'Astral Chain' Is Missing Everything That Made 'Nier: Automata' Transcendent

Taken only in screenshots, trailers, and gameplay demos, it’s easy to imagine how Astral Chain might join Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Nier: Automata, and the Bayonetta series inside of developer Platinum Games’ catalog of exceptional character action games. In brief glimpses, it looks just like those games, blending high-sheen style with combo-chaining substance. But after nearly 30 hours with it, I’m unhappy to say that Astral Chain is a character action game without all the character that made past Platinum games so striking and memorable.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmjxjx/astral-chain-is-missing-everything-that-made-nier-automata-transcendent-review

Must… Resist… Neir… Rant…

I am unsurprised to hear that a Platinum game is less than great given that at this point given that they have more misses than hits at this point. Anyone remember that Legend of Korra game? Didn’t think so

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I don’t really hold that or the TMNT game against them because it was patently clear that they were operating on a very strict Activision deadline, since they were desperate for any contract work at the time (and also dealing with Scalebound, which I still believe was undermined by the mismanagement of the Don Mattrick-led Xbox division).


I’m still planning to get this. I wasn’t as hot about the story elements of Nier Automata as others were, so not having that or a big gameplay gimmick like MGR’s Zandatsu isn’t a big deal for me.

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A lot of those licensed games were done by smaller, more inexperienced teams and used a lot of copy/paste design to reach deadline. It was a way to both get the younger set some experience and keep the studio afloat while they work on the next big release.

What I respect about Platinum is that they’re most interested in making games they want to play, huge commercial risks that can either bomb out or explode into popularity. They don’t follow trends, they simply make the sort of thing they like, carrying on that old Clover mind set. You can especially see it in Kamiya’s directed games, who loves including arcade classics he grew up with and presenting his narratives with cheesy sincerity.

If they have to churn out a cheapy licensed game every once in awhile to get to the next character action work of self-indulgence, I’m more than fine with that. Nobody else is making games like them, with most other character action games (like God of War) moving away from their DMC roots, and the mainline DMC series streamlining things instead of trying wild new stuff in the genre (like Wonderful 101 basically combining character action and a Pikmin style RTS).

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It sounds like, based on other outlets, that the gameplay is fun. Which seems to be what people really expect from Platinum.

Austin seems to be the only person the the greater gaming sphere that was really only so so on the game. Which probably speaks to the fact that the industry is so damn white and it needs more persepectives desperately.

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Yeah, I’m seeing other reviews from folks who I at least respect the opinions of say stuff like “Platinum’s best work” and “the game that makes Platinum accessible for everyone”, “the best new Nintendo franchise since Splatoon” - 9 from GameInformer, 9 from NintendoLife, recommended from Polygon, “essential” from EuroGamer, “I love it all” from Kotaku - and so while I’m certainly not gonna discount Austin’s opinion it’s surprisingly discordant with what other folks seem to be saying.

Re: Terranova’s comment, it’s certainly true that the industry is super white and needs more perspectives (and I’m glad to have this one), and the core conceit obviously didn’t work for Austin. (It does just seem to be “Platinum does action Pokemon”.) But other folks seem to genuinely love the game systems and characters alike, and Austin didn’t seem to enjoy either.

I’ll look forward to hearing what other folks on Waypoint Radio think about it.

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Could just be a matter of the game hitting at the wrong time for Austin as well? Or the aesthetic falling flat.
I’ve liked a lot of Platinum games but despite the glowing reviews and generally enjoying an anime aesthetic, I just can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this game shrug

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Sure, of course. There’s a million reasons to like or not like a game, and almost none of them are wrong. It’s just that so often Austin sells me on a thing (his Into the Breach review will live in my brain forever) that it’s a surprise for him to be down on something everybody else is saying I’ll love (and I’ll still pick up expecting to enjoy). Not a bad thing, just interesting and I hope to hear other folks engage him with it.

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Looking at the greater canon of Platinum’s work (counting projects under Capcom/Clover), the combat systems have a base template and then they go for an additive and/or reductive approach to specific components.

It might be that Astral Chain’s particular approach to that template is emphasizing mechanics that Austin doesn’t find as engaging as something like Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave system, or NierA’s integration of gameplay mechanics into the narrative.

Yoshesque, who did a Pure Platinum Lets Play of the first Bayonetta, really didn’t like Bayonetta 2 since it heavily encourages a speedy, aggressive form of play compared to the first game’s focus on style and self-expression.

