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Sword Art Online Vs Log Horizon
With Sword Art Online II doing that recap episode, I decided it was time to write a Sword Art Online Vs Log Horizon compare and contrast article. Being trapped in a video game as a central plot point is not exactly rare in anime. Recent examples of this would be series like Sword Art Online and Log Horizon. While they may run along a similar concept, these two series are completely different from one another. But which one is better? There really is no answer to that question, since it is really a matter of opinion in the end.
You are stuck in a video game, what do you do?
Log Horizon and SAO address this concept in completely different ways. If a player dies in Sword Art Online, they die in real life. This is not the case in Log Horizon, they simply just respawn at the cathedral. Albeit in Log Horizon there are some possible negative side effects to dying, but we will not discuss those since that is going into spoiler land. The players in Sword Art Online had a way of getting out the game, which was reaching and clearing floor 100. Players trapped in Elder Tale did not have such a goal to work for. In Elder Tale, the trapped players were left with no explanations and just had to come to terms with the fact that they may be stuck in that game indefinitely. So primarily the focus of Log Horizon is the players doing exactly that, building a life for themselves in a world that is nearly as real as the one they came from.
World & Game Mechanics
It is difficult to compare and contrast the game that the characters play in SAO, given that they don’t exactly stick to just Sword Art Online. In Log Horizon, Elder Tale is the big focus of the story rather than shifting in and out of the game. Elder Tale follows a much more traditional style of MMO with classes and magic, whereas Sword Art Online doesn’t have classes and is more about using weapon skills. In a way, Elder Tale feels far more like an MMORPG than SAO does, given that Log Horizon focuses a great deal on explaining game mechanics and how things work. SAO on the other hand focuses more on character relationships and Kirito. Don’t get me wrong, Aincrad looks like it would be a great space to explore in an MMO. It would have been nice if more time in the series had been spent inside SAO rather than skipping almost every single floor.
Although, when it comes to explaining game mechanics in Log Horizon, there tends to be a lot of complex monologues that can potentially be a bit confusing for people unfamiliar with MMOs. While there will be animations that help explain certain points, it can be a lot of information for the viewer to take in at once. SAO as an anime is much more light with the explanation of game mechanics, and usually most info is found out from the light novels.
Obviously the first big difference would be the characters. To be more specific, the main characters for Sword Art Online and Log Horizon (Kirito and Shiroe respectively) are both male and complete MMO addicts. That is pretty much where the similarities end. Where Kirito is more likely to solve a problem with the pointy end of a sword, Shiroe overcomes foes and obstacles with carefully calculated words and plans. Shiroe is able to think several steps ahead in any situation and is capable of influencing an entire city full of players as seen throughout the first season of Log Horizon.
While there may be other characters in SAO, Kirito typically takes the spotlight most of the time. All other characters merely serve as support, psychotic antagonists, or members of the so called “Kirito Harem.” In Log Horizon, Shiroe is still the main character but all the other characters play equally as big roles. Log Horizon shows a lot more characters and their relationships with one another, and focuses on building on those relations.
As far as the in-game UI goes, SAO has the upper hand. The UI in basically every game featured in SAO is clean, and easy to understand. It feels authentic, like something you would actually see in an MMORPG. Unfortunately this is not as much the case for Log Horizon. A single screen in Log Horizon has so much information that is difficult to read it all at once, especially if you can’t read Japanese and are relying on subtitles. When a player or monster are killed in Log Horizon, items and money can be seen dropping to the ground whereas in SAO items just appear in a little window informing the player that they have been acquired.
It is difficult for me to choose which one I prefer over the other, but for me I feel that Log Horizon comes out just slightly ahead of Sword Art Online. The pacing is significantly better in Log Horizon, and they take time to explain far more about what is what and who is who than SAO does. While the light novels for SAO may fill in those gaps, I feel that more of that information could have been conveyed in the anime as well. Ultimately it comes down to preference. Some will prefer Sword Art Online for its action and drama. Some will prefer Log Horizon for its characters, world, and engaging story.