Sword Art Online Ep. 8: Party up

Glop. I just want to get this post out quick so I can get back to playing Guild Wars 2. Yes, yes, I realize that I’m trying to speed through a post about poopsockers stuck in an MMO just so I can go back to playing my MMO. The irony isn’t lost on me, buddy.

• It has been two years already? What on earth? A few quibbles come to mind though.

First, how the hell are the players staying alive in the physical world? Are they being fed through test tubes? Does the in-game food magically sustain them? Even if they’re somehow surviving in the real world, they’re all bed-ridden anyway.

Second, it sure as hell doesn’t feel as though two years have passed. All we’ve done is solve some lame mystery, and watched Kirito woo girls left and right. I wonder if Kirito means it has been two in-game years, but then what’s the point of making this distinction?

Third, it’s even worse if it has really been two real-life years, ’cause tsk tsk, what’s taking you poopsockers so long to beat the game? Are you trying to tell me that our players can’t even reach max level after two years? That’s even worse than the most ball-breaking Korean MMOs out there, and lemme tell ya, those Koreans know their ball-breaking MMOs.

Finally, if it has really been two real-life years, the brilliant minds outside the game still haven’t found a way to save our trapped players? Oh, maybe SAO is so good that all the world’s geniuses decided to play the game, thereby screwing themselves and the world! See, another reason why Kirito is so badass! He’s probably a Nobel-winning physicist! No wait, computer programmer!

• I just watched Kirito brutally murder a poor bunny for some rare meat ingredient. Look how sad the bunny is just before it dies; Kirito’s a dick.

• Kirito: “But who has a high enough cooking skill to prepare this?”
Token Black Guy: “If we tried it, we’d just burn it…”


Quelle shock. Y’see, Asuna is such the perfect waifu that she has already maxed out her cooking skill. Now that’s dedication. How many 3DPD women out there can’t even fix me a bowl of ramen! I demand satisfaction!

• Oh boy, ragout rabbit. That is some exotic shit. And of course, the token black guy doesn’t even get to have a taste. Still, I thought you guys said that we’d be getting back to the “main quest” by now. What’s with this side plot about cooking a goddamn rabbit ragout.

• Everyone in-game looks the same as they would in the real world, right? So what’s with the creepy old dude following Asuna around?

• Asuna tells Kirito all about how her small guild is no longer the same once they started getting popular. Welp, I guess that’s why real world guilds have applications and all that jazz. Seriously, trying to find a group of people to chill with apparently requires a vetting process equivalent to getting a real life job. At some point, I just stopped bothering to join guilds. Of course, if I had to trust my guildmates not to kill me, I guess an application would make sense….

• Mmhmm, exciting action this week like… uh, seeing Asuna’s house and…

…watching her change into a super short skirt and put on an apron!

• What the hell? It was a bunny. It was a tiny little bunny. Where did this giant-ass piece of meat come from?

This looks like something from a baby elephant.

• We can now see how lame crafting is in SAO. Well, yeah, we saw a bit of that last week when all the kawaii weaponsmith had to do was lightly hammer an ingot — no other material or anything — and it magically transformed into a sword. But my god, nothing is as lame as tapping a giant chunk of meat with a knife and having it crumble into perfect cubes. I just find it weird that SAO will kill you and everything, but you sure as hell don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty while cooking. The funniest thing is that even Asuna finds cooking in SAO to be boring, but Kirito watches her with rapt attention as if she was actually putting the meal together in real life.

• Asuna: “It’s strange… It kind of feels like I was born and raised here for my entire life. It’s just a feeling.”
Kirito: “Lately, there are days I can’t even remember the other world.”

These are strange thoughts to be having, especially when they’ve only been in SAO for a fraction of their real lives. Yeah, a lot of things are simpler in SAO, i.e. cooking. But on the other hand, I don’t literally have to fight for my life in the real world. I wonder if modern life has gotten too easy as a result, so it doesn’t feel earned. In SAO, however, you have to fight for your existence. Plus, all the “mundane” (I personally value the actual art of cooking, but I don’t suppose most SAO players would) stuff like cooking has been simplified.

Even the bone magically disappears… but what if I had wanted to make a stock out of it!?

