Finally cleared Accel World Ginyoku no Kakusei for the first run. This is the first game based on the franchise Accel World, available for the PSP and PS3. I bought the PSP version since the PS3 version is so expensive. Besides, having it on my PSP allows me to play it wherever I want. This game, like most Japanese only games, are also available in a cheaper Asia version, and it’s the same thing (even the special edition with the OVA is available). There’s no English manual at all, so prepare to consult the internetz and/or trial and error if you don’t understand Japanese.
Let’s start with the review. (Note: there will be spoiler.)
First and foremost, Accel World’s story is revolved around Haruyuki Arita and a virtual fighting game called Brain Burst. In this game, you will be Haru/Silver Crow. For a game based on a virtual fighting game, Accel World Ginyoku no Kakusei is not a fighting/action game. So if that’s what you’re hoping for, save your money. Just looking at the screenshots online, one can deduce that it’s the typical Japanese adventure/dating simulation game.
Basically, you will be seeing a static image most of the time with dialogues on screen. Most of the time, all you will be doing is pressing circle to move to the next dialogue. You can press the left shoulder button to toggle an auto-mode. There are few decision trees to pick your date and unlock some pictures. There’s a light RPG element in the game where you can improve the special moves of your duel avatar, but that’s about it. Picking up the right response and giving the right gifts for your dates are more important here. Having said that, Brain Burst battle is there, but it’s not what you think. The Brain Burst battle is basically a turn-based rock/paper/scissor fight, where you assign values to your duel avatar’s offense, defense, accuracy, and evasion points, and hope that yours are more than the opponent’s during the fight. It might feel hard or complicated at first unless you understand Japanese, but it’s actually pretty easy once you understand the concept and pattern. This feels tacked on though, as you don’t even participate in many of the “battles” that are part of the story. You can always do a free battle on your own, but it doesn’t give you any experience or anything. Your level is hard-coded with the story. That’s right, you don’t get to level up on your own. The story dictates what level you are, again emphasizing that this is not an RPG/fighting game, the main game is the adventure/dating simulation.
(Battle tip: Press and hold the triangle button, and use the D-pad to distribute your purple gauge into points for your stats)
There are two mini games that are unlocked once you pass certain points in the game. First one is a game based on Silver Crow’s training with Sky Raker, having to climb Tokyo Tower. You climb by alternating the left and right shoulder buttons while matching with the timing of the on-screen cue, with the D-pad to move left/right, and circle to do a head-butt. While you’re climbing, Sky Raker will drop bread or wash basin (yeah, go figure). Bread will increase your health, which is important as your health continuously drops through time. So not only you have to climb, you have to catch some bread and dodge the basins, and reach the top before times up. It’s pretty hard.
Second game is Love Squash, based on the virtual squash game that Haru played in the beginning of the anime. You move with the d-pad, serve and hit the ball with circle, and when your special move gauge is filled, you can push triangle to unleash a special move that will speed up the ball. There are two opponents, Scarlet Rain and Black Lotus. I managed to beat Scarlet Rain, but Black Lotus is impossible. Good thing you don’t have to win this game in the story.
Both mini games have retro 8-bit music with them, which is amusing.
Now to the graphics. Most screenshots you see online are clearly from the PS3 version. The graphics on the PSP version is a meh, for obvious reasons. The PSP is an old system. Jaggies are aplenty due to the low resolution, but that’s expected. The character models are actually not bad during the adventure mode, but what hurts the most is the low-res/low quality textures for the 3D models. This is most apparent on the duel avatars, especially Silver Crow. From the screenshots of the PS3 version, Silver Crow really looks metallic. On the PSP version, he’s just, well, kinda grey colored. The battle stages are no better, mostly barren with low-res textures. Having said that, the graphics would probably be acceptable during the PS1/PS2 era, and considering the limitation of the PSP system and the UMD media, I guess it’s a decent trade off as you can see later. Again, the emphasis is on the adventure part. The 2D illustrations themselves are beautiful and vibrant, with the same style as the anime.
The best part of this game is the sound. Why? Because the game is mostly fully voiced, by the same seiyuu of the anime. This is AWESOME! Heck, they really went overboard with this, by having each characters do a version of the legal warning. My favorites are Niko’s version, telling onii-chan that pirating the game is bad, and Ash Roller’s “Terra bad!!” ^_^ And yes, every dialogue of the characters are voiced, even the opponents in battles (which includes Yellow Radio, Rust Jigsaw, Black Vice, etc) with the exception of the player’s (Haru) in the adventure mode. Haru is voiced when there’s a special scene in the Accelerated World and during battle. I noticed though in battles, Haru’s voice is clearly encoded at lower quality. Now considering the extensive voice work, you can expect the limited space of the UMD might be an issue, so I can excuse the use of low-res textures for the graphics.
