Astral Chain is Platinum Games’ latest venture onto the Nintendo Switch. It is worth a playthrough or should you wait for Bayonetta 3? Check out our review and find out.
Astral Chain Review
Astral Chain follows the story of the Howard twins, adopted siblings working for the police. You get to choose which one you play and do a tiny bit of customization before being tossed right into the thick of it. The city is under attack by Chimeras, demons from another realm who want to destroy everything. These Chimera spread corruption and can even take over other humans if they are exposed to it for too long. When you join the fight, you face invisible enemies that you cannot harm. Your adopted father and his squad drop in to rescue you, and soon introduces you to your new allies known as the Legions.
Legions are living weapons that only certain people can use in battle. After fighting side by side with your Legion to defeat the Chimera, you and your sibling are promoted to Neuron, a special unit in the police. With only a total of five Legion users, the squad is small but vital to the survival of humanity. Shortly after joining, things take a turn for the worse and all Legions are lost…minus yours. This puts you front in center in the fight again the Chimera and the Corruption – no pressure.
With Platinum Games’ titles, I am usually intimidated by the overwhelming combos and advanced combat mechanics they bring to the table. However, Astral Chain was pretty tame by their standards. You start with a melee weapon, a gun, your Legion, and dodge. Yes, you still need timing for counters, but overall the starter combat is simple, especially when you consider you have to use your Legion as well. Complexity and more depth come as you progress in the main story and unlock new Legions, weapons, and abilities. I ran into some trouble with the more advanced techniques later in the game, but for the most part, the pacing of new skills in combat is excellent.
When you aren’t cracking the skulls of Chimera, you are doing actual police work. When you get to a new scene, you have to canvas the area and look for clues. This includes speaking with witnesses, eavesdropping with your Legions, doing side quests for civilians, and helping out the local police. Then, after you collect all the clues, you have to put them together and find out what happened with your notes. If you correctly put everything together, you get more money and more officer experience. You also pick up litter and rescue cats from time to time as a proper officer should.
When not on a case, you will spend most of your time at the police station. Here you have a few vendors who sell consumables for healing, buffs, and grenades. The upgrade vendors are here as well, but we’ll get that in a moment. You will spend most of your time here doing training missions and honing your combat skills. The training simulator will put you in specific situations for you to try out particular abilities. It’s great for honing new skills that you didn’t get to try on a case. You can also lookup game lore and previous cases on your computer as well.
With that, we will move to the two progression systems of the game: Weapon upgrades and Legion upgrades. Weapon upgrades increase damage and unlock new weapon skills. Legion upgrades do the same, but also have a separate menu for each unique Legion. All of them have their own skill tree with passive buffs and new skills for your Legions, adding even more to the combat. They are limited to two skills each, so don’t worry it getting too tricky down the line. I also want to mention how well I felt the economy was balanced in the game. I never had too much cash or Legion DNA at once. As a result, I never felt overpowered.
While Astral Chain isn’t an open-world game, the levels are semi-open and encourage exploration. Your Legions are great for fighting, but they can also help you access places you can’t get to on your own. Legions can float, meaning that you can send them across large gaps and then jump to them for hidden chests and enemies. On occasion, you can even find hidden side quests, and they tend to be the zaniest of the bunch. Some level will require a Legion you don’t currently have yet though, meaning you are expected to come back through later. It isn’t needed but knowing you missed something in a level still stings.
I did have some problems with the game, however. Certain enemies will make other enemies invincible, and you have to use a Legion skill to break their link. I felt like this messed with the flow of combat and was honestly kind of annoying. To make matters worse, some of the boss fights toss in the need to use the Legion abilities as well, making them needlessly frustrating at times. As you gain more Legions, it becomes less irritating, but it still happens.
A few other notes I took was just how stylish the game was. It has a very futuristic look to it, with neon lights and graffiti. There is also a level of wackiness you would expect from a Platinum game. The vending machines will greet you with a smile and even chat to you if you want. The forces’ mascot is a woman in a giant dog costume, who takes her job very seriously. There is also a toilet fairy – make of that what you will. The dialogue is also very cheesy, but in a good way.
Platinum delivers another winner with Astral Chain. Fans of fast-paced action games shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up.
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