|Summary: The year is 2022, and gamers have lined up on launch day for Sword Art Online, a hotly-anticipated MMORPG that lets players connect to an immersive virtual reality world with special helmets called Nerve Gear. Kirito is one such gamer who’s eager to jump back into action, having spent a great deal of time as a beta tester, and quickly becomes friends with newbie warrior Klein. But soon, Sword Art Online’s 10,000 players discover that not only are they unable to log out, the only way they can return to their physical bodies is by beating the 100-level tower’s final boss – death in the game means death in the real world. Now, with no one else to turn to, Kirito and the other participants must survive the game as best they can.
Creator: Reki Kawahara
Cast: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Ayana Taketatsu, Haruka Tomatsu
PLOT – SPOILER WARNING:Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン Sōdo Āto Onrain?) is a Japanese light novel series written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by abec. The series takes place in the near-future and focuses on various virtual reality MMORPG worlds. The light novels began publication on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Bunko imprint from April 10, 2009, with a spin-off series launching in October 2012, and are licensed in North America by Yen Press. The series has spawned eight manga adaptations published by ASCII Media Works and Kadokawa.
A television anime series produced by A-1 Pictures aired in Japan between July and December 2012. An Extra Edition episode aired on December 31, 2013, and a second anime series, titled Sword Art Online II, began airing in July 2014. A video game based on the series, Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment, was released on PlayStation Portable in March 2013, with a second game, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment for PlayStation Vita released in April 2014. The novels and three of the manga adaptations have been licensed for release by Yen Press.
Sword Art Online has received widespread commercial success, with the light novels being the top selling series of 2012. The anime series has received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the exploration of the psychological aspects of virtual reality, while others criticized the series’ pacing and writing.
The light novel series spans several virtual-reality worlds, not exclusively the eponymous world of Sword Art Online.
Sword Art Online (SAO) (ソードアート・オンライン Sōdo Āto Onrain?)The first virtual game world, and the setting of the first story arc. The world takes the form of a giant floating castle called Aincrad, with 100 floors in it. Each floor has a medieval-themed setting and a dungeon with a boss, which has to be defeated before players can advance to the next higher floor. Like most RPGs, it implements a level-based system. However, the game is altered in a manner in which players are unable to log out, and if players die in-game, their body in reality dies too.
Alfheim Online (ALO) (アルヴヘイム・オンライン Aruvuheimu Onrain?)The setting for the second story arc. The player characters in the game are fairy-based, capable of flight thanks to their wings. It is a large world, divided into separate “homelands” for each of its fairy races. In Alfheim’s center is a very large tree called the World Tree, and the goal of the game is to reach the top. It implements a skill-based system with players increasing their stats by developing both their combat and non-combat skills. Aincrad, the castle of the first game, is later accessible to ALO players as well.
Gun Gale Online (GGO) (ガンゲイル・オンライン Gan Geiru Onrain?)The setting for the third story arc. It is a virtual game world with a main focus on guns, although melee weapons like lightsabers and knives also exist. From all the games it is the most competitive one as the money earned there can be exchanged for currency used in the real world, drawing high-tier professional players to make a living from it.
UnderWorld (UW) (アンダーワールド Andāwārudo?)The setting for the fourth arc of the story, the first Virtual World setting introduced to not be a game world. According to Kirito, it is graphically the most realistic of all Virtual Worlds to date. The flow of time in UnderWorld is variable and can be much faster relative to the real world’s. Kikouka claimed that the current rate of its flow is 1000 times the speed of the real-world, and that the maximum rate was 1500 times the real-world’s rate.
Sword Art Online (SAO) is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), released in 2022. With the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds.On November 6, 2022, the players log into SAO for the first time, and later discover that they are unable to log out. They are then informed by Akihiko Kayaba, SAO’s creator, that if they wish to be free, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. However, if their avatars die in-game, their bodies will also die in the real world. One of these players is Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya, who was chosen as one of the 1,000 beta testers in the closed beta. Since he had previous experience and knowledge of the game, he felt that he could beat the game easily. As a result, he set out to beat the game on his own. As the game progresses for two years, Kirito eventually befriends a female player named Asuna with whom he ultimately falls in love. After the duo discover the identity of Kayaba’s avatar in SAO, they confront and destroy him, freeing themselves and the other players from the game.Upon being sent back to the real world, Kirito learns that 300 SAO players, including Asuna, still have not awakened yet. Following a clue about Asuna’s whereabouts in another VRMMORPG called Alfheim Online (ALO), Kirito also enters the ALO’s mainframe. Helped by his sister Suguha Kirigaya, known as Leafa in the game, he learns that the trapped players in ALO are part of a plan conceived by Nobuyuki Sugō to perform illegal experiments on their minds to put them under his control, including Asuna, whom he intends to marry in the real world in order to take over her family’s company. After Kirito foils Nobuyuki’s plans, he finally reunites with Asuna back in the real world.Soon after, Kirito plays another game called Gun Gale Online (GGO) to investigate the mysterious connection between it and deaths occurring in the real world. Assisted by a female player he meets in the game called Sinon, he identifies and exposes the culprits, who include some former members of a murderous guild he had previously encountered in SAO.
Kirito is later recruited to assist in testing a state-of-the-art FullDive machine, Soul Translator (STL), which has an interface that is far more realistic and complex than the previous machine he had played. He tests the STL by entering a Virtual Reality world created with The Seed package, named UnderWorld (UW). In the UW mainframe, the flow of time proceeds a thousand times faster than in the real world, and Kirito’s memories of what happens inside are restricted. However, he ends up falling into a trap set by one of the murderers from GGO and wakes up inside UnderWorld without any recollection of how he ended up there, unable to log out, with his real self left in a comatose state.