Astral Chain | Review

Astral Chain | Review

Astral Chain is a behemoth sized Anime styled Platinum made Action Game that delivers well on its premise. It feels like an Evangelion Spiritual Successor at times. Only significantly hindered by a number of non-Combat sections that aren’t great, rather than being bad. Apart from that, it’s an incredible game on par with Nier: Automata and Bayonetta!

Premise in brief

An enormous Anime styled Combat heavy JRPG story following Twin Superhero-esque Police officers through a Post Apocalyptic Sci-fi/Cyberpunk setting, with each chained to mysterious Enslaved monsters called Legions. 

Story

In February 2043 the Earth was struck by a meteor carrying an attached disaster, tearing open an extradimensional doorway.  Humanity ain’t been doing too good ever since, and the vast majority if not all of mankind has since relocated to an artificial island called The Ark. The Sci-Fi setting is largely defined by the primary danger the Meteor opened to humans: The Astral Plane. Dimension filled with mysterious creatures called Chimeras that aren’t very fond of human folk. The Astral Plane is about the worst dimensional neighbor you could ask for, as bits of it corrupt and alter the physical reality inhabited by the humans. Contact with the Astral Plane spreads corruption, poisoning people with an illness called Redshift often followed by Death or turning into a common variety of monster called an Aberration.
 
More relevant to gameplay, is how anti-chimeric weaponry evolved following initial exposure and subsequent study of the Astral Plane. Tech wonders like the X-Baton, a transforming weapon by now commonplace as Police Equipment, and the Legions, captured and repurposed Chimera used in battle controlled by way of Astral Chains and the Legatus device.
 
The player character is one of two Twins, male or female, with their twin being named Akira. They’re born with a unique capacity to synchronize with and manipulate Legions by way of the Legatus device. Essentially they are born prodigies in terms of interacting with the Astral Plane and related phenomena and hold a natural resistance to Corruption and Redshift.
 
A branch of the Police force called Neuron came into being pretty quickly, specialized in countering the commonly visible Aberrations, closing off Astral Gates, and battling the highly classified threat of the generally invisible Chimeras.
 
Neuron came to host some notable characters, but chief importance is the founder & Commander of Neuron Dr. Yoseph Calvert. 
 
Also, this last bit about the Story was written seconds after credits rolled.
 
Holy Hell in a handbag. I’ll tell you, there is nothing else like how Platinum Games does a climax. Not in just in videogames, but in any medium. These things feel like a real Event that leaves you exhausted at the end.

Gameplay elements

Astral Chain has a lot of features, I’ll go over most of them but I’ll surely miss a few. In order of importance…
 
Attacks are pretty simple combos of jamming that attack button. These are much less varied than in Bayonetta or Nier Automata, in fact, there are three weapons I have come across so far, and I completed the main story at last. Technically these are modes for a single transforming weapon, the X-Baton.
 
  • Baton, the standard mode for quick melee attacks.
  • Gladius, an upgraded mode of heavy melee damage.
  • Blaster, standard sidearm firing weak rapid bullets.
 
Once you have your first Legion, the game begins to reveal its depth gradually. You’re meant to revisit Files once you have equipment from later in the game, usually, once you have all five Legions selectable from your quick change menu. So don’t sweat bad grades if you play on PT Standard, which brings me to…
 
You’ve got four Difficulties called Playstyles. In order of rising difficulty: Unleashed, Casual, PT Standard, PT Ultimate. In PT Standard and up, you are graded for your performance. PT Standard is the mode for you if you’re accustomed to the games made by Platinum, though the game starts off on Casual. 
 
Legions have their own Meter, called the Energy Meter. You can’t always have one out due to this blue meter gradually depleting with time. This doesn’t mean too much initially, but when your legion gets hit, this is what constitutes their “HP” gauge. If it reaches zero, you’ll have to wait a bit for the meter to completely fill again before using your Legion. Time taken up by this Cooldown phase varies depending on how much you have Upgraded your Equipment and speaking of, Legions get a kind of equipment that can influence this too. 
 
