Last month, we reported on how Sword Art Online, the fictional virtual reality game made popular by the anime of the same name, was becoming a real virtual reality game thanks to IBM. Now, it's really happening.

More than 100,000 people applied for the chance to try out Sword Art Online: The Beginning, and now, 200 lucky gamers are doing just that in Tokyo. The testing period for the software is being conducted from March 18 to March 20.

It certainly looks impressive. Just as in the anime, players wear a Nervegear VR helmet (sporting an Oculus Rift) to experience the fantasy world of Sword Art Online first hand. Unlike the anime, players don't become trapped inside the game or die in real life, should their avatar be defeated by one of the game's numerous monsters. As we previously reported, players will have their likeness scanned into the game, where they can then interact with the world and other testers.

However, it's not all fun and games. The project is a way for IBM to test out its Soft Layer cloud service as well as its cognitive computing tech. Below, you can see images from Inside Games and 4Gamer (via Kotaku) of players testing out the experience for themselves.

It's worth noting that one player featured in the photos is definitely cosplaying as Kirito, the main character in Sword Art Online. Considering fictional Kirito was a beta tester for Sword Art Online in the anime, it only makes sense that a Kirito cosplayer would also test out the real-world version of Sword Art Online.

With VR on the rise, it wouldn't be surprising if this isn't the last time we see a virtual reality Sword Art Online game. From the sheer number of applicants alone, it seems clear that fans want to be able to experience the show's fantasy world firsthand. IBM says this early test for the software is an "alpha," so, presumably, a beta and a final version of the project will eventually see the light of day, though there's no word yet on when fans might expect the next opportunity to test out the software.

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