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Developed by Platinum Games, Astral Chain is another notch in the studio’s fluffy cap. Set in the year 2078, humanity is besieged by inter-dimensional invaders known as ‘chimeras’, forcing its survivors onto an artificial city known as ‘The Ark’. Playing as a custom-made character, you and your twin sibling Akira (who is the opposite gender of you) are the newest recruits of ‘Neuron’; an elite police unit that battles chimeras. You and your partners are capable of using ‘Legions’; which are chimeras converted to your side, and act as your buddies during missions. Due to events early on in the story, you become the only person capable of wielding Legions – and its here where the gameplay begins to truly open up. Being a Platinum game, Astral Chain is expectedly focused on hack n’ slash combat. Your character uses an ‘X-Baton’, which is a multi-purpose weapon that can switch between baton, gun and greatsword modes. The twist for this game is that, at the same time, you can control your Legion, who automatically fights by your side. Attached by the titular astral chain, you use the left stick to move your pal around battlefields, who will then fight whomever is closest. You can use the chain itself to bind, trip and jump great distances, and as you progress, you will unlock a total of five different Legions; each with their own special abilities. As is typical of Platinum, the combat starts of relatively simple, but becomes incredibly deep as you acquire skills and upgrades. On the normal difficulty, I didn't find the game particularly hard, but higher difficulties provide a nice challenge. Another major part of Astral Chain are the investigation segments, which are slower paced chapters that involve undertaking side-quests for NPCs, finding clues in crime scenes, and general housekeeping like cleaning ‘redshift’ off the streets and sealing portals that lead to the astral realm. There are a multitude of secrets that can be found, like a hidden cat and hidden toilet in each level, as well as specific photo opportunities and secret hermit hideouts. Though the game is a serious affair, it isn’t afraid of being a bit silly, which I appreciated. There are a lot of nice touches, like the vending machines with different personalities, or the predominance of Lappy, the poochy-esque mascot of Neuron. I did have a few issues with the game. Though the visuals look beautiful, the game can sometimes chug hard – even though it only runs at 30fps (as opposed to Bayonetta’s 60fps). As a completionist, I also found revisiting levels a bit of a chore at times, and the astral realm segments are mostly not fun (they’re basically mini-dungeons, but are drab to look at, and half-hearted in their execution). Also, I’m not a fan of games requiring me to constantly shift between two visual modes (the IR scanner here is needed to pick out world details), and the inability to turn off the computerised voice was a huge annoyance. Still, I mostly enjoyed Astral Chain. It has a lot of potential as a new Nintendo IP, and has plenty of content.
Astral Chain is a lot of fun. If you're a fan of Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Bayonetta, or Nier Automata, this game is likely to be right up your alley. It has that amazing buttery smooth combat you've come to expect from Platinum games, with crazy set pieces and boss fights you won't want to put it down.
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