You’d think it’d be a little easier to relax when you’re lounging inside a hotel suite playing a video game, Platinum Games’ Astral Chain, to be exact.
High above Comic-Con, Seagulls were flying face level to the glass panes of the room, while sailboats were lazily drifting off in the San Diego bay; yet all anyone could pay attention to was the merciless destruction of pixels, the blue and red neon bloom effects sparkling off the huge TV that was running this latest build of the game; a near finished, post-E3 build only one month out from release.
To any non-action fans out there, you might actually want to keep reading. It turns out that Astral Chain is not always a game of pure chaos. In fact, this hands-on demo went out of its way to show off how Platinum’s latest borrows interesting aspects from many of their previous games – and a little surprisingly, a few other contemporary titles as well.
How is this game different from its trailers? Well, when those neon lights fade, sometimes Astral Chain wants to be a mystery-adventure game. You also definitely don’t have to squint very hard to see all the elements of an action RPG, what with all the side questing and item pick-ups. But even on the calm San Diego bay, playing Astral Chain is frenetic arcade action matched by few games out there. This game has its hands in a lot of honey pots – and that’s a good thing.
The Story of Astral Chain
When Astral Chain isn’t just letting you style on your enemies, it seems to have a lot to say about law and order and the lengths a society will go to in order to enforce it during times of calamity.
You play as a police officer on the beat – one in which you broadly personalize with the skin type, gender expression and hairstyle that you want, by the way. In this floating city world, recent events from a sci-fi threat known as “Chimera” have left red, pulsing junk all over the streets of The Ark, the city you’re patrolling. This redness emerges from “the astral plane” – the first half of the game’s namesake – and it acts as the stuff you both investigate to move along the story, and sometimes get rid of, for points. That’s the plot in a nutshell.
All the monsters you eventually encounter in this game definitely look the part of said Chimera, with their weird mish-mash of animal parts, though whether or not they act the part of a Chimera by definition, something that is aspired to but unachievable, may be the real glue of Astral Chain’s story.
Gameplay in Two Halves
The dominant gameplay element emerges when you tap ZL, which instantly produces a creature on screen known as a “Legion”, some kind of police branded creature that, frankly, doesn’t look so happy to be tied up.
There are different types of Legions with alternating strengths and weaknesses apiece, and you can assign varying attacks you find to them too, essentially making them your personalized, auto-attacking weapons.
There’s a ton of voice acting in this game, with many characters of interest wanting to talk to you, all in spoken English over top the dialogue boxes
The Legion is tethered to you by – here’s the second namesake – a chain, basically a leash between you and them that you can even wrap around enemies with your joystick while attacking. You can’t keep your Legion out forever though, as a little meter runs down the longer you have it out there. Hold down ZL while moving the left stick and your Legion moves around the screen in time with your stick movement, different from your own movement going on with the right stick. If you’ve ever played Wonderful 101, it feels a lot like control system in that game, which is the first, obvious Platinum riff among many that are stuffed into this experience.
More on the action portions in a second. The other main action you’ll be doing is solving crimes by talking to NPCs; sometimes helping them or healing them, other times buying items like medicine off of them. (Fans of high production values, rejoice: there’s a ton of voice acting in this game, with many characters of interest wanting to talk to you, all in spoken English over top the dialogue boxes.)
In general, gameplay oscillates between these two extremes of investigation and fighting. There are the typical Platinum chapters – basically levels – and in this game they are split into red and blue “cases”, the red ones being action-oriented, the blue ones involving more in the way of item collecting and deductive reasoning.
In the area we encountered, a back-alley, digitally roped-off scene of a crime required careful consideration of some evidence. In a previous hands-on, Nintendo showed us sweeping in-game tech that allowed you to watch events from the past unfold in front of you. In this play-through, some nine hours into the game we were told, it was just some good ol’ fashioned kneeling down and looking at stuff. There’s an over-the-shoulder perspective as you look at the evidence, not at all unlike Rockstar’s L.A. Noire.
