I've been playing a lot of Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment lately, and it suddenly occurred to me: SAO:HF is, IMO, one of the best examples of an HD Remaster this generation of gaming.

Note: This article was originally posted in 2/17/15's Open Forum, but I felt that it was way too long to be put as a reply. So I'm making this a separate post entirely.

So what am I talking about? Well, for starters, there was a PSP game called Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment back around when the 1st season of the anime was airing in Japan. Its plot was basically "clear the last 25 floors of Aincrad". It also added 2 new characters not seen in the anime - Strea (who is exclusive to this game), and Sinon (who appears in the novels and in SAO II). I had never played it, because as you can probably guess by now, it didn't release outside of Japan.

What did release outside Japan, however, was Hollow Fragment. It's main plot its basically the same (clear the last 25 floors of Aincrad), but not only does it add 2 more new characters (Philia - also exclusive to the game - and a secret character, which I'll get to in a bit) on top of Strea, but it also adds a whole new world to explore - the Hollow Area. It's so huge, that it can take you 60 hours just to explore every nook and cranny! That means more monsters and bosses to fight, new CGs to unlock, and of course additional events with Kirito's harem party (lol). Since this came out in Japan at around the time SAO II was airing, I guess they saw fit to add one of that season's new characters to the game as a secret boss fight, who is in the pic I've posted below.

In order to get to the secret boss fight, you supposedly have to clear the Hollow Area before you clear Aincrad for the first time. I didn't do this, and since it took me 60 hours to get to where I am now (and also because Hyperdevotion Noire comes out next week, yay!), I decided to give up on that and just download Yuuki's CG from Google.

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My point about all this is, while most developers who make HD Remasters will enhance the graphics and maaybe include all its DLC and call it a day, SAO:HF actually gives you a shit ton of additional content that you can only find in this remastered version. As much as I hate to see Western developers not giving a shit about Japanese games (and no, Nintendo games don't count), I think this should serve as a textbook example on how to do an HD Remaster properly.

In fact, Japanese players who completed Infinity Moment could import their saves to Hollow Fragment and carry over their then-current progress.

Now that I think about it, Persona 4 Golden was another example of a good HD Remaster, even though it doesn't have nearly the amount of additional content (compared to the original P4) as SAO:HF does. And while both Danganronpa games are also HD Remasters (they also were exclusive to the PSP in Japan), I don't think they really added much in terms of new content.

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This also reminds me of the days when the PS2/GC Sonic compilations actually gave you extras - or at least, a better experience - that you don't really get in other compilations. For example, Sonic Mega Collection had you unlock the Sonic & Kuncles lock-on games, and you also had the option to play the Japanese version of Sonic 1. On top of that, it came with 2 unlockable non-Sonic Genesis games Ristar (GameCube only), The Ooze (PS2/Xbox/PC only), Comix Zone, and the Bare Knuckle trilogy (Streets of Rage, only available in the Japanese versions of the compilation). Sonic Adventure DX had all 12 Game Gear Sonic games unlockable, with 6 of them being included in Sonic Mega Collection Plus (PS2/Xbox/PC) and the other 6 included with GameCube's Sonic Gems Collection (along with final boss/ending trials of the other 6 GG games, plus all the Genesis games). Oh, and they also threw in both Vectorman games for good measure, too.

And for those of us as old as I am, need I remind you of Sonic Jam's "Sonic World"? Sure, SJ only had Sonic 1-3 on the disc, but Sonic World was a 3D hub that contained extras like commercials and stuff, plus missions. My point of all this is, we don't really get any true "remasters" that really breathe new life into an old game beyond A/V overhauls and mayybe all the DLC, even though Majora's Mask 3D just came out today.

Okay so maybe that thing about the compilations is kinda irrelevant, but the fact is, they packaged all the old Sonic games together and added some extras that made those compilations worth buying, even if I played Sonic 1 100 times throughout my life already. Most of the HD Remasters we get don't really have much going for it beyond upgraded graphics and sound.

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But before I go, there's something else about SAO:HF I wanna make a note of: The game's anime cutscenes. Not only are they of really high quality, but they're done in a way that reminds me of how good Guilty Gear Xrd looks - 2D, but not really 2D. Look at the image of Philia above. If you haven't played the game yet, can you tell if it's an anime cutscene? Or a CG illustration?

So what do you think about Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment being a textbook example of how to do an HD Remaster right? Do you agree with me, or am I just a SAO fan talking out of my ass?

On that note, I can't wait for SAO: Lost Song, as well as SAO II's official English release. (yes, I'm waiting for the English dub to happen before I see the 2nd season)

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Good god, was this post long. I didn't mean for it to be, but I guess I just had a lot more to say than I thought I did.