When PlatinumGames is on point, there is not much better than what comes out of their studios. Known for their licensed games being hit and miss, when the studio makes its own IP like Bayonetta or Nier Automata, their games tend to be the creme-dela-crème.
With their new Nintendo Switch exclusive Astral Chain being their latest new IP, it is easy to get hyped up before you know more about the game. This meant I was keen to go in blind, for better or for worse.
Astral Chain sets you in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been battling these mysterious creatures called Chimera. Chimera are monsters that enter the earth through mysterious red doorways that can appear anywhere, but they can’t be seen by most humans. The few that can do so because they have been impacted by enough matter from the astral plane or they have a legion, which are Chimera like creatures who are attached to their masters thanks to an astral chain, which is a literal chain that keeps them under control. When not in use the Legion gets stored in a wristband on its human.
The story kicks off with you choosing a male or female sibling who have grown up to be cops. In an attack they find themselves quickly getting a Legion of their own to help fight the Chimera like their father does. A little bit of plot ensues before you find yourself as the first human in the astral plane, and after your team joins you the Legions set themselves free from their astral chains. Your character is the only one to successfully recapture your Legion, and so the plot kicks off.
I don’t want to touch the story much more than that, because you deserve to enjoy it for yourself, but given how many game plots these days are reskins of the same story, I enjoyed how Platinum managed to make something so different.
The gameplay itself take a bit of time to get used to as you control your character to run around fighting, and when you summon your Legion it will automatically attack unless you hold the shoulder button which allows you to move the Legion around at will. In battle this took a little to get used to, but is well worth that adjustment period as it allows you to control how the fight goes, and use way more awesome moves like fashioning your chain to snare an enemy, or fling enemies that charge at you back like a slingshot. This gives the game a unique flavour that is interesting enough to justify taking the time to get your head around the combat.
Exploring the world relies on the Chimera as well as your character doesn’t jump, which on its own is weird for a Platinum game, so traversing gaps and platforms relies on your Legion. You can send your Legion out over gaps as they hover above the ground, so you can walk up some stairs, move your Legion across to an area, and then get it to pull you across using the chain.
Harder to reach platforms can be done via anchor points that you fling around when being pulled, but I found occasionally you would catch the edge of a crystal in the astral plane which would cause you to fall which was annoying to predict when trying to navigate difficult to see spots.
Exploring also incorporates the legions you collect and their unique skills, such as the dog legion allowing you to sniff out clues or dig up buried items.
Chimera can also be protected by other chimera that need to be sniped out of the sky first before you can attack them, or large items may need to be lifted to travel through an area using the Legion with massive arms. It is used just enough to make them worthy mechanics, but not so much that it gets too tedious.
Astral Chain is one of these games that early on feels way too complicated, but as you play it becomes more natural, and a lot more fun. Added to the absolutely beautiful look which seems far too good for a game on the Switch, and a soundtrack that kept me from listening to podcasts when not playing, it is a different experience to what Platinum has made before, but still feels like a game that could only come out of them.
Released: August 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Genre: JRPG, Action
Developer: Platinum Games