This is where the game hammers home the concept of “duty”. We didn’t see the ramifications of this gameplay paragon system, but in Astral Chain you maintain “duty points”, which are quickly lost if you were to rampage through the city knocking things over and destroying stuff. (Sorry to the person we bumped into.) However, you can gain them back by getting rid of red matter and helping people out. It’s a safe bet Astral Chain wants to say something about the arcade-like destruction gamers often leave in their wake.
A More Robust Action Game
With the gameplay that differs from the more traditional run-and-gun Platinum titles out of the way, it’s time to talk about why you should definitely be excited for Astral Chain.
After travelling to the astral plane to kick some Chimera butt, we spent the bulk of our time fighting Chimeras of all types in what some Nintendo fans might readily compare to the Twilight Realm in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. (Your mileage may vary with that comparison, but the point is that it’s some spacey set-piece where you fight a bunch of bad dudes.)
You’d need a professional boxing announcer to even begin describing what’s happening on the screen all at once
Here is where most of the crazy stuff that you see in the trailer happens, and all that action feels great to pull off in your hands. We mean really great. It doesn’t come easy, though. When you battle, you will come to take advantage of many of the items you’ve earned during the detective portion. A robust upgrade and attack system runs multiple menus deep, and gives both you and your Legion all sorts of combo potentials that feel, quite frankly, limitless.
Here’s how it works, take notes. Your character can wield at minimum a baton, a “gladius” long sword, or a blaster. You can assault, cartwheel, and kick, and you can pause the action in real-time using the D-pad to switch between your items, which sets up a lot of Matrix-esque combos. There are also three different Legion types, and you can unleash at least two different Legions on a chain at any given time, and also there is a robust combo system that’s at minimum six attacks deep, plus you can style with wrapping the chains around your enemies on top of doing physics-based finishing moves. And it all combines with your skill points and attacks assigned. It’s a lot. You’d need a professional boxing announcer to even begin describing what’s happening on the screen all at once, and it took more time than we had in this playthrough to even come close to getting used to all the different button presses.
In this way, Astral Chain is best recommended to hardcore action fans. The gameplay is even deeper than, say, Platinum’s Bayonetta, while at the same time maintaining that series’ silky smooth comboing feel and end-of-chapter grading system. That’s a huge compliment, given how satisfying Bayonetta makes button-pressing feel, and Astral Chain is no different in that regard.
Really, Astral Chain is the uncanny and not subtle combination of Platinum Games’ greatest hits: the fighting mechanics of Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Bayonetta, with a lot of the tactical and visual elements of Nier: Automata (that game’s celebrated designer, Takahisa Taura, is at the helm of this one).
Throw in the fact that we were shown a massive boss battle – as in, a boss that was massive – plus were teased branching paths in a single chapter, including certain pathways that require returning to later on with your skill tree artfully filled out, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a meaty, explosive, and inventive game that all looks fantastic on the Nintendo Switch.
We aren’t sure yet if the detective portions of the game will be as entertaining as the action cases, or if the storyline does anything more than echo the sci-fi war classics at your local library, but it’s very likely Switch owners are about to face a sobering reality they might not want to hear: Astral Chain just might be another must-buy title for Nintendo’s 2019 console lineup.
Astral Chain releases August 30, 2019. Stay tuned to Nintendo Life for our full review.
male police officers with plated pants and the females with shorts and tight on the ass because why not right ?
This game has a very old school art style. I'd like Platinumgames to make this anime into a game:
I really like both the design openness of this, that you're not JUST running from battle to battle. Also really dig the art style, which makes it look almost like a sort of comic book.
I really want to know more about the RPG and exploration aspects of the game. I'm itching for another Nier and this is looking similar in a lot of ways.
The more I hear more about this game, the more hype I get
Ordered the special.....it better be good Nintendolife as this article makes people it and then......well we'll wait and see.
