Afterimage Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

There’s nothing quite like a good Metroidvania. Dense labyrinths to traverse, many kinds of demons/undead/monsters to slay, new equipment to find, hazards to leap, and, most importantly, abilities to acquire that allow you to explore even more. We’ve gotten quite a few stellar genre entries in the last decade, but now we have another that aims to join the most memorable of them: Aurogon Shanghai’s Afterimage. This sprawling, anime-inspired take on the genre double jumps and air dashes with the best of them, though it isn’t without its quirks.

Afterimage opens with a vague, Dark Souls-like overview of how its world has decayed, depicted with a series of gorgeous, hand-drawn images. We understood none of it. In fact, the narrative is a convoluted mess of fantasy pronouns and anime girls; even after a dozen hours, we still didn’t know what was going on other than that, taking control of a young magical girl named Renee, we had to seek out a cloaked girl that stole her master’s soul. Joined by a sassy spirit called Ifree, we were off through hand-drawn biome after biome, whacking a wide array of enemies with whips and great swords as we explored every nook for treasure and upgrades.

Afterimage Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The gorgeous art is at the forefront here, much more than the forgettable story. Vivid backgrounds of the Rainbow Plains and the Ashen Canyon drew our eye away from the action or had us pausing to snap a few screenshots. We were excited to move from one area to the next to see Aurogon Shanghai’s wonderful rendition of these fantasy environments; truly, they quickly became a highlight of our time with the game.

The Switch, however, struggles to do the art justice; when docked, the screen looks muddy and frequently drops frames. In certain areas, the frame drops were so pronounced that they affected our ability to dodge the projectiles of knife-wielding bandits and to aim our counterstrikes. Undocked play – and especially on an OLED with its larger screen – suffers less from this, and the system's screen renders the art well. If we weren’t reviewing the game, we would have opted to play Afterimage on a more powerful system. We can only imagine how great it would look in 4K and with a smooth frame rate.

Afterimage Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Instead of exploring a dense castle full of secrets, Afterimage presents you with sprawling natural environments to explore. It can, at times, feel overwhelming; these areas are not small, and have so many secret nooks and alternate pathways that we don’t think we’ll ever get 100% map completion without a guide.

Often, exploration resembled banging our heads against the proverbial wall. In the middle of the game we got stuck: a giant fish required a way to converse with it to cross a lake, and the only other paths open to us were a lava area where we died in nearly one hit to fiery foes, and a boss dubbed 'Auss, the Lunatic Mastermage' that seemed invulnerable. No one pointed us in the proper direction; unable to best Auss or make it through the lava region, Afterimage left us thinking we missed an area or a secret item to fell the magician, in which we ended up wasting an hour or two backtracking. Turns out, Auss held the key to speaking with the fish and could, in fact, be stunned after being hit more than you’d think was reasonable.

Afterimage Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Another game in this genre would’ve had a helpful character or line of dialogue, even if vague, to mention how to stun Auss or where the key item resided. This was not the case, and holds true for other areas of the game. At any given time you have two to three different paths to take, delving deep into areas only to discover you lack the ability to continue and have to backtrack, or that the means to continue on were hidden away in a shopkeeper’s inventory.

Superb movement and combat lessen these frustrations, though. Controlling Renee as she double jumps, bounces off an enemy, and then air dashes to reach a chest works exactly like it should. As you’d expect, you earn more traversal abilities as you explore, giving you incentive to backtrack to where you can now reach that high platform or slide through that narrow crevice.

A small caveat with this is that fast travel between save points – called a Confluence – requires a scarce item for much of the game. Later, we unlocked the ability to fast travel at will, but if we wanted to head back to Resting Town to complete a sidequest and buy a new set of armour, for most of the game we couldn’t without spending 20 minutes leaping and dashing back from where we came from. Likewise, the map doesn't update unless you save at a Confluence, which caused us to get lost quite often – an odd design choice not to have it update as we explored.

Renee can wield six different weapon types: a sword, blade, greatsword, dualblades, scythe, and a whip. Two can be equipped at any time, and each has a simple attack with it, though you can unlock a couple more techniques for each. We quickly fell in love with the whip’s aerial attack, where Renee swings it around herself to create a wide, persistent area of damage, and the greatsword, which we liked the raw power of. A handful of magic spells, called sub-weapons, can also be equipped, though more often than not we ignored these; rarely did we find managing the mana to cast them to be all that worth it when we could just swing a big sword around instead.

Afterimage Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It was a joy to whack Afterimage’s surprisingly diverse enemy pool with these. Literal spider monkeys hung from trees; blob-like mushrooms leapt and bounced after us; grape-covered dinosaurs prowled forests – and dozens more, all of them wonderfully realised. Most of the bosses also grabbed our interest: a Crystallized Wolf required us to leap and attack with precise timing, and a winged bird-man had us deflecting his sharp feathers back at him. We stumbled upon boss arenas quite often, which were usually too challenging at first, requiring us to once again backtrack and find better equipment to survive more hits or deal damage more quickly.

In fact, whenever we entered a new area, the difficulty spiked until we levelled up and explored for a more powerful weapon. It can stray into frustrating territory sometimes, to go from obliterating cat-creatures that throw poison bottles at you to getting wrecked by ghostly wizards from one area to the next, but overall we enjoyed the character progression; Renee clearly grows stronger as you play and it feels good to find a new, more powerful whip that shreds enemies all the quicker.


While we did grow a little weary of the overwhelming amount to explore and backtrack through in Afterimage, we didn’t grow tired of whacking its wide range of enemies, nor did its gorgeously hand-drawn environments — which Switch unfortunately struggles to do justice to when docked — ever disappoint. It's best experienced elsewhere if you're playing on a television, but if you primarily play your Switch handheld, Afterimage offers a lengthy, lovely-looking Metroidvania adventure.