Having never played a Sword Art Online game before nor watched an episode of the anime, I decided to finally try it out by playing the latest game in the series. As a total noob, allow me to share my impressions so far.
The opening of Fatal Bullet creates a solid first impression. The world is futuristic and your selection of weapons includes many varieties of guns and a sword. In the first few moments, you work through a training course where you discover how to move around and shoot at enemies. Seeing as most JRPGs don't use guns as a main weapon (2010's awesome Resonance of Fate excluded), this brings a fresh perspective to your typical battle.
It's hard to decide which gun to use but each clearly has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the Gatling gun may do a lot of damage but it takes a while to start up and overheats quickly. It's also so heavy that you can't hold another gun simultaneously other than a small pistol. I found the machine guns to be the most handy and the fact that the game has an assist option that homes your bullets in on the enemy makes for some easy fighting; perhaps a bit too easy, though. I've found that I'm always either getting bored with running around in circles shooting in the general direction of enemies when I have assist on or I'm frustrated that none of my bullets are hitting when I turn it off. Couldn't there be some middle ground?
Battles with enemies take place in one of many locations that usually have large maps with varying terrain and the odd landmark to run between. I quite like how the terrain is often rocky and uneven as you can jump and your character's movement feels more natural than many other RPGs where a twig in your path can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. The main landmarks are quite large and become battlefields when you approach them. They're teeming with enemies just waiting to pounce on you and either fire away with their heavy firepower (droids) or stab you with their killer stinger (wasps and scorpions). The battles can get pretty tough and unrelenting, especially considering enemies respawn after you leave an area for just a short amount of time.
Along with the overworld battles, I've spent some time hanging out in the depths of dungeons where the gun battles are set up like a fight scene in a movie. They're still not that challenging if you have assist on and the visuals look the same in all of the dungeons I've explored so far. At the end of them, there's usually a boss fight that brings a good level of challenge. It's funny that your teammates don't seem to be pulling their weight as you watch the boss's multi-leveled health meter chip away ever so slowly when you attack.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet sure has a lot of video clips. If you're not an existing fan then there are definitely too many because a lot of references will go over your head and you'll find yourself wanting to skip the videos. However, you can't and there's no way to allow them to automatically play while you go get a cup of tea. Games with this many videos should have an auto-play function and it's fair to say that this feature is pretty much expected at this point in time. When I'm interested in a story, I like to put the controller down and watch it. Whether I'm interested or not, I shouldn't have to keep pressing X a million times in order to advance the dialogue.
The main character in Fatal Bullet is a custom build that you get to create at the beginning of the game. You can further customise them by buying clothing and updating their hairstyle later on, too. Not far into the story, you'll also encounter a second character known as an ArFA-sys for you to customise and level up. I kitted mine out with a smart short brown haircut, sunglasses, and a super-snazzy dark grey suit with heels. She looks so cool, especially next to my main character who has an innocent red bow in her hair. Having two characters to control makes it easier to experiment with weapon loadouts, too. One can be the gunner with heavy duty weapons and the other can have a sniper rifle for long range attacks and a hand gun for close up combat.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet makes a good first impression of a cool futuristic JRPG with lots of gun fights. However, the gameplay gets repetitive fast even with the mix of gun types and the pacing suffers from too many videos, especially if you're not an existing fan.