--The review contains minor spoilers--
Since I've seen a plethora of scores of 10 for this show, I thought I'd write what I feel is a more realistic review for this show. Sword Art Online is more or less the equivalent of a fanfiction in it's writing and quality. Whether people want to overlook it or not is up to the individual, but I believe it fails at the fundamentals for writing a good story. This review will go into details as to my opinions on why I feel this way.
1) Story - This is first major problem is the show. Let's start from the beginning shall we. The first arc consists of 14 episodes. The first 2 episodes are honestly pretty good and set up the plot of the show that should follow. You're introduced to the main characters and it shows mmo style of play. I mean with 2 episodes that are amazing, surely what follows will be more of the adventures of the main characters and these mmo boss fights...right? Wrong. What follows are 5 completely irrelevant side character episodes and unnecessary terrible time skips that ruin any sense of a story the first 2 episodes set up. So due to some illogical reason, we're now down to 7 episodes to tell the rest of this story. Still doable right? RIGHT? Wrong again. The series wastes another 2 1/2 episodes on pointless filler garbage. So there you have it over half of first part of the story has nothing to do with the overall plot. Well what about the other episodes you ask? The remaining "plot" episodes are filled with deus ex machina in its purest form. Even the finale of the first season makes absolutely no sense. This isn't a fantasy world, it's a freaking video game, you can't have miracles here. So that concludes my issues with season 1, which the majority of SAO fans consider to be the best part....Yeh you heard me, the 2nd part is even worse.
Without going into spoilers, the 2nd part of the series takes place in a different setting, with a mostly new cast aside from our main hero. This part of the series probably deserves the award for most unnecessary story in the history of anime. This arc is pretty much a mario game. Our hero must save the princess in the castle. Not really much to say about it. Oh yeh deus ex machina finale here too...oh and there's an incest subplot...for some reason. This concludes the plot section. I think I'm being pretty generous with a 4 here.
2) Art - The art is fantastic. Colorful characters, bosses (the few we see), and settings are all here. It's easily worth an 8.
3) Sound - Again fantastic. Nothing wrong with it at all. 8.
4)Characters - Here we go...This is easily the worst part of the series. I'll separate the main characters and lump together the not so main characters.
Kirito/Kazuto - The main character of this show is the epitome of the current definition of a "Gary Stu". He has no personality whatsoever. He is good at everything he tries for no reason. He's an amazing player, an super sleuth, a ladies man, and a master hacker. You name it, he can do it. There's no reason given for this other than he's just that good. Girls all love him, guys want to be him, and villains are jealous of him. He also solos MMO boss fights...yeh wrap your head around that one. Side note - I often see people claim they love this show because they're hardcore gamers. I have to say as an avid gamer myself I find this show to be insulting. Unless you've hacked or cheated , I don't understand why you're content with a character who does. Side note over.
Asuna - The main female lead/most blatant waifu character ever. Asuna is introduced as a strong player who can stand on her own with Kirito, that is for the first couple episodes. Once she reappears she barely does anything other than cook for Kirito. That's right, her ass stays in the kitchen, while Kirito does all the important stuff. In part 2 she does absolutely nothing...seriously. She again has no original personality...textbook Tsundere.
Yui - This character is terrible in all senses of the word. She's walking deus ex machina, nothing more. This character should be hated by any gamer, since she's a cheat device, who adds nothing to the story.
Villains (minor spoilers) - There are 2 major villains in this series and they're both terrible. The first one forgets his motives for doing everything in part 1 and the part 2 one is so comically evil he can't even be taken seriously.
Other Characters/ Who the hell cares - The female characters all want to have sex with Kirito and have no personality past this. The male characters don't get to do anything because Kirito hogs the show from everyone. That's really all there is to say about that.
Suguha - This is Kirito's sister. She honestly has layers and was a plus to the show in my opinion. I don't know why she's in this show, she doesn't belong in it...
So yeh, Gary Stu and Waifu - these characters are pathetic (1).
5) Enjoyment - Needless to say I didn't enjoy it. Poor show (3)
6) Overall - This show has so many fans, and I really don't know why. Its plot is rushed and terrible. Its characters so flat, it's almost funny...almost. Its romance is highly misogynistic and terribly developed. I felt insulted watching this, and don't understand how any could like this show. Even Gamers.