Adapting Sword Art Online’s massive world into a JRPG
Since its introduction in 2013, the Sword Art Online anime has garnered a huge number of fans worldwide. It’s easy to see why, with its colorful cast of characters and exploration of the psychological effects of virtual reality. Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris, out tomorrow, allows players to experience the anime’s latest arc in JRPG form. We spoke with Lead Producer, Yousuke Futami, to get the inside scoop on the latest addition to the Sword Art Online game series.
Q: This game follows the Alicization arc of the anime. What made you decide to follow the canon anime storyline instead of creating a game-specific storyline?
When describing the Alicization Arc, in order to express the vast world of the original work and the anime, we came to the conclusion that the opening part should be the same between the anime and the game. We wanted to explore themes of the original work such as Kirito and Eugio’s friendship, Artificial Intelligence, the differences among humans, what defines a spirit and so on. It is straightforward even for those who watch the anime or read the original work but haven’t played the previous games, so I think it is easier to jump in.
Q: Were there any challenges in adapting the anime storyline into a video game?
As you know, the volume of the first half of the Alicization anime is colossal. I assumed we could actually make a game out of the first 24 episodes. With that massive volume in mind, it was challenging to adapt the story in a way that it could coexist with the gameplay. We made sure players can play the anime story in the game without feeling stressed.
Q: Medina Orthinanos is a new game-original character. Can you take us through the process of creating a new character for a story that is already established?
We made her appear in the game sooner than many of the fans would probably expect. Kirito and Eugeo meet her just when they leave Rulid Village, but she goes to the Academy like Eugeo and the important point is that this spins into the later part of the story. Medina is a very strong and honest character. As AI lives are almost like the humans in the Under World, we set her character as someone who would explode their “feelings.”
In the anime and the original work, Alice’s struggle is shown, and in the game, there are friends like Kirito and Eugeo to share with. Media is a contrast; she is looked down on by different people. She was created to express the “feelings,” essential as an AI in this world. Medina has a very important role in the game version of the Alicization arc. Without her, the game’s theme can’t be told. I really hope you can experience the game’s message throughout the journey with Medina.
Q: Did you have any reservations about adding an original character into the story?
As a daughter of a noble family, Medina is burdened with the dark side of the aristocracy and the humans. This part follows the original work or the anime settings, so we did not have reservations with adding her into the game.
Q: Should fans expect more Sword Art Online games that will follow the anime storyline?
Of course! I hope that young talents yet to come will create new SAO games for the next generation.
Q: What do you think sets Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris apart from previous SAO games?
The battles feature the “AI” quite a lot. Your partner character will memorize their move sets as they fight more and more enemies. You can set and customize your partner’s memorized moves on your own, upload it, download from other online players’ partner AI, and so on.
Since it grows quickly as you fight, you can feel the members becoming stronger. Compared to past SAO games, this title has evolved for you to experience more SAO-like battles. I hope you enjoy playing the game with many of the partner characters you can choose from.
Q: What are you most excited about for fans to experience in this game?
I hope that fans will enjoy the world of SAO Alicization, experience the SAO story only told in this game with their favorite characters, and also have fun exploring the world of Underworld in general. I hope they can sense the meaning of the game’s catchphrase: “The world will never forget you” through their gameplay experience.
Sword Art Online Alicization Lycoris comes out tomorrow, July 10. Pick up a digital copy of the game for PS4 before August 13, 2020 to receive four bonus costumes.