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…I really want to rewatch the Stand Alone Complexes. Thanks, Astral Chain.

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That’s an odd read on it, since the first Bayonetta weirdly lacked a lot of staples of the style focused character action game, mainly style rankings during fights and taunts being used to push or sustain rankings.

IIRC the first Bayonetta’s time requirements for Platinum ratings gave enough space to goof off and style on enemies, while still having stringent enough combo requirements that you had to at least string most of it together.

The second game is way more restrictive on time, with the addition of Umbral Climax both discouraging using your magic meter on anything else, and encouraging pushing out damage as fast as possible.

Bayonetta 2 is a much better game as far as the first-timer experience (the first game takes way too long to give you extremely valuable tools like Bat Within, and the QTEs are just awful), but a worse game at higher difficulties, in my view.

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Excellent piece and really hoping Austin elaborates on it during the podcast today. I will say I am real grateful Austin has recently had some games that he has been able to really dig into for reviews and I am super excited and curious to see what he thinks of Daemon x Machina.

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I can’t say anything that I’ve read here that captivated Austin about Nier:A or Bayonetta really moved me about those games. Bayonetta was fun to play, but its story felt pretty lackluster to me until the second game. I don’t like Nier:A to the point where I’m dreading its inclusion in FFXIV, a game I do enjoy. I tapped out on Revengeance b/c I didn’t like it’s core mechanics and it wasn’t that good of a story for me either. I’ve never played DMC; it’s gone on for a long time as a franchise and I’m too late and no longer have the time or willingness to drop on it just out of obligation to experience it for the sake of others.

I’m disappointed that the game doesn’t engage with any sort of in-depth critique on policing and the systems it uphold. Disappointed, but not surprised. That alone, as well as the fact that I’ve never really been too interested in games with an Anime aesthetic, kind of made it really nebulous as to whether or not I would throw money at this as opposed to Daemon x Machina, which I played the demo for. The price tag also made that nebulous.

In spite of Austin’s critique, I honestly find myself more likely to buy this game now than I was before. His description of it makes it feel kind of slice-of-life-y when it isn’t about the combat, and I can enjoy that. Characters don’t have to be completely fleshed out for me to enjoy them, and I don’t need to know someone’s tragic backstory in order to like them or want to help them. The fact that the combat doesn’t seem to need huge amounts of depth and building is also a selling point for me personally. Builds are fun, but I can get too hung up on them and then that keeps me from playing the actual game. If I can just battering ram my way through the combat to get to points where I can talk to people, I’m fine with that. I’ve never cared about getting a good score in a level or a trophy at the end of it, and I never will. Progress is it’s own reward.

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I was on the fence about giving this one a shot, but this review coupled with really, really not enjoying the actual gameplay of Nier Automata (the only Platinum game I’ve played before) is making me think I’ll put that money on Control instead and wait a while. If it’s not particularly interesting narratively and doesn’t really build off of the premise that much, it’s probably not going to be my thing. Still curious to read or hear more about it, once the weird embargo is not longer weirdly embargoing the specific parts that Austin actually liked.

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For the wonderful Fire Emblem: Three Houses thread that imagines the characters on Twitter, here you go. The Deduesday one is a bit down but they are basically all great.

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I wasn’t interested in Astral Chain because Bayonetta 2 is still sitting unplayed on my Switch. But now reading Austins review/hearing him talking about it and most other reviews being more positive has made me really want to play it just so because I want to know what I would think about it

Phew, that’s too bad. Guess I’ll skip this one or play it way after release. At least I don’t have yet another game to play this year with this alrea-

“You can rescue cats in this game.”

[pictured: Spongebob sweating and saying "I don’t need it.]

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I don’t understand this bolded line. What is the “only one” referring to?

Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to hear that the game doesn’t have some unique twist to salvage Austin’s experience. Nier Automata had many of the same criticisms levied against it prior to release but then reviews hit and suddenly it became clear there was more to the game than people expected - it’s sad to hear this game lacks those wild ideas to surprise the player.

Hearing the player-character is mute and the support co-op partner is ever-changing makes me realise how I probably wouldn’t have got very far in Nier Automata were it not for the dynamic between 2B and 9S from the start.

I was ready to treat myself to Platinum’s Astral Chain after my August exams but I’m going to take a punt on Remedy’s Control instead.