Silas (and Derek)’s Review of Astral Chain

As far as Not-Bayonetta-3 goes, this was pretty wicked.

Astral Chain is Platinum Games’s apology for not making the game everyone wants them to be making, and also their hope that nobody will notice that they made a whole-ass other game instead of the one they said they were making. It’s really good, though, so I’m willing to forgive them, I guess.

(As fun as Bayonetta was, I actually think I liked this better? I’m kinda glad Platinum put this out first, to be honest.)

It’s mostly an action game, so it doesn’t really matter if there are spoilers, but I guess if you’re super worried about that you’ve warned?

The plot is honestly pretty straightforward. It’s the future, and monsters from the astral plane have moved in and painted the town red. Or rather the whole world and also the moon (more on that later). They basically corrupt everything they touch and turn it into themselves, and then the police have to kill the monsters because there’s no army, I guess. You play as a character who gets given a chained monster from the astral plane called a Legion, which you can use to see the chimera monsters and also kill them, which is handy.

Over the course of the story, your dad dies, your sibling gets stabbed a bunch of times and then cloned and turned evil before turning good again, you make friends with a derpy computer geek, a terrorist mad scientist with huge boobs keeps making you fight improved versions of the same boss until she turns into a Resident Evil monster and then a Bayonetta boss and then you finally kill her, and your boss the chief of police turns out to be the real villain all along and he turns into a giant monster, then a weird cube, and then another very Bayonetta-esque final boss who you fight inside a weird cube.

(There’s also a lot of heavy eco-advocacy vibes that kind of makes you wonder what’s really so bad about an unknowable entity from another universe that wants to consume everything, since really humans kind of overall suck, which I think is really cool.)

There’s not a whole lot to say about the story, honestly. It’s a pretty basic story that serves to let you fight a lot of stuff, and that’s about it. The characters are fine, I guess, they’re also pretty generic and most of them aren’t super interesting except for the main ones. Your sibling is like the most annoying person ever, to be honest? I spent the whole game wishing they’d just drop dead, but maybe that’s just me.

(I really wish the protagonist had been voiced—they are, but you don’t have any spoken dialogue in the whole game, which I think is really silly because there aren’t really options. Platinum’s main characters are usually so vibrant, it was a bit of a disappointment that Astral Chain’s weren’t.)

The combat is kind of the selling point of the game, since it’s an action game. The whole gimmick here is that you dual control your character and the Legion, which sounds a lot more overwhelming than it is, honestly. Between your own weapons and the five Legions, there’s a lot of chances to play around with different combinations to suit what you like, and it’s really pretty organic, I thought. It’s a intuitive enough that you can play it without being super amazing at action games (if you want it to be, fighting can be 90% just mashing two buttons, which is how Platinum’s games usually are and I think that’s really good, to be honest), but there are also higher levels of difficulty for if you’re really into this kind of game. I had a lot of fun fighting my way through the game.

Now, I haven’t technically “beat” the game, because you can go back to levels you’ve completed and re-do them to get items and stuff that you missed. In fact, it’s impossible to get everything on the first playthrough, because some of it is hidden behind barriers you can’t break at first, or accessible only with a Legion you don’t have yet. Honestly I found that a bit frustrating; most of the time it was fine, but there are a few levels that you can get near-perfect in on your first run through and then suddenly at the very end there’s a chest that’s locked behind a barrier you can’t break until you have the last Legion. I’m currently replaying everything and I’m enjoying it, but there are a few places where I’m just frustrated that I couldn’t 100% a level the first time. I’m pretty thorough—or anal, as Frederick would say—so it’s annoying.

That said, I’m really enjoying the post-game. There’s a lot of collectible crap you can look for (I don’t care about the other stuff, but I’m missing one cat!) and the bonus missions they give you at the end are a legitimate challenge, which I also appreciate. It’s not a long game just if you want to play it through once for the story, but if you want to do the 100% thing (anally, but I’m not judging; anal is fun), you’re definitely going to be in it for the long haul.

I really like the worldbuilding of this game. It really didn’t need to be much, because the plot is so simple they could have gotten away with not doing much in that regard. But you can get lots of information on the history of the floating city and the world by taking pictures of stuff and reading the occasional file you get access to. They really put a lot of thought into their world, and I think that’s really cool of them. My favourite bit of worldbuilding is that you can look at the moon at a few points and its red—if you take a picture of it you get all this information about how the moon turned red when the astral plane started invading the earth, which some people theorize is because there’s so much “red matter” from the astral plane in the atmosphere that it makes it look red, but which they also say might be because there are gates to the astral plane opening up on the moon. It’s such a minor piece of worldbuilding, but it’s so interesting cause what would be on the moon that the chimeras would even want? Knowing that little piece of information really casts doubt on the game’s ending in which there’s all this optimism that you might be able to start retaking the earth from the astral plane. But like, if they’ve already got the whole-ass moon, that means they’ve probably already got half the universe or something. What good is saving the earth ultimately going to do?

(Which is why I really think the game needs to go a more introspective route for a sequel—Jena had a point when she said it was better for humans to just up and let the astral plane consume them. It was inevitable, and better that way.)

Astral Chain is a fun action game, but it’s stuff like that that makes me want to play a sequel. I hope they go into some more of that stuff in a second game, which I hear they’re considering since this one did so well. I know that I’m excited for it. I think they put down some good groundwork here, so I want to see what they’re doing to do from here.

After Bayonetta 3, though.

(Optional if you ask me, but I do agree that it’s an awesome game. Sorry for barging in like this, I just thought it was only fair to give a second opinion on some of this stuff!)

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