Sword Art Online – 02
OP: 「crossing field」 by LiSA
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One month in and two thousand players are already dead. The fear in the air is almost palpable – everyone is reluctant to proceed given what fate could potentially befall them. Heck, some people even abstain from participating in combat, choosing to remain in the starter cities and wait it out instead. In the same way, it’s no surprise to see the animosity felt towards beta testers – those who are perceived to have an unfair advantage over them. This has basically become their reality now, can you blame them for hating the people who have an advantage they can see no way to obtain for themselves? It happens in the real world too – people frequently argue over class and social standing for example. But really, their hatred is a little unfair, particularly from those who choose to hide away. These beta testers are among the few who are actually trying to clear the game – something that will obviously be beneficial to all. Not only that, but they compiled all their knowledge into a guide to help the new players! Each day that passes is one where outsiders could do something stupid. Every day counts; time is not limitless.
Let’s say a crack team of specialists comes up with a brilliant idea on how to remove the NerveGear. Obviously they’ll want to test it out to make sure it’s a viable method, so they’ll need to risk a single player’s life. If they fail, he dies and it’s back to the drawing board. If they succeed… awesome right? I doubt it. In fact I suspect it could end up being far far worse. Imagine for a moment that they somehow manage to bypass the mechanisms that detect tampering and screw with the NerveGear in some way that allows its removal. Servers register every member who’s connected at any given time and there’s a marked difference between disconnection, frying and logging out – the server is bound to register this. Kayaba is obviously a crazy bastard so once he realises someone has been set free, will he just sit back and leave it alone, letting his captives escape one by one? The guy who somehow engineered a death game without anyone noticing (he could’ve killed anyone who stumbled upon the secret and dumped their bodies in an ocean for all we know), trapped ten thousand people in it and microwaves anyone who tries to leave? I think not! He would fry everyone. All the remaining players. So any outside team would essentially have to remove all the headsets simultaneously without a chance to experiment on any of the players. You can sort of see why they might not want to take that risk.
But do beta testers really have an unfair advantage? In a sense, they do – as the anime points out, they know the best camps and can monopolise them, they can get through early levels quickly and generally get ahead of the rest of the players. But at the same time, it also shows us how being a beta tester can also be a huge disadvantage. If you know nothing about a monster, you’ll naturally be cautious in order to stay alive. However, if you’re positive you know exactly what it’s capable of – exactly how the game will function – even minor changes can get you killed. Not only that, but changes are inevitable between beta and release. With Kayaba’s sadistic nature added to the mix, it’s no surprise to see high level boss moves added to lower level foes. He probably predicted the tactic’s effectiveness right from the start. All it took was one small change in the moveset coupled with one overconfident beta tester and we immediately learn that the SAO anime has no intention of downplaying the death factor.
Being a beta tester, and more specifically a Beater, Kirito will suffer some obvious downsides. Episode one already did a good job painting him as something of a social outcast with its clever directing, and his obvious distress at realising he has no-one to form a party with emphasises that even more. In the one month since starting the game, Kirito appears to have made no friends. He’s a solo player in an MMORPG where boss fights are distinctly orientated towards large groups. One can only imagine that things will worsen given his newfound reputation. But despair not! There is still Asuna! Egil (Yasumoto Hiroki) also appeared to be mostly unphased by the events. On the other hand, Kirito does not appear overly concerned by being a loner – events would suggest that it’s in his nature. His coordination with Asuna (Tomatsu Haruka) was amazing to watch though!
The spirit of co-operation is one of those glorious things that make an MMO such an incredible experience. Watching people come together, uniting under solid leadership, standing back to back, helping each other when they fall… it’s really something beautiful to behold. Even more so when you realise that each one of these individuals is putting their lives on the line in the process. Diabel (Hiyama Nobuyuki) was one such leader – someone who bound everyone together for a common goal and utilised strategy to its fullest. Had they followed the original plan to surround the boss they may well have succeeded without casualties, but there are always players with ulterior motives. Diabel’s desire to earn a secret reward for landing the killing blow (which turned out to be Kirito’s trademark coat) ended up being his downfall. We may not have known him for long, but his open and friendly attitude combined with his brilliant leadership endeared him to me enough to feel a little saddened by his death.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – Some of the most beautiful aspects of MMOs come together in what has to be the best episode so far this season. #SAO
- I really enjoy seeing the interface when it appears – there’s something really immersive about it.
- My hopes for the music came true! This week we had some more MMORPG style music for a couple of scenes. On top of that, Kajiura really excelled in bringing out emotions, particularly during the battle.
- Asuna’s reveal was pretty damn spectacular. I can’t think of any way they could have given it more impact.
- In fact, the battle in its entirety was extremely entertaining to watch, even if a few of the shots were a little on the static side.
ED: 「ユメセカイ」 (Yume Sekai) by 戸松遥 (Tomatsu Haruka)
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