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Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown Beginner’s Guide: Tips, Tricks & Strategies to Defeat Vicious Enemies

“Glad that’s over!” You say as you take off your Nerve Gear. Kirito, a renowned veteran beta-tester for Sword Art Online, had beaten the final boss of the game, which somehow stopped its deranged game developer from microwaving everyone’s skulls on in-game death. “What idiot puts a brain fryer in a VR device!?

The game can’t make money if its customers are dead, what were they thinking?” You wonder whether the crazy developer got their think-meat flambeed by their own Nerve Gear or if the JSDF simply shot him to death for putting out a dangerous product and marketing it to teenagers since you weren’t there to watch Kirito do a default dance over the dev’s in-game corpse. You turn on the news and see an ad for a new game: Cross Edge, a VR fighting game with awesome graphics.

sword art online vs guide

Suddenly, your wallet feels a bit lighter and you have a copy of the game on your smartphone. You wire your phone to your Nerve Gear and say “What could possibly go wrong?” You figure out exactly what could go wrong once you see familiar in-game assets from Sword Art Online try to kill you again. “I should’ve just gotten used to touch-based controls…” Once more, your beloved skull is at risk, and it’s up to Kirito to save the day, along with your brains!

Welcome to our Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown Beginner’s Guide! Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown is, ironically enough, a free-to-play single-player game where the only “online” part is your account, inventory, and free stuff from the developers.

sword art online vs cover

Published by Japanese gaming bigshots Bandai-Namco of Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, Tekken, and Soul Calibur fame, Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown is an action-based tag-team arena fighter where your roster of characters is put in an arena to beat the stuffing out of whatever enemy compositions or bosses the game wants to kill them with. You can have 3 characters in a team, who you can Switch between mid-fight not just to change characters, but also to evade staggers and do some powerful combo strikes.

You can use characters from the Sword Art Online series, such as Kirito, Leafa, and others to fight battles, and you get them via gacha, with most characters having different versions of themselves to bolster what would otherwise be a fairly limited selection.

sword art online vs game start

High-speed gameplay that starts off brain-dead easy but eventually gets dangerously difficult and rewards good positioning and situational awareness mixed with butter-smooth touch controls make the face of the game. Behind the action though are some familiar but well-thought-out mechanics to make your characters stronger, especially the Ability Cards system which can sometimes allow your characters to take jobs beyond their designated class expectations.

If you can get over the game’s rather divisive branding and storyline (People either love the Sword Art Online anime or despise it greatly, though people tend to be kinder to the spin-offs like Gun Gale Online), you get a very solid action game where pure raw-dogging get-good skill counts as much as your patience for grinding.


sword art online vs water-elemental pickup scout
Some thought needs to go into the part before the fight, so the fight itself goes smoothly.

As a gacha mobile game, Sword Art Online VS is a fairly new release as of this writing, lacking in some features most other gacha games have, such as a pity system. The game may also give a new player some rather long-lasting headaches should they make uninformed decisions early in their game career, such as running a single color team as their first team, giving them resource problems early on, and slowing their progression down. Here are some tips to mitigate these problems.

Multicolor Teams: Good For Resource Management And General Use

sword art online vs lack of green element
The lack of a green element means you’ll have some days you can’t make progress thanks to daily Memory Quest rotations.

Your first team should consist of very disparate, differing characters: This is because different character types, classes, and elements have different materials needed to power them up. If you have a team consisting of similar members, you’ll have those three characters fighting over certain resources while other resources you can’t use pile up.

This means the team will have a very rough time leveling up beyond 60, especially since you’re new to the game and likely cannot get enough materials fast enough. A good side effect of a tricolor team is that you’re never truly weak against enemy compositions too: If you find enemies who are strong against your current character’s element, simply swap to another character who can counter them right back!

Related: Sword Art Online Variant Showdown Tier List: Ranking Each Character in the Game

A single-color team only becomes viable after you get at least a single general-purpose team ready and can now afford to grind specific resources you want since the general-purpose tricolor team can be sent in against things the single-color team is weak against and still do decently, while the single color team can utterly demolish anything they’re strong against.

Unlimited Newbie Rolls: Starter Scout

sword art online vs rerolling
Infinite retries on your first roll mean you should make that first roll count.

