Imagine that gaming has advanced to the point where you no longer watched from the other side of the television screen, but you were right there in the world, experiencing full immersion of all your senses and controlling your character as easily as your own body.The latest game to utilise this technology is Sword Art Online, a fantasy MMORPG created by the inventor of the very device used to play it. However, a sinister trap awaits the first ten thousand players who log into the system: they discover that they cannot log out, effectively trapping them within the game.The creator of the game issues an ultimatum: complete the game by defeating the Final Boss on the 100th floor, and you will be allowed to log out. However, if your avatar dies, then the helmet used to play the game will unleash a pulse of microwave radiation that will fry your brain, killing you in the real world. What's more, the same thing will happen if anyone in the real world attempts to remove you from the game by force.A swordsman player with the game name of Kirito is one of the fated ten thousand. He holds the advantage of having been involved in the beta test, giving him prior knowledge of the game layout and its combat systems, but he struggles to make attachments and prefers being a solo player. Now he and every other player in Sword Art Online must fight to survive in a virtual world that has become all too real to them.As of this writing* December 2012 there are six main arcs:
List Of Arcs
Aincrad: The original story, set in the world of Sword Art Online.
Fairy Dance: Two months after the "SAO Incident", three hundred players have yet to awaken from their comatose states. When Kirito is sent a blurry screenshot depicting one of these players in another MMO called "ALFheim Online", he dives into the game to free her from the virtual world once and for all.
Phantom Bullet: An arc set in a game called "Gun Gale Online", a MMO that focuses on guns and shooting instead of swordplay. When a mysterious assassin called "Death Gun" starts to murder players at the same time he kills their virtual avatars, Kirito is called upon to enter the game and solve the mystery.
Mother's Rosario: While playing ALO, Asuna, Kirito's girlfriend, encounters a mysterious swordswoman named Yuki whose combat skill is said to surpass even Kirito. She is recruited to help Yuki and her guild, the "Sleeping Knights", achieve the feat of soloing one of Aincrad's fearsome floor bosses, an achievement that would immortalise their names on the Monument of Swordsmen.
Project Alicization: Kirito awakens in an unfamiliar virtual world (called "Underworld") with no memories of how he got there. He must venture to discover the secrets behind this world and why he has been trapped within it, all while questioning whether he is the real Kirito or merely an Artificial Intelligence in his likeness.
Some guilds have acronyms they also go by: KoBnote Knights of Blood; DDAnote Divine Dragon Alliance; ALFnote Ainicrad Liberation Force; WWFMnote Furinkazan. It derives from first letters of its translation, "Wind, Woods, Fire, Mountain". Although no one really calls them by their acronym..
ALO for ALFheim Online.
OSS for Original Sword Skill.
GGO for Gun Gale Online.
BoB for Bullet of Bullets.
Action Girl: Asuna. Not only was she an idol in SAO, she also happens to be one of the strongest female characters in the game, and perhaps other girls that Kirito meets along his way, Shinon in volume 6 as an example.
A Darker Me: There's a group of players that go around killing other players and stealing their items. Lampshaded when Kirito remarks that online players act very different from how they would in real life.
Adult Fear: Some Fridge Horror comes into play when you realize the amount of children that were playing the game that got trapped inside. Sure, most of them were rescued by sympathetic players, but there had to be quite a few that didn't make it. Kirito and Asuna also experience this when they witness Yui's Heroic Sacrifice.
Through the Fairy Dance arc, Kirito and Asuno experience more adult fear: Kirito is constantly stressed and worried over Asuna's condition throughout the story, and nearly breaks when Sugou threatens to steal Asuna from him, while poor Asuna finds herself trapped and at the mercy of a vile man who pretends to be nice in front of her father.
A God Am I: The reason why Kayaba created Sword Art Online, with all of its "unique" features in the first place was so that he could have his own little world where he could play God. A game that just is not the same without power over life and death.
Aliciazation - Administrator becomes this when she basically learns all the admin commands for the Underworld. In quick order, she assumes supreme control of all of the Human Realms and sets up a bunch of Commandments for all to follow.
Aliciazation - Played with when Gabriel signs in with a superuser account, as the Dark God Vector. He's not really into the whole megalomania thing, but he plays along with his role to lead the dark territory army effectively.
A God I Am Not: Aliciazation - Unlike Gabriel above, when Asuna, Shinon & Leafa sign on using their superuser accounts as the remaining 3 gods of the Underworld (with all their attributes and powers), they're very quick to point out they're not actually gods, just people. Naturally, not everyone believes them.
An Aesop: Never give up on anything that you consider to be worth fighting for.
Also, Always own your actions, you cannot compartmentalize who you really are.
And I Must Scream: After Kirito cleared [SAO], a few hundred players (including Asuna) remained comatose. This was because the devs behind Alfheim Online intercepted their minds and experimented on them in order to research mind control.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Inverted in the Alicization arc. Scientists create a virtual world in which to grow military AIs, but discover that they've developed into a Utopian society where the concept of harming another is unthinkable.
Always Someone Better: Possibly invoked by Yuuki, the Zekken, who even beat Kirito, at least in single-wielding mode. Justified because they are mostly terminally ill people that require a machine called the Medicuboid which pops them into virtual games to survive. This causes them to play a absurd number of hours, even longer then the SAO players who were trapped for over two years straight inside of a game and are otherwise the most experienced players on the planet.
To expand a bit, all observers, including Kirito's own sister, are sure that he wasn't holding back, but he still never used his ultimate, dual-wielding ability (which, at that time, would have included wielding Excaliber [sic]). Kirito, when he gets "serious" is on a different level. Witness his Big Damn Heroes entrance in the same novel which left even Yuuki speechless.
Akihiko Kayaba was the someone better to Suguou, the Big Bad of the Fairy Dance arc, which prompts him to create Alfheim Online and launch his plan.
While her Alfheim Online character is an Undine Healer, Asuna still carries her rapier, and she's only gotten better since her Sword Art Online days.
A Million is a Statistic: Downplayed. Two thousand SAO players die in the first month of the game, mostly due to inexperience not only with the game's mechanics, but with the concept of actually dying, as three hundred of them were experienced beta testers. Just to rub it in, there's a plinth where the resurrection point in the first town should be, bearing not only the names of the dead, but the manner in which they died. By the time the game is cleared, only 6,147 players are left alive.Survivor Guilt is pretty much universal.
Played straight when Kirito confronts Oberon where he claims that that Akihiko Kayaba was a much better person than Nobuyuki Sugou. Let's not forget the fact that Akihiko was responsible for the deaths of nearly 4000 SAO players while all Oberon did was hijack the minds of 300 people and sexually assault Kirito's girlfriend. Of course, from his viewpoint, Akihiko was just crazy while Oberon was a shameless sadist.
Anachronic Order: Volume 1 proceeds more or less chronologically, while Volume 2 consists of sidestories that take place during the 2 years in SAO. Volumes 3 to 7 proceed chronologically, but Volume 8 adds more sidestories that take place in SAO and a week before Volume 7.
Averted by the anime, which seems to be doing its best to proceed in a chronological order by animating the SAO sidestories in Volume 2 and Volume 8 before the rest of Volume 1.
Armor-Piercing Slap: After Kirito turns into a monster to save himself and Leafa in episode 19 of the anime, she asks him what players taste like. He claims it's like yakiniku before it's burnt, then jokingly bites her hand. She delivers one of these to him as a result, and in the next scene he has a very visible and red hand-print on his cheek. Yui tells him he totally deserved that one.
Artifact Title: The titular game and the struggle to clear it, are merely the 'first' story arc of the series. Justified because it was originally written as a one-shot series, with the series being continued later.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Played straight, in that great warriors are the ones making up the front-line guilds, and leaders are often picked for their fighting talent. This and Authority Equals Asskicking are mixed, to create some VERY powerful front-line leaders. For example, Heathcliff is the leader of the game's most powerful guild, and he is arguably the game's most powerful swordsman, thanks to his incredible reflexes, his impossible speed, his truly invulnerable shield, and his incredible sword. Of course, he turns out to be Kayaba Akihiko in disguise, so that explains a lot.Averted in that Kirito, a solo player, is also arguably the game's most powerful swordsman.
