Title: Astral Chain
Genre: Action, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Audience: PEGI 16
Release Date: 30/08/19
Price: £49.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Astral Chain is the latest release from the much loved PlatinumGames, a Japanese Developer with superb pedigree, famed for the Bayonetta Series, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (no that’s not a real word) and the quite amazing NieR: Automata released on the PS4 in 2017.
These guys until now have done little wrong; so what happens when you blend the Midas touch of a beloved studio with the might of Nintendo’s investment as a publisher? Read on to find out.
Astral Chain tells the story of two mysterious twins, Akira and a custom name of your choice (I chose Shakira), who have unexpectedly been promoted to work for a government crime-fighting agency called Neuron, and tasked to help protect the Ark, humanities last stand against the portal dwelling otherworldly beast Chimeras.
These Chimeras aim for world domination by capturing remaining humans and dragging them back through the portal-like tears in reality called Gates, which traverse the two dimensions.
How can you defeat these Chimeras, you say? You fight fire with fire, standing toe to toe alongside a captured Chimera of your own called Legions, who are chained to the protagonist for safekeeping.
This is where the game flourishes, with an absolute joy of a combat system, focused around the partnership between the player and Legion and essentially allowing you to control the two fighters at the same instance. There are so many possibilities available to the player, and whether you send your Legion into battle alone, or feed off one another for hit combos and multipliers, the mechanic works incredibly well, it’s so satisfying. I cannot stress just how clever and innovative it is!
The game is set in the late 21st Century and has a futuristic Cyberpunk 2077 like vibe with lots of neon lights and talking vending machines. Graphically it’s gorgeous, it really is, just stunning, and the environments tease you to explore every nook and cranny of the world at your disposal. You actively want to talk to every NPC across the cityscape, and soak up every article of background story you can find, bravo to the writers for a story with such depth and purpose, if this isn’t already on the way to becoming a graphic novel I’d be very surprised.
The soundtrack wonderfully mirrors every action sequence, with broad electronic sounds, and thrashing guitars that drag you into the story, headphones for Switch Handheld mode are a must!
During the opening sequences, and immediately following the first Act there is a trailer video for the game that contains a pulse-racing track called ‘Savior” composed by Satoshi Igarashi, it sets the player up for the journey ahead, and well worth a listen for anyone.
The game is full to the brim with fantastic battle sequences, with 3 varying difficulty scales, accommodating the most novice or hardcore players, and leaving the game accessible for everyone. The more challenging difficulty settings will see the player receive a grading at the end of each Act, so will push players to deliver the most streamlined performances in battle in pursuit of the greatest reward.
As the game progresses, you have the opportunity to expand your arsenal of Legions, each a different beast with varying capabilities. Examples such as archery, brute strength, or riding on the back of your Legion between sequences to jump across gaps in the landscape, it adds a wonderful depth and variety across the 10 acts of the game. This variety also helps the player to navigate some platforming sections of the game that take place across the Astral Plane and add some exciting puzzle dynamics to the fray.
To ensure the intense battle sequences don’t overload the player, acts are broken up with sections for the player to do some Police investigation work, often these tasks are relatively simple and resolved by just speaking to everyone you see, travelling from A to B, buy an NPC lunch for information and so forth. It’s all rather simplistic, and if I was overly critical, the weakest part of the game, however, it does offer some respite to break up the intensity and allow your heart rate to return to a regular resting rate for the moment.
The game itself has in recent weeks been shrouded in press coverage, with review bombing by disgruntled PS4 and Xbox owners and a public outcry to be released across the broader platforms. This has evoked a public response from Game Director Hideki Kamiya stating “I’m just a developer fulfilling my contractual obligations, maybe you can try asking my publisher and investor Nintendo?”. I think the short answer is, this game is rightfully a Nintendo exclusive, and it’s terrific to see this little handheld get an opportunity to knock it out of the park across an IP that isn’t Mario, Zelda etc.
PlatinumGames have done a splendid job, and Astral Chain is superb. It paces itself with confidence, and despite clocking an enviable 20 hours to finish the main story, it will leave the player with an unrelenting craving to return to the Ark.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Astral Chain from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/ASTRAL-CHAIN–1513766.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.