Once you start your game, you will have access to the Starter Scout gacha roll. This is an infinitely repeatable roll, which you only lose once you actually accept what you got. Since you can do it again and again, do not be satisfied with just say, a single SSR character and some abilities: Aim for the heavens, and roll until you have several of your favorite characters or a ton of SSR abilities and characters.

A good goal is to get 3-6 SSRs and matching abilities for them and make sure all of them are of different classes and character types. That way, you can follow the tip above about efficient resource allocation. Take the entire day to re-roll if you must. That being said the bare minimum you can aim for is 2 different SSRs that aren’t the Water-element Kirito, since you start off with an SSR Water-element Kirito, and teams are made of 3 members!

Try To Get A Healer, and Read Character Cards Before Accepting the Starter Scout

sword art online vs character details
Always read character cards thoroughly, especially while doing your first roll.

One particular character type you should aim for with the Starter Scout gacha is any SSR with some form of healing ability or an Ability Card that allows healing: Early in the game, it’s possible to roll over enemies simply by bringing DPS characters and wailing on whatever’s in front of you.

Later on, though, you’ll notice enemies doing some real damage and heavily punishing mistakes on your end. A healer can go very far in mitigating this, dampening the consequences of mistakes or lessening difficult-to-avoid damage simply by patching your team up.

Remember too that after you roll in the Starter Scout, you can hold down cards on the result screen and read the skills and descriptions of Characters and Ability Cards. This way, you can decide whether or not to accept the gacha roll more easily, instead of immediately saying yes.

Save Your Skip Cards For Events, Or High-level Grind-worthy Missions

sword art online vs skip cards
These cards make grinding events easier.

One thing you’ll notice with most of the grinding missions (Daily Quests, Event Bosses, etc) is the fact most of them have increasing tiers with harder difficulties and better rewards. You unlock these better tiers by beating the ones before them.  You’ll also notice that you get Mission Skip cards for doing certain tasks and for receiving certain rewards.

Don’t use these cards immediately! Instead, hoard these Skip cards until you unlock the highest tier of these quests, especially Event Bosses. That way, you can use these Skip cards on the highest difficulty and earn more rewards per card used, thus spending them efficiently. 

Of course, if there’s only a short time left before the boss rotates, and they happen to shove your face into the dirt every time in the highest difficulty, you’re free to spend those Skip Tickets on whichever was the best difficulty you beat them in to grab any rewards you might want from the aforementioned boss.

Save Stamina Batteries for Events

sword art online vs stamina battery
It doesn’t look like money, but it might as well be when paired with Skip Cards.

The game will occasionally give you Stamina Batteries for completing tasks, quests, and events. You can use them any time you want as long as your stamina meter isn’t full, and it can overfill your stamina meter. These are very useful for grinding Event bosses down and doing Limited Time missions that reward repeat attempts. Along with Skip Tickets, you can basically treat Stamina Batteries as currency to “buy” mission rewards. So save them up!

Save Your Variant Crystals

sword art online vs rolling
You may want to wait for them to set up a pity system before giving them your VC.

At the moment, there isn’t much in the way of gacha pity in the game, so you may want to hold off on gacha rolls as of this writing until the devs install some form of pity system. That being said, if you DO wish to roll the gacha and cannot wait, we suggest rolling 10-rolls. 10-rolls guarantee one SR and above drop, so they’re better than spamming single rolls which lack that guarantee.

We also suggest you save for Premium Tickets, since those guarantee an SSR. Remember though: Never spend VC (Variant Crystals) on rolls unless it’s a big event. You want those crystals to get you useable units after all.

Story Cutscenes

sword art online vs rewards on reading
Love it or hate it, the story comes with free stuff, so watch it!

After beating several missions in the Campaign story or even Event Bosses, you’ll unlock Story cutscenes you can play in the Story tab. Make sure to watch these as they unlock: They don’t just come with talk, they come with rewards!

Often, you’ll either get VC or SSR Ability Cards from watching unlocked cutscenes, so gun for them even if the story mission rewards themselves don’t look particularly appealing at the moment.


sword art online vs combat
With a name like Cross Edge, expect a lot of crossing sword edges together.

Sword Art Online VS is a fast-paced action game with a lot going on. While it starts off easy, it ramps up in difficulty later on and rewards careful positioning and attack avoidance. There are quite a few things you can do beyond just getting Kirito to stab enemies in the face repeatedly, such as switching between party members and charging up for an Awakening spam barrage. Here are the basics of fighting.