I mean, this is how a lot of MMO players actually think. Why would you subject yourself to the endless grind for gear that defines most MMOs? Great, you just slayed the Lich King or whatever. You got the best gear in the land as a result. In just a few months though, Blizzard is just going to release another patch full of better gear that you will have to grind for; the quest never ends. But that’s my perspective; I don’t personally enjoy the gear treadmill. For a lot of players though, they’re shooting for accomplishments like world firsts. They want to have the distinction of standing around in the capital city with their shiny raid gear on display. They want you to look and go, “Wow, that guy is amazing at this game!”

What I’m trying to say is that people actually derive a sense of accomplishment from playing MMOs. What if the reward is your life then? That is certainly the case in SAO. Then unlike the drudgery of the real world, where you just wake up and go to school like your parents tell you to, people like Kirito and Asuna actually feel as though they’ve earned their place in the “world” by winning in SAO. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but their sentiments aren’t exactly alien to me.

The only thing I would say is that the real world may seem boring or uninteresting only because we’ve made it so. And we’ve made it so because not everyone has it easy. Society is (or rather, it should be) designed to help the least fortunate. So for the rest of us in the comforts and privilege of our middle class (or better) status, we may regard life as unearned and thus unfulfilling. But just look at the way innocent people die in SAO. These folks die not because they were immoral or anything like that. They died because they simply weren’t strong enough. SAO has safe zones and such, but it’s not necessarily a world that protects the weak. Once you step outside the main cities, you’re left to fend for yourself.

• Of course, our pair goes on to say that most people in-game have stopped trying, but I think Asuna is wrong when she says people have simply gotten accustomed to SAO. Look, man, if there’s a good chance of me dying, why the hell would I risk my life? Hell, she surely must have seen people die. As a vice commander or whatever the hell she is, Asuna should understand that not everyone is cut out for fighting. For example, her weaponsmithing friend that we met last week. I wonder if it’s because she and Kirito are so powerful compared to everyone else that they are blinded by the fact that not everyone can be like them.

• Asuna: “From the looks of things, you aren’t close to any other girls.”

Hell yeah, our playa wouldn’t tie himself down to a single babe when he’s got an MMO-sized harem!

Kirito: “It’s fine. I’m a solo player.” /snicker

• I’m sorry, but Asuna looks really lame here. A pink butter knife is not that threatening.

• Why would they party up now when they weren’t going to go questing until the very next day?

• Aaaaand there’s our accidental boob-groping scene.

We’re finally getting back to the main story, guys!

• What I find kind of sad is how Asuna makes a big deal about how she wouldn’t hinder Kirito whatsoever on the front lines, but she hides behind him when her escort shows up. Way to go, lady.

You’re the champion to girl gamers everywhere. Asuna even lets the creepy dude pull her away until Kirito steps in like the badass Gary Stu that he is: “Hands off my e-girlfriend!”

• Just when the episode gets to some actual action, it ends. Ah well. Back to Guild Wars 2 for me.


27 Replies to “Sword Art Online Ep. 8: Party up”

  1. When they were saying it felt like they’d been there all of their lives, I couldn’t help but think back to the first MMO I’d played. It was about 3 or 4 years off and on, but in the summer that was basically all I did from day through night sometimes. I know there were other things I used to do, but a lot of the time I can barely even remember the people I talked to or the things I said outside of when I was playing that game. Looking back on it, I really was trapped. Not SAO trapped, of course, but I even remember at some points thinking it would be fine if I could’ve just locked my door and played the game without having to worry about real things. There pretty much were “days I would forget I was ever in the real world.”

    It wasn’t even that good of a game, but beforehand, I had no idea what an MMO even was. I feel like I’ve said this before….Any game really could’ve been the first one and I believe I would’ve acted the same way. I kept seeing shortcomings in the game, incompetence in the staff and a ton of legitimate reasons why I should leave, but I kept coming back until eventually…I found another game.

    As far as the SAO tie-in to that thought, like you said, if their lives were at stake, what would be the reason to advance further and risk that? Why not just keep playing it safe and assuming other people wouldn’t give up? Settling into a regular routine is usually what keeps an MMO going and constantly pushing yourself to compete with the top level players usually isn’t the most common routine. I didn’t PvP much in the first MMO I played, ’cause I felt like there would always be someone with a better money-making strategy who would always have better gear or someone with more dedicated friends who would always help them out. Being the best was much less of a concern than just having fun questing and leveling up with buddies. Replace “having fun” with “staying safe” and I could see why 2 years would pass with fewer and fewer people playing. I mean if you can’t really “quit the game” or switch to another game that’s better, might as well just stop playing and hang around.

