Platinum Games has a very interesting reputation as a developer. They’re known for high-impact action, utterly bizarre stories, and at times, being too niche for their own good. But in recent years, via Bayonetta, Nier Automata, and now Astral Chain, they’re being viewed as one of the best game developers around. With the release of Astral Chain, it’s easy see why,
On the surface, Astral Chain appears just like you would think a Platinum game would go. Stylized graphics, insane battle system, an over-the-top storyline set in a post-apocalyptic world…that kind of thing. And it does have that, but it also has a lot more that you likely wouldn’t expect, and more.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? This game takes place on Earth, but on an Earth you won’t recognize…because all of it is pretty much screwed. That is, outside of an artificial island known as “The Ark”, where humanity has been forced to hide in after “gates” to a place called the Astral Plane showed up and started bringing monsters known as Chimeras to our world. What’s more, humans themselves have been pulled into these gates, so needless to say, keeping these gates closed and the monsters out of reach of people is a priority.
Enter you and Neuron, a specialized police force with a very special weapon on your side in the form of a Legion. The Legions (five in total in the game) are quite literally chained to you and other special members of Neuron in order to control and use in subsequent battles. This is where the game could’ve collapsed, and instead shines.
Because while the battle system is pure Platinum Games in how it looks, it’s simple to use and change up on the fly. By that, I mean that eventually, your main character will be able to use a Sword, Arrow, Arm, Beast, and Axe (which is just a large sword…but who am I to judge?) Legions on the fly. Which is good, because the Chimeras come in all shapes sizes, and types. Many of which are better fought against with certain Legions rather than others.
A great example is a flying enemy I like to call “The Harpies”. They often hover in the air where most Legions can’t reach. But, your Arrow Legion can shoot them down to your level and deal great damage as a result. Making the battle easier. Your Axe Legion has a shield that can protect you, the Sword Legion can slice through energy beams and connections, and you can even ride your Beast Legions.
So in a way, each Legion has their own personality and style, and not unlike the player, you’ll find that you connect with them differently based on how you play the game.
The main crux of the gameplay is combos, as you will be able to land hits in rapid succession with both your playable character and your Legion. And while it can be fast and furious, it’s very hard to get “lost” in the action. So you’ll likely never feel frustrated because one of your two characters isn’t doing what you want, as you have near-perfect control over everything you and your Legion does at pretty much the same time.
Back to the story, you play as one of two siblings. A son and daughter of one of the Neuron officers who find out they’re perfectly suited to handling Legions (because of course, they are…). Under the guidance of your fellow officers and your Commander, Yoseph, you’ll fight to keep the Ark safe from the gates and the Chimeras, as well as a woman named Jena who is threatening to such the entire place into the Astral Plane.
Sound very anime? Good, because it is in all but name and platform. But like any good anime, nothing is quite what it seems. The more you dig into the story and the very deep world of Astral Chain, you’ll see many plotlines coming together as well as branching apart. Including the very nature of your character and their sibling (whichever one you don’t choose due to a MAJOR part of the game), the future of Neuron itself, the “deals” that were made in order to make the Ark, the true nature of Jena, and so much more.
This is a rich world, which you get to see because unlike many other Platinum Games, there’s a TON of mini-stories to do via side-missions. Some of them are basic like kill Chimeras and close gates. While others are to help the various people of the Ark. You’ll guide them to destinations, save their friends, make reunions, fix items, the works. They’re entirely up to you in regards to doing them or not. But if you do them, you’ll find yourself getting more fulfilled through your adventure.
At its core though, Astral Chain is a story of family, and while you do play the “silent protagonist” in the story, your sibling, and even the members of Neuron, help fill the void with some great personality and voice acting.
True to Platinum Games style, the way you play the game in terms of story and gameplay battles will determine your “grade” at the end of each mission (of which there are 11 main ones and some that come after…). Of course, they do also give you the chance to play in a casual mode so that you don’t feel the crushing defeat of not getting the best ranking…but it’s up to you.
There’s also a LOT to upgrade in regards to your character and your Legion. You can upgrade your basic weapon (which acts as a baton, gun, and sword), your Legatus (which houses your Legions) and even the Legions themselves to help make them even more powerful. You’ll need to be careful though, as you can’t just do this willy-nilly. It takes money and “code” among other things to make it happen. But when you do it, you do feel the effects.
Which sadly brings me to some of the down points in the game. While it’s true that Platinum Games didn’t skimp out on anything in this game (including the graphics which honestly shine on Switch regardless of it being docked or in handheld mode), you could also say that they put too much in the game. Having 5 Legions is nice, but trying to remember what they can all do and how to activate all of their abilities? It can be too much at times. In the early sessions of the game, I forgot that my Sword Legion could severe energy connections between enemies, and so I spent 5 minutes trying to kill something I couldn’t touch until I did just that.
Even in the later sessions of the game there were areas I couldn’t reach or attacks I couldn’t perform because I couldn’t remember how to do it all. It didn’t prevent me from finishing…but it was noticeable. Also, despite being able to upgrade yourself and Legions, there were times I forgot to do that too and it didn’t seem to make the game any harder. There is such thing as being “too big” and Astral Chain did feel that way at times.
Also, not unlike Fire Emblem Three Houses (which we also loved, check out our review here!), the ending of the game feels kind of rushed. Granted, there is post-game story missions to do that do answer the questions…but it feels like an odd way to end it, especially after a very emotional moment featuring your sibling and your Legion.
Finally, while I’m thrilled that the combat is as fluid and epic as it is, at times the Lock-On system just didn’t seem to work, and so my Legion would go flying off to fight one enemy while I was trying to kill the more pressing foe. Again, it didn’t break the gameplay experience, but it did hinder it at times.
Still, in the end, Astral Chain was an awesome experience, and I look forward to seeing all the post-game content, as well as anything else Platinum Games throws our way.
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Astral Chain Review
While it may not be for everyone per se, Astral Chain blends a beautiful story and world together with tight action as you fight to save everything from enemies both and far. If you love Platinum Games, and you want a truly new and fresh experience on Switch, get Astral Chain.
- Astral Chain shows exactly why Platinum Games is a beloved game maker.