Discovering a new intellectual property it is often a leap in the dark, the beginning of something different, perhaps innovative. The question is: Will he be able to win a place in our hearts? Going back to impersonating an already well-known protagonist, for whom you have an affection, or moving around already familiar places, reassures and puts you at ease. On the other hand, the novelty must be able to break through. Astral Chain has undoubtedly succeeded, creating an imaginary that we will hardly forget and to which we hope, one day, to return.
To make a game that remains and leaves its mark, one of the necessary pillars is the setting. and this is perhaps the brightest aspect of the new title of Platinum Games. The team's ability to imagine first and then sketch a world with a new and recognizable character, like that of Astral Chain is commendable.
The facts narrated in the work begin in 2078, a technologically advanced near future, Where the earth has been contaminated by a digital miasma from another dimension, invaded by the creatures that spring from this, the Chimeras. Humanity, decimated and exhausted, to escape contamination builds a huge floating island, the Ark, on which to take refuge.
The narrative incipit itself is apocalyptic without a shadow of a doubt, but the union that the artists of Platinum Games have created mixes elements of various origins, producing an original result. The world of Astral Chain refers to the classic science fiction, clean and cold, creating a contrast with a split society, whose disreputable areas have obvious references to cyberpunk. All surrounded by this original invasion: the Chimeras spring from the Astral Dimension and suck people into it, spreading digital contamination e irremediably infecting creatures and places of crimson evil they carry.
The setting is told through areas of the city, from the most affluent centers, full of lights and traffic, to the most infamous, poor and contaminated alleys. The level design it is not distinguished by complexity, but it is not for this reason that it is uninspired, on the contrary. The many ways in which we must exploit the powers derived from the Astral Dimension push the player to think and use all the mechanics at your disposal to overcome areas developed in amplitude and often also vertically.
A new cop in town
In Astral Chain we will choose who, between the two Howard twins, to impersonate. Whether we opt for the boy or the girl, our twin will have the name of Akira. The character we will be wearing is partially customizable: we can not change the facial features, if not for eyes and skin color, but we can change our hairstyle and our clothes, remaining strictly in uniform.
The two twins are just been recruited by Neuron, a special police force where use is made of Legion, Chimeras captured and placed at the service of humans. Our protagonist and his twin have one particular predisposition to use the Legion, and are therefore equipped with Ambassador, digital devices that allow to control the Chimera through an Astral Chain. These special soldiers respond to the name of Legionis.
Together with us, they will be in the team Max, our adoptive father, Jin and Alicia, each with a different Legion. The members of this special unit are the only ones who can see the Chimeras with the naked eye, otherwise invisible, e to be able to fight them. This is the narrative prologue from which the plot of Astral Chain starts.
Captivating plot, swinging rhythm
Passed a a little slow start, the game has been able to involve and capture us, with one history which was quickly made mysterious, enticing us to move forward and discover the truth. Between intrigues and some twist, perhaps a little too predictable, the plot becomes dense and full of events. A story close to Japanese anime, but at the same time mature and delicate, in which each discovery reveals further mysteries, with some moments full of pathos capable of keeping you in suspense. Too bad for some bass though, in the long adventure of Astral Chain. Unfortunately, there are some sections in which the pace becomes too staid, and the plot is carried forward very slowly.
The direction of the title is very valuable, who in every cut scene has been able to show an out of the ordinary care. Equally admirable is the the meticulousness with which the secondary characters were constructed and told, more or less important. Each has a story to discover, and although the overall mood of the work is decidedly serious, there are some specks that pleasantly break the atmosphere.
In general, the care for details: the most attentive gamers will be able to fill up with one in-depth lore, told through dialogues, character descriptions and documents. Many pieces of a world that, chapter after chapter, area after area, is composed in a vivid and unforgettable mosaic.
Astral Chain is a game fromJapanese soul, which is evident looking at the characters and the plot. It does not deviate from the soundtrack, whose quality is very high, which is also full of references to anime culture. Obvious the similarities with Nier: Automata, the previous title of Platinum Games, whose soundtracks have been universally appreciated. But there are many references, to Vangelis and the wonderful soundtrack of Blade Runner, or even to the typical sounds of final Fantasy. Finally, it does not lack some pop-rock pieces with lead vocals, typically Japanese.
As regards the dubbing, the cast of actors is promoted in full, without reservations. The recitative rehearsals of the various voices are impeccable, especially the protagonists. Too bad for the questionable choice of leaving the protagonist mute for (almost) the whole game. In general the sound sector is engaging, always spot on and paced with events.
The ability to build an original game world requires a graphic aspect that manages to do it justice. Being tied to the Switch hybrid console was on the one hand a limitation, but on the other an opportunity. Having to opt for technical compromises, the team chose to use one cel-shaded graphics that could weigh less on performance. The aesthetic of Astral Chain is very clean and visually impresses with its quality and style.
