Sword Art Online – 09
「青眼の悪魔」 (Aome no Akuma)
I would hate to take part in a SAO boss battle. Let’s take a step back and look at how boss battles generally work in an MMO. It’s rare for things to go quite to plan – if it’s not a ‘Leeroy Jenkins!’ then someone will purposely ignore simple instructions, or fail to listen during the multiple explanations you give resulting in complete chaos. Even if by some miracle you avoid wiping completely, leaving nothing but a pile of corpses in the boss room, many people will go down due to that situation. Heck, even with the perfect strategy and no foolishness on the part of the members, it’s still rare for there to be no deaths and resurrections. If there are no corpses scattered around the room with healers frantically attempting to raise them, it’s not a true boss battle! Or rather, not a sufficiently challenging one.
Now what happens if we apply this to SAO? Complete disaster. On the plus side, as callous as this may sound, at least there would be no need to deal with the clowns and the individuals who refuse to listen to instructions – they probably wouldn’t last long. However if, even with flawless strategies and constant healing, players still go down and need to be revived, things would be bad enough. But there are two major issues right there. The first, and possibly most obvious, is that SAO has no healer class – there is no-one to raise dead players and provide healing to keep everyone alive (I would hate to play a healer class in a death game… so much pressure…). Healing magic isn’t the only thing that’s missing here though… boss battles in SAO would lack one other major thing: strategy. You can’t look up guides to see what previous groups have done to be successful; there’s no way to be sure exactly what skillset a boss might have, especially given that the AI is becoming less predictable the higher up the tower they venture; no-one will know that standing on the dragon’s tail and doing something to provoke its wrath will result in a Spike Flail and oh god the carnage that follows! Sure, it would be possible to send in scouting parties to ‘test’ the boss and see what they could figure out, but that alone would be extremely risky – the chances of any of them coming back alive would be pretty low… lower perhaps than a successful first run with an enormous number of players as backup. I don’t even want to imagine what the failed runs would look like – dozens of corpses breaking into shards of light in an instant. Were I in charge, I would always have one player holding back near the entrance to the boss’ lair – that way, if the entire group were to wipe to some secret move it uses at low HP, he or she would be able to flee and spread word to the few players left to challenge it the next time.
Even despite knowing all this, I have to admit to bursting into laughter at the sight of Kirito and Asuna fleeing in terror from the boss room. Their reaction was justified, but the way it was handled was pretty funny to watch. As it turns out however, their reaction may not have been quite as justified as it seemed, given how easily Kirito was able to take down the boss having finally revealed his ultimate technique, the dream of all youngsters: dual wielding. This may be the reason why Kirito doesn’t actually use a shield (Asuna’s desire for enhanced speed being hers), but I do wonder why he didn’t pick one up anyway. Since he was neglecting the use of his second sword to keep the skill hidden, why not take advantage of that and wield a shield in his offhand for the added defence? Perhaps it could be justified by similar reasons to Asuna’s, but as a solo player it would make far more sense to keep a shield around just in case it proves necessary.
One unit of The Army (whose designs actually remind me a lot of the Shinra troops from Final Fantasy VII), led by Cobert (Inada Tetsu) gave a perfect example of what I mentioned above. Their failed attack showed just how rushing in without a strong strategy can prove fatal, even to scouting parties. Without the ability to use teleport crystals, they were pretty much doomed the moment they entered the boss room. In reality, it’s entirely possible that the best way to take down bosses would be a war of attrition… though the loss of life would certainly not be ideal in this situation. Even Kirito and Asuna’s desire to take a large group armed with shields for defence could prove a mistake – we saw how easily the boss swept aside those members of The Army who bore shields. There’s no guarantee that a boss would not have the ability to penetrate such simple defences.
I always find it rather interesting how SAO gives us glimpses of the human psyche, whether completely intentional or not. In complete contrast to Kirito who seems very much at ease in this world, we have Asuna who spent an entire year working to replicate the flavours of foods from the real world. As Kirito said, she would certainly make a fortune, especially from those who long to escape the game as Asuna evidently does. We also have The Army, a group who considers itself to be working towards everyone’s benefit and thus expects some sort of tithe in return, such as the maps which could have been sold for a hefty price – exploring is a risky business after all! But no, if it works towards the common goal of escaping the game, they feel they have the right to demand it. I can understand their reasoning to an extent – it would be to the benefit of all to provide resources to help one another… but the real world doesn’t work like that either. Even advancements towards mankind’s betterment aren’t free. Perhaps Kirito would have been willing to give the map up without charge either way, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt for them to act less like taking it was their god-given right.
Lastly on the psychology track, we have Kirito’s reasons for hiding his unique skill. Gamers are jealous. It’s often true. Particularly us completionists who aim to unlock and complete everything. The idea that there’s a single skill out there that we don’t have is frustrating… just like that Summon Mistfire Wolf skill in Guild Wars 2 that sits on my skill page greyed out, demanding that I upgrade to the Deluxe Edition just to unlock it for completions sake… must… resist… But as I was saying, as soon as people find out about Kirito’s unique skill, everyone wants to know how he unlocked it. Why should they believe him when he says he has no idea what the prerequisites were? For all they know he could be lying just so he can be that one unique player who’s different to everybody else.
And so the episode closes as Heathcliff (Ookawa Tooru) finally makes his appearance to challenge Kirito to a duel. Will Kirito win and claim Asuna? Or will he lose and be forced to join the Ultimate Number One Guild in the entire game? Wait… that last one actually doesn’t sound particularly bad anyway…
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – And so #SAO reminds us why it was one of the most anticipated anime airing this season.
- At last, Klein and his guild return again! It’s always entertaining to see Klein bumbling around and he even had his moment to shine during the boss battle!
- The pretty face broke Klein.
- Asuna gives us another glimpse into just how rare capable, attractive, female players are in SAO.
- She had her moment to shine too! ‘Twas a good episode for shining.