Astral Chain was on my list when I first saw the game in a Nintendo Direct, I think my exact words were “WoW, this game looks impressive and fun, this game is a must-have for me“. The game is directed by the brainchild Takahisa Taura who previously led the game design behind the popular Nier: Automata. You also have Hideki Kamiya creator of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta and Masakazu Katsura who is famous for his manga creations.
When you first load up Astral Chain, it just feels fresh and new. Yes it a new game, but the speed it loads and the visual design… It just feels so GOOD. I do not know how they did it, but take note Bandai Namco and your new game RAD, oh and Square Enix and your game ‘Oninaki’. Both of those games load up slow, both have their own unique style of graphics but both are not as visually impressive as this game. That said though they are both good games and should be played. The visuals in this game to me have to be the best I have seen the Nintendo Switch showcase. I tip my hat to Platinum Games, as to how they did this, it is outstanding.
THIS GAME IS BLOODY GORGEOUS
So what is Astral Chain, why did it pique my interest? Well, it is a hack ‘n’ slash action-adventure game, which sees you taking control of one of the twins, who is recruited to join the ‘Neuron special police task force‘. Now when I think of “Twins” it’s normally same-sex or “Identical Twins”, but there is actually more to it. Time for some sex ed – ’Boy/girl twins are always fraternal, they can only form from two separate eggs that are fertilized by two separate sperm. However, fraternal can also mean Boy/Boy or Girl/Girl. What is more, common are Identical Twins. Identical twins come from a single fertilized egg that splits into two. I have no idea why I added sex-ed to this review, but it came to mind and when something comes to my mind and has some relevance I tend to write it down, but I hope when you read this, you gain some knowledge that you did not have before.
So you get to choose to play one of the twins and that twin becomes the main Protagonist, the older twin of Akira Howard. The odd thing is the main Protagonist is silent while his/her younger sibling has a voice. Now I understand the reason behind the development team making the main character silent and wanting that character to be portrayed by you the player, but I get more connected to a character when they have their own voice, not fully muted. They do give you some customisation so you can make your Protagonist unique to how you want them to look, but it is just not enough in all honesty.
So what’s the plot? What has happened? In 2048 an apocalyptic event struck the Earth from a meteor, however, it was not the meteor that caused it, it was the after events. The meteor caused a wormhole to appear known as the gate, gates started to appear all over planet earth and red matter flowed from these gates causing irreparable damage to the land and living creatures. While the gates were opened a new enemy appears and starts taking humans through the game and to their corrupted realm.
Within just 6 months the Earth was rendered uninhabitable by humankind and the survivors took refuge on an artificial island known as the ARK. But it was not meant to be, after 10 years of not seeing gates, the peace is over and the enemy known now as the Chimera appears through the games from there land know now as the Astral Plane.
What is the Astral Plane? well it is the land that is found beyond the gates.
When I first heard the term ‘Chimera’, I instantly thought of God Eater 3 on the switch, a Monster Hunter type of game, and I said to myself, please do not be like that, I really want an adventure, not hunt, kill, upgrade, hunt, kill, upgrade over and over. Luckily this game is nothing like it, and it is something new from developers Platinum Games. In a way, they have taken an idea from the cancelled game Scalebound, which would have seen the player take control of Drew, who would have been assisted in combat by ‘Thuban’ a dragon. There is also a hint of Pokémon in the game, the idea of bringing a creature to fight in battles, and travel with them. In Astral Chain you are assisted by a living weapon called the ‘Legion’. The Legion is a captured ‘Chimera’, with slapped on armour and neurologically shackled to its human operator. The animation when they first unleash their new legion is pretty sweet to watch and the music just adds more to your anticipation.
When I first started the game, I reset the game over and over just to watch the start again and again
You and your twin have a simple goal, clear up the red matter, destroy chimera, solve puzzles, investigate and solve cases. Not forgetting communication is paramount. You will be using and be honing your skills on the Ark and in the Astral Plane the home of the ‘Chimera’. Do not get your hopes for anything amazing in the Astral Plane, as its rather bland, once you have seen it, you have seen it all, it’s a shame really as they could have gone to town with the design of this zone if they wanted to.