Obviously it doesn't offer a photorealistic impact like titles seen on other platforms, but the game still manages to leave you speechless, especially in portability. If it is true that the title presents some annoying phenomena due to technical compromises, such as a slight pop up in larger environments or some drop in frame rates, it is also true that controlling your alter ego on the small screen of the Switch seems at times a small technological miracle. Obviously the problems are slightly accentuated on the big screen, but Astral Chain is confirmed to be a good sight there too.
In general we feel of promote the graphic aspectdespite the problems. Maybe you can't expect more from the little Nintendo Switch, or maybe yes, but in any case the title is solid and convincing, albeit with some uncertainty. Questionable in certain restricted settings the camera, which causes more problems for an action game than would be lawful.
Action of race, but not only
If the setting is a gigantic strength of Astral Chain, at least as important in the economy of production is the gameplay.. Platinum Games has now established itself as an excellence in the action genre, also thanks to people who have laid the foundations, such as Hideki Kamiya. From this point of view, the team's latest work does not deny this distinctive trait, but it does not set creative limits.
Astral Chain has two souls: frantic action on the one hand, staid detective on the other. We impersonate a servant of the law in a dystopian future, which has the mighty Legion at its disposal, and as an instrument of government we are called to investigate and help citizens, with every means at our disposal, as well as a fight the Chimeras, in our dimension or theirs. The great merit to be recognized for the title is the great mastery in making us feel the weight of our role, deepening and explaining all the game mechanics that define a Neuron agent.
Astral Chain is a game for the Nintendo Switch, despite the controversy and the desire of users of other platforms to play it. And it is not only in terms of exclusivity, but also for the perfect use of the controls of the hybrid console in the management of the game. Experience is studied to the millimeter on the keys and their arrangement, so well crafted as to make us prefer the classic joy con over the pro controller.
Chained to fight
As regards the combat system, the title follows its narrative premises and leads us to use both our truncheon X, which can easily be transformed into a gun and a two-handed sword, and the powers of our Legion. With the right trigger we can use the personal weapon, while with the left, combined with the right analog stick, we can command our chimeric companion, connected to us by the astral chain.
And this same chain, which gives the title to the work, can be used to trap enemies or to hit them in sequence as we fly to our Legion. The game then features a tuning mechanics, in which during a tight combo we can press a key when a blue light appears for synchronize with our companion in powerful duo attacks. The idea of the coup de grace: when a Chimera is dying we can throw the Legion against it, for absorb the mainframe and recharge our HP.
There is also no shortage elements related to the role-playing world in the title. While we can't develop our protagonist, we can instead let our Legion acquire skills, exploiting a real skill tree. Also we can upgrade the X Baton and the Legatus to the division department of Neuron headquarters. They are then present in the title many side missions to be played around the various areas, a feature that gives the game an exquisitely role-play charm.
Neuron special force
The other soul of Astral Chain is his investigative side. In a routine that reminded us of that of Crisis Core, as agents of the Neuron Special Force we move between headquarters and city areas.
At the base we can customize our avatar and the Legion, strengthen ourselves, train and interact with the many agents present, vivid secondary characters that give the title an extra layer of depth. On the city streets, between the splendor of sector 36 and the squalor of the Forest Maison or sector 09, we can help the inhabitants in the most disparate situations. It must be said that side missions are a bit too intrusive and often boring and repetitive. We would have gladly done without some, the only result of which was getting tired and break the rhythm of the story.
As for the purely police aspect, at our disposal we have theIRIS, an advanced technology tool that justifies the detective mode now famous since Batman Arkham Asylum. A repetition yes, but with some interesting news, mainly related to the setting based on two converging dimensions told by Astral Chain.
In the investigative stages, we will collect evidence and clues in a virtual notebook, talking to people, using the IRIS and the Legion. At the end of the investigation we will always have to solve the case, in fact answering some questions about the digital notes we have collected.
A very interesting mechanic, which actually tests the logical and deductive skills of the player. Too bad that everything is a little too simple and guided, probably for fear of going too far in testing users in an unusual field. However, this aspect of the game is appreciable, despite a general ease and a staid pace.
The surprises, regarding the gameplay of Astral Chain, never end. This is how one comes out around the middle of the game stealth just mentioned, just a few area with guards, the visual cone of the latter and shelters. The whole thing demonstrates a great love of the developers for the Metal Gear Solid series, with obvious quotes, and one desire to further explore an extremely varied gameplay, which fully manages to immerse us in the role of the futuristic policeman.
Astral Chain is undoubtedly a quality product, which enriches the panorama of titles for Nintendo Switch with a shining and important pearl. An action vario, intriguing and long-lived, capable of keeping you busy for well over 20 hours of gameplay. But we warn you: if you are insatiable and curious, not even 30 will be enough to discover all the secrets it has to reveal.
Un layered and always new gameplay is one of the pillars on which Platinum Games' latest work is based, along with a inspired and original setting. Astral Chain joins the must-have titles on Switch, and it is another good reason to own a Nintendo hybrid. Not to be missed!
- - Varied, layered and fun gameplay
- - Original and inspired setting
- - Mature and intriguing plot
- - Some graphic hesitation
- - The rhythm of the story is a bit fluctuating
- - Intrusive and sometimes boring side missions