Attempted Rape: Suguou was very close to raping Asuna in the virtual world. In front of Kirito. Afterwards, he planned on raping her in real life, while comatose.
Authority Equals Asskicking: The leaders of guilds (especially front-line guilds) have the best equipment, which tends to make them more powerful (see Asskicking Equals Authority above). Also, the game's boss monsters seem to play this fairly straight, if you can consider them to have "Authority".
This takes a whole new level in Alicization, since "Authority" is how the strenght and power of the AIs living in Underwold is measured
Ax Crazy: After paralyzing Godfrey and Kirito with a poisoned drink he created, Kuradeel develops that look on his face as he gleefully hacks away first at Godfrey, and then nearly kills Kirito while both were helpless.
Backup Bluff: Kirito does one of these in episode 20 towards the commander of the Salamander army, stating that he's a Spriggan-Undine ambassador, and that attacking him and the Cait-Sith and Slyph meeting would cause four races to declare war on the Salamander. The commander doesn't buy it, but challenges Kirito to a duel anyway. After Kirito defeats him, one of his men tells the commander that he saw Kirito the other day with an Undine. Said man was the guy Kirito spared after he saved Leafa during their first encounter in episode 17. The Salamander army then leaves peacefully.
Badass: Kirito. Clearers, players dedicated to clearing SAO levels and bosses, tend to be this by necessity.
Bag of Spilling: After Kirito converts his SAO character to ALO, he discovers that his SAO equipment isn't compatible and has to discard all of them. It's almost a moot point since he retains his absurdly high stats and ALO is a level-less game, meaning that he can still defeat most players with just his starter/store-bought equipment. He also gets to keep all the money he made in SAO, which becomes a plot point later on.
Bare-Fisted Monk: The American GGO player who won the game's first BoB tournament goes on to win the fourth tournament using this as his build; his main tactic is to use CQC to beat-down opposing players, steal their guns and use them against other players. Kirito suspects he may be an actual Special Forces soldier in real life.
Although it's rarely shown in action, Kirito's Unarmed skill is almost completely maxed out.
Battle Couple: Whenever Kirito and Asuna take to the field together, this is the result. Also, in a blink and you'll miss it moment, Thinker and Yuriel in ALO.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Justified within the game worlds, where characters of both genders recover from injuries up to and including dismemberment as their HP regenerate. Played straight in reality, where Kirito reawakens from two years in VR as an emaciated, atrophied husk, while Asuna looks ready to spring straight out of bed and into a fashion shoot in the same circumstances.
Big Brother Instinct: It's mostly what drove Kirito to help Silica who reminds him of his sister and Leafa who IS his sister. Well, cousin, but raised as brother & sister.
Big Damn Heroes: They happen from time to time, and usually tend to be quite awesome.
In Volume 1, Asuna arrives on the scene as Kuradeel is about to kill Kirito, and schools him completely. In five minutes, she covered a distance that took Kirito's party one hour to travel. See Power of Love below.
In the climax of volume 4, Kirito faces Oberon and gets thoroughly beaten, thanks to the latter's abuse of GM powers to give himself an Infinity+1 Sword and invulnerability. Then Kayaba's ghost went inside ALO and gives Kirito GM POWERS, which he used to beat Oberon with.
And on any occasion Kirito pulls this off by himself or with his buddies. A great example is found in Volume 7, where he and Klein face off against a guild that's 50 members strong. By the time the guild defeats them, their numbers are depleted, and the duo have bought Asuna and the Sleeping Knights enough time to win.
Kirito pulls off an epic one when he's forced to save Asuna, Klein's guild, as well as another one from the level 74 boss and pretty much goes toe to toe with it, trading hits with the boss, and using his unique skill of dual wielding, in order to beat it. And he defeats it with just a small fraction of his health remaining.
Bloodless Carnage: It's a game, of course it is bloodless. Averted when it comes to real world fights like the one outside the hospital. Also averted in the VR environment, Underworld.
Bonus Dungeon: In SAO, one appeared beneath the Black Iron Castle on the 1st floor after some of the higher floors were cleared. It featured it's very own Bonus Boss, the Fatal Scythe, which is far stronger than anything else seen in the game, estimated by Kirito to have the abilities of a boss monster from the ninetieth level, a full fifteen levels above where they actually end up reaching before the game is cleared.
Book Ends: Second episode of the Anime, Kirito gives Asuna some cream to eat on the plain roll. She can't stop herself from gobbling it down. Many episodes later, after the two meet up again, she treats Kirito to delicious food she cooked herself (including a good approximation of real-world soy sauce) - which he can hardly stop himself from gobbling down. Finally, at the end of the fourth Light Novel (or first Anime season / second Anime arc) when they finally make it back to the real world, Asuna specializes in making food... that tastes nostalgically like Aincrad-food.
At the end of the anime, Kirito uses to the World Seed to rebuild Aincrad and add it to ALO. He and both his SAO and ALO friends then resolve to finish what they started and clear all 100 floors. He even resets his stats so he can level them up all over again.
Breakable Weapons: Explained in Volume 2. When Kirito found a blacksmith girl named Lizbeth and he needed a new sword to practice on, he was given one. But when he tested it out it broke easily, so they go on a quest to slay a snow dragon to get the metal needed to forge a new weapon.
All weapons in SAO, ALO and GGO require regular maintenance. Lizbeth has a deal with Kirito and Asuna where she'll maintain their weapons for free, in exchange for them endorsing and using her gear (that rivals ultra rare quest items).
Break the Haughty: Silica goes through this prior to her first meeting with Kirito. After leaving her party in a fit of pique, she gets lost, uses up all her healing items, and then her familliar Pina dies saving her. Pina gets better, with some help from Kirito.
Breather Episode: Episode 11, in which Kirito and Asuna decide to take a break from frontline fighting and go on a "honeymoon" to the lower levels.
Can Not Spit It Out: Lizbeth to Kirito. She was about to spit it out... and then realized that he's with Asuna.
The Cavalry: In episode 23, the Cait-Sith and Slyph forces show up to help Kirito to break through the guardians of the world tree.
Character Level: It IS supposed to be an MMORPG... Kirito is explicitly referred to as one of the highest-leveled characters in SAO, though he later resets his stats in ALO.
Chekhov's Skill: When Kirito transfers his SAO data to ALO, his stats show One-Handed Swords 1000, Unarmed 996 and Fishing 641. The Unarmed skill comes in handy during the denouement of the Fairy Dance arc.
After scouting the boss, Kirito mentions that to fight the level 74 boss, they'd need a couple of Stone Wall characters using shields. Asuna asks him about that, and wonders why he never uses a shield despite only using a 1-handed sword. She mentions that she doesn't use one because it slows her rapier attacks down. It turns out that Kirito doesn't use a shield because he learned how to dual wield, and is forced to utilize it in order to defeat the level 74 boss, which surprises all of the characters around him after he barely defeats it. When Klein asks about how he learned it, even Kirito says he's not sure how he managed to acquire the skill, mentioning it showed up in his skill set about 6 months earlier.
Chick Magnet: Kirito. However he is usually better then most harem protagonists in the sense that girls will usually fall for him after a decent amount of interaction happens. Also unlike other harem protagonists Kirito is usually seen as The Ace rather then a Ordinary High School Student or worse a loser.
Non-romantic example with Yui, who declares that the only ones who could hug Kirito are herself and Asuna.
Leafa gets a bit jealous in episode 20 when Sakuya and Alicia, the leaders of the Slyph and Cait-Sith races, get a bit too friendly with Kirito after he saves them from an ambush.
Played straight with Lizbeth in episode 25 after she spots Kirito and Asuna sitting together on a bench outside. Silica tells her to calm down.
Code Name: Almost everyone uses one, which protects their real life identity. Averted by Asuna, who being an MMORPG noob, used her real name as her screen name.
Surviving SAO players tend to refer to each other by their SAO screen names.
Coitus Ensues: It is implied Kirito and Asuna cyber it up after a near-death experience in SAO (with some misunderstandings along the way). This is Chapter "16.5" of the original light novel, and can be found at both the author's website and the Baka Tsuki translation project. It's a lemon, but it's not terrible; you can skip it without missing too much.