The Ark on the other hard is buzzing with life, art style and vibrancy, it’s remarkable. Cyberpunk is very much what they are going for here, taking ideas from games like Deus Ex, System Shock, and Shadowrun. The police station looks futuristic and vibrant, not dull and boring like today’s stations. This is your primary base of operations; you will gain your quests here, well not quests as per se, objectives, like crimes and incidents. Each objective is ranked and can be replayed, so if you perform not up to your highest standard you can go back and replay as each rank delivers a different bonus.
Combat is where this game shines with your shackled legion. Either a Sword Legion, Beast Legion, Axe Legion, Arm Legion and Arrow Legion will serve you. All of which can be summoned during a battle and upgraded through skills which are divided into seven categories which include the following;
- Ability Slot+ : Increases the number of ability slots of the Legion.
- Sync Attack : Grants an opportunity for a Sync Attack under specific circumstances.
- Attack Up : Increases the attack of the Legion.
- Defense Up : Increases the defense of the Legion.
- Skill : Unlocks an equipable skill.
- Command Skill+ : Special moves that can be activated with input commands.
- Perfect Call : A defensive technique that activates when you summon your legion at the right time
Choose your skills wisely gamers as some skills you really need early on and some well, they can wait.
From the first scene in the game which sees you traversing the futuristic streets of the Ark on a police motorcycle, with explosions going off all around you, it is intense, and heart pounding, this can be said about the combat, its fluid, time managed, intense, heart pounding and pure fun. Through a somewhat symbiotic relationship, you are able to control both the main Protagonist and the legion at the same time.
If you have a friend around or your partner wants to get in on the action he/she can pick up one of the joy-cons and one player will control the legion and the other the Protagonist. Nintendo Switch Lite co-op mode is not available. I tested this feature out after getting a certain degree of the game done, and for some reason, I found the game to be harder, no idea why it felt harder, it just was, maybe the game ramps up the difficulty when two players are playing the game or something…
There is something to be aware of while in combat with your legion though. They must be put away eventually. There is a gauge linked to the chain and once that hits max your legion needs to recharge itself so be mindful of when to use your shackled legion and when not to use. Once you gain more legions organise your legions in a clockwise order so you can get easy access by pressing the Y key, this allows you to create amazing chain attacks and high damage. As you progress through the game, you will be able to unchain one of your legions and summon a second legion and this can be truly devastating. You also get special skills as well which you can learn but overall, it’s better to learn how to control your legion. Learn chain control and simply enjoy the game at its finest.
When not fighting you are puzzle-solving, communicating and investigating, and to do all this you will be using IRIS (given to you at the start of the game), an augmented reality computer that provides a wealth of information from showing where people are, discovering items, people of interest and even side quests. Astral Chain is not all about combat it is a whole lot more. The game provides a great story and a wealth of content. I’d even say it’s better than Bayonetta and I love that game franchise.
I have never played a game like this before
There is not much more I can say about Astral Chain without spoiling it for you, so I am going to leave it right here and simply say, Astral Chain is a must-have game. With the backing of Nintendo and the great developmental minds behind Platinum Games, this game is by far something for both companies to be pleased with. It is outstanding, visually pleasing, has an engaging story, breath-taking combat and heart-pounding soundtrack. Everything is moulded together for a gamer that wants to set forth on an adventure that they will never forget.
OH yeah before I forget
Astral Chain will offer around 25hrs of gameplay and runs at around 720p and 30fps, the game looks amazing docked and in handheld mode. Surround sound does work if you have a surround sound headset or a surround sound cinema set up in your gaming zone. I have a Dolby Atmos set up with a front soundbar, and rear speakers and the sound works very well with them. Great sound design overall.
As a metaphor, if this game were to be represented by my partner, it would be perfect. While silent, it does not like bad change, looks amazing, can dance the night away and has an amazing story to tell.
Want this game? here is a link to purchase https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/ASTRAL-CHAIN–1513766.html#Gallery
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Platinum Games
Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch