Astral Chain Review
I’m a big fan of pretty much every title PlatinumGames has developed, but somehow, I didn’t even know that Astral Chain was in development. I knew about Scalebound, which has now been canceled, and it looks like from the ashes of the now-canceled Xbox One title, a wonderfully original action title has emerged for the Switch. Astral Chain is directed by Takahisa Taura, who was lead game designer for Nier Automata, and Hideki Kamiya, the legendary director of Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry, Okami, Bayonetta, etc., takes on a role of Supervisor, which is the same as his role on Bayonetta 2. The pedigree of Astral Chain is great, and it completely delivers on its promise.
The story is about two young police officers who, for unknown reasons, have a strong affinity for controlling Legions. The world is overrun by monsters called Chimeras, and Legions are captured, and controlled Chimera, used by humanity. It’s fairly standard sci-fi stuff, but the storytelling was enough to keep me constantly engaged. It also makes an excellent vehicle for the game’s unique combat and policing elements. The astral chain from the game’s title is the literal chain that keeps a Chimera under control as a Legion, and connected to its user.
Astral Chain starts off with a bang, and players immediately find themselves in a fun rail-shooting motorcycle sequence, followed by an introduction to the game’s unique combat. It’s an action game first and foremost and is very reminiscent of third-person games such as Devil May Cry. The player controls their avatar, but also a Legion at the same time. This dual system is very unique and is probably closest to The World Ends With You and Devil May Cry 5. In fact, players who enjoyed using V in Devil May Cry V are going to want to pick up Astral Chain ASAP. The bonus of having Astral Chain on the Switch is that players can play two-player couch co-op at any time, with one player controlling their avatar, and the other controlling the Legion. Legions need to cool off and can’t be kept in constant combat, but the cool off period is very short. If I had one complaint about the combat, it would be that it starts out so furious and hectic, that it can be very overwhelming.
There’s a policing system that allows players to crack cases for bonus experience and items. IRIS (aka Detective Mode for Batman fans) allows players to scan their environment and look for major and minor cases. Sometimes the game slows down and requires investigation to advance the story. This often provides a nice break from the frantic action that makes up the majority of the game. There are a lot of JRPG elements to be found, such as inconsequential item collecting, tons of NPCs to talk to, and leveling up. There are also a lot of Japanese third-person action game features, such as assigning level scores, and level replayability. All these extras provide a rich experience and a lot of replayability beyond the initial campaign.
Graphically is has an anime style that looks like a PS3 game, which serviced the game well enough. It always ran well and used the Switch’s features to the best of their abilities. The voice acting is very good, but the score is truly incredible. It features everything from orchestral bombast to 90s-style trace to heavy metal to jpop. The music was so good, that I was always excited to experience new areas of the game, just to hear any new music pieces.
Astral Chain is an excellent action game that uses the Switch’s unique hardware in creative ways. It fits handsomely in PlatinumGames’ excellent catalog and should satisfy anyone who likes Japanese action RPGs, or third-person action games. It is a wholly satisfying experience.
**Switch code provided by the publisher**
- Fantastic PlatinumGames-style action
- Couch co-op
- Diverse score
- Action can be overwhelming at first
- Graphics are dated