Legion’s have two equipable elements. Skills and Abilities. Skills are up to two commands to be given to your legion via button presses in combat.
Abilities are equipable items that change their stats and traits in a lot of differing ways. 
 
Legions have their own section in the game’s Pause screen equivalent, the Legatus Menu. The Legatus is the equipment you pick up in File 2. Once you have this, you can upgrade Legions with the Gene Code you pick up from defeated enemies.
 
When attacking or really any time, you will start seeing blue flashes after a point in the game. This is your sign to press the Legion Control button to initiate special Sync actions such as a defense, attack, or recovery from a fall.
 
Legions can be controlled directly by a second player, though I have no nearby friends to try it with. 
They normally are controlled by holding their Legion Control button and moving the right analog stick.
 
Legions can and often do need to interact with your environment through unique actions from each of the five. Usually you’ll find very specific circumstances, usually, this is pretty easy to pick up on. Remember they are not visible to normal folk, so you can use your Legion to Eavesdrop on strangers.
 
Legions, especially the Arm Legion, are often used in basic puzzle segments. These come and go and usually are not required to proceed. Though you will need to know how to Chain Jump.
 
To Chain Jump, you send your Legion to a distant point, then press the Legion Control Button and your Attack button at once. You will be yoinked to where it is, useful for crossing gaps.
 
The Chain also has uses in battles beyond the negative of hindering how far you can be from your Legion. By holding the chain between you both, you can chain counter a dashing enemy be catching them with the chain and then pulling it taut to launch and stun them. And by encircling targets with the chain completely, you can bind enemies (and troublesome civilians or other nonsense) to disable them. Effectively these are Astral Handcuffs.
 
There are noncombat sections aplenty, ranging from odd minigames to light detective work, mostly talking to civilians and checking camera feeds. There is a secondary view mode called IRIS and it gives detailed readouts on most interactable objects.
 
Noncombat sections are not the peak of this game’s design though, and I did groan at later “Stealth” segments… This ain’t MGS and you ain’t Snake. The Chain Jump is decent to use outside of combat for some basic platforming and exploration.
 
There is an in-game camera with filter effects mapped to pressing right on the D-Pad by default. You collect extra data on enemies, locations, and people by taking a photo of them.

AudioVisual elements

This game looks good. It sounds good. And if you enjoy the anime aesthetic, I think it’s a safe bet you’ll enjoy this game. That being said, the visual stylings of creatures remind me of Neon Genesis Evangelion while the setting itself screams Ghost In The Shell. The character models are very well done and are visible in-game by way of collected files.

Completionism Note

As I said in a previous piece, you can replay each Chapter/File. You WILL SEE ITEMS YOU CANNOT INTERACT WITH YOUR FIRST PASS THROUGH. Don’t sweat it or you’ll take many undue hours trying to get 100% on your first pass through a File. If you want to get to completion of everything fastest, it is better, in my opinion, to do only what you can, accept what you can’t, and keep going rather than getting too ambitious. 

Final Verdict

Astral Chain is good, great even. But marred by some of the copious attempts at diversifying the gameplay. These sections aren’t horrible, some especially involving Lappy the Police Dog are brilliant. But others, such as a very poor handful of stealth sections, act as a weight that keeps Astral Chain from reaching the highest peaks it otherwise might be bound for. That said, I strongly suspect Akira of being planned as DLC for Smash. A hunch.
 

Thank you for reading feel free to comment below. Follow me on Twitter and we can talk about gaming. You can also read about #Project181 here and donate to help raise money for Gamers Outreach. Join us in helping kids in hospitals getting to game.

Robert Kelly Ball

[Editors Note: Wade Lawson is a content contributor for 181GAMING. If you would like to have your content published on 181GAMING, click hereWe are always looking for content creators and community moderators.]

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