Interview: Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization producer Yosuke Futami at NYCC 2016

Expect at least 30 to 40 hours of gameplay, pre-update.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

At Comic-Con in New York this past weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Yosuke Futami, the producer of the upcoming Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization. During our discussion, we talked a bit about the game’s concept, its length, and more.

Get the full interview below.

Is Laughing Coffin involved?

Futami: “That’s a secret!”

Why did you decide to return to an Aincrad-like setting with Ainground instead of jump to the expected Gun Gale Online?

Futami: “Of course, I myself have considered making a Gun Gale Online game. But at the same time, you’ve always had to start at not-level 1 in all of the previous games—you know how Kirito would be level 100 at the start of the previous games, because he’s already that level? I wanted to create a Sword Art Online game where players can start from level 1. That’s the gameplay experience I would like to provide players. So that’s one of the reasons we came up with this idea of Ainground, this Aincrad-like “Sword Art: Origin.” Now, the player can experience how Kirito adventures through the world of Sword Art: Origin from the base level.”

How long can we expect the game to be?

Futami: “If you just play through the main game, it’s about 30 to 40 hours. Of course, including replayability elements like leveling up to the maximum level, doing all the quests and such, then it’s going to be about 70 to 100 hours of gameplay.”

You have all these characters you can recruit for your party. Why did you decide that only Kirito is playable?

Futami: “So in this game the player can only control Kirito, and the others are your party members. One of the main elements of your party members this time is that you can give them orders or commands to tell them what you want them to do in battle. It takes time to put together your best party members—there’s over 300 to recruit—and if you could control the other party members, I don’t think you’d have the time to find your best to develop and organize. That’s why I made only Kirito playable.

“We wanted to create a game where Kirito starts from level 1. Also, if we were to look at Lost Song, which let players use other characters like Asuna—one of the themes of the story is ‘Kirito and the others.’ So they have conversations together with other characters and the story progresses. So the story is not only mainly about Kirito. But in Hollow Realization, it’s Kirito’s story. It’s focused mainly on him. When he meets and interacts with Premiere, that’s when the story moves on. Another reason is that if players tried to max out Kirito’s level and all of his skills, it would take about 50 to 60 hours of playtime. If you tried to do that for a bunch of other playable characters, it would take a really long time.”

Can you talk a bit about the post-launch update you announced at Tokyo Game Show 2016?

Futami: “Well, the update will also include PvP. As for the story, it isn’t quite fixed yet, but we’re considering how Seven and Rain will join Kirito’s party, and they’ll go to the arena to fight against other characters. That’s what we’re trying to build the story around. The play time of the update is estimated to be about 15 to 20 hours. And if you’re including replayability elements, it will be about 50 hours. I say that because we also announced that paid downloadable content is in the works. We’re trying to have the same amount of volume that’s in the update for each of the paid downloadable contents. So if people play the update, experience the Rain and Seven story and its volume, then they’ll have an idea of what to expect in terms of volume for each of the downloadable contents. (Sal: It’s kind of like a free preview.) Indeed, it’s exactly that.”

We’ve only see the PlayStation 4 version of the game so far. How is the PS Vita version coming along?

Futami: “For the PS Vita version, of course there is a difference in the hardware, so things such as graphics and frame rate are a little bit downgraded from PlayStation 4. Any other thing, such as the MMORPG-like gameplay experience you can find in the PlayStation 4 version can also be experienced in the PS Vita version.”

Is there cross-save or cross-play?

Futami: “We don’t have cross-platform gameplay this time, but we will support cross-save. So of course users who like to take their game on the go can bring their saves to PS Vita and back.”

Do you see PS Vita as a relevant platform for Sword Art Online going forward? I know it’s still a popular platform in Japan, but how long do you see that momentum lasting?

Futami: “That’s a difficult question! Of course, if there are a lot of users asking for it, we would like to have a PS Vita version. As you said, it’s still a popular platform in Japan and there are a lot of Sword Art Online fans across the world who want to play the games on PS Vita. I’m still considering PS Vita this year and next year, but after that, maybe we need to shift our focus to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. Maybe I’ll need to focus mainly on those three platforms to create Sword Art Online games. Of course, this is still all just consideration.”

You recently announced Accel World vs. Sword Art Online. Can you share any information about that?

Futami: “Nothing! (Laughs.) There is a lot that I want to say that I can’t say yet. But as for the gameplay experience, the things that players may not be able to do in Hollow Realization may be doable in Accel World vs. Sword Art Online. Also, regarding the story, it’s going to be mainly a story progressed in Sword Art Online, but there will of course be Accel World characters involved. And of course, this game will be easily accessible to all Sword Art Online fans because both titles are written by Reki Kawahara, and there is also a link between their stories. So I think fans of Kawahara’s work will be able to fully enjoy this story.”

PlayStation VR is about to release. What are your thoughts on that?

Futami: “Personally, I think the release of PlayStation VR is really great for the games industry. It brings a virtual reality experience to all the players, and that’s a new experience. As for Sword Art Online, because all of the characters in the game are attack their opponents using swords, that is one of the difficult things to express in virtual reality. So maybe we’ll need a little more time to get used to it in the virtual reality world. But I think the future of virtual reality is really bright and hope that I too can do something involving virtual reality at some point.”

If you missed it, catch our most recent update on the game here.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization is due out for PlayStation 4 and PS Vita on October 27 in Japan, and November 8 in North America and Europe. In North America, the PS Vita release will be digital-only.

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