Amusingly, Kirito only thought they shouldn't be apart in case of another assassination attempt*
in SAO, a player can be killed inside a safe zone if someone starts a Duel to the Death with them and reduce their HP to 0 while they are sleeping
, but Asuna thought he meant something else.
Asuna: "We've already come this far, it's stupid to stop now!"
Even if you discount Chapter "16.5", in the original web novels, from which the officially published novels are based, it's made very clear that they have sex, even without outright saying it. And in fact, quite a bit of "it" as any healthy teens would, during their honeymoon period. There's even a bit of discussion about how potentially addictive "it" is, since you only get the simulated pleasure with none of the potential drawbacks. These are edited out of the official novels, so YMMV whether it's canon or not.
Cold-Blooded Torture: Inflicted by Kirito to Sugou: he sets the pain absorber to 0, and proceeds to cut his hand, then cut him in half, before finally impaling him in the head.
Combat Medic: Asuna's ALO build, playing as an Undine Healer, but also speccing for rapier sword skills, complementing her experience from SAO. There's a reason she's nicknamed "Berserk Healer".
Combos: There are Sword Skills that have more than one strike.
A plot point in Alicization arc where Kirito's Aincrad-Style is the only sword skill sect that have multi-hit attacks.
Continuity Nod: Lizbeth, Yui and Silica who all appear in Volume 2 during the 2 year span of the SAO incident make their come back in Volume 3 and Volume 4, still retaining their jobs: Silica a beast tamer, Lizbeth still a blacksmith, and Yui is still an AI. As Volume 2 are side stories of Asuna and Kirito's lives in SAO during that 2 year span prior to meeting each other. And note that their names never appeared in Volume 1 of the light novels.
Thinker, leader of ALF, who was the Badass in Distress in Volume 2, appears at the end of Volume 4, along with his assistant/wife Yuriel.
Contrived Coincidence: Out of all the countless people he could have met, Kirito just happens to Crash into Hellohis sister the very first time he logs into the MMORPG Alfheim. Not that either of them know it at the time... Which turns out not to be coincidence, the server registered the two different logins from the same location and thought they were the same person so it moved Kirito to Leafa.
Corrupted Data: Depending on how you look at it, how Kirito lost nearly all of his Aincrad items or how he kept his stats and one particularly important item when he started ALO. Also, why he happened to meet Leafa, of all people, when starting ALO.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: When players commit crimes, the markers over their heads go from green to orange. One guild uses members with green markers to lure in victims.
Cosmic Deadline: In general for the Aincrad arc the plot undergoes long time jumps in which many floors at once will be skipped, but the plot abruptly and with little forewarning leaps straight to the conclusion after the defeat of Skull Reaper.
Crippling Overspecialization: Kirito's group of friends in ALO is nearly completely devoid of magic, outside a few support spells from Asuna, Leafa and Silica. This leads to problems against physical resistant/immune enemies, where they must rely on Sword Skills' elemental effects, all of which have recovery lag times. They're aware of the problem, but after going through SAO, can't conceive of fighting without their swords. Or daggers, or maces, or axes...
Cross Player: VRMMORPGs using the Nerv Gear and Amusphere avert this, as the player's body is scanned into the system to form the avatar (degree of customization varies with each game). SAO's pre-alpha testing found that full immersion and genderswapping didn't really mix comfortably, and that after a significant amount of time logged in, male players began to experience anxiety over the lack of... essential equipment.
That said, as Episode 1, and a line in the light novel showed, it's still possible. It just doesn't have good longterm effects, hence why Kayaba disabled this option when kicking off the death game.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: In his duel with Kayaba in Episode 14, Kirito attempts to fight without Sword Skills, because Kayaba knows all the counters to any Sword Skill he'd try to use. He accidentally triggers a Sword Skill that Kayaba easily blocks and counters.
Kirito also gets this in Episode 15 after his sparring match with Suguha, where he tries to return his shinai to a nonexistent back scabbard. He also tried to use a Sword Skill, with obvious results.
Dark and Troubled Past: Another reason why Kirito avoids guilds and playing with other people was a result of blaming himself for the death of his past guild.
Darker and Edgier: How do you make a series which starts being about a MMORPG that plays Your Mind Makes It Real to its logical conclusion darker after that? How about (Fairy Dance Spoilers) Making the next villain an insane Sociopath who intends to rape Asuna, his fiancée, after he's done with her mind? for one and then right after that (Phantom Bullet Spoilers) having a protagonist who shot a bank robber to death and was ostracized as a result?
Dead Man Writing: Sachi recorded a letter via crystal to Kirito on Christmas, months after she died. A major Tear Jerker moment, especially when she starts humming a portion of "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer."
Death by Irony: During SAO's first day, Kirito unexpectedly partied with another Beta Tester named Cooper for a luck based quest. But once Kirito got the quest item, Coper aggro'ed the monsters(Nepent) then went into hiding. Kirito silently praises him for the MPK tactic, but finds a flaw in the plan. Some monsters also use senses other than sight, enabling the Nepents to find Coper's hiding spot, killing him.
Death Is Cheap: Subverted. Death in game is death in real life in SAO. Played straight in the other MMOs.
Death Seeker: Kirito temporarily enters this phase after his guild was destroyed.
Kirito promises this to the new guild he joins, the Black Cats, and especially to Sachi. Unfortunately when they're ambushed by a very large group of monsters, he's only able to save himself, despite his efforts to protect them.
Kirito invokes this trope in episode 9, when the level 74 boss begins wiping out members of The Army. Due to wanting to prevent another Black Cats-like incident from ever happening again, he's forced to utilize his secret skill, dual wielding, and goes toe to toe with the boss, just barely defeating it in the process.
This trope kicks in again after Asuna does a Leeroy Jenkins to save some players from the level 74 boss. He starts to remember his previous failure, and does everything he can to keep anyone else from dying pointlessly again.
Deep Immersion Gaming: The devices used allow this. Unfortunately the immersion is too deep in SAO: You die in real life once your avatar dies.
Kirito strongly suspects that various militaries are interested in VRMMO gaming because it provides a substitute to real world training due to the immersion factor.
Despair Event Horizon: The guild leader of the guild that Kirito joins commits suicide by falling off a very high cliff upon hearing that all of his friends were killed in an ambush. While Kirito doesn't kill himself, the loss of the people he promised to help protect weighs heavily on him.
Each boss every twenty-five floors is enormously more powerful than the ones before and have inflicted near total raid wipes.
SAO players note that Aincrad dungeons and monsters are a lot more difficult since being ported to ALO, compared to the original SAO incarnation.
In SAO, there is a massive Difficulty Spike for the Floor Bosses from the 74th Floor and onwards. Not only are they a lot stronger than previous Floor Bosses, but their rooms are sealed from the outside and are Crystal Traps. This means that crystals like healing and teleportation are useless, making it impossible to escape and thus obtain intel and making each fight a battle to the death. On the 75th Floor Boss, they lost so many people that Kirito took a massive risk on testing his suspicions on Heathcliff, because there is a high chance they won't be able to make it to the 100th floor.
It's speculated by the characters that Every 25 floors (25th,50th,75th) have a specially difficult boss that is far stronger than a "normal" boss should be.
Digital Avatar: Nearly everyone who uses the Full Dive technology, especially VRMMO players.
The leader of the Black Cats of the Full Moon, after they're annihilated and Kirito reveals he was a beta tester.
Actually implied that Kirito was contemplating this after the guild's destruction.
Yuuki's mother nearly falls to this, after she's diagnosed with AIDS from contaminated blood.
Dual Wielding: Only Kirito gets this skill in SAO. He later recreates his style from sheer effort and virtual muscle memory in ALO.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Kirito in GGO. He accidentally (at least initially) abuses this to get help from the nearby Sinon.
Dungeon Bypass: When Kirito and Asuna were looking for a house on Floor 22 to buy, they stumble onto Argo and a Wizard of Oz inspired Quest. Since their levels are miles above that floor those three use shortcuts like jumping on balconies that they werent't supposed to be able to reach.