    As far as the episode itself goes…for some reason I still had some kind of faith that the show wouldn’t go the direction of Asuna cooking, but I really don’t know why….I mean every girl is either good at cooking or comically terrible at cooking, right? Then again, I suppose it’s not the worst they could’ve done. They could’ve brought some of those other side-show-plot-distraction-waste-of-time characters back in and had them cook….

    Ermahgerd super-boss.

    1. I couldn’t help but think back to the first MMO I’d played

      You should still play! May I suggest… Guild Wars 2?! My friends and I play casually anyway so if you’re afraid of being trapped….

      I didn’t PvP much in the first MMO I played, ’cause I felt like there would always be someone with a better money-making strategy who would always have better gear or someone with more dedicated friends who would always help them out.

      That’s why I always shunned PVP in most MMOs. What’s the point of a competition if it isn’t fair? You can’t just say “Well, grind and catch up,” because what’s the fun in that? I don’t have to grind in FPS games. Why should I do it in an MMORPG? Why must character progression necessarily be tied to stats? Why can’t progression simply be cosmetic?

      I mean if you can’t really “quit the game” or switch to another game that’s better, might as well just stop playing and hang around.

      I swear that’s what people do in terrible games like FFXI anyway. At some point, you just develop too much of an attachment and you use the game as a glorified chat client.

      Ermahgerd super-boss.

      With a super name. Gleam Eyes. Ooh, threatening.

      1. Since the first game, I’d say I’ve tried about maybe 20 free MMOs at this point and I’m interested to see how a buy-to-play game’s community would compare to some of those other mostly dead-silent games. I would honestly buy Guild Wars 2 if there weren’t so many other things for my money to be allocated towards. As far as not being tied down goes, I tend to lean more towards instance-based action MMOs rather than open-world DPS MMOs and particularly the game Dragon Nest is the one I mainly play now.

        Speaking of Dragon Nest, it happens to be the only game I’ve ever enjoyed PvP in, since it equalizes stats (though not skill sets) and also has lots of combo elements and fighting game-esque physics. Heck, it practically is a 3D fighting game. I almost don’t count it as far as MMO PvP enjoyment goes, ’cause it’s pretty much a different category. Fairness still comes down to character balance, though and that’s an exceedingly long road full of numerous complaints and trouble….PvP can’t really ever be totally fair, I suppose.

        Most of the times when I’d go on hiatuses from my first M-…Ah well, may as well drop the name. Fiesta Online. When I’d leave that for a while it was when I’d realize I was logging on mainly to chat it up with guildies. Whenever I’d go back, it was usually to see what kind of drama was going on and where those same people were. Fiesta’s community was to the point where most of the higher level crowd was just sitting there dancing in town and area-chatting at each other. Other times they’d just be using world-chat items and doing quizzes to give away money….At that point it’s time for a new game.

        1. I would honestly buy Guild Wars 2 if there weren’t so many other things for my money to be allocated towards.

          Well, GW2 doesn’t have a subscription fee so I’d say give it a second thought, but I might just be a fanboy for the game. And I dislike open world MMOs anyway. I tend to get very bored with them.

          PvP can’t really ever be totally fair, I suppose.

          Well, I dunno. I don’t think it’s that hard. I think people are just fixated on character progression, so developers are inclined to put in a carrot for us to chase. People have fun playing TF2 just for silly hats though so I don’t understand why unfairness is necessary.

          To be honest, I have never heard of either of the two MMOs you mentioned.

        2. The non-subscription fee is definitely one of the things that appeals to me about the game. Character progression seems pretty interesting as well.