Attacking and Dodging

sword art online vs bonk
Virtual foes still don’t enjoy the use of all-too-physical force.

The most basic things you can do in the game apart from running around is to attack and dodge. You have an attack and dodge button where your right thumb would go if you hold your smartphone like a controller.

Different characters will have different basic attacks, such as Kirito having rapid sword swings, Lisbeth swinging her mace wide but a little bit more slowly, and Sinon shooting people with a charging sniper rifle, the cheater.

You can get away with bashing enemies up with little regard for your own safety early on, but later enemies will start hitting harder, and dodging will be your best friend, along with bringing a healer on your team. Dashing can also be used to close the distance against a foe so you can slap them with melee attacks or skills, very useful if you’re trying to keep a Rush going.

Dynamic Entry! Specials and Switch Combos

sword art online vs switch
Tag me! Tag me NOW!

Directly above the attack and dodge buttons are your currently selected character’s special skills, and buttons to swap between party members. Each character has 2 skills to their name and they have cooldowns, and so does swapping between party members.

Swapping and special abilities have a unique mechanic between the two: If you use a skill and then swap party mates immediately after, your incoming party member will perform an attack as they jump in!

You can chain these until all your party members are on cooldown to do serious damage, and the next tip allows you to spam it after dealing sufficient damage. You’ll know you timed your Switch Combo successfully if the game tells you “Just Switch!” on the screen.

Awakening Gauge

sword art online vs awakening
Once that bar goes up, your character Awakens. As for the enemy, you put them to sleep instead!

At the bottom of your screen is the Awakening Gauge. Think of it as a super-bar: You fill it up by hurting, harming, and otherwise violently inconveniencing your enemies. When it fills up, you can press the button at the end of the bar, which Awakens your party. Awakening gets rid of all your skill and swap cooldowns for a short time, allowing you to spam swap attacks and rack up some tasty dopamine-activating damage numbers!

Once you deal enough damage with that, you can press the Awakening button again to do special finisher moves unique to the character you’re currently controlling. You’ll need this during boss fights since those are usually the only enemies that last long enough for your Awakening gauge to fill up early on.

Rush, Rush, Rush!

sword art online vs rush

If you do a long enough combo, you’ll notice a grade on the screen telling you how cool it is based on how many hits you’ve chained, going from D to S. This is the Rush gauge. A longer combo gives you a better Rush grade, which in turn increases the damage you deal with every hit. Trying to raise your Rush gauge by spamming normal attacks can take a while, and doing Swap attacks is a much faster way to get a high Rush grade.

sword art online vs combat 2
Fighting hard is all well and good, but fighting smart will make all that hard work count for a lot more than it has any right to.

If the above tips are the basics of combat, then these tips are what you use those basics for. Sword Art Online VS lets you fight brainlessly early on thanks to early rewards allowing you to immediately level a team to about level 40 at a stage where you’ll be fighting level 5 enemies for a good while in the campaign.

But eventually, you WILL hit enemies of equal level to you, and even before that you’ll notice certain things warning you of what’s to come, such as the long stagger times you get after taking a single hit, bosses with quick-time events, along with red hitbox attacks that would normally murder an equally leveled player if they’re careless.

And even in early levels where there is no chance the enemy can hurt you with their pitiful low-level attacks, your grade is still penalized if you carelessly take hits!

Reposition, Don’t Button Mash

sword art online vs run
Not a fun place to stand on.

Always be aware of your positioning compared to your enemies: The flashy effects on the screen are really good at obscuring your vision, and you might find yourself mashing your skills and hitting nothing.

Attacks that directly drag you to the enemy are surprisingly rare, so don’t mash your attacks: Instead, always make sure you’re in the enemy’s face by dashing into them or simply running toward them, and taking note once the enemy dies so your cooldowns are not wasted on air.

Ironically, the only thing worth mashing is the basic Attack button, since it moves you toward your enemy a little bit every time you use it. And even then, mashing it only works if you’re hilariously overpowered compared to the enemy, or until you’re within range to use skills.

Read Enemy Attacks

sword art online vs front
Staying in front of a boss for too long is bad for your health.

Most enemies telegraph their attacks in this game, especially bosses. Whether it be a red circle on the ground or a wind-up for a swing, the game makes sure if you get hit, it’s your fault. Make sure you learn enemy attack patterns as you fight, and look for openings to attack.

