Astral Chain Nintendo Switch Review

If you own a Nintendo Switch, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to get Astral Chain.

By Grayshadow, Posted 06 Sep 2019

Astral Chain constantly moves forward and builds momentum for an explosive end. As part of an elite law enforcement unit known as Neuron, it's your job to fight the most deadly monsters humanity has ever encountered with tools only a handful of people have access to. Without a doubt, Astral Chain is one of PlatinumGames best work and one of the top exclusives for the Nintendo Switch. An outstanding story that constantly ramps up with bigger and more dangerous threat with a constant stream of new and deadly enemies within a beautifully decorated world. It's only when the developers attempt to go outside those strong mechanics and try something different that Astral Chain fumbles.

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Astral Chain is set in the year 2078, with humanity nearly extinct the remaining humans now live in a megacity called "The Ark". The world now belongs to an interdimensional species called the "Chimeras" that lives in a different plane of existence called the "Astral Plane". They can infect humans using a strange material called Red Matter by invading the world using rifts and use these same rifts to come into the human world. To combat this a specialized police forced called Neuron was constructed who can use subservient Chimeras known as Legion, tethered using a chain, to fight and closed these "Gates" and save what's left of humanity.

You take control of the protagonist, the brother or sister of twins. Despite this, you can alter the appearance of your protagonist. Eventually, the twins rise up the ranks of Neuron to become one of the stations best warriors and humanity's last hope. It's your basic hero saves humanity story but thanks to strong writing and phenomenal cutscenes the story never takes a backseat.

The story is a mixture of traditional anime elements and easily foreseen twists. If you're an active anime or manga reader, you'll predict much of the narrative. The character's themselves have unique personas and are all well voice-acted. Akira, who serves as your twin sister, nails her performance throughout the story. Showcasing her desire to be the best, achieve her goals, and find purpose when losing everything. She's constantly tested and even when she gets a hold on her life, the floor crumbles beneath her.

While the story was mostly predictable the writing was and pacing, for the most part, is great. You progress through the story and learn new secrets about those you work for. Those actions lead to bigger and more elaborate missions, eventually having an end-of-the-world situation. And when you get to that finale, you'll feel like you've grown a lot. Despite your character being a mute hero who can accomplish anything.

Where Astral Chain excels at is the gameplay. PlatinumGames is notorious for its over-the-top action, exceptional combat systems, and beautiful visuals. Astral Chain is like a combination of all their past titles into one. You get parts NieR: Automata, Metal Gear Rising, Revengeance, and even some Bayonetta here. Everything combines into a surry of high-resolution visuals as you plow your way through hordes of Chimera.

Your hero has access to 3 weapons, a lightweight baton, heavy sword, and long-range pistol. You don't gain access to any more weapons but you can upgrade these weapons using materials and money earned by completing side missions. You can switch between these weapons on the fly and are required to adapt to each combat situation. The amount of diversity of Chimera and enemies you'll face in Astral Chain is through the roof. Everything from tunneling creatures to heavily armored beasts that shoot ice blasts. Thankfully, you have access to your own Chimera.

The Legions serve as your trusted allies. As you progress you gain access to 6 Chimera, each with distinct attacks and leveling trees. Like your weapons, each one has their strengths and weaknesses and have access to specific talents. For example, the Beast legion can be mounted for high sped and track targets and the Sword Legion can mimic Raiden's Zandatsu technique and slice in specific angles for both puzzle challenges and combat. They're linked to your chain, giving you somewhat control over their actions and you can input specific movements and attacks, 2 can be linked, during fights. You can switch between Legions at will but they're linked to a specific meter, if it depletes, through damage, using its special ability, or time, the Legion will disappear. Requiring you to wait until they can be called again.

Leveling is basic and straight forward. Each Legion has a specific tree with few branching paths but you can unlock everything if you choose to do so. Legions can also be upgraded with mods for certain improvements and linked with 2 special attacks. The protagonist only has its weapons that can be upgraded, making Legions your key focus.

The combos and array of attacks available to the player can be overwhelming at times. On top of regular combos, you can bind enemies with your chain, unleash powerful burst, and combine other outstanding combinations. The controls, while precise, take some time getting used to. Switching between Legions, weapons, and using specific tactics can be overwhelming during active battle. Especially when the camera fights you or gets stuck in close quarters. 

