Sword Art Online II: Phantom Bullet

Sword Art Online II: Phantom Bullet

20140802-133039-48639496.jpgOne year after all the happenings with Sword Art Online, Kirito finds himself approached by Seijiro Kikuoka, a member of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Department ‘VR Division’, with quite an unusual request. Gun and steel-based VRMMO Gun Gale Online (GGO) has had an incident involving a mysterious avatar named ‘Death Gun’, and players being shot by this avatar are not only dying in the game, but also in real life. With the murders of two famous GGO pros, the Ministry has approached Kirito because they know, because of his experiences with SAO, that he won’t be able to ignore this request.

Logging into GGO in order to gain intelligence on Death Gun, he meets female sniper Sinon – wielder of the enormous rifle Hecate II. With Sinon’s advice, Kirito plans to enter the ‘Bullet of Bullets’ tournament and compete to be the most powerful gunner in GGO. Hopefully he will attract the attention of Death Gun and attempt to make sense of who/what they are.

The much-beloved characters of SAO are back for another season, which I’m sure a lot of people are excited about. The concept is a similar one to before, keeping to VRMMORPGs and how they have reached such a sophisticated level that people often find themselves spending more time in a virtual realm than in real life. One of the main differences of GGO is that players can exchange virtual currency that they make in the came for real money, meaning that skilled people often make a living like this and become professional VRMMORPG players. Set in a futuristic world, the main weapons of choice are an array of guns and technology rather than the traditional sword and shield set-up of SAO.

20140802-133038-48638584.jpgThe first episodes of this season come in strong, with fantastic animation and the presentation of a virtual world that seems to be the polar opposite of the online world we have come to associate with. Even Kirito himself has been brought into GGO as a completely different character – a female one. His unique position as a survivor of SAO (and a regular player of ALO) makes him the perfect choice to investigate the mysterious Death Gun.

20140802-133039-48639206.jpgI am enjoying the new set of characters. It keeps things fresh and interesting and the real person behind sniper avatar Sinon, Shino Asada, is tortured and complex. Having said that, the ties between the SAO gang are too strong to go ignored altogether this season – at least, I hope so. There is a sense of nostalgia here which I like. Even though there are new characters, new plots and new threats you can see the growth of Kirito and Asuna and how they’ve become stronger through their experiences of SAO and ALO. This is reflected in the animation and I think they have the balance of hindsight and foresight just right here.

20140802-133038-48638244.jpgSOA II has started off very strong. The design, animation and music are all top notch. I just hope that the initial momentum continues throughout the series and that the intricacies and details  are not lost due to time restraints. Let’s hope that this one keeps playing to its strengths.