Astral Chain delivers exciting action on your Nintendo Switch, only brought down a little by some outright bizarre decisions in gameplay.
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 30, 2019
Demons are attacking what’s left of humanity and it’s up to you to stop them. While it might sound like the latest entry in the Doom franchise, that’s essentially the basic premise for Platinum Games’ newest action franchise, Astral Chain.
In Astral Chain, you choose between a set of twins joining the regular police force, but it’s soon discovered they are part of the small percentage of the population that can in fact “link” with the same demons that are invading and attacking, and use those demons to fight off other demons.
However, you are not buddies with these demons. You have to capture and command them through a special chain (hence the game’s name). If the demons ever somehow broke loose, well, it would go pretty bad for you.
The story in Astral Chain is very typical anime fare, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be compelling and fun to experience. Most of the characters are well-acted and have pretty distinct personalities. The one exception to this, oddly enough, is you. As mentioned previously, you choose between two twins, a brother and sister, at the start of Astral Chain. Whichever twin you choose is a completely silent protagonist the entire game (except oddly enough to narrate the post-game epilogue).
Silent protagonists are fine in some cases, but not only is this a game filled with expressive, memorable and wacky characters that talk quite a bit, but this is also a Platinum Games character action game. They are pretty much known for making over the top action games with very memorable protagonists (and usually the cast in general). This just seems like an incredibly odd decision. Scenes just don’t have as much weight and feel kind of absurd when everywhere else is talking and you are just standing there completely mute.
As mentioned the other thing Platinum Games is really known for is over the top action and that is Astral Chain’s strongest area by a long shot. You start with one demon but will eventually acquire five, all with fairly unique abilities in and out of combat. They share some moves (i.e. all can use the chain in a similar fashion) but all feel pretty unique to use. And while you certainly could rely on just one to get through the large majority of battles, mixing it up feels fun and certainly gives you creative ways to fight.
The abilities of the demons also come into play quite a bit for traversal in some parts of the game. But moves that work well in combat are just annoying to try and pull off in this manner. The most egregious of these is a maneuver where you put your demon ahead of you to a far off platform and the demon will just pull you to it. Oddly enough, despite your character being in great physical shape, he or she can not jump or climb at all unless there is a ladder present. This also leads to ridiculous situations where you are blocked off by something you could easily step over.
Odd camera angles or obscured views will lead to frequent falling. Or you’ll just get hung up on corner of something even when it’s clearly indicated that you should safely make it to said platform. I used up far more health items recovering from falls than fighting enemies.
Combat and bad traversal is far from the only activity you’ll get up to in Astral Chain. The mileage is certainly questionable with activities ranging from strange to annoying – but all pretty weird. This includes rescuing stray cats, recycling cans, carrying ice cream many scoops tall and trying not to spill it. You’ll even be dressing up in a dog mascot uniform to cheer up people. And that is really just a small sampling.
Most of this is very optional but it does affect your chapter score. Completing them also rewards you with money and experience for your demons so they can gain new abilities. So while technically optional, you definitely have to participate in a fair amount if you don’t want battles to get extremely difficult later on.
While the action portion remains fun throughout the length of Astral Chain, it can feel a little repetitive as each chapter mostly throws up the same structure. When it does break from that norm on rare occasion, it’s not great (a lackluster motorcycle sequence here, a really annoying stealth section there). It’s not extremely tedious, but you just aren’t doing much different in “case” 7 then you were in “case” 2.
Astral Chain is another exciting action sci-fi adventure from Platinum Games and well worth checking out if you are looking for that kind of thing on your Nintendo Switch. It is filled with a bunch of weirdness that might be too much for some and lacking the compelling protagonist you often find in Platinum Games’ other works. But bottom line, if you like crazy anime over the top action games then this will be right up your alley.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.