Sword Art Online Memory Defrag is a free-to-play, action oriented, unit collecting game for the Android and iOS. The game retraces the whole SAO story through the eyes of Kirito as he remembers his experiences in Sword Art Online since the Aincrad incident which started off the whole SAO series.
Memory Defrag uses the game elements found in the SAO universe as its primary gameplay system. You will be juggling around the game’s gacha-style unit collecting while building up your party which is composed of a max of three units. The game also incorporates a cost system in your party building. This puts a bit of mental stretching (but not so much since this is a mobile game) as you would need to properly manage each unit’s cost as you put them in their designated teams.
You can also improve your character stats by giving them weapons, equipment and then upgrading your gear. Each character has his/her own preferred weapon of choice, and there will be versions of the same character that will not have the same weapon option. Say for example, Asuna is known for her Rapier in SAO, but there’s a version of Asuna that does not allow her to equip swords or rapiers, but daggers instead. It’s also a nice bonus that you get to see the characters use the weapons you give them instead of the default weapons they have overlapping the equipped ones.
Another thing of note is the way you can unlock your abilities and increase stats in-game. Unlike the typical process of getting stats increased per level up. Memory Defrag uses a skill grid to increase the character’s stats and abilities. Each stat or ability increase requires you to have a specific crystal available to pay the cost of the increase. These crystals can only be earned through quests.
Stages are set up in typical mobile game style where each memory sequence is composed of a mix of flashback sequences (taken from the anime) and stages where you will have to go through instanced encounters. While the flashbacks are faithful to the anime narrative, the instanced encounters take a little more liberty on the monsters you face. Since the game brings in characters from not just SAO but also Alfheim Online and Gun Gale Online, think of the encounters as the vehicle to move the story forward, and not part of the storytelling. While of course there will be instances that you will be forced to use key characters on key plot points, overall, you can just put whoever it is in the team you think needs to level up.
Multiplayer in Memory Defrag is mostly co-op rather than competitive. You can create or join parties and wait for two other active players to join in for those quests that you will find difficult to accomplish on your own.
Once you’re in quests, you can control your primary character by touch. Swiping then holding the finger down will allow your character to run, pressing your finger down on the screen will let your character block. Swiping up allows your character to jump and swiping backward or forward makes your character either dive forward or dive backward. And yes, based on the game’s controls, the game does feel like an action title with the amount of things you can do on quests. You also need to properly time in your key inputs for stronger opponents. The game has a parry-counterattack system that comes real handy when you’re facing stronger monsters. You can just attack and slash everything else without a second thought, especially partnering them with activatable skills if that’s what you prefer, but I like that the game allows for a more refined gaming experience.
Similar to SAO
If there’s one thing that Memory Defrag does not disappoint you with is that the game is faithful to a lot of elements found in SAO. The interface, the fonts used and even logging into Memory Defrag feels like you’re in SAO. Not only that, Memory Defrag also uses the switch system in SAO in Memory Defrag. In fact, it’s faithful enough that you need to stagger your opponent before you can switch between your party members just like in the anime.
Level of Difficulty
The difficulty curve for Memory Defrag is a bit steep, most especially in the higher difficulty quests. Even with the game’s parry-counterattack system, the monster scaling is significant. But the thing about that is, the higher difficulty monsters don’t require great skill to attack and damage. They just have either significantly higher HP or defense. You are forced to join parties just to finish them, though that’s not really a bad thing.
Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag is a game with fans kept in mind. The amount of faithfulness from the source material is uncanny to the point that it does feel like you’re in SAO but it’s a stripped down, less VR version. The game is more of a fanservice mobile title where you can collect and use the various characters from the worlds the SAO anime has gone through. Especially with the lack of any competitive game features, you can just play through the game and chill, ganging up with friends or random strangers you meet in PUGs.
The game though was not made real easy which is a good thing. The characters you acquire and develop require a bit of investment because the game doesn’t allow you to purchase anything else except memory diamonds, which is only useable for the game’s gacha of characters.
With that said, while I appreciate the way the game retraces Kirito’s past, I never was a real fan of the series. So the kind of appeal the game has doesn’t stick with me that much. However, if you’re a fan of the series, anime or manga, this is game that you should download. Not only does the game provide some extra SAO action that you may want at this point, it’s a solid enough mobile title that was made for fans of the series to enjoy immensely.