The key for Astral Chain's combo is timing. Dodging, counterattacks, and even using your Legion or bind targets require specific timing. Learning enemy attack patterns and countering that requires patience and dedication as even the most basic enemy can be a threat. Unlike NieR: Automata's dodging system, PlatnumGames have made dodging a little more difficult as you cannot chain them together. Unlike the enemies, that have a breathing period of invisibility, the player can be stun locked. Especially against elemental based weapons.

PlatinumGames went above and beyond with the enemy types in Astral Chain. Even towards the end of this 12-hour adventure, you'll encounter new enemies. Most of the variations of existing enemies, but since they're usually imbued with new elemental properties, attack patterns, or increased defense or attacks you'll have to adapt to those parameters. The bosses are outstanding and PlatinumGames did not hold back, there are several bosses in this game that would be considered a final boss in other games. If you need an extra boost, items are available for quick healing and statistic enhancements but those who play without these are rewarded with extra items and better ranks at the end of the mission. In addition, powerful items are only available for purchase during specific areas of the game such as the HQ. 

Missions are separated into "Files" which contain a series of side missions along with the core task. Most of these are optional and some will complete regardless if you succeed or fail. The point is to obtain enough "Genes", money, and resources to increase the power of your Legions and weapons. Without these enhancements, you will die. Most of the side missions will have you taking on bland tasks such as delivering packages, finding lost pets, and facing off in horde-style battles. You're constantly rewarded for completing missions so there's no downside for just trying to see what's out there. Exploration is also encouraged with the inclusion of chests.

You're a cop and sometimes you'll get to play detective. For the most part, it's a well-executed system. You look for clues and try to piece together the evidence based on what you found. The game isn't that demanding on this front and sometimes will provide the answers for you. It works for the narrative, showing the cop doing his job even if that means delivering ice cream to a sad child.

The interface should also be highlighted for being easy to navigate. Leveling your Legions and locating specific areas is quite easy. A colorful circle helps showcase important and side objectives while also coveying the different levels to each area. The only major issue comes from cleaning your Legions. To keep the Legion spick and span you have to clean away the corruption but it can become vexing seeing that the creature does not hold still! But the best tool is the Iris, which highlights critical clues and even shows information about the NPC you're targeting. It's a lot like Watch Dogs in that regard, with most people's personal information at your fingertips.

When Astral Chain plays to its strengths it's a brilliant thrill ride but sometimes it stumbles. During stealth sequences, you're required to hide from specific targets and use the subpar mechanics to hide and navigate the environment unnoticed. You'll have to perform some light platforming and occasionally it works and sometimes it doesn't. Using the Legion to leap from platform to platform works when there are no obstacles. But the second there's a small crystal or you land right on the edge, you plummet to the ground.

PlatinumGames is notorious for also having larger than life action sequences and outstanding choreography. Yes, Astral Chain has both of these. These sections are jaw-dropping in their execution as they combine action, music, and sometimes even giving you control during these events. It's a symphony of color, action, and sound that will have players gazing at the screen in wonder.

Astral Chain plays amazingly and looks just as good. Each environment in the megacity of the Ark is teeming with color. Character models shine and the environments are well-detailed. Everything moves are a smooth rate and I never encountered a crash or massive error that broke the experience. In modern games, especially something this fast and intricately designed I expected some crashes or game-breaking glitches but not here. PlatinumGames went above and beyond with a technically smooth title.

The musical score brings everything together. Whether it's exploring the streets, solving a crime, or engaged in a heated battle against a new threat. Every soundtrack has been perfectly linked to a specific moment. If you love video game soundtracks, Astral Chain will provide a new array of musical scores to listen to on repeat.

Astral Chain is one of the best games this year. It excels at providing a visually wondrous adventure with deadly monsters left and right to defeat. When it does slow down there are some missteps in this journey, whether its playing cleanup crew or sneaking past guards. But these sections are few and far between. Astral Chain gives you a thrill ride of action and adventure that both challenges and entertains. If you own a Nintendo Switch, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to get Astral Chain.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Astral Chain

90/100

Platform(s): Switch
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Developer(s): PlatinumGames
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Science-Fiction
Release Date: 2019-08-30

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