Review: Platinum Games
Explicitly mentioning Platinum Games in the title of this review is a must. Why? Because Platinum Games has shown time and again that they can create highly original and profound games. From Bayonetta 1 and 2 to NieR: Automata to now their very latest gem: Astral Chain!
You can tell from my reviews that I'm quite a fan of Platinum Games. This is mainly in terms of originality, content, drawing style, general atmosphere and gameplay. Platinum is always coming up with new features, especially features that other studios don't see. The Astral Chain is no exception to this. The game is only available for Nintendo Switch and quickly shows why the game is perfect for that. Check out the launch trailer below!
The Astral Chain
The story of Astral Chain is one that you come across often. Earth is unrecognizable and practically unlivable after an 'alien' invasion. Humanity is hiding in a place called the Ark. This Ark has also recently been ravaged by the same invasion and it's up to you to put an end to it. At the beginning of the game you can choose whether you want to be male or female. That will also determine whether you get a sibling in the game. Your character itself does not speak, but your brother or sister does and often speaks for you. You two don't have a Legion at the beginning of the story. Legions are robots that serve as your combat partner. This Legion is linked to you through a chain called the Astral Chain.
Did you know that Astral Chain has a lot of secrets in the world. These secret missions can be found by exploring well and they don't feel like filler, but like fun side-objectives!
Through this link you can see the enemy aliens. These 'Chimeras' have it out on the Ark and have already invaded quite a bit when your story begins. Your father is captain of the task force that the Howard twins (you and your brother/sister) will board. The story is told through so-called 'cases'. These cases are the levels you have to go through. You start from a home base, something we are used to from NieR. Personally, I'm glad it's not an open-world game, as level design is one of the areas where Platinum Games makes it shine like twenty suns!
Just like Bayonetta and NieR, Astral Chain is a true action title. The game has no open world but works with levels. This is appropriate, given that the story of the game is told linearly and does not have to take place in a dynamic world. At the end of each level you get a score based on aspects such as style and combos. What is immediately noticeable is that the game does not have a jump button. The reason for this is really big: Legions.
Legions are your sidekicks in combat. You can collect, upgrade and use five Legions however you want! For now, it is important to know that any form of such a robot can offer you a completely different play style. You can send your Legion to enemies and pull yourself there, but you can also coordinate sync attacks. In the beginning of the game the combat seemed very simple and not very well thought out, this made me a bit anxious. That was, of course, until I found out how deep and fluid the playstyles can get!
Did you know that Astral Chain offers a couch co-op experience? If you want to play together with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that is certainly possible. For example, one of you will control the character, and the other the Legion and camera. It takes some getting used to, but a pretty cool experience. The approach to this is a bit like that of Super Mario Odyssey, but better thought out! The unfortunate thing about this is that you gain less experience with controlling your Legion yourself, they could also have given you an extra character in the world with your own Legion that supports you in combat.
Boss fights were also good in mechanics and a fun challenge. Your Legion is attached to you with a so-called 'Astral Chain', a chain that you can use to take advantage of your battle in certain situations. For example, you can run around the legs of a boss with that chain and then let him fall over. These are those typical out-of-the-box scenes that only Platinum Games can come up with and it's fantastic to play with!
The combat isn't as fast-paced as Bayonetta but a bit faster than many NieR: Automata mechanics. What makes Astral Chain special is the other activities you perform. You are of course a detective and that includes detective work. Outside of the main story, there are plenty of people to help out with side quests. You have to do a lot of detective work, this work is not very difficult but gives a better pace to the game and provides some relief. This also shows the human side of your character and you feel good when you help people in the world. A nice detail is that you can only cross the road when the light is actually green, which is logical given that you, as an agent, have to abide by the rules.
Astral Chain is graphically just a top title. The game brings out the power of the Nintendo Switch well and does not push the engine to the extreme so that the game continues to run smoothly. Despite that, the graphics fit perfectly with the atmosphere that Platinum wants to convey. The Ark is a futuristic world full of neon lighting and Back to the Future scenes. Enemy Design and bosses are great animations. The music also fits nicely with the atmosphere that the game wants to set. This provides a good overall impression of the atmosphere. In-game dialogues are interesting and side-objectives are well-crafted. The cinematics look great and spoken dialogues are again top notch and top shelf.
Nothing is mediocre in the world of Platinum Games and Astral Chain is no exception. Apart from a somewhat slow pace in the beginning of the game, there was little to criticize about this action title. The combat plays smoothly, the Legions can be expanded considerably and the level design is fantastic. I can recommend this game to any Switch owner and it is a must-have title for every Platinum Games fan and anyone with a Nintendo Switch at all.
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