“Link start”.

If you are familiar with that phrase, then you have either seen or heard about the mega popular anime series ‘Sword Art Online’ (‘SAO’ for short) that started its life as a manga series in 2009 before being produced as a television series in 2012. Showing how popular this franchise has become, the light novels (manga) have sold more than 19 million copies globally, with the anime series being a ratings success.

It’s worth noting that I’m writing this review as a fan of the series since I first watched the show back in 2015, and this isn’t coming from a guy who normally watches a lot of anime. . After two successful seasons and 49 episodes produced, ‘Sword Art Online’ is making the leap to the big screen but is it still as successful as its smaller screen arcs? Let’s jump into the world of ARMMO-RPG’s and let’s find out.

WARNING: This is a spoiler-free review of ‘Sword Art Online: The Movie’however it will contain some spoilers from the anime series ‘Sword Art Online’.

Image via Aniplex, A-1 Pictures

After the horrific events of the Nerve Gear system and the ‘SAO’ game, otherwise known as full-dive systems; a newer, sleeker, technology has been introduced to the market called the Augma system (looking a lot like ‘Google Glass’). It has become quite the trend setter as people are flocking to the new system, leaving the older more conventional systems behind, like the aforementioned Nerve Gear. A change in the new Augma system is that it uses augmented reality (AR), whereas the Nerve Gear system uses virtual reality (VR). It’s back to fighting monsters, however now in the real world using AR (a lot like ‘Pokemon Go’ in that sense but without the need of your phone). However, Kirito and Asuna spots that these monsters look oddly familiar from ‘SAO’, despite being a new game on a brand new system. Something is not quite right here!

Sword Art Online:The Movie-Ordinal Scale’ gets a lot right, this time showing that our game hero Kirito isn’t as strong in the AR world as he is in the VR world, which I really liked, showing this time that real strength comes into play since Kirito can no longer rely on the game’s system. It puts him at real risk, showing he isn’t as skillfully ranked as before in ‘SAO’ or ‘Gun Gale Online’. Although, the movie places a more personal stake on the characters and the story, as it takes a step back from all the action and focuses on its two main players, Kirito and Asuna. Although, the villain is reasonably believable for their motivation, they aren’t as compelling or interesting compared to the show’s other foes.

Image via Aniplex, A-1 Pictures

The animation is of an even higher quality than the already spectacular animation of the anime series, and it’s definitely on showcase in this theatrical film. Mixing traditional animation with computerised animation for action sequences really delivers. Fast paced action-packed sequences are amazing to watch, but being able to watch them on the big screen this time with other die-hard fans was a great feeling. Although, ‘SAO: The Movie’ can be a little tedious at times with its battles.

Furthermore, the movie mixes songs into its action-packed battle scenes, a change from just using the usual scores. However, the movie has the songs tie into the battle sequences and they are pretty incredible to listen too; they are all sung by Yuna, an artist who aids the lucky players during battle by singing to them. That’s not to discredit the score either, and ‘SAO: The Movie’ combines the old (the show’s familiar tunes) with the new (produced exclusively for the movie). Both are excellent.

I really enjoyed ‘Sword Art Online: The Movie – Ordinal Scale’, and how it furthers the continuous growth of our main heroes and offers us another adventure, this time on a bigger scale with a bigger screen. The animation is fluid, lively and spectacular, with fast-paced action sequences and a strong soundtrack to boot. The film answers some interesting  questions about its characters and gives us more time to focus on them than what we got in the later arcs of the show, especially towards ‘GGO’. The story could have been a little tighter but ‘SAO: The Movie’ is perfect for fans looking for a big screen adventure starring their favourite characters.