merch, merch, and more merch
No fan event is complete with the opportunity to pick up some swag. Based on what we observed, the lines did not quit until close to the late afternoon.
By then, the onsite Kuji (think lotto but for geeks) had already sold out and the more popular items like bomber jackets were already off the shelves.
Once fans were done with the merch queue, there was still plenty of browse on site of existing and upcoming figurines. Sadly, none were available for sale at the event itself.
While Asuna and Leafa cosplayers were constantly on hand since the start of the event, lines only formed once Kirito made an appearance. Such is a testament to how popular his character is, no matter how chibi.
And, it also gave us a chance a learn of new word for the day – Husbando.
Considering that Sword Art Online games have just made it to the five year mark, it was nice to see the various titles all lined up. Some probably were never localized for a worldwide audience.
Thankfully, the franchise has seen an uptick in popularity in recent years around the globe. It would be hard for Bandai Namco to ignore the growing fan base with Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet being the most recent entry for the modern era.
And we have to thank producer, Yosuke Futami, for all of this. For we’ve been informed he’s been the main driving force behind the franchise’s push into video games. Seeing him stroll about the event area, casually signing autographs for fans, it’s quite possible to believe that he might be on the path for future greatness.
If he does continue on this trajectory, at least we now have a keepsake to remember his humble beginnings.
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!