Astral Chain

Astral Chain

released on Aug 30, 2019

Astral Chain

released on Aug 30, 2019

ASTRAL CHAIN, a brand new action game from PlatinumGames, exclusive to Nintendo Switch! As part of a police special task force, it’s up to you to fight against mysterious, alien-like creatures who have invaded the world.

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Complexity and depth are two words frequently mentioned when talking about action games. Some even use them interchangeably, but this is a misconception. Complexity refers to the total number of actions a character can perform, whereas depth refers to the total number of applications possible from said actions. This distinction is important because complex movesets do not automatically have more depth than their simpler cousins. Let’s imagine for a moment a game where pressing A, B, X, or Y leads to a kick with slightly different windup times. The slower the kick, the more damage. There’s some depth with the low risk vs. reward of fast kicks and the opposite with slow kicks, and its technically complex because four buttons on the controller are being used, but is there really a need to have four slight variations on one attack? I would argue no. And yet action games, especially those from Platinum and recent Capcom titles, often resort to such excess in their combat design. In Bayonetta, for example, you are incentivized to change your combos to get better scores, but when the overwhelming majority of said combos merely hitstun foes and have imperceptible variations in damage output, I question why all of these combos are necessary. Brutally slaughtering foes in numerous ways is all fun and games until you realize these attacks look different instead of playing different.

Prioritizing combos via complex button sequences is a pursuit of diminishing returns, especially with game controllers now having (arguably) perfect button layouts. So it’s surprising that the studio who popularized combo-based action would evolve away from that. Astral Chain has only one button for attacking and three weapons: a blaster with weak damage, a fast baton with average damage, and a slow gladius with high damage. Pretty basic so far, but then the Jojo Stands Legions come in. Once unlocked, these can be summoned by pressing ZL and boom, you have a combat ally. Where it becomes interesting is if you hold the button, you can use the right analog stick to direct them around your vicinity, giving you real-time control over what enemies the Legion attacks. When coupled with a grappling hook-esque jump that pulls you to your Legion’s current location and a solid enemy roster, the dynamism of battles expands considerably. Every Legion having its own weapon and movement speed guarantees they serve some purpose. Them being tethered closely to your character subtly encourages staying close to enemies to temporarily bind them with the titular chain and pile damage together. It’s a very creative and methodical type of combat.

I have only two issues with the execution. The first is that the Axe Legion isn’t unlocked until late in the game, giving you less time to learn and upgrade its abilities. The second regards sync attacks. If certain conditions are met, your character will briefly glow, at which point you can press the summon button to unleash a powerful Legion attack. The problem is that you don’t consistently have i-frames or stun foes when performing these, meaning you’re liable to take damage when used against agile aggressors. It feels sloppy and Platinum appears to agree given they granted i-frames to sync attacks in Bayonetta 3, whose evolved combat clearly took inspiration from this title.

Outside of the combat, I’m ambivalent. Playing as a police officer, the detective work in the first half feels appropriate, but the interactions are extremely barebones. Most of these are about finding out information on a threat I was already expecting. Even if I didn’t know what was coming, I wasn’t even punished for failing to piece the clues together. I had no desire to replay any of the chapters because on top of them frequently overstaying their welcome, you can’t skip to the combat challenges. This was a problem in previous Platinum titles, but their non-combat gameplay was usually over with quickly. Another issue is a slight overabundance of RPG systems. The Legion skill trees are fine, but minor upgrades to your weapons and Legatus unit for summoning Legions is overkill. The less developers have to worry about number balancing, the better, so I don’t get why Platinum insists on including these.

Speaking of balance, the difficulty spike in the finale is insane! I played on hard difficulty (Pt Standard) and the final boss killed me more times than every other fight combined! Its moveset is great, but its colossal healthpool makes the ordeal feel like an optional superboss instead of a main story climax. It’s almost unthinkable an actual superboss exists.

The music is very good. Emergency feels me with adrenaline and Task Force Neuron is the perfect tune to hear after a long chapter. None of them compare to the Astral Plane though. Not since Twilight Princess have I felt both fear and excitement when entering a new realm. It was always a bummer when I had to leave it because of the hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. This made exploration and fighting chimeras even more fun than it already was.

Astral Chain is good. It offers a compelling argument for less complex movesets in action games and is a miracle in combat design. Platinum made controlling two characters at once intuitive. The fun is not always there, but it is fresh and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the 3D kings of the genre.

Wish there was more depth to this, feels like it was made as a gateway to other platinum games

I know not a lot of people hyped up this game, but I absolutely loved it. The story isn’t revolutionary, but it’s fun, and keeps you moving through stunning locales as you become immersed in the world Platinum created. The combat is really innovative and creates a unique fighting experience you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. The sections where you explore and investigate offer a nice change of pace from the action, but don’t stay around so long as to take away from the flow of it all. The music is well done as with pretty much all Platinum games and more than anything I just really appreciate the way the game looks. Super underrated game.

cop shit aside this is my fav switch game

a super interesting action game that requires you to play in lots of weird ways. there's quite an emphasis on story, though it feels kind of half-baked with lots of weird choices that don't really work great. the gameplay is unique and fun, but nothing beats the tried and true mechanics of more iconic titles like bayo and dmc.

Магнум опус от Platinum Games.
И не только потому что игра хорошая, а в том что она впитало в себя почти всё что студия делала за всё время своего существования. Плюс к этому свои уникальные идеи и уникальная боёвка.