Dungeon Crawling: A prerequisite for clearing each level of Aincrad. Each level's stairway-dungeon has 20 floors, and the final floor has the boss that must be defeated to clear the level.
Dynamic Entry: Kirito's crash landing when he first meets Leafa, which causes the pursuing Salamanders to halt their attempt to kill Leafa, and re-target to him.
Asuna does this in her big damn heroes moment. Kirito describes her arrival as a red and white wind.
Klein is seen from the "MMO Stream" news video covering the SAO release before meeting Kirito for the first time as described in the original novel.
Suguha is briefly heard and seen running off to practice before Kirito enters SAO.
Asuna, Lizbet (before dyeing her hair pink), and Silica are seen among the players in the plaza.
Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes four volumes, but after going through a lot of shit and never giving up, Kirito and Asuna are reunited in the real world. This is also a general theme with the various main story arcs as a whole.
Everyone Can See It: When Klein first meets Asuna, he catches on very quickly that she has feelings for Kirito, and asks Kirito if they're lovers. Kirito's fervent denial is greeted with knowing smiles from all of Furinkazan and Asuna.
Expy: Yui is an expy of .hack's AURA only that her creation was not intentional as she was only composed of data that somehow became sentient. In SAO she has the powers of an Admin.
Fake Skill: Outside System Skills, skills and abilities players use that are not programmed in the game. Notable ones are:
Switch: A player switches with their partner after attacking the enemy offsetting it and the partner does a follow-up attack so the former can recuperate.
Skill Connect: In ALO, Kirito discovers he could chain One-Handed Sword Skills in order to compensate for not having the Dual Blades skill in the game. He uses One Handed Sword Skills and controls his left and right arms separately. He has to be sure the timing and the next move is precise or it fails.
Arms Blast: Kirito attacks the weakpoint of the opponent's weapon to destroy it.
Spell Blast: In ALO, where Sword Skills have also magic attributes imbued, Kirito can cut magic spells. His inspiration came from when he sliced bullets in GGO.
Fanservice: We get to see every major female character in their undergarments one way or the other.
The Fellowship Has Ended: The Sleeping Knights plan on disbanding the guild in March 2026, and wants to defeat a floor boss in Aincrad as just a party so all their names will be inscribed on the Monument of Swordsmen as proof of their existence. The real reason is because all the members are terminally ill patients, with two of their members not expected to survive pass March. After they successfully defeat a floor boss and Yuuki passes away, the group disbands and the members part ways.
Credits in GGO.note One can actual exchange in-game credits for real world money and vice versa. In Japan, the exchange rate is 100 credits = 1 yen. A player can pay their monthly fee by earning credits in-game.
Flanderization: Kirito had quite some genuine insecurities and redeemable qualities in the Aincrad arc, but most of them were tossed out of the window in the ALO arc, leaving only his Marty Stu/God Mode Sue traits behind.
Flash Step: Too many times to count. Actually, the sword skill Sonic Leap may actually be Invoking this trope. Asuna uses this to travel an impossible distance in five minutes, Kirito leaves behind a sonic boom from his first attack in ALO...
Flight: A main feature in ALO. Under the control of RECTO, there is is a limit for flight such as: height limit, cool down time to charge with sun or moonlight, and inability to fly in dungeons with the exceptions of Imps. The main quest at the time have the races trying to reach the top of the world tree to have an audience with Oberon to be reborn as a higher order fairy, the Alf. After Recto sold its rights to it, all races have no time limit in flight.
Forced To Watch: During the climax of the Fairy Dance arc, Sugou rips the clothes off Asuna's avatar, pins Kirito down by impaling him with a sword, and forces him to witness poor Asuna being violated in the Virtual World. He then threatens to repeat the "performance" with her REAL BODY later.
For Doom the Bell Tolls: The town bell of the Starting City of the 1st floor rang when the players of SAO were forcibly teleported to its central plaza.
For the Evulz: Kayaba entrapped the people playing SAO until they can finish the game by defeating the ultimate boss, but in truth he wants to see a society in a different light and he's the ultimate boss.
For Want of a Nail: Caliber Failure Side explores one such outcome to the Caliber sidestory. Kirito convinces the party to abandon Freya (without knowing she's actually a disguised Thor). As a result, they're unable to defeat the Big Bad before time runs out. Not only do they fail the quest, Kirito loses his chance to get Excalibur, and the Big Bad succeeds in deploying an army massive enough to destroy Alfheim and Aincrad.
Four is Death: After a familiar dies, there is a chance it will leave behind an item that will allow the player to resurrect it. However, if the player cannot meet the requirements within four days, the item will change and the pet will be dead for good.
Gamer Chicks: Most of the girls Kirito knows. They are trapped in a video game, after all.
In Volume 8, when meeting trapped female NPC Freya, and noticing she has a HP bar, Kirito is convinced that she'll transform into a powerful Elite Mook once she's released, and that she's designed to appeal to male players; he's seen this before a few times. He's also not surprised at all when Klein falls for it. At the same time though... see Wrong Genre Savvy.
G.I.R.L.: In the novels, this is impossible in SAO due to players being forced to play as their own sex. This doesn't apply to the anime, however, but with the exception of a one-off gag at the beginning of the anime, this trope is averted due to everyone's SAO avatars reverting to each player's true appearance.
Not true: "Distressingly, even the sex ratio had changed greatly." Book 1, Cp 3.
Good Guy Cafe: In the real world, Dicey Cafe, owned by Egil, which ends up becoming a hangout for the main cast. Egil also runs a cafe and item shop in ALO, which serves the same function.
Go Out with a Smile: Yuuki logs into ALO as she's dying, giving Asuna her Limit Break and saying one last farewell to her friends. The last image is of her and Asuna standing together, smiling.
Sachi does this in episode 3 as well.
Gratuitous English: English seems to be the official language of Sword Art Online, given that all the game messages are in English. Most of them are pretty good, until episode 14, where one message reads "Chaged into Immortal Object"... when it should have said Mortal Object anyway, given that it was Heathcliff deactivating his mortal status before his duel with Kirito. Episode 15 also has Kirito receiving an email from Egil written in Japanese, with the subject "Look at this!!" written in English.
Thinker and Yuriel, both in SAO and the real world.
Egil and his wife; when he was trapped in SAO, she singlehandedly kept his cafe running and in the black while waiting for him to come back.
Hard Work Hardly Works: Averted. Kirito is able to more or less recreate his Dual Wielding skills only through sheer hard work, and he's only able to chain one-handed sword skills after a lot of effort and failures.
As a whole, there are no shortcuts in SAO; players who want to level up will need to put in the effort.
Played straight during the Fairy Dance arc when Kirito first enters ALO and outside getting used to the controls, he himself knows he is a cheater in this case.
Heel Realization: Seems to happen to Grimrock when Asuna tells him that he didn't really love his wife Griselda, and killed her because he wanted to control her rather than let her be a strong, independent woman. As she tells him this, he seems to suffer from both My God, What Have I Done?, as well as a Villainous Breakdown.
Hero Academy: Kirito ends up in one along with his partner, Eugio, during the Alicization arc.
Heroes Prefer Swords: It's noted that most SAO players who migrated to ALO tend to dump all their points into sword skills and ignore magic, because they believe their weapons are proof of their existence.
This actually leads to two different classification among players in ALO. "Fairies", whom uses magic, and "Swordsmen" whom only uses weapons.
Heroic Sacrifice: Yui invokes her GM powers to save Kirito and Asuna from a high level boss. Unfortunately, since she disobeyed her programming, this results in her getting flagged for deletion. Thankfully, Kirito manages to preserve her heart before she's fully deleted.
In Episode 14, Asuna overcame complete paralysis with The Power of Love to get up and take a killing blow for Kirito, dropping her own health bar to zero to save him.
Honor Before Reason: While the protagonists avoid this for the most part, this pops up from time to time:
In Volume 2, Thinker walks into an obvious ambush unarmed, because his treacherous 2nd in command said he wanted to talk privately without weapons. Yuriel and Asuna lampshade this.
In Volume 8, Klein frees an imprisoned NPC that he and everyone agree is probably a trap and will likely turn on them, because that's his warrior code. The party can't decide if he's being an idiot or being cool. Amusingly, the NPC is a trap... just not the expected kind. See Attractive Bent Gender above.
