THE PLATINUM STANDARD
To play a PlatinumGames title is to become a co-director of action scenes that would be at home in anime or martial arts movies. Unfortunately, outside of for-hire work in titles like Nier: Automata, Platinum has yet to reliably see the mastery of their craft translate into financial success.
This is because in terms of accessibility, character action can have a bit of a skill gap. Not every player has the inclination to rehearse every enemy encounter into a flawless beatdown. The Switch-exclusive Astral Chain is Platinum’s attempt at bridging that skill gap. To this end, Astral Chain’s core mechanic centers on partner-based combat.
As the newest member of a sci-fi police task force charged with protecting the last bastion of humanity from extra-dimensional invaders called Chimera, players are bonded with enslaved Chimeras called Legions. Part AI-controlled but still capable of accepting player commands, Legions are — in theory — Platinum’s way of assisting the player through the gameplay.
‘Synergetic action’ is the Legion system’s promise of controlling the battlefield with their character and their unwilling partner. Players will end up using every single input on the controller, which initially sounds daunting. In recognition of this, Astral Chain features may have the most forgiving iteration of a PlatinumGames combat grading system to date.
Further renegotiating the developer’s house style are light RPG elements, breaking up the action with investigation, exploration, and leveling up skill trees. Even the main character is a silent, customizable avatar that’s more in line with Link from the Legend of Zelda than the bombastic action badasses the company is known for.
By making space for players to tailor their own experience, the limitations in Astral Chain become more prominent. No one was expecting the company behind Bayonetta to give any kind of commentary on police, but the troubling reminder that you are an agent of the state that has chained a non-consenting living thing is barely addressed throughout the length of the game.
Appearing instead are a framework of references drawn from sources like Evangelion and the work of Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed). It’s nothing any anime fan hasn’t seen before, but this title is the company’s first foray into broader action RPG-style games. Platinum’s stylish aesthetic coupled with its eye for action kept it a niche taste before.
Now, the potential of applying their innovative approach to combat to the new systems and narrative ideas they’ve decided to take on is an exciting one. Here’s hoping they figure out something more to say with it.
4 Out of 5 Legions