Astral Chain Review
PlatinumGames has been making great, stylish action games for years. Astral Chain is one of their most polished and fun entries they've ever create. Aerial fighting is the core of this end of the world story. The hero sends monsters through the air with ease as swords flail violently and stunning particles cover the screen. World building, graphics, and sometimes utterly bizarre side quests all make the experience even better.
The story has plenty of interesting people. But like many JRPGs and Japanese games, the story can be a bit chaotic and incoherent at times. It can change from being overly serious to overly comical way too abruptly. A prime example is when you meet Bel as you mourn the loss of someone close to you. Bel just so happens to be a fairy that watches over the station's toilets. What?
Astral Chain's main city is called the Ark, and that's where you'll spend all your time. It's a neon mega-city, the last basion of humanity as the rest of the world has been pushed to extinction by dimension jumping Chimera aliens. As humanity begins to crumble and lose against the aliens, the tides turn in a lab. Scientists discovered how to take control of a Chimera alien and turn them into a weapon called a Legion. Unfortunately, only a few people are able to control Legions.
Two of these few are twins, and one of which you choose to control. You will be a silent protagonist, so the character you don't select will be doing all the speaking and carrying the story. I personally find silent main characters to be more immersive as it lets you fill in the character on your own. But this is definitely controversial and some people really don't like it at all. You will get some lame grunts and 'uh-huh' from the character you're playing, and that's about it.
The focus of Astral Chain is the game play, and it's very good. It more than makes up for the awkward, at times, story and the silent protaganist. Having control of two characters feels very natural, and it's a great new change for PlatinumGames. So if you're used to PlatinumGames, this change will be very welcomed.
Controlling two characters in a game has been tried before, and it rarely ever works out very well. But Astral Chain does a very nice job of keeping both characters under your control. It will still happen, but the AI assisting the other character does a much better job than most games I've played with two controllable characters. The AI is in a very nice place, where it's not a hindrance to playing the game, but it won't beat it for you, either. If you don't want to depend on the AI, you can have another player take control of the partner in coop, but it's not the ideal way to play the game.
The fun of Astral Chain comes from controlling your Legion. Yes, it can run off and pummel enemies and do most of the work, but the real fun is about controlling both characters by giving them both inputs to create combos. A great example is to move yourself into location for a sword combo, then chain the enemy down with your Legion, then beat the enemy senseless.
The dual character system really opens up a lot of game play possibilities and depth. There are five Legion to unlock, and they all expand combat and exploration by a great deal. They will also help you a lot in side missions, some of which can be very tedious and silly, but they do offer solid rewards.
Astral Chain is a lot of fun, having control of two characters has been executed extremely well. It adds a ton of depth and replay value to the game. I can promise you you won't get the hang of what two characters means at the start of the game, and you'll want to go back and replay the game, at least once, to use everything you've learned.
The difficulty is not as high as usual PlatinumGames titles, which is a disappointment. But having two characters is a big shift that can make up for it. Just don't expect Astral Chain to be as difficult as some other PlatinumGames titles.
The story is definitely the weakest part of the game, but the depth of the combat, style, and quirkiness of the game can really make up for it. But lets be real, who really plays PlatinumGames titles for the story? The story could be absolutely horrible and you could have a ton of fun playing the game. I'm not saying Astral Chain's story is horrible, but it's made up for in a lot of other ways.