A unit of players from The Army are met by Kirito, Asuna, and Klein's guild, and their leader asks for the map for the level. Kirito agrees to it, but tells him they should avoid fighting the boss as they don't have enough players, and his troops look rather worn out. He decides to go straight towards the boss, and promptly gets killed for it, forcing Asuna and Kirito to attack the boss in order to save the surviving players.
Hopeless Suitor: Liz, after having joined a party with Kirito to find a rare material to forge a sword with, is seemingly ready to declare her love for him since he risked his life to save hers and was a Nice Guy as well. Then Asuna drops by, and Liz begins to read between the lines. You can almost see her heart get torn in two as she realizes this trope is being applied to her. She tries to brush it off with her usual Genki Girl face, but wanders off to secretly cry.
Hope Spot: After Sachi dies, Kirito learns of an ultra rare item that can resurrect a dead player. It doesn't quite work out, since the item has to be used within ten seconds of the player's death, but by the time Kirito gets it, she had already been dead for six months. He gives the item to Klein instead, hoping that it'll be of some use to him.
Kirito could cut bullets in midair easily in Gun Gale Online. When he gets back to Alfheim Online, he uses the same skill to cut magical spells. Nobody, not even Asuna, Leafa or Klein, who're the closest players to his skill level, can do that.
Improbable Weapon User: Not an issue early on where swords are commonplace, but come Volume 5 of the light novel Kirito becomes the only character to wield a sword in a gun fight in a game that's all about shooting.
The Informant: Come volume 5, and he's now the informant for Public Safety.
I Surrender, Suckers: Kuradeel tries this when Asuna beats him to within an inch of his life bar. He feigns asking for mercy/forgiveness, but then immediately tries to kill Asuna with a cheap shot before being taken down by a recovered Kirito.
Jerkass Façade: Kirito at the start doesn't interact with other players due to past trauma. Egil gives off the impression of being a stingy merchant, but it turns out much of the ingame currency he earned goes to support the lower leveled players.
Joke Weapon: The Lightsaber is considered this in Gun Gale Online, which makes a certain kind of sense as it's an MMOFPS.
Lethal Joke Weapon: It becomes this in Kirito's hands. After he becomes the co-winner of the third GGO in-game tournament, more players begin trying to emulate him.
Karma Houdini: Although they were all placed in a separate building from other SAO survivors for rehab/observation purposes, none of the players whom committed murder in SAO were publicly revealed nor received justice for their actions as all blame was placed on Akihiko Kayaba. This leads to repercussions in future arcs.
Kick the Son of a Bitch: Kayaba gives Kirito the means to defeat Sugou, a man who's even more despicable than the SAO creator (you know, the one that caused thousands of deaths for a childish dream).
Kill 'em All: The Black Cats of the Full Moon guild ends up getting completely annihilated in a trap shortly after Kirito joins.
Kissing Cousins: One-sided on Suguha's part. She slowly falls in love with her cousin Kirito (who was raised as her brother); however, since he already has Asuna and Kirito isn't really into that stuff, he doesn't reciprocate.
Lady of War: Sakuya, guild leader of the Sylphs, who wears a katana.
Lampshade Hanging: In the Light Novels, at least, Kirito thinks that he looks like a typical manga protagonist. (Could someone find the exact quote, please!) Also, in the Light Novels, when Asuna breaks freefrom an unbreakable paralysis, Kayaba Akihiko points out that “This is really surprising. Isn't it just like a standalone console RPG scenario? It should have been impossible for her to recover from the paralysis... So things like this really do happen...”
Laser Sight: In GGO, the Ballistic Prediction Line (Bullet Line) is an aiming assist system that shows a thin, red line predicting where the bullets fired from a gun will go. The disadvantage is that it's visible to all players, with the exception of the first shot of a sniper rifle. Kirito uses this to his advantage by seeing which lines is hitting his body and intercepting them with his lightsaber.
Level Grinding: In SAO, Kirito does a lot of this off screen. In fact, in SAO it's not considered safe to explore a floor until you are at least 10+ levels higher. Kirito himself does a massive power leveling after Sachi dies, in order to solo an event boss monster on his own to obtain a rumored One-Time Revival item to bring her back to life.
Lighthearted Rematch: The SAO survivors who migrated to ALO treat the return of Aincrad as this, intending to clear all hundred levels for fun, instead of a matter of life or death.
Kirito is this no matter what game he is in due to having Super Reflexes.
Asuna is this in SAO, doing less raw damage but attacking and moving faster. More than once she's taken down opponents who've given Kirito trouble.
Little Bit Beastly: The Cait Sith, one of the nine playable races in ALO is basically an entire nation of cat-people.
Lock and Load Montage: There's a short one in Caliber, just before the heroes set out to challenge the quest and grab Excalibur.
Locked Room Mystery: The short story "Murder Case in the Area" is about figuring out how someone was killed in town, which normally makes players immune to damage.
Loners Are Freaks: Kirito and the few other solo players are seen as unusual for not joining guilds and going out to battle alone, something that is likely to get them killed. On the other hand, it's the reason Kirito is so skilled, and presumably the other solo players as well.
Look Behind You: In Intermission: Reason for the Whiskersnote previously known as Continuation: Aria in the Starless Night, Kirito says this to Kotarou and Isuke from the Fūmaningun guild whom cornered both Argo and himself. They did not believed him at first thinking it was a trick, but it wasn't because a Trembling Ox just popped behind them.
Loot Drama: Played seriously. One early episode revolved around a younger character being bullied by a crooked guild trying to rob her of a rare item that could revive her Pet, and in another arc, several Player Killing incidents revolved around a guild that crumbled after a disagreement over how to use a rare ring that dropped from a mob.
Lord British Postulate: There are a number of areas in ALO that are locked simply by placing enough powerful enemies that no one should be able to pass. The quest to enter the World Tree is this. The enemies themselves are on the low-end of the power scale, but they spawn infinitely. And if you do manage to get past them, the door will not open for anyone but a GM.
Marry Them All: In the Gaiden X2, which takes place at the end of the Underworld arc, basically all of Kirito's somewhat Unwanted Harem decide to just marry him in-game, and both Kirito & Asuna agree, making the Battle Harem official, at least for around 5 years of accelerated time. Non-canonical, especially since the Alicization arc is still being written, and Ronie wasn't part of the harem (though Alice was).
Mass Monster Slaughter Sidequest: In ALO Archduke Þjazi gave one to kill beast-type Evil Gods in order for players to receive Excaliber but in actuality the prize is Caliburn and for Jötunheimr to spread to Alfheim.
Meaningless Villain Victory: During the aftermath of Fairy Dance, it is discovered that even if Sugou had managed to perfect his Mind Control research, it would only have worked with the (now-defunct) first-generation Nerve Gears.
Meditation Powerup: In SAO, Meditation, a mental concentration skill that increased the rate of HP recovery and reduced the remaining time of negative statuses. However, due to its low efficiency and lame pose, not many players took it.
Million Mook March: When they first reach the inside of world tree, it doesn't seem to be very well guarded. Then once Kirito attempts to break through, they start showing up en masse. After Leafa and Recon try to help, the numbers grow even bigger, to the point that all you can see up there is a wall of guardians.
The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Kayaba gave every player of SAO an item called "hand mirror", the item forces the player avatars into what they looked like in the real world.
I mean, an alliance of all the top guilds managed to defeat them, and Kirito only had to kill two or three of them to prevent the good guy's defeat; how powerful can they be?
. Any AI opponent whose name starts with "The" is a boss. Not something you want to try fighting alone, or even with your six best friends well, unless you're Kirito. "The Skull Reaper" does double-time for fearsomeness, and more than lives up to that name in combat. "The Fatal Scythe" does triple-timeuntilkilledbyYui.
Nerves of Steel: Kirito has his moments of angst but usually when shit happens he's the one least visibly freaked out.
Never Sleep Again: It turns out some player killers challenge people to duels and attack them while they're asleep.
