Spring 2018 First Impressions: Sword Art Online Alternative – Snake, Do You Think Moe Can Bloom Even On A Battlefield?

Gun Gale Online, a popular VRMMO based on Sword Art Online, allows players to engage in gunfights in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic future. Squad Jam is a battle royal that pits twenty-three teams of up to six participants against each other to see who comes out on top. LLENN, a tiny female player wearing all pink, and M, a large, imposing sniper, team up to beat the competition. The two quickly encounter a team of pros who are there to test their skills and have to find a way to beat them.

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I have a weird relationship with Sword Art Online. Despite not actually liking it, I have watched both seasons so far, partly because it’s dumb enough to be entertaining and also because there are a few good ideas buried under all the garbage. I went into Sword Art Online Alternative expecting much the same experience, or maybe even something better due to the fact that this story wouldn’t be focused on Kirito, who is one of my main problems with vanilla SAO, and because the source material isn’t actually written by the same author as the rest of the series. Unfortunately the first episode could barely hold my attention for twenty minutes, and I don’t think my rapidly worsening cold is the only thing to blame.

I don’t find large scale gunfights especially interesting, and that’s what takes up the majority of this episode. Even though I didn’t like the Gun Gale Online arc of Sword Art Online very much, I think it managed to maintain a good balance between the fights and the surrounding drama that you didn’t get too bogged down in the war simulation aspects of the setting. In this episode alone there were a multiple stretches that lasted minutes each time that were dedicated to characters sitting in the bushes trying not to be seen and monologuing either about the enemy’s position or exactly what make of gun they were using and what bullets they were firing. For people who love war simulations, guns or long explanations of tactics this is probably great! I’m just not one of those people so I found myself trying desperately to pay attention while all that nonsense went in one ear and out of the other.

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For a story obsessed with the minutiae of weaponry and tactical positioning, it sure didn’t seem that bothered about camouflage. When M and LLENN get dropped into the forest she mentions that she won’t be able to blend in very well in that environment. You know, unlike all those gritty post-apocalyptic environments where an all pink outfit and a pink gun would help you blend in perfectly. I get that it’s a character design choice, but it just seems kind of dumb. Optimise your gear before you go into a tournament! Buy something green! You’re throwing right now, LLENN, and you will get reported for griefing after the match.

One of the main positives of the episode, as one would expect from this series, was the artwork and animation. Studio 3Hz have taken over from A1 Pictures for the spin-off and it’s good to see that the switch hasn’t hurt the quality in any way. Both Flip Flappers and Princess Principal have shown that they know how to produce some stylish animation, especially if there are cute girls involved, so fans of the show don’t need to worry about a dip in production values. I just hope that working on this doesn’t distract them too much from the upcoming Black Fox, which I am infinitely more excited about.

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Although I do kind of feel like I wasted twenty-five minutes of my life watching this, really it was a blessing in disguise. Sword Art Online has freed me from its curse, at least for a season, because I have absolutely no inclination to watch this. I’m sure I’ll inevitably get sucked back in by the time the next instalment of the main series comes out and includes all the dumb nonsense I crave, but for now, I am free. I am breathing fresh air for the first time… or at least I would be if my sinuses were working right now.

Highlights:

  • Aesthetically pleasing character designs and decent animation
  • The fact that Kirito isn’t around means there’s actually a shred of tension during fights

Lowlights:

  • Endless explanations of tactics rather than just watching them do the thing
  • Sluggish pacing makes the episode feel overly long

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