Ps. I hate bayonetta, and metal gear.
good for Platinum Games fans, from the outside, all their games look about the same though.. tons of linear anime-style action spam
Sounds like my kind of game. Depth, action and investigation in equal measure, great visuals, that Bayonetta style action, helmed by the director of NieR: Automata (not Automatica) and it lets the female characters have a bit of sex appeal?
Pretty much sold.
From the look of it, it’s my kind of game. Obviously action games like this live or die on the controls (any truly great brawler needs a truly great dodge mechanism), but I trust Platinum to deliver the goods. Fingers crossed.
@nintendolie have you played Tatsunoko vs Capcom on the Wii? Definitely worth checking out if you can find a copy these days.
I need this in my veins!!!
@Darkthany What?? You might need your eyes checked. Their games have much more variety than most developers’ games. Especially western developers.
Also, if you just spam the buttons when you play their games, you will not do pretty poorly.
@vitelus yeah it’s petty silly
"Switch owners are about to face a sobering reality they might not want to hear: Astral Chain just might be another must-buy title for Nintendo’s 2019 console lineup."
What? Seriously? I know 2019 has a lot of games, and a lot of good games too, but your implying there are a load of "must-buy" games and that simply is not true. It's been a distinctly average year and for me, not a single "must-buy" title yet - only SMM2 has come close.
Well written preview! Got me even more keen on this game.
@Pandaman Neir Automatica? And hunny pot? Are you getting auto-corrected when writing this?
Astral Chain reminds me a lot of the original Xenoblade Chronicles.
Interesting style, cool story, and clever combat system. But just like with that game, I'll be waiting to see reviews and friend's opinions first to make sure it doesn't crash and burn. This preview does an excellent job at answering some of my questions. Thanks!
This looks great, but I feel like I am going to be busy with Fire Emblem and maybe even Dragon Quest Builders 2 still. I will have to wait until I finish those before picking this up.
So many great games coming to Switch in such a short period of time. It's a good problem to have! Way better than last year.
@Pandaman "Neir: Automatica. "
Ohh, I haven't heard of that one, do you have a preview on the way?
A lot voice acting hmmm. But is there also a Japanese audio option?
@frabbit Beat me to it by a post. The "hunny pot" thing is a clear reference to Winnie the Pooh. But Nier Automatica is either an autocorrect typo, or a reference to a new sequel. Considering we're talking about Taro, 50/50 either way.
sweet, i'm really looking forward to the game informing me of how bad i am at the end of every level. minimum achievable ahoy!
@NEStalgia Blast my lack of Pooh knowledge!
Should also probably state I do think this is a good preview, and am looking forward to picking up the game!
I fixed the typo on Neir, thank you to the 63,638,018 of you who pointed it out 👍
I love it that this game was announced out of nowhere, only a few months before its release date, yet it's shaping up to be awesome.
Glad that my hunch about the mechanics feeling similar to TW 101 are correct, I loved the combat in that game. And indeed the vibes of that “other world” feel very similar to the twilight realm near the end of TP.
This all sounds great; looking like a day one for me.
@Dr_Corndog Same, wish more games would surprise us like this.
Didn’t read as I am on media blackout for this game but I am glad early impressions are promising. Looking forward to this game.
Edit: The fem booty shorts are impractical as heck though.
I just watched the Digital Foundry video to get a greater understanding of what's going on in this and its looking really good with its Batman investigation mixed with Platinums combat in an almost Zelda esque dungeon. The only issue for me being when its coming, I'm not too bothered about Fire Emblem but with the likes of Zelda, Dragon Quest XI, Luigi's Mansion 3 and a few others I cant remember off the top of my head all around a couple of months of one another, this is getting harder to fit into that. If it reviews great I may just have to bump it up
@commentlife I didn't know that Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was ever in a video game, I've never even heard of that Capcom game until now.
Astral Chain is the only game that I'm interested in for the entire year on the Switch.
My only "problem" is the framerate and the resolution. 30fps for a game like that it's almost a crime.