In the future, you might also do well to bring characters whose attacks exploit a certain enemy’s attacks, such as bringing a ranged character to avoid an enemy with dangerous melee attacks entirely. Do your best to attack bosses from the side or the rear too, and keep an eye on their wind-up animations to avoid damage.

Best Time To Switch: After A Hit

sword art online vs staggered
Time to tag out!

Opening with Switch Combos immediately is a good idea early on when you can simply roll over enemies, and you just want stuff murdered ASAP and move on to the next campaign story mission. Even early on though, you’ll notice that taking hits staggers you for a fairly long time, and even on lower difficulties where the damage is negligible, it can be very annoying, and worse, cost you your speed ranking in later fights.

If you’re staggered, that’s usually a good time to Switch and do Switch combos, since you can use Switching to get out of stagger and go back to dictating the flow of the battle. Most of the time, you might want to use your DPS main when you can get away with it, so make sure you rotate back to your main DPS when doing Switch combo chains.

Elemental Rock Paper Scissors Beats Overleveling

sword art online vs bad match
One more reason the writer should have kept rolling the Starter Scout for a longer while than they did.

One of the best reasons for bringing a tricolor team as a rookie is it allows you to use skill to beat enemies a higher level than you are: While you’ll be taking serious damage from any mistakes if you fight an overleveled enemy, bringing say, a Fire elemental Fighter class against Wind type enemies gives you such a huge advantage over them that even if you’re underleveled, you’ll still kill mooks in a single basic attack combo! 

This is important so you can unlock and grind the final tier of Daily Quests more easily even if you’re a whopping 20 levels below the recommended level to beat it. You won’t be getting 3 stars or S++ ratings by fighting overleveled enemies, but you’ll win and nab whatever material you’re grinding for with superior drop rates, which is more important anyway. Of course, Event bosses are a different story, since they’re already difficult even when matching elements and levels!

As for how the elements work, Fire suffocates Wind, Wind blows away Water, and Water douses Fire. Fire is marked by a red icon, Water by blue, and Wind by green. Enemy element types are noted both before battle and shown when enemies are targeted, so use characters accordingly.


sword art online vs overmatch
Skill or perseverance, one or the other can win you the day. But both at once will make it easier.

Every match you play has a Recommended Level number on it which tells you what level your team needs to be to beat it relatively quickly. While you can theoretically use skill and dodging prowess to beat anything in the game as long as you have just enough DPS not to run the timer down, leveling up is a sensible thing to do to make life easier. That being said, direct character levels aren’t the only way to get a stronger team. Here are the various ways to power up the characters in your current roster.

Leveling Up

sword art online vs level up
EXP Chips are not meant to be eaten.

The most basic way to strengthen a character, leveling them up with EXP Chips strengthens their overall stat numbers. All characters start with a maximum level of 60, but ranking them up will increase their max level by 5 every time, and the final max level is 75.

Most missions have a recommended level to fight them with, and while matching the level or overpowering it isn’t necessary to beat it, a high level certainly helps a lot and can make the difference between a hard-fought win, and a 3-star win allowing you to grind the mission with Skip tickets.

Unlocking Potential

sword art online vs star up
This is where you go to spend the results of “bad” rolls.

Unlocking Potential is the equivalent of other star-up mechanics in other games, such as Cookie Run Kingdom’s Promotions and Ascensions. Here is where you spend the duplicates you get from gacha rolls to power up characters you already own. Starring your characters up will give them a larger power boost when compared to leveling them up once.

Character Rank Up

ranking up in sword art online vs
Varying materials for varying characters are needed to promote them.

Rank Ups are the reason your starter team should ideally be made of 3 different character elements with 3 different character classes. Ranking Up increases the maximum level of a character and requires various materials dependent on character class and element.

At first, you’ll need Memories of the same color as the character’s element color, and Records that match the character’s unit class, such as Fighter Records being used for Fighter characters, both marked by a sword icon.

You can get Memories on a daily rotation through the Daily Quests tab along with Digits and EXP Chips, and you can grind new or previously beaten Story Campaign missions for Records. For Records, you can check which specific missions they drop in by holding down their image, which brings up a screen telling you their drop locations.

Ability Cards

sword art online vs ability card enhancement
Ability Cards can make characters do their designated roles more effectively, or fill any gaps in your team’s fighting ability.