          Also, I suppose free-to-play MMOs were less popular than I thought. I think Fiesta Online has about 2 million players and I don’t know about Dragon Nest, but neither game really gets advertised a whole lot. In the coming years if Guild Wars 2 stops hitting the spot for you, you’re welcome to check out gameplay videos of Dragon Nest and join my side of the internet. Gameplay is honestly more impressive from a PvP standpoint than PvE, so with so many PvP gameplay videos out there, these two should do, I suppose. Two of the warrior branches in the Korean version of the game:

          And an example of one branch of the archers in the game:

          Game has gender-locked classes, unfortunately, but ever class is fun and has its perks for party play and PvP, so it’s an overall well-balanced game. Apparently it’s a rare find.

          1. Also, I suppose free-to-play MMOs were less popular than I thought.

            My beef with F2P MMOs is that I tend to run out of stuff to do. I’m not a sandbox-loving gamer. I like games that have a strong storyline. It’s why I took to FFXI and SWTOR. GW2 isn’t brilliant in this department by any means, but it beats nothing.

        3. I’ve only found free other than this one that actually managed to interest me in the story. This one has cutscenes and stuff (with voice acting on occasion) and the other one just focused the screen in and made the text to where it would be a shame not to read it (rather than making it tiny and unnoticeable.) Occasional voice acting was also present.

          I guess SWTOR will be counting as one of those now, though. Of any MMO I’ve played, I wanted to know what happened next in that, but my trial ran out….

          Problem is, though, this game takes a while to release major updates, so when you finish the story, you’re stuck basically either in raiding or PvP. PvP’s a never-ending tale of its own, but even that can get old. Basically, if you wanna squeeze the life out of this game without making tons of characters like I did…yeah, it’s not gonna take you long to move on after hitting the level cap. Heck, it doesn’t even take long to hit it right now. Game’s at 40 with the 50 cap update coming hopefully sometime within the next month, but Korea already has level 60 and a 6th class….I guess that’s always how it is, though.

          1. I dunno, it has to have more than just voice-acting and cutscenes. Aion had those and Aion’s story was still nonexistent. I’ve only ever been impressed with FFXI and SWTOR where I felt like I was saving the world. Beating Promathia was just plain awesome. Of course, I can’t comment about your game; maybe it really does have an awesome storyline that concludes in slaying a god, but eh.

        4. Nothing so grand, really. You’re definitely right about Aion. It was just one day that I played, but if one day doesn’t make me want to play it again, I’d call it a letdown story-wise. Dragon Nest has above-average storytelling for being a free game, definitely, but the problem is, it hasn’t even gotten a chance to get to all of what it could be. I mean epic stuff happens, but you end up going through the story quests so quickly that you have to level in between to get to the next ones. I know that’s usually common later, but as early as in the first 9 levels that happens….So yeah, story’s got above-average draw and below-average length. Where would you say GW2 would rank as far as that goes? I’d like to know before I make the dive.

          1. Where would you say GW2 would rank as far as that goes?

            Ah, I dunno. I haven’t to the point where I can do the story dungeons to see what’s going on there. Nor am I high enough level to tangle with the dragons. At the moment, I’ve been doing the personal story which can range from being serious to downright goofy. The personal story depends on the choices you make at the character creation screen. On one character, I thought my sister was dead only to discover that she’s being held prisoner by a bunch of centaurs. On another character, I’m filtrating a group of crazed carnies because children have been disappearing… so yeah. It doesn’t measure up to SWTOR, I guess, but the rest of the MMO package is far superior if that makes a difference.

        5. I watched one of the MMOHut people play for about the first 20 or so minutes of the game a while back and they outlined a lot of features that seemed to differ from other MMOs enough to make me want to play. Likely won’t be any time soon, though. Planning on purchasing a PS3 and paying back about $1100, so I guess I could be joining you in about…late October, maybe?

          1. Man, my PS3 has been collecting dust. Not saying that it’s a bad console or anything, but I’m just not into games that much anymore. Unless Persona 5 comes out, I don’t think I’d be buying a new game.

  2. Damn, I can’t go back to GW2, my guild’s chosen a server that’s been full for hours and I’m camping for a chance to get in. Lucky you.

    The Asuna bits were, well, bad: From the part where they changed to casual clothes, where the outfit change itself felt awkward, through the triple-grope scene, hell even in the dungeon she had to hold his hand for some reason. I was also relatively disappointed that she had a “maxed” cooking skill: So far, we’ve been shown that players tend to overspecialize. You either are a badass combatant, or you stay home and become a smith, or maybe a merchant, never several things at once. Suddenly, she’s both a master cook and a supreme warrior…probably for the purpose of upping her waifu score alone.

