Anime in a Tech blog? In the world of Sword Art Online (SAO), thousands of players are trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG. If removed from the game, or if their character dies, they die. The only way to escape is to reach the 100th floor of the main dungeon and defeat the final boss.
With virtual reality headsets hitting the market in the next year, the ideas presented in SAO are relevant to how the game industry and its players could evolve. The deadly stakes only enhance the immersion of players, placing them in a world they cannot leave. Guilds are created, some protecting the weaker players and some exploiting them. Elite players dedicate themselves to clearing dungeons, while others settle for a peaceful existence of fishing and cooking.
The first half of series is incredible, because it focuses on how different players learn to "survive" in such an environment. It deals with many of the issues found in MMORPG, such as creating parties and friendships, sharing loot, dealing with problematic players, etc. The series subsequently disappoint because of how it devolves in the second half: abusing traditional anime tropes and cliché to appeal to a broad audience.
- Strong female characters from the first half instantly become useless.
- Newly introduced female characters have simple supporting roles, with more attention being given to their curves.
- The newly introduced villain is constantly threatening to violate women.
- Female characters constantly need to be "saved".
- A forbidden sister loves brother story is introduced, even it if adds nothing to the story.
I would still recommend the series, because it tells a great story about survival in a virtual world. However, please do not expect too much of the series towards the end. You will be left very disappointed.