Publisher Bandai Namco will bring Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment to Europe this July. It will be sold as a digital release exclusively on Playstation Vita.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment will take virtual reality as a theme to present a game within a game. Players command a party that is currently within a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game.
In the MMO, squad members will battle against a league of different monsters and bigger boss creatures. This is done in real time and looks a little like the Phantasy Star Online titles.
There’s one trick to the story, however, as party members who die within the virtual realm also die in real life. When it becomes apparent that the people are trapped within this game, they’ll need to do their best to fight their way out.
This trope of playing within another game is also used in another popular roleplaying game (RPG), namely the .hack series. They attracted a cult following in their PS2 days.
Originally, Sword Art Online comes from a manga series, which also received an anime later on. That trifecta of manga-anime-game is an often employed business strategy for Japanese titles.
As a nice bonus, Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment will come with a free copy of Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment, which was previously only available in Japan on PSP. Furthermore, this Vita version will be in HD.
While Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment would be cool as a PS3 release as well, dropping it on handhelds makes sense. History has shown that the PSP was also a widely accepted medium for RPGs, so it looks like Vita is extending that model.