The music itself is okay, but can be repetitive, especially the battle music. I wish they used the same BGM as the anime. Oh well, at least they put the Anime’s OP when the game starts, complete with may’n’s Chase the World. Alas, the animation seems jerky and suffers from color banding. Seems like they encode the video at a low frame-rate and low quality, probably due to the limited amount of space of the UMD.
Now, the story (major spoiler). The story right after the first arc (Cyan Pile). Kuroyukihime is recovering in the hospital, and Taku starts going to the same school as Haru. However, the story differs completely from the original after this. In the original, Chiyu didn’t become a Burst Linker until after the second arc (Chrome Disaster) when they are in second year. Here, Chiyu decided to install Brain Burst right away, while they are still in first year.
Some differences of the story points between the anime and the game (may not be in chronological order. I’m just basing these off memory):
-Niko’s deception pretending to be Haru’s cousin is extended. They even played out the scenario that Taku in the original story thought, where Niko tries to appeal for Haru’s help by pretending to be bullied by her peers. Also, there’s no Chrome Disaster nor Cherry Rook (Chrome Disaster is conveyed differently, in the Dusk Taker arc).
-The circumstances of meeting Sky Raker is not due to Silver Crow losing his flight ability. The Dusk Taker arc is played way later, at the last part of the game. Sky Raker, and the meeting of Fuuko with Kuroyukihime, happens way early here in the game.
-Haru and Taku learning of the incarnate system is before the Dusk Taker arc
-There’s a completely original story with its own arc, where Silver Crow is leading a minor legion with members from various legions, including Blood Leopard and Ash Roller.
-Rust Jigsaw and Black Vice are introduced fairly early, before the Dusk Taker arc
-Kuroyukihime’s trip doesn’t coincide with the Dusk Taker arc
-Seiji Noumi started as a goody two shoes boy. He even friends with everybody.
-Silver Crow had his flight ability stolen by Dusk Taker in front of the Nega Nebulous members, and the mystery is they don’t know who Dusk Taker is.
Of course, the major attraction of the game is the dates between the player (Haru) and the various characters (including Taku). Meeting them, picking the right responses during dates, and giving them gifts will improve Haru’s relationship with the characters, and will unlock the various 2D anime illustrations. Haru and Hime are so cute together.
Due to the choices you made, you probably cannot unlock all the pictures in one go (I don’t). The game will let you save a cleared game and do a “game plus” mode where you keep your money and duel avatar’s skill level from the previous game. Any dialogue you’ve been through will be in grey, which is kinda annoying as it’s harder to read.
Overall, I enjoyed the game, mainly because I’m an Accel World fan. The fact that the game has a completely different story and timeline than the original kinda bugs me a little bit, but the game’s original story is also fun and still carry the same feel as the original (although the Dusk Taker arc and ending have much less impact compared to the original). Again, if you expect a fighting game, move along, nothing to see here. If you are familiar with the Japanese style adventure game, you’ll be right at home. The high production value (the voices by the original seiyuu) is worth the price of admission. PSP or PS3? I assume the content is the same, with the PS3 having better graphics and textures, although judging from the screen shots, it’s nothing to brag about (ie. it’s no Uncharted/Final Fantasy). If you want the Blu-ray of the OVA, then the choice is the PS3 special edition. Other than that, having a portable PSP version imo is more convenient as I can play it whenever and wherever.
Being an Accel World game, I’m a bit biased. Story wise, I would give the game 9 out of 10. As for the overall game itself, probably more like 7 out of 10. There’s not much interactivity in the typical Japanese adventure/dating simulation game, and the graphics is a meh. However, the voice work takes the cake. I do wish they voiced the game 100%. For non Accel World fans, or for those not familiar with this type of game, I would say it’s about 5 out of 10. Like most anime/light novel-based adventure/dating simulation games, it’s basically a fan service for the fans, not for the general audience.
A sequel of the game is obviously planned as Utai appeared briefly without any introduction. It’s a great distraction to ease my addiction after the anime ended. Now if only they would officially release the light novels in English.