New Game Plus: What Kirito finds out about his avatar after he logs into ALO for the very first time. While HP, Exp, Items, and Equipment do not carry over, all of his skills and money from SAO did transfer over to his freshly made character.
When he later transfers from the revived SAO to GGO, he does much the same thing, though he arranges to store his items and equipment with Egil's shop so they won't have to be deleted. Because of the Seed forming the basis of all the new generation games, characters are increasingly capable of transferring from game to game, though incompatible items and such are still deleted.
News Travels Fast: News of Kirito's Dual Blades Skill which defeated the 74th level boss.
Kirito lampshades this when Argo sends him an apologetic congratulatory message, after the 1st level boss is defeated.
Noodle Incident: Kirito's last black longcoat was custom-made by Ashley, the renowned #1 tailor of SAO and is very beautiful. Lisbeth suspiciously notes that Ashley will only take requests on custom-made items that interested her. Kirito nervously dodges the question, and we never do find out exactly how Kirito got Ashley to create his longcoat.
How Kirito and Argo met and learned that each other was a beta tester.
Norse Mythology: What ALFheim Online is mostly based on, with bits of other European fairy tales mixed in as well.
Oblivious to Love: Sorta Justified for Kirito since he's already has a girlfriend so he doesn't really pay attention to other girls.
Official Couple: Yuuki Asuna and Kirigaya Kazuto (despite his growing harem).
Oh Crap: Quite a few happen throughout the series:
Kirito in Volume 1, upon realizing that he's in a Crash into Hello situation with Asuna, and his hand has been automatically groping her, and he can't remember any of the placating statements he prepared in case he ever got into this situation.
Kirito and Lizbeth, upon realizing that the cave they took shelter in is the nest of an ultra-high dragon boss... and it's coming home for breakfast, i.e. them.
A Titan's Head player, upon realizing that the swordsman escorting the low-level Dragon Tamer they're targeting is none other than the Black Swordsman.
It's compounded when the guild realizes, to their terror, that not only does Kirito outlevel them by a significant degree, his healing factor counteracts all damage they do to him.
Kirito again, when Oberon attempts to knife him in the real world.
Level Bosses also tend to cause this reaction - prominent examples are Kirito & Asuna's reaction to seeing the Level 74 boss, and when the Level 75 boss casually oneshots several clearers.
Ojou: Asuna happens to be the daughter of the CEO of RECTO which later on becomes the only producer of the improved version of Nerv Gear called Amusphere.
Old Save Bonus: When he started playing ALO, Kirito discovered that the game was based on SAO, so all of his previous skills and stats are converted over (his equipment however, was corrupted and had to be discarded). Since he was one of the highest level players in SAO, and having nearly maxed many of his skills, he's automatically one of the strongest players in ALO and can defeat most players with just starter/NPC equipment.
Older Than They Look: Perhaps not the case for Kirito as he was a beta player for SAO, however Asuna initially assumed this was the case due to Kirito's experience in the game, only to be shocked that she is actually 1 year his senior.
Special note to Asuna and Leafa in Aliciazation, both of whom fend off thousands of mooks to save their respective allies.
Player Killing: Though very rare, it does happen. There's an entire guild dedicated to it. Some of these incidents is due to the perpetrators not believing that killing another player would also kill them in real life. Though it's noted that during the first year, despite there being around 1000 players choosing to become bandits in SAO, there was never a single incident of player killing.
Power of Love: Asuna's explanation for how she was able to pull her Big Damn Heroes moment, covering in five minutes a distance that took a full hour for Kirito's party. Granted, they weren't exactly sprinting, but still.
Can also be considered during Kirito's final fight with Heathcliff; his HP had already been reduced to zero, his body was disintegrating, and he still pulled out Asuna's sword and stabbed him in the throat. Similarly during Kirito's fight against Oberon, where he recovered from feeling the pain of swords rammed through his body without the usual pain-reducing technology and got up, gained GM privileges, proceeding to kick the ever-living daylight out of Oberon.
Same fight: Asuna gets a really big moment when she takes a killing blow from Heathcliff to save Kirito, while paralyzed. Even Heathcliff couldn't believe that actually happened, and he made the game.
Preexisting Encounters: In all VRMMOs, although some enemies have some ways to conceal their presence in order to ambush players.
Psychopathic Man Child:In his final conversation with Kirito and Asuna, Kayaba reveals that his main motivation for everything he did was to make the play world that he had always imagined as real as possible. He seems for the most part to be largely blind to the moral or ethical implications of what he has done.
The other main theme is that virtual reality is just as real as 'real' reality. The relevant corollary is that you can't use game logic or meta-logic to get by in a VRMMO. Problems are solved by negotiation, planning, foresight, and flexibility, not hitting things until they submit.
Recycled In Space: It's like .hack in its initial premise. Interestingly, both were written more or less around the same time, though it's only in recent years that Sword Art Online has been published.
Red Baron: Kirito gets "The Black Swordsman", and is pretty well known in SAO.
Asuna is known as "The Flash", due to being one of the fastest players. In one case, she covers a distance in five minutes that took Kirito's party one hour to travel. She's less keen on her ALO nickname, which is "Berserk Healer".
Shino is also known as "Hecate" in GGO, both after her anti material rifle, and for the Greek goddess associated with the underworld.
Redshirt Army: The (Liberation) Army. A massive guild comprised of mostly low to mid level players with the intent of assisting the thousands of SAO players not on the front lines. They used to be influential to the game until they lost a staggering amount of their best players in the 25th floor boss battle. By the end of SAO the Army is 1/6th the remaining players but regarded as mostly ineffectual and often corrupt.
Refuge in Audacity: How does Kirito prevent the leader of the Salamander army from assassinating the leaders of the Cait Sith and Sylph factions? He shows up, declares himself ambassador of the Spriggan-Undine Alliance, and warns the Salamander general that if he attacks, he'll be at war with four races, not just two.
From the Material Editions, in SAO, while trying to defend Argo from two "ninja players" from the Fūmaningun gulid, Kirito claims that he is a secret agent of the government. Another hilarious in hindsight due to him working with the government to investigate the "Death Gun" rumors in GGO years later.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted in episode 14. After Asuna's Heroic Sacrifice to save Kirito from a killing blow, she falls in Kirito's arms as her health bar hits zero and she disappears. After some despair, he slowly picks up Asuna's sword to use as his new off-hand sword, and stands up to renew his fight with Heathcliff as if he's going to get his revenge, but instead his swing falls weakly, slowly, and with no technique. Kirito had no fight left in him. He was completely broken.
Roleplaying Game Terms: Whenever characters fail at a strong effort of will, Kirito describes it as failing a saving throw.
Plenty of MMORPG terms are used, which makes sense since the cast are MMORPG gamers, after-all.
The Rule of First Adopters: It appears the SAO developers expected this, given that avatars are anatomically correct, and VR sex is actually possible, and practiced in-game. Note Coitus Ensues in the YMMV tab.
Running Gag: Kirito's general approach towards awkward male-female interpersonal relationships is to run away. This includes to making his escape when Asuna invites him to stay overnight at her house... and meet her parents.
Scenery Porn: OH YES! Several places of the game are deemed as such.
Schmuck Bait: A hidden door in a dungeon leading to an empty room with a single treasure chest at the end. Sweet, free loot! Lets just ahead and open it because nothing bad could possibly happen, right?
Scope Snipe: The result of a sniper duel between Death Gun and Sinon. Luckily, Sinon moved her head to check the result of her shot, and narrowly missed Death Gun's bullet destroying her scope and where her head would have been.
Secret Test of Character: In ALO, while exploring the most dangerous region in the game where not only flying is impossible, but filled with raid-boss level monsters, it's possible to encounter two raid-bosses fighting one another, with one boss clearly winning. Normal player behavior would be to watch and then either flee or attack and kill the bosses while they're preoccupied for their drops. However, should the player(s) choose to help the losing monster, it is revealed that it's actually a secret event and will carry the player(s) to another location, where it will drop them off and stop moving. Should the player(s) actually choose to defend it against other players hunting it, it will carry them and start flying above a tower, revealing the location of legendary sword Excaliber, the most powerful sword in the game.