Ability Cards provide various buffs to characters who equip them. Much like the characters themselves, Ability Cards come in R, SR, and SSR rarities. Make sure you read what an Ability Card can do carefully: Ability Cards often boost stats specific to character classes or elements, and it is entirely possible to equip a powerful Water-element damage-boosting card to a Fire element character, which renders the card entirely pointless.

Make sure to match the appropriate Ability Cards to appropriate characters and even team compositions, to get the most out of those cards and your characters too. Much like Characters, Ability Cards can be leveled up and starred up.

You can level Ability Cards up using Ability Cores and low-tier Ability Cards, which, while it does not power their direct ability, increases the basic stat boost the card gives. Starring them up requires card duplicates same as characters.


sword art online vs dailies
The day’s work isn’t done yet!

Like any mobile game, you’ll often find yourself developing a daily routine as you play Sword Art Online VS. The Stamina system, grindable Daily Quests with an attempt limit, and even Event Bosses all contribute to the daily grind, with the end goal of getting yourself unstuck from whatever difficult Campaign mission you reach which you can’t just bash your skull through, or going up just one tier higher against the current Event Boss. Here are some daily habits you can do beyond just checking your Daily Login rewards.

Daily Quests

sword art online vs daily digit
sword art online vs daily exp
sword art online vs daily memory
In any game, there is the grind. Virtual reality is no different.

The Daily Quests under the Quests tab are your main way to grind the basic stuff needed to upgrade your characters. Every time you beat one, you unlock the next tier of the Daily Quest mission, which you can fight at your own risk. There are separate missions for separate materials:

Digit Quest earns you Digits, the basic currency of the game. You need Digits for absolutely every single thing you do outside of beating up enemies. You need them to level up, to star characters up, to rank characters up and strengthen Ability Cards, etc. There is also a Digit Shop in the Shop section, where they sell basic items for rank-ups and leveling.

EXP Quests are important for leveling your characters up since they drop EXP Chips. EXP Chips are the basic material for leveling your characters, and while you can quickly reach level 60, you may need more of them if you want several balanced team compositions. Not to mention extra for after you rank your characters up.

Memory Drop Quests are needed to rank your characters up and increase their maximum level since they give out Elemental Memory Drops. The element rotates between Fire, Water, and Wind, and a different Element is available every day with all elements available on Sundays.

You should always clear these missions daily if you want your characters to power up at a reasonable pace, especially so you don’t get stuck in the story campaign. You get 3 attempts a day for each mission type, and these missions are quick enough that we don’t recommend using Skip tickets on them. Use Skips on Event Bosses or difficult Campaign regrinding instead!

Check The Current Events

sword art online vs event check
The rewards for events are in closer reach than one thinks if they grind them when they come.

Every week or so, a new Event Boss is available to beat up. Always jump into these boss fights, since they can give a bevy of rewards beyond the V Crystal stipend you get for first wins: You can earn Arena Points from these fights, and reaching a certain amount of those points can earn you various prizes. These range from humble Digits to tasty SSR Ability Cards.

Fight the one most appropriate to your team’s current level so you can get better drops and drop counts from these bosses. The highest-difficulty version of Event bosses is usually the best way to burn your Stamina and Skip tickets.

Character Enhancement

sword art online vs character enhancement
After the grinding, use your winnings to make your team stronger so they can get more work done faster in the future.

Once you’ve done your Daily Quests, you then go to the Character Enhancement screen to spend your earnings. The easiest thing to do out of all of these is to level up your characters, but you should also check if they’re ready to rank-up or star-up.

Check on this every day, because running into a campaign wall and then realizing you were able to level your characters up the whole time is highly inconvenient and annoying. Ideally, you either do this last, or right before you expect to unlock a new difficulty in Daily Quests or the current Event Boss.

Expend Stamina

sword art online vs feel the burn
An empty stamina meter is the best sign of a login well spent.

Every day, especially if you’re at a far enough level that you don’t expect to suddenly level up your account and get a Stamina refresh from it, do your best to drain your total Stamina count. Stamina recharges over time, and you need it to do missions.

That being said, unspent stamina is wasted time and wasted resources, since you can only have a limited stock every day barring what you get from quest rewards and sudden level-up refills, which can go over the limit. An empty stamina meter is a sign that you’ve done good grinding for the day.

And this ends our Sword Art Online: Variant Showdown Beginner’s Guide. We hope this helps. If you have your own tips or tricks to share, feel free to drop us a line!