    I can perfectly understand forgetting the real world: Two years is a lot of time, even in normal life. I don’t remember how my room looked two years ago, and my life back then would feel somewhat foreign if I went back, despite going to the same school and living in the same house as now. Add to that the huge change they’ve been living with and, well…

    If I fell in a fantasy world where I could get as rich as Asuna or even just spend my life at an inn like most players, paying for all of it with just a bit of low-level monster-hunting where the only danger are PKers, well, I’d gladly stay there. I’d probably rush to leave because I’d understand that actual society will eventually pull my body off life support, be that in 5 or 10 or 30 years, and then I’d end up a nobody, but without that caveat, I’d gladly stay around and enjoy quest-item flavoring,

    1. The Asuna bits were, well, bad

      I forgot to mention how stupid it was that Asuna simply allowed two guys to fight over her. I mean, I guess it doesn’t surprise me, but still, so much can go wrong in a duel and she’s just like “Okay, Kirito, go right ahead.

      where the only danger are PKers, well, I’d gladly stay there.

      I guess that’s my problem. I wouldn’t trust my fellow gamers enough to stick around in a world like SAO. Say what you will about law enforcement in the real world, but I’ll take it over fending off PKers.

  3. For me, if there was one thing I ended up taking away from the episode, it was this: “I thought Asuna was, you know, supposed to be strong, and not your usual girl protagonist.” Don’t ask me why I thought that.

    1. I guess a major problem is that “strong” girl protagonists became a category that always gets infected with the “I can only rely on guys” and “I’m girly too!” message….

      1. Strong, independent girl characters?

        You know that all notable and memorable girls in anime nowadays have to follow the strict waifu code or else they will disappear into otaku existence, right?

  4. “First, how the hell are the players staying alive in the physical world? Are they being fed through test tubes? Does the in-game food magically sustain them? Even if they’re somehow surviving in the real world, they’re all bed-ridden anyway.”

    I really need to learn how to Italicize things on this blog….

    Anyway, the answer to your first question was one of the things A1 Studio inexplicably axed out of the First Episode. As to your second episode, you are spot on on your assessment. Watch that space.

    Now, as to your comparison of Blacksmithing to Cooking, with regards to the previous episode:
    One of the ways I really felt that A1 Has mishandled this adaptation, is by editing out all the wonderful and rich internal monologues of SAO’s character. For me, Eludicator’s Crafting scene lost alot of meaning, because we don’t get to see what happens in Lisbeth’s head. The same problem follows for RNR – we don’t see inside Kirito’s head, and what makes him tick. When you see LN readers taking exception to the charge that Kirito is a Gary Stu, I think you have to keep in mind that we readers are both looking at Reki’s later SAO works, and more importantly, Kirito’s internal thought processes.

    Finally, since the Main Arc has begun, I’d think we’d begin to see a more cohesive narrative. In-fact, almost every story chronologically from now on, with the exception of two, which I won’t name for being spoilerish worthy, will take the form of long arcs forming cohesive narratives- longer than Murder, which was the longest side story.

    1. When you see LN readers taking exception to the charge that Kirito is a Gary Stu, I think you have to keep in mind that we readers are both looking at Reki’s later SAO works, and more importantly, Kirito’s internal thought processes.

      Well, why can’t LN readers keep in mind that I’m not judging either the LNs or the Kirito in the LNs?

  5. Honestly my first though on this episodes was “What happened to that supposedly great sword he made just last episode?” the cooking bit wasn’t bad ,at least she wasn’t the worst cook in the entire show, but the moment they said cooking skill i thought of Runescape and how terrible that game is. I swear this is the first time they’ve actually shown a legitimate duel and all it does is show how cliche Kirito’s fighting abilities are. Hopefully episode 9 will at least have a halfway decent boss fight.

    1. I dunno, maybe Lisbeth is busy tending to his sword, if you know what I mean~

      Hopefully episode 9 will at least have a halfway decent boss fight.

      I dunno. The thing is called Gleam Eyes and it’s nothing more than a boss. It has no character, no role, no purpose other than cockblock heroes. I’m not holding my breath.

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