Title: Shinsekai: Into the Depths
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 26/03/2020
Price: £15.99 – A code was kindly provided for review purposes.
For someone with a fear of deep diving and underwater creatures, I sure do play a lot of games involving deep-sea exploration…maybe because I would never do it in real life. When finding the trailer for this review, I came across a comment which describes Shinsekai perfectly, so I have to start with it: ‘what if we made an entire game the water level, but made it good?‘
Under the Sea
In what can only be described as an underwater Metroidvania, you take on the role of a lone aquanaut, living in the depths of the sea as a wall of ice crawls deeper, destroying his home. The only way to go? Even deeper. Here you must avoid creatures, both organic and robotic, preserve your oxygen and withstand the sea’s pressure.
I was surprised that Shinsekai was a CAPCOM title, simply because I immediately associate them with games such as Street Fighter, though of course, they go beyond this with Ace Attorney and Monster Hunter for example. So yet again, CAPCOM has shown there isn’t a limit to what games they can create.
The mechanics of the game add an extra layer of challenge, as survival is key. You must keep an eye on your oxygen and find canisters, or save points which have air bubbles so that you don’t drown and go back to your last save. I’d recommend saving at every save point just in case! Your canisters can also be damaged in combat or by falling from heights, so there is a real focus on being cautious. Luckily, you can craft materials found in the nooks and crannies of the ocean, to repair your canisters.
Alone in the Ocean…Almost
Admittedly, it took me a while to get used to the various controls and menus. As well as crafting items to ensure your survival, there was another menu to upgrade your suit, for example, to increase the pressure it can take in order to dive deeper. There was also a weapon wheel, as you collect different weapons throughout the game. Yes, the main controls were pretty straight forward – left joystick to move, B to jump and use an extra thrust, right joystick to aim your weapon.
However, a lot was going on with the UI which you adjust to, but it may prove difficult to younger or new gamers. You do meet a little robot companion to give you a hand though, squeezing into small spaces to get you canisters and bring you materials, making you feel a little less alone. The only issue was it would still bring you materials when you had no storage, which would get in the way as it dragged rocks right in front of you. But for the most part, I enjoyed having a buddy to help me.
Into the Unknown
A lot of detail had gone into the level design, which prevented the game from being repetitive. You explored different areas, such as an underwater volcano and ancient ruins. Some areas were darker and more foreboding, while others featured colourful reefs. It looked fantastic graphically on Switch, and I can’t recall any frame drops despite the level of detail in both the foreground and background.
It wasn’t just searching through caves and fighting fish, but finding ways to open doors, avoiding lava and using pully systems. I never felt bored because of this variety in environments and mechanics. There were also a few boss levels which, on easy difficulty, was just a matter of finding out how to go about killing them. However, the somewhat clumsy movements of the aquanaut, being in the water and constantly thrusting when in the middle of the water, was frustrating. You just didn’t have the speed or accuracy to avoid attacks sometimes, though I suppose, this does make it more realistic.
The Power of Music
Shinsekai doesn’t feature any dialogue. However, the soundtrack which ranges from eerie to fantastical, with instrumentals and vocalisations alongside the rush of water and bubbles, was incredibly immersive. The emotions of the story were also told through the cutscenes, with the aquanaut and the robot companion’s actions, even though they are both faceless.
This also meant the story had to be told visually mainly through cutscenes, including a lot of blueprints to discover, so it is hard to keep up and a lot of the time you don’t really know what is happening. However, the pieces click together as you progress. This may not be something everyone is a fan of. But I can tell you, without any spoilers, that the story is creative, mysterious, and emotional.
Speaking of the cutscenes, they would zoom in and give you a closer view than the gameplay did. It was great to get a look at our protagonist and their surroundings in more detail. I would have liked if there was an option to zoom in within gameplay, to really see the level of detail and not just the wider environment.
An Original Metroidvania
The game actually took me around 12 hours to complete, on easy difficulty and without exploring everything on the Hollow Knight-esque map. You’re really getting a lot of gameplay for the price, especially as you unlock a jukebox mode and a mode which challenges you to reach the bottom of the ocean as fast as you can. There’s also an encyclopedia to fill, so this is a game you can replay beyond completing the story.
You really do have to play to grasp how unique Shinsekai is, and I think it will be right up a lot of people’s streets. The story explores the human mind and is more emotional than you think, so if you like Metroidvanias, platformers, and deep-sea exploration, this is definitely one for your wishlist!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Shinsekai: Into the Depths from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.