「妖精たちの国」 (Youseitachi no Kuni)
“Land of the Fairies”
With episode sixteen of Sword Art Online we finally return to some of the aspects that the series excels at. Our new game for the rest of the season is ALFheim Online, an MMORPG built using the same systems as Sword Art Online but with magic replacing sword skills, environments that are somehow even more beautiful than its predecessor, the ability to fly, and a complete overhaul of the level and skill system. On top of this, we actually get to see character creation for the first time, minimal though it may be!
Personally, something about the idea of random character appearance generation repulses me – I’ve always been one to carefully shape my characters to my liking and I’m sure I’m not the only one who does so. Removing that part of the character customisation entirely seems to clash with some of the ideas that arise from gaming as a form of escapism – if you can’t decide exactly how you’re going to look in-game, you won’t have your ideal image to play as. I wonder if there’s a cash shop that allows appearance changing post character creation… there certainly would be in any modern MMO with similar character generation – you’d make a fortune off people who are unhappy with how their characters turned out!
While on the surface the level system appears to have been removed, in reality it’s only been remodelled – individual skill levels still exist, so you do still have to grind and level up in that sense. The only thing that removing an overall level does is require a different method of stat increase – where normally stats would increase as you level up, things like gear would suddenly become a lot more important if they’re the only source of stat boosts. Since combat is apparently based on athletic ability, Kirito will now have a chance to show off the magical ninja skills he learnt while in a coma and likely face off against actual athletically skilled individuals. Truth be told, it seems like an odd choice for an MMO system – you could potentially alienate a large portion of your user base by requiring a baseline of athletic skill to actually be competent in battle. The introduction of magic seems like a potentially good counterbalance to this though – I imagine very little is required in terms of athletics to send fireballs hurtling at your foes. Flight is also a nice addition since it adds a whole new dimension to combat and strategy (and the opportunity to see Kirito repeatedly land on his head).
Along with this new world, we have a couple of new avatars and the return of an ‘old favourite’ – Yui. I can already see the gaping divide of opinion forming over her return. While I personally have no huge issues with Yui, I know many people apparently do. On the plus side her role is that of a guide fairy and there’s probably no feasible way she could ever be worse than Navi. Our new characters come in the form of Recon (Murase Ayumu), who seems to fall a little under the latter category of player I mentioned above – the less athletically inclined type, and Lyfa who isn’t even given a separate seiyuu entry in the credits. Unlike Recon, she appears to be skilled in combat, holding her own against her attackers up until Kirito appears and perceives a damsel in distress.
It’s a little ironic that Kirito was called a Beater (beta x cheater) all through his time in Sword Art Online, only to actually become a cheater in ALFheim Online. Were it not for the fact his only purpose in the game is to rescue Asuna, I’d like to imagine he’d be honest enough to turn himself in to a GM and have them fix his glitched stats rather than continuing to exploit them. As it stands, he immediately became one of the strongest players in the game only seconds after starting. The battle scenes certainly set the tone for things to come with how easily Kirito brushes aside other players as little more than annoyances.
There’s also a little bit of comedy here and there, with the story of the group who tried to fly to the top of the tree (more of these stories should be included – they’re actually fairly entertaining) taking the fore and Kirito’s momentary panic at being unable to get his menu to appear following closely behind. Getting stuck in yet another MMO without a log out button… now that would be bad luck! In complete contrast, we also have the attempts at sentimentalism on Yui’s reappearance. I didn’t find the flashbacks particularly effective and don’t really see why they needed to be included, but perhaps others did.
tl;dr: @MoombaDS – After an episode in the real world, #SAO throws us back into a new MMORPG!
- It was pretty awesome seeing Egil’s bar, empty though it was. You know what would have been a really effective scene at some point in the episodes since clearing the game? Klein finally getting a pizza. The poor guy has waited two years for that pizza and we’ve been on the edges of our seats with him!
- I’m a little surprised that the government never confiscated the microwave death helmets that kept the victims of SAO hostage for two years. Who knows whether they could be used to do something similar again. At the very least, I hope they removed the battery!
- Maybe it was my imagination, but the music this episode seems a lot more Kajiura than it has been up to this point.
- Of course Kirito just happens to pick the race that’s wearing entirely black clothing (minor edit because people apparently aren’t realising this is a minor joke at the expense of Kirito’s fondness for black clothing). You’d think he’d put more thought into it than that…
- Yui gets a very minimal magical girl transformation sequence!
Full-length images: 10.