After almost a year of waiting, it has finally arrived Astral Chain, new action game by Platinum Games created exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
From the start the game promised the fast-paced action you'd expect from the famous software house, combined with an aesthetic that blends the design style of Masakazu katsura (Zetman), to a semi-realistic sci-fi setting.
Given the premises, expectations for this game were very tall, did you manage to fully respect them? Find out in our review.
A battle for the salvation of humanity
Astral Chain is set in a post-apocalyptic future, where the planet has been rendered uninhabitable by the arrival of the Chimera, creatures from another dimension.
Humanity has taken refuge on the Ark, a futuristic city built on an artificial island, from which it has managed to re-establish a society and the starting point for the reconquest of the planet. This will be possible thanks to Legion, of the captured and subjugated Chimera who obey the commands of the Neuron, a special police force.
We will take on the role of a cadet of the Neuron, just recruited together with his brother or twin sister, depending on the choice we will make at the beginning of the game. While our character will play the part of the silent protagonist, our relative will maintain a fundamental role for the duration of the story.
The storyline stays true to the game's aesthetic style while maintaining one typical anime storytelling with some twists until the final confrontation.
An accessible yet profound combat system
Unlike other hack 'n' slash, where the player is required to memorize a long list of key combinations in order to perform the most spectacular actions and thus obtain the highest scores, Astral Chain bases all its depth in amount of options offered, simplifying the controls at the same time.
Our character will in fact have a single attack button main to attack with one of the three weapons available, a dodge and no dedicated commands to jump.
The real protagonists of the clashes are in fact the Legions, five creatures that we can summon to fight alongside us. Each type has unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses, so it will become essential to change Legion often to use the most suitable one at each moment of the fight.
However we will have to be careful of their conditions on the battlefield: their ability to help us is regulated by a bar which discharges over time, and is further reduced if they suffer an attack. However, it will be enough to recall it within the Ambassador that we keep on the wrist to recharge the energy of the Legions.
In the course of the adventure they can be upgraded for learn new special moves, which can be activated at the push of a button, thus providing even more possibilities for kill enemies in the most spectacular way possible.
They also make their return some game mechanics seen in other titles by Platinum Games. As in Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising Revengeance we will have the opportunity to perform a final attack on a stunned enemy, which will restore a portion of the Legion's energy bar.
From the second title it is also recovered the "Blade Mode": the Legion Spada in fact can activate the same slowing time effect, to strike freely with its blades, while the Legion Arco uses it to hit with precision with the arrows.
Also the other three Legions they possess unique skills that are useful both in and out of combat, but with very different functioning, such as the ability to ride the Legion Beast.
Even the famous chain that binds us to them plays its role in the gameplay. The simplest function is that of wrap it around one or more enemies to trap them and render them harmless for a few seconds.
But we will soon learn how stretch it to trip some chimeras to the office, or use it as a rubber band to catapult our character into flight and allow him to perform aerial combos in the company of his Legion.
As usual in Platinum Games games, at the end of each fight at normal difficulty we will receive a score, which will depend on our recent performance. The most avid gamers will then be able to replay chapters in which the game is divided, even at higher difficulties, to try to get the perfect score.
However, one should be noted low variety of enemies. Although each category is distinct with movesets and strategies necessary to defeat them very different, there are few, with the roster enlarged by different variants of the same type of opponent.
Doing office work
The fights, however, are only part of the gameplay. As policemen, it is our job to keep order in the city even when we are not destroying creatures of other dimensions.
For this we will often find ourselves using our Legions to carry out even more mundane tasks, whatever arrest a normal offender, eavesdrop on conversations e carry out investigations on the field. We will also have to set a good example for the citizens by collecting the trash to make the Ark a cleaner city.
These secondary objectives will be assigned to us at Neuron headquarters before we venture into town, and there they will provide useful rewards such as cash, new equipment and other bonuses.
Another variation of the gameplay is offered by the Astral plane, the origin dimension of the Chimeras. Thanks to our Legions, in fact, we can cross the portals that connect it to the Earth, and explore it in search of further prizes and clashes.
The developers said they did inspired by the dungeons of The Legend of Zelda in the creation of these levels, alternating battles a moments of exploration e puzzles to solve.
The variety of the latter is not very high, but they still offer a good distraction between one fight and another and make good use of the unique abilities of each Legion.
The Ark, the city of the future
The game setting it was created with great attention to detail, whether we visit the busiest streets or explore the narrowest and most hidden alleys.
Due to the huge amount of particle effects always present on the screen it was not possible to make the Ark a single open world map. Instead it is divided into various sections, each large enough to offer a good degree of exploration and hidden secrets between plot moments.
However we will find ourselves at often retrace the same maps, thus making the game scenarios quite repetitive.
The soundtrack supports the setting to perfection, with ambient tunes that make use of synthesizers and keyboards in the quietest moments, then switch to electric guitars and percussion during the fights.
There is no shortage of ost orchestrated for the most important cutscenes in history, in which they still remain present elements of rock and electronic music, even if more hidden.
From a performance standpoint, the game stays close to 900p in fixed mode, between 600 and 720p in portable mode, with the exploitation of the dynamic resolution in both cases.
A special case is the portable mode, which renounces any anti-aliasing effect; luckily on the console screen is a hard factor to notice.
As for the framerate, however, the development team preferred to offer stabilissimi 30 fps, instead of the 60 frames one would expect from other games of this genre. The almost total absence of performance drops and a great job on the animation side, however, make the gaming experience extremely fluid, like any other hack'n slash.
The camera most of the time he behaves flawlessly, even enlarging the view during battles with the biggest bosses. However, it can happen that it is difficult to follow our movements, or that the amount of particles on-screen makes it difficult to see the on-screen action.
Excellent instead the photo mode, which allows us to take screenshots of both the surrounding environment and ourselves, with a wide selection of filters and effects to customize our captures.
Astral Chain introduces itself as a successful new IP for Platinum Games and a major exclusive for Nintendo Switch.
The combat system, although very particular, it is immediately understandable to any type of player, while maintaining enough depth to satisfy the most hardcore fans of the software house.
History, although enjoyable, it ends a little too quickly for players who do not intend to repeat the adventure multiple times. For everyone else, the hunt for the highest score offers excellent replay value, thanks also to the higher difficulty level unlockable after finishing the story the first time.
The weak point of the game mainly consists in the variety, both of environments and types of enemies, which could have been a little more.