I don't know if Nintendo has signed the game as an exclusive title for the Switch or not but I'd like to see this game running at 60fps/4K on another system.
@frabbit Oh, bother....
@PCkid Nintendo is publishing. It's exclusive.
@nintendolie Did you hear about the Russos making a live-action movie of BotP, the localised version of Gatchaman?
@Pandaman Nice preview! Looks to be a unique game, kudos to PlatinumGames for deciding to make a new IP and making it full of depth and substance.
Totally sold on this game.
Would like Astral Chain to come before Fire Emblem, because for me getting this day one is just having a game I can't wait to play when trying to finish fire emblem three playthoughs.
@PCkid the game probably wouldn’t even exist or be as polished if it wasn’t for Nintendo.
Alright, time to turn on ‘media blackout mode’. I’ve already paid for this bad boy in full and I’ve seen more than enough to sell me. See ya in August.
This games is at a limbo for me. On one hand I like the artstyle and the story appears to be interesting enough on the other hand I absolutely hate platinum button-masher gameplay (aka action " combos" heavy)
@nintendolie oh man, I wish I could like teleport my copy of it to you to play it because it’s a fun trip beating up on Capcom characters as Joe the Condor.
This game is going to be great, but the story is going to be the thing that makes this game be "amazing" or just your average, great game. Nothing I'm reading about the story is that captivating; a topic that's been done countless times before. Hopefully, it can be compelling enough to really make a genuine impact.
I'm replaying the first Bayonetta at the moment and I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying it. I've also loved The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2 and Nier Automata. I'M SO EXCITED!
Feeling good about thus one, but I've never played Platinum before. Ergo... I'll wait for the review.
Why I never miss a Platinum Game 😎
Day one for me!
@PCkid Yeah it totally sucks this isn't running at 60fps! Although I'd be happy with 60fps at 720p or even lower. If it had to be at 540p in docked mode I'd be fine with that as long as it was locked at 60fps!
Really love it suggests a 9.
@nintendolie If only it still had online play and it’s edition of the Wii fight stick wasn’t an arm and a leg. Plays a lot like a MVC game to me, except its 2 on 2. Hope you can find you a copy! Still have mine.
Looks and sounds awesome. Great preview too.
This game will probably visit my Switch on the day of its release.
@vitelus A very stylish design choice.
@PCkid Yep... reason why 3rd party games should not be exclusives.
Let people who care about fluidity play it somewhere else. That group will not buy a Switch anyway - just loosing a sale.
An excellent looking game.
@nintendolie Tatsunoko vs Capcom was basically the Wii's Marvel vs Capcom 3. Gameplay is very similar. It's the only reason I even know about Gatchaman to be honest.
Looks a lot more appealing than Daemon X Machina.
It sounds so cool! Sadly, this one will have to wait since FE has priority, but I hope It does well enough for Nintendo and Platinum to develop this into a series, instead of being a single game like the W101.
My JoJo knowledge is limited - I think stands have their own free will but are some of them bonded (chained in this case) to their users against it? I’m fairly sure “rogue legions” will play some part in this game’s script.
Either way, loving the Japanese Sentai vibes and hope I’m able to put down Marvel and Hollow Knight and Making Mario’s long enough to play this next month!
this is beyond exciting. Its nice to be excited about some Nintendo 1st party games finally!
@Teksetter For the most part Stands don't usually have a personality distinct from their users. There are exceptions like Echoes Act 3.
@nintendolie damn that image brought back memories!
Also made me feel old!
I’m so hyped for this!
@vitelus Maybe she’s just careless rookie...?
This is what I think too.
@60frames-please You see how many thumbs down you got just to have tell the truth ?
How is it possible to give your opinion in situations like these ?
The thumb up came from me btw.
I won't lie, that combination sounds pretty bad to me, but those are all cult games.
This looks brilliant. The only problem I have with being brilliant is...MY WALLETT CAN’T COPE WITH 2019!
