We shouldn't be surprised any longer when a mobile-to-Switch port turns out to be decent. There are far too many examples to list here, but just recently both Exit The Gungeon and Oddmar have acquitted themselves admirably.
Even so, we're as surprised as you are to note that the latest must-have Metroidvania started out life on iPhone. It's perhaps a little more understandable when you consider that Shinsekai: Into The Depths stems from console powerhouse Capcom, but still. These are strange times we're living in.
Not as strange as those experienced by our mute deep-sea diver protagonist, though. Theirs is a completely submerged world where the familiar (bicycles, traffic lights, street signs) splashes around with the alien (mysterious artefacts, advanced technology). Together with the game's focus on show-don't-tell storytelling and a UI that's full of arcane symbols (sometimes to the game's detriment), it all combines to create one of the most distinctive game worlds on Switch – though it's one that carries clear traces of some platforming greats.
Shinsekai: Into The Depths is a side-scrolling Metroidvania, but it rather weirdly reminded us more of Metroid Prime than any of Samus Aran's 2D adventures. Perhaps it's the more sedate and exploratory pace, or the weighty-yet-floaty movement of the hero. It could be the focus on extracting and documenting information from your environment or even the bloopy style of the atmospheric soundtrack.
Elsewhere there are echoes of Sonic The Hedgehog's Labyrinth Zone in the way that you must seek out air bubbles to recharge your depleting air supply. Meanwhile, the constant need to mine for precious gems – which pay for improvements to your equipment so that you can delve ever deeper – reminded us of Steamworld Dig.
Key to the game's unique character is the way it handles movement. Your character stomps along in their hefty diving suit, weighted to the rocky floor but extremely prone to slips and tumbles. Holding jump or pressing up will convert some of your air supply into a directional boost, essentially giving you the power of semi-controlled flight. It's at once empowering and thrillingly perilous, as a hard landing or collision will crack and ultimately destroy one of your precious air tanks.
Fortunately, these tanks can be restored by one of the many replacements dotted around the game's free-roaming levels. Alongside the aforementioned gem currency, you'll encounter save points, fresh equipment (this is a Metroidvania, after all) and materials for upgrading and restocking your gear. There's every incentive to step out and explore your watery surroundings. Simply forcing back the fog of war and mapping out this shimmering environment is a compelling incentive in itself.
It's fair to call this hostile environment you find yourself in your biggest enemy. At a certain point in the game, you'll be granted an umbilical cord providing unlimited air and propulsion, and you'll find yourself stretching it as far as it will go through the game's winding cave systems, reluctant to disconnect and watch that fragile bar deplete.
Aside from these air supply concerns, there's a rich array of aggressive underwater life to contend with, from sparky jellyfish to devastating bottom-feeding sharks. Your most basic (yet dependable) recourse is to whack them with your pickaxe, but there's also a particularly potent shotgun-like spear gun, a harpoon launcher, and a taser-like gizmo to lean on. You'll also accumulate some more exotic equipment – such as a robotic drone assistant that will retrieve distant equipment – and a Nautilus-like submarine with a powerful wall-demolishing drill.
Shinsekai: Into The Depths is a delight to play, but it's not perfect. We noticed a number of performance issues when the screen got busy. During one boss fight, we almost thought the game had entered a stylised slow-motion state, such was the extent of the frame rate hit. Also, that aforementioned assistant drone is a little glitchy, snagging on objects and dragging along items even when you have no capacity to pick them up.
Finally, the UI can be a little too busy and tough to decipher. We get that the developer is shooting for a fresh, alien feel here, but sometimes it comes at the cost of legibility. And while the game's word-free approach to narrative is a neat idea, it does make the lore and the background story a little tough to follow. This understated approach also seems to fail when you encounter one of the game's clunky text descriptions. It's almost like these were added fairly late in production after focus-testing revealed that players were getting confused.
But these are all relatively minor gripes, and the technical issues in particular should hopefully get addressed in future updates. All in all, Shinsekai: Into The Depths is one of the most immersive and downright interesting platform-adventures we've seen on Switch in quite some time.
Shinsekai: Into The Depths is a bracingly fresh Metroidvania with a memorable underwater setting and compelling movement mechanics. If you're after a platformer that values exploration and navigation over arcade action – and that isn't afraid to try something a little different with the format – then we wholeheartedly recommend dipping your toes into Shinsekai's exotic waters.