From the very moment I started playing Astral Chain , I got shivers down my spine. This game is one of, if not my favourite video games of 2019 so far. It is a brand-new IP that is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, which is developed by PlatinumGames and published by Nintendo. Although it had been in development for a while, that game was only announced earlier this year during a Nintendo Direct.
As of fan of Bayonetta, The Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Nier: Automata—I was excited when Astral Chain was announced. However, not a whole lot about the game has been shown up until recently before launch. And, still then I had questions about the game and how it played. Luckily, all those questions were answered in this last week that I spend playing PlatinumGames’ latest masterpiece. And, boy I was impressed.
Astral Chain Details
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Modes: Single player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Humanity’s last chance
Astral Chain takes place in the year 2078 where the world is under attack by the Chimera—an interdimensional species that started showing up after a meteorite collided with the Earth. Now, the human race is on the brink of extension and as a last resort has formed the Neuron Police Task Force. Equipped with Legions, Chimera that have been subdued, the Neuron Police Task Force is humankind’s last hope.
The story beings by showing us the on-going testing that is being done on the Chimera in the research lab in order to subdue them and use them in combat against. It’s during this opening sequence that we are dramatically introduced to the commander of the Neuron Police Task Force, one of the scientists involved in the research, an operator who supports the force from headquarters and the game’s two protagonist. To be honest, it felt like I was watching a feature film.
You take on the role of one of two fraternal twins who have both just been hired by the Neuron Police Task Force to help fight against the Chimera. The game’s story unfolds beautifully via interactions with other members of the Neuron Police Task Force, people out on the street and via in-game cutscenes. PlatinumGames did a fantastic job with character development in the game. Characters evolve and change throughout the story and as a result it shows that they all are unique with different personalities.
Uniquely varied gameplay
What I love most about Astral Chain is its uniquely varied gameplay. Not only is it full of fast-paced action and combat, there is also a deep combat system and cases to be solved by investigating crimes. The Police station acts as your main hub and this is where you can train, buy items and collect your rewards. When you complete a level, you are scored based on a variety of factors. The better you do, the greater your reward.
The Synergetic Action system
Combat in Astral Chain is unique in that not only do you control your character but also your Legion at the same time. Your Legion can be used to combat against Chimera or to distract them so that you can use an item or heal. There are five different types of Legions that you unlock during the course of the game: Sword, Arrow, Beast, Arm and Axe Legion. All have the own special abilities and play styles. Additionally, each of the five different Legion have their own skill trees to further customize their abilities and gameplay styles.
You Legion has a variety of attacks including Chain Attacks and Sync Attacks. As you might have guessed, Chain Attacks involve the chain that bonds you to your Legion. You can use it do wrap around enemies and temporarily chain them to the ground to get more attacks in. Also, you can use your chain as a chain counter attack that sends your opponent back in the direction they came.
Sync attacks are my favourite because they allow you to team up with your Legion to double team your enemy with special attacks. Additionally, Sync Attacks can be used to build greater combos and can be performed while dodging or during combos. It really adds a unique flair to gameplay and involves thought to use, not just mashing the buttons. And, to top it off, all these gameplay elements are slowly introduced to you so that you can learn and get a grasp of them.
Gorgeous anime inspired visuals with top notch production values
One of the first aspects of Astral Chain that really impressed me are its production values. From the game’s story, to the character voice acting, to the game’s futuristic cyberpunk setting and visuals—it’s all top notch.
Instead of trying to go for ultra realistic graphics, Astral Chain plays to the Switch’s strengths. The game’s art style is heavily inspired by anime and is full of bright colours. All of which look incredible both in docked and portable mode. There were many times while playing Astral Chain that I couldn’t believe I was playing on the Switch. It’s that good!
Along with the futuristic cyberpunk setting and anime inspired visuals comes a compelling score. Sound plays a major part in Astral Chain in help setting the tone. The soundtrack includes orchestral, metal and futuristic electronic music. In my opinion, it’s icing on the cake for an already phenomenal game. Again, there were times when I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing was coming for a Switch game. It blew my mind!
Sometimes two players aren’t better than one
Central to Astral Chain‘s gameplay is controlling two entities. Taking it a step further is the ability for two players to play at the same time. In this scenario one player controls the protagonist and the other controls the Legion.
It reminded me quite a bit of the multiplayer in Super Mario Galaxy where one player controls Mario and the other player controls a second Star Pointer on the screen to collect Star Bits and shoot them at enemies. Although it was a bit difficult with two players in Astral Chain, after a while things started to click.
Its very important to come up with a strategy and not just do your own thing. I found that by each person attacking different enemies allowed for us to get better coverage against the Chimera. I wouldn’t really ever buy Astral Chain for this multiplayer ability but it was a nice touch that they added to the game.
Astral Chain is one of this year’s best games and my favourite new IP in recent memory
Astral Chain is easily one of this year’s best games and my favourite new IP in recent memory. Everything about the game is top notch and PlatniumGames should be commended for it. The game’s main characters each have their own personality and are brilliantly voiced throughout the game. The story contains surprises and twists, some of which you won’t see coming. And, the game’s anime inspired visuals are gorgeous!
Gameplay shines with fast-paced combat that will keep you on your toes. Attacks are much more than just mashing buttons and controlling two characters at once involves a lot of strategic thinking. If your worried about gameplay being too complex, don’t. There are plenty of training opportunities to learn and hone your skills. It’s more about enjoying the game and its story than trying to punish you for not knowing what buttons to press.
I highly recommend Astral Chain and hope that this is a first of many games to come in the future.
+ Varied gameplay
+ Beautiful visuals and fantastic accompanying soundtrack
+ Engaging story
+ Great amount of content
+ AAA presentation
– Camera can be touches sometimes
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF ASTRAL CHAIN
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5