@PCkid "How is it possible to give your opinion in situations like these ?" By not caring whether or not strangers on the internet click on the heart or the thumbs down on your comment.
Oh my GOSH this game looks so freaking good. Will likely end up one of the finest games of the generation, and quite possibly one of my favorite video games of all time given Bayonetta 2 and Nier Automata (and this looks better than either of them).
Combined with Fire Emblem Three Houses (last time I was excited for a game this much was 2 years ago with Monster Hunter World), which is also likely going to end up as one of my favorite video games of the generation and likely all time,
And Dragon Quest XI S which is ballz to the wall, just insane how excited I am for the Switch release. Yet another game that will go down as one of my favorite RPGs of all time.
And that’s not even factoring in Mario Maker 2, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Dragon Quest Builders 2 (which caught me by surprise as one of the best releases all year long, a real gem that one is), Zelda Link’s Awakening, Ni No Kuni, Daemon X Machina, Spyro Trilogy, Luigi’s Mansion 3 (yet other strong contender for 2019 GOTY, or at least it might be if it wasn’t for Fire Emblem, Astral Chain and DQXIS), Pokemon Sword/Shield, The Witcher 3...
This is probably the single greatest year for a video game platform I’ve witnessed in the 30 years I’ve been gaming.
Sorry, but I would trade this for a Nier port.
@RailX Yes, especially if it ran at 60fps!
@PCkid I looked, but I can't even see thumbs downs on my comments. Only hearts appear. Don't care anyways. I want 60fps games, I love the Switch, and I don't care how low the resolution has to go to accommodate 60fps! I guess I wish other people didn't like 30fps graphics, but I'm not going to attack them for it! I have a friend who says he doesn't want me to show him the difference between 30fps and 60fps. Of course he plays games on his PS4 that run at one or the other, and occasionally I mention it to him. He just doesn't care. Many people are like that. Oh well...
@60frames-please I don't think it's as simple as lowering the resolution until you can get higher framerate
@Lord I also hate Bayonetta. I hope this is nothing like that.
@Lord If you hate Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising, why tf on Earth would you buy Astral Chains ? To have something to complain about ? If you don't like BTU games then I guess that you will not like this one, even if you liked Nier Automata (which would be strange ...)
This Platinum title, quite frankly, ticks all the right boxes for me. There's plenty of action, interesting mechanics, a cool premise, some "breather" moments via the investigations....Heck, there are even incentives to actually enact the role of a police officer and follow all the rules and laws of the Ark!
In short, it's a perfect recipe for me and has drawn me in like none of their other recent Nintendo offerings (though I'd be willing to try a port of The Wonderful 101).
Not my usual genre of video game, but I'm intrigued enough to keep a close eye on this
I wasn’t planning on buying this but you sold me on that caption
@MarioFan02 I'd suggest you look elsewhere for a review to help you on this one. The game will blatantly get a gushing 9 or 10 here.
We are talking the same way my friend. I think 60fps should be just THE STANDARD, no need to discuss more or less... 60 fps and nothing else.
@Anri02 Yeah, that's an oversimplification. There could be other factors that use a lot of processing power. But still, there are multiple games where lowering the resolution allows for 60fps gameplay. Just look at Darksiders, Fire Emblem Warriors, Unravel Two, etc.
@PCkid Maybe someday Nintendo will release the Nintendo 60fps and it will only play games at 60fps. It will have new games, but one key feature will be upgrading the back catalog to 60fps. It will have 3D, so games like Mario 3D Land and Luigi's Mansion (the first two) will now play at 60fps in 3D. It will also boost N64, GameCube (not that many need it), Wii, Wii U, and Switch games up to 60fps. Videogame heaven!
@LightBeam after watching many playtho reviews the game seems to be nothing like bayonetta or metal gear as stated in this article.
@Lord I believe the combat will be similar but for the rest, yeah maybe you are right
Tap here to load 86 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...