It's a recap movie with original content, released between Seasons 1 and 2 of Sword Art Online. The girls wear swimsuits as everyone reminisces about Season 1, then at the end there's a new but unimportant original story. Our heroes go gaming together and go on a quest.
I enjoyed it. Season 1 came out in 2012 and I'm about to start watching Season 3 (Alicization), so this was a good time to brush up on old friends. Sensibly, they don't try to make the clips hang together. There's way too much story for a 100-minute condensed version, so instead it's more like illustrated reminiscences. A man from the government interviews Kirito about what happened, while the girls go swimming and talk about Kirito.
(Yes, they do keep going on and on about Kirito. That's the film's main problem, to be honest. The clips are logically chosen and demonstrate the big emotional turning points, but unfortunately the TV series is so Kirito-centric that it just feels like a big middle finger to the Bechdel test. The one who does best at demonstrating growth in her own right is Kirito's sister, Suguha, despite that brother complex of hers. She learns to swim! Oh, and the references to her not being his sister don't mean they're not blood related. She's still his cousin.)
It's still good material, though. Kirito and Asuna's romance goes further than in most light novel series, to marriage and even a pseudo-daughter, Yui. The SAO death game hurts. People get killed. Asuna needs to be yanked out of a goal-focused mindset that's doing her no good psychologically. Kirito loses fights. (Oh, and Lisbeth is a light-hearted pervert.)
Incidentally, it's written by Reki Kawahara, the original light novel author. Apparently, all those swimsuits are in the film because he wrote four times the required amount of script.
Then, after all the recaps, the gang goes on a quest in the Undersea Temple of ALfheim Online. There's nothing at stake here, no one's going to die and nothing matters. It's fairly skippable, but it's nice when Yui sees her whale.
Is this any kind of substitute for the original? Hell, no. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It has emotion, action and some strong scenes (even though they're flashbacks). I'm expecting to enjoy Alicization when I start it tomorrow.