Astral Chain Review: Nothing is what it seems

Boy, Nintendo sure have been banging out titles like there’s no tomorrow. Not too long ago we had Fire Emblem and here now we have Astral Chain. This Switch-exclusive kept me from sleeping on a 12-hour flight and some subsequent nights after, I was hooked as soon as I had my hands on this game.

Fire Emblem was a hit, and I predict that this might be too.

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Astral Chain is the latest baby from the developers of Bayonetta and Nier: Automata, PlatinumGames. Its also a Switch exclusive! Who would’ve thunk it! You can play the game on your own or with a friend if you’d kindly give up your other Joy-Con. Sadly, I didn’t have a friend to play withwant to share the Joy-Con with anyone so I can’t tell you how that would be like.

Taking place in the “near future” (2080s, give or take) on the floating artificial island, Ark, where the rest of the world has fallen victim to (alien) Corruption thanks to a meteor strike that opened Earth up to the Astral Plane. You play as one of two adopted fraternal twins – whichever you pick, male or female, you’ll get to customise (which is great) – both of which have quickly risen up the ranks within the Ark Police Department. The Twins are very quickly given control of a “Legion” – captured Chimeras (the aliens) that are neurologically “linked” to their specific user via Astral Chain – to solve a case (and not die doing it). Legions assist members of Neuron, a special department in the APD where the Twin’s adopted father Max is captain, in curious investigations and to fight off the plague of Chimeras coming through the Astral Plane.

Now we have the formalities out of the way, and since I’ve nope’d hard as soon as I hit a sneak-around section well into the game (I honestly hate those), let’s get to the juicy bits…

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The game’s graphics are a mix of the classic 3D anime-style you know (and to some, love) from Platinum’s previous titles mixed in with the cell-shading style of Breath of the Wild, which was a surprise to me because we all know very well that the Switch can handle more than just that, since Bayonetta was re-released on the hybrid and the Resident Evil series had been ported not too long ago. I guess that was more of an artistic choice rather than a hardware capability issue, and to be honest: that’s absolutely fine with me. I do enjoy me some style difference in my video games.

Astral Chain to me is an action-RPG sprinkled with investigation. While you are indeed faced with enemies in the form of Chimeras every so often, there’s a lot of investigative work that come with the fighty-fighty bits. With that said, when you do face those pesky Chimeras, you have only two attack buttons – one for yourself and one (actually one plus two) for your Legion – so expect simple combos that when timed right, will double up with your Legion and deal some massive blows. You can level up your Legions’ abilities, some of which gives your Legion new attack skills which you can assign to your X- and Y-buttons (hence “plus two”) but sadly after a bit, the action gets repetitive and often times I just want to get on with the story rather than fight through another two to three waves of Chimera.

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As this could be considered a detective-y game, I think it’s safe to say that there are investigative elements where you’d pick up pieces and put them together to solve cases, and there are “real world” puzzles that come with the package as well. There was one point where I got stuck in the Astral Plane because I couldn’t solve this one puzzle to open up the next area until it finally made sense about 30 minutes later and turns out it was possibly the simplest thing in the world…BIG BRAIN! So be prepared to rattle your brain a little in the name of game progression.

I’m not a fan of chatting storylines because I believe that everyone should experience a game’s story fresh from the get-go so I’ll talk about writing rather than the story itself. You’ll pick up bits and pieces about the Twins’ background when you start off, and then mysteries start to appear and unravel as you go along with plenty of twists to satisfy the palette. Cut-scenes aren’t too draggy and there’s plenty that occur as you’re going through the levels. The supporting characters of Neuron get some good little bites of background as well, especially in terms of their relationships to Max and the Twins, and there are side-quests that fill-in the world around you. Though I have to admit that at first, I thought Astral Chain was a bit more serious compared to Platinum’s other games…until then I met a certain character someways through File02 and all was right with the world again. Personally, I felt like it was good to get that bit of comic relief, it was a nice break from the drama, and they were timed rather well. TL;DR: I absolutely love the game’s story, its been written well and I’ve not faced a dull moment yet.

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I know it sounds ridiculous that I’m procrastinating on playing a video game, but I really hate sneaky bits to no end. Since this isn’t a JRPG, the first five Files (levels) thus far is plenty enough for me to make a decision on the game – and I do enjoy it very much. I honestly could do with less waves of Chimera and maybe a bit more getting on with it, but that’s just me. Astral Chain has fast-paced fights, a vast storyline and its an engaging game that’s customisable from the get-go.

Anyway, I’m going to get back to it… So here’s some cats that I found~

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Blaise gib dis game…

4

Four out of five stars

Astral Chain released on Nintendo Switch on 30th Aug 2019.

This review was originally written for The AU Review and was edited, with the review code kindly provided by Nintendo ANZ. All screenshots were taken by me. I’ve reposted my original here because games-editor David is the best person. ILY, David<3


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Blaise

I'm a freelance photographer and writer. I'm using this blog to give myself a platform for the creative freedom in games and tech writing without the fear of analytics.

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