The second part of the quest line also have several events that tests the party's character:
They discover a beautiful NPC woman locked in a cage begging for help. Savvy players will note that the NPC have an HP bar, and thus a high chance that the NPC will turn hostile and betray the party. The NPC really is an ally and is necessary to successfully complete said quest.
An obvious one, the boss of the dungeon, Þrym tempts the party with treasure in exchange for said NPC's location.
Even after securing Excaliber, it isn't added to the player's inventory, and is incredibly heavy. When the dungeon starts collapsing, the player finds that they cannot make the final jump to safety because Excaliber is too heavy, and is testing the player's greed and obsession, about whether or not they're on this quest for the legendary sword, or to save Alfheim.
Senseless Sacrifice: Recon does one in episode 23. He casts a self-destruct spell which opens up a considerable gap between the guardians in an attempt to allow Kirito to break through. Unfortunately, the gap closes itself within moments, although to be fair, they had no way of knowing that.
Sequel Hook: The anime ends with Aincrad being restored in ALO and everyone from both SAO and ALO that appeared in the series flying towards it in order try and conquer it. This scene seems all but designed to have even those who have not read the Light Novels begging for a second season.
Sequence Breaking: After the battle to defeat the 75th level boss, Kirito confirms his suspicion that Heathcliff, leader of the Knights of Blood, is really Akihiko Kayaba. Kayaba notes that he eventually intended to reveal himself as the level 100 boss and decides that since the secret is out, he'll just head to the top now, but oh hey, he'll give Kirito the chance to fight him now, for all the marbles. Naturally, Kirito wins, breaking the sequence and the remaining 25 floors are never explored... until ALO!
Shaggy Dog Story: After Sachi dies, Kirito learns of a resurrection item and goes through a lot of trouble to get it, with Furinkazan's help... and finds that the item has to be used within ten seconds of death. Sachi died six months ago. He ends up giving it to Klein, and resolving to never join a guild again.
While going through a tunnel under a mountain, Kirito mentioned to Leafa a book that he had read in which the party also went under a mountain, only to be ambushed by Orcs and then met an ancient demon. Moments later, they were ambushed by a bunch of Salamanders. Just when they're about to lose, Kirito transforms into a large demon engulfed in flame and bites off the heads of the Salamanders.
The lightsaber in the Phantom Bullet arc is clearly intended as a Star Wars shoutout, and Kirito is inspired to cut bullets thanks to seeing Jedi deflecting blaster bolts.
Mention is made of an American GGO player who won the first BoB tournament with only a pistol and a combat knife, alternating shooting with knifing - a common build in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The same player, in a later tournament, used CQC to disarm his opponents and grab their weapons, strongly invoking the first Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer, where Old Snake did precisely that.
In the anime, the entrance of the 74th floor dungeon is the same as the entrance to the place where the Holy Grail was kept; alternately, it's where the Primes were buried - the ancient city of Petra.
One underground dungeon in ALO strongly evokes Skyrim's Blackreach in its environment and design.
The green water bottles that show up occasionally in the anime (first at the table Asuna and Kirito eat at during the murder investigation in episode 5, and again when Kuradeel poisons Kirito and Godfree in episode 10) are dead ringers for Skyrim's Alto Wine bottles.
"Shut Up" Kiss: Kirito does this to Asuna after their near-death experience with Kuradeel.
Signature Move: In ALO, sometime after Sword Skills were implemented, Original Sword Skills were introduced where a player makes their own Sword Skill. The most notable OSSs are Salamander General Eugene's 8-hit "Volcanic Blazer", Asuna's 5-hit "Starry Tear", and Yuuki's 11-hit "Mother's Rosario".
Slasher Smile: Kuradeel has one in episode 10 as he hacks away at Godfrey, and then slowly stabs Kirito in his arms and legs to prolong the suffering.
Sleep Cute: Volume 7 opens with Yui sleeping on top of Pina, who is curled up and sleeping on top of Kirito's chest, while he's sleeping in his rocking chair. The scene is so d'aww, Asuna and every other girl in the room feels sleepy and thinks of joining them.
Also, Asuna sleeping next to Kirito in "A Murder Case in the Area".
Spider-Sense: In SAO, there is a hypothetical Outside System Skill called Hypersense, or feeling the presence of an enemy before you can actually see or hear them. It's hypothetical because since the skill is not listed in the database, no one can prove that it even exists. However, numerous characters have been shown to possess it, including Kirito, Klein, and XaXa.
Spoiler Opening: Lots and lots of info is revealed in the anime's opening, from minor details like Kirito's Coat of Midnight and Elucidator to his eventual relationship with Asuna.
Squee: Kirito's reaction to getting Excalibur, first when Shino manages to trickshot it into her hands, and then when he officially gets it as a quest reward.
Standard Female Grab Area: Asuna is unfortunately subjected to this hands of Kuradeel. Despite it later being proven she's much tougher than him, he grabs her by the arm and BAM, instant need of rescuing from Kirito.
Super Prototype: Nerve Gear is noted by former SAO players to be able to create a much more realistic virtual world than AmuSphere. This is due to the numerous safety precautions that was added to AmuSphere's design.
Super Reflexes: Kirito has the best reflexes in SAO, which Kayaba explained is why he received the Dual Blades skill. This carries on into other games using The Seed (SAO's engine): in GGO, for example, he can dodge bullets.
Zekken Yuuki has even faster reflexes than Kirito; he suspects that if she'd been in SAO, she would have gotten the Dual Blades skill instead of him.
Supreme Chef: Asuna in SAO, she tries to replicate real world tastes in game, since the in game food is mostly horrible. And succeeds in taking weird ingredients and putting them together to create delicious food. Ratsel Feinschmeker would approve.
Supporting Harem: For some odd reason the number of female casts that get closer to Kirito keeps on rising volume after volume. Lampshaded by the author. Also, thanks to Kirito and Asuna being the Official Couple, their feelings for him remain unrequited.
Survivor Guilt: Kirito, the only survivor of the Black Cats of the Full Moon guild. Made worse because as a Clearer, he knew the area well enough that he could have prevented it just by warning them. The only thing that held him back was the fear of being hated for being a Beater.
This becomes a critical plot point when Asuna asked Kirito why he was always a solo player up until this point. He talked about the deaths he could have prevented of his previous guild, and after that incident, felt that it was easier on his own. He does admit that he was reaching the limits of what a solo player could accomplish, so joining her guild wasn't all bad for him.
Shiune of the Sleeping Knights ends up making a miraculous recovery and laments on being unable to keep her promise with Yuuki, Yuuki's sister, and her friends, that they will always be together.
Teleporters and Transporters: Crystals in SAO, which allow you to instantly return to the level's town area. Unfortunately, certain dungeons have anti-crystal fields.
Thanatos Gambit: Kayaba expected everything in the game and also the skill Dual Blades that was bestowed on Kirito, that he would be defeated by a Dual Sword Skill user, but never imagined that Kirito would catch up to his Heathcliff disguise quite early on.
The Cake Is a Lie: Supposedly, in Alfheim Online, a first player to reach the city on top of The World Tree will unlock unlimited flight for their entire race. The city does not exist, and the entrance gate to the top of the tree requires admin rights to open. See Unwinnable by Design below.
There Are No Therapists: Subverted. The AI that controls Aincrad created a program to monitor and repair the players' psychological states. However, said program was then forbidden from interacting with the players in any way. On launch day, when the creator announced that they were all trapped, and anyone who died died for real, the conflict between the program's core programming to help the players and the orders to not interfere created errors. She eventually appeared in the game as a little girl named Yui, in order to become the daughter of two of the only happy players in the entire game: Asuna and Kirito.
Too Awesome to Use: Upon assembling the raid to take on the 75th Floor Boss, everyone is shocked when Heathcliff casually uses a Corridor Crystal to open a portal leading to just outside the boss room. The reason why they're all shocked is because a Corridor Crystal is an incredibly rare item that can only be found in dungeon chests or a monster drop, and is not something to be wasted. This is one of the clues that Heathcliff is actually Kayaba, since as the GMPC, he can call forth any item and thus cannot understand the true value of the item he just wasted.
Too Dumb to Live: Corbatz. Decided to take on a boss with his exhausted army, despite being warned against it. Even while being beaten by it, he refused to retreat. He predictably dies from his stubbornness.
All of the project staff involved in Project Alicization. A military AI research program that has figured out how to non-destructively upload human minds into computers, creating Virtual Ghosts they've dubbed "Fluctlights" - which they consider "just machines". After a series of false starts(Cloning Blues x And I Must Scream), they manage to create an entire virtual Japan filled with them... which they consider doubly worthless because they are Perfect Pacifist People who aren't suitable for being loaded into UAVs and sent to destroy enemies. So they begin hitting their virtual Japan with plagues and famines to Teach Them Anger... The arc's not over yet, but anyone besides the project personnel would have realized long ago that if those AIs ever find out exactly who's been playing "magnifying glass and ant" with their virtual Utopia, THEY WILL BE PISSED OFF BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION.
Asuna went from being a scared girl who hid in an inn to the 2nd in command of the strongest guild in Aincrad.
Klein started the game as a helpless noob who couldn't kill the weakest in-game enemy, into the leader of a Badass Crew.
Tranquil Fury: Kirito, once he gains administrator privileges in Alfheim Online, proceeds to off Sugou with application, remaining perfectly calm, until the very last blow.
Truce Zone: You can’t hurt anyone fatally in towns in SAO. This generally serves to prevent player kills (though there are ways around this), though it's still possible to knock people out if specific circumstances are met.
Asuna's wooden house on level 22 of the revived Aincrad is unofficially this for ALO players. Which causes some awkwardness when the leaders of opposing factions drop in for dinner...
The Sleeping Knights all met in the Serene Garden, which is a VR hospice for terminally ill patients and partied together from VR game to game afterwards.
Ultimate Gamer 386: Common for each of the story arcs, as they all take place in a virtual world. Most notable in SOA where both Heathcliff and Kirito become this.
Underestimating Badassery: This happens to Kirito alot in Volumes 2-7, though it's justified as Volume 2 involves interactions with people who haven't heard of him, and in ALO and GGO, he doesn't have the same rep he had in SAO, and is an unknown quantity. Ironically, while the top-level players in ALO know who he is, it's the middle to lower players who have never heard of him.
Unwinnable by Design: In ALO (while it was still under control of RECTO), the lore says that the first race to reach the top of the World Tree and go to the city in the sky will become Alfs (Alves?). The boss monsters that the players would have to pass/defeat have ridiculous spawn rate and the door does not open. This is due to Nobuyuki Sugou and his team is using the tree to hold and experiment on the 300 minds they captured from SAO.
Video Game Caring Potential / Video Game Cruelty Potential: Kirito, especially after his first year or so in Aincrad, deliberately invokes the former and avoids the latter. Before they become friends, he even fights a duel with Asuna to protect NPCs from being used as distractions to the Boss in the upcoming Boss Fight.
The War Sequence: The Grand Quest in Alfheim Online can be considered this; a motley crew of players (or maybe even a solo player) fighting their way through hoards of Guardian enemies. Kirito fails the quest on his first attempt, but succeeds later with help from Leafa, Recon, and the Sylph/Cait Sith alliance as backup.
Episode 17: Suguha is playing ALO as Leafa. Sougu is the one keeping Asuna and the other 300 players prisoner. ALO is nothing more than a front for Sougu's experiment in using the Full Dive technology for mind control.
What If?: The side story Caliber SSnote SS stands for sukoshi shippai which translates to Slight Failure retells the events of Caliber but with the twist of Klein not freeing Freya. It shows how different the events unfold from their slight slip-up. The Big Bad wins, but there's a bit of hope: the system generates a Defense of the Realm event, calling all players to defend ALO from the Frost Giants.
The upcoming videogame Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment : What would happen when a glitch interrupts the death duel between Kirito and Heathcliff which forces the players to continue clearing to the 100th floor while some players from ALO arrives in SAO?
What Measure Is a Non-Human??: On the 56th floor, Asuna, Kirito, the Knights of Blood and various other players were debating on the strategy they will use to fight the floor boss. Asuna proposed to use the nearby NPC villagers as a distraction while the players attack the boss. Kirito refused to help, saying that the NPCs were alive and that they should choose another way. Everyone in the KoB laughed at him, but in the end, Asuna believed that he was right. This also forms the core theme in the Alicization arc.
What You Are in the Dark: In ALO, Leafa learns that the Salamander's are preparing the ambush the leaders of the Sylph and Cait Sith races at their conference place. Leafa tells Kirito that it's in his best interest to cut her down and join the Salamanders, because if they successfully kill both leaders they'll obtain so much money that they should be able to successfully start challenging the World Tree. She even tells him that she understands and won't hold any grudge against him, but thinks to herself that she will likely never play ALO again if that happens.
Leafa:This is a game after all, so anything can happen. If you want to kill, then you can kill; if there is something you want, then you can steal it.
Kirito:...People who've said that, I have met too many of them. On one level, that is true, and I used to think that way too. But it isn't right. Especially in a virtual world, there are some things that you must protect, no matter how stupid you look. I was taught that by a person very important to me...VRMMOs are called games, but this is a contradiction; splitting the player and the role is not a good idea. If you take on traits in this world, your personality in the real world will reflect these changes. Players and their character are one. I like Leafa, and I want to be your friend. No matter what the reason, I will not kill you to further my own self-interests, absolutely not!
Win to Exit: Unless the final boss of SAO is defeated, players will remain trapped in the virtual world.
World Tree: The setting of Volume 3 has one, that is the goal of the game, and it’s called Yggdrasil. Unsurprising, since its setting heavily relies on Nordic terminology.
Worthy Opponent: Many of Kirito's opponents such as General Eugene become this. Kirito usually doesn't hold any grudges either.
Wrong Genre Savvy: In the "Caliber" sidestory in Volume 8, thanks to his experience as a gamer, Kirito fully expects NPC Freya, who's conveniently locked in a cell while looking for her treasure in the Frost Giant castle, to double-cross them. Except that the quest is based on Norse Mythology, specifically a legend in which Thor infiltrates the Frost Giant stronghold disguised as Freya, to retrieve the stolen Mjolnir; NPC Freya becomes party ally NPC Thor when they fight the final boss.
Well, in a way he was right. Freya certainly was a trap.
Yamato Nadeshiko: In A Murder Case in the Area we learn the story of Griselda, a sweet House Wife who was caught in the game alongside her husband Grimlock, then rose to the challenge of becoming a guildmaster. Bad thing? Grimlock has a Freak Out due to both the stress and seeing that she was more successful and independent than he though she was, so he killed her.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: In Volume 9, beginning the Alicization arc, Kirito has a part-time job as a beta tester for a new VRMMO that uses time acceleration: several weeks in-game are a weekend in the real world... at least at first. In the non-canon sidestory after Alicization ends, Kirito and harem spend fifty thousand hours (5 years 8 months) on an in-game honeymoon, while five hours pass in the real world.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: It's mostly averted in SAO; because the Nerve Gear scans the player's face and body, which is loaded as the avatar, most players - who are Japanese - don't have the complexions to match exotic hair colors. Only a few players have exotic hair colors, and changing color requires getting dye items from a monster drop.
Played straight in ALO and GGO, which function closer to conventional MMORPGs. Hair color is completely customizable - Asuna and Shino have blue hair in ALO.
You Are Too Late: In the (non-canon) bonus side story Caliber SS (Failure Side), the characters follow the events of Calibur and miss an important Event Flag, which results in their being unable to stop Alfheim from being attacked by the Frost Giants. It does, however, imply they will go on to battle the Big Bad before he can bring any more destruction and hopefully restore the world in the process.
Also played tragically straight in Red-nosed Reindeer, when Kirito tries to find a rare mob that drops an item that can revive a dead player around Christmas time. He does, and manages to get it, but finds out that the item can only be used within 10 seconds of the player's death, about 6 months too late to save Sachi, who died back in June. He gives it to Klein in the hopes that he can save someone in the future.
Zerg Rush: The guardians of the world tree employ this tactic. Yui later mentions after Kirito's first encounter with them that while individually they're rather weak, the sheer amount of them means they're as tough as an elite boss.