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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Astral Chain is a sci-fi action game for Nintendo Switch. It focuses heavily on third-person combat sequences against evil creatures, but the game also has some adventure elements, puzzle-solving, and platforming. There's no blood or gore in combat, but players will use several weapons to defeat the enemies, including Legions (specialized robotic helpers), guns, chains, and swords. The game has some swearing including the word "s--t" in the dialog, and there are several references and imagery tied to alcohol consumption and an illegal (yet fictional) narcotic substance.
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What's it about?
In ASTRAL CHAIN, it's humanity’s last stand against an inter-dimensional invasion -- that not everyone can see. As a new recruit in the elite police task force called Neuron, you and your Legion -- robotic weapons you'll fight alongside against the creature-like Chimeras -- will tackle increasingly challenging enemies in real-time combat, unlock new areas to explore, and solve cases in order to save humankind. You'll take full control over the "Synergetic Action" between your human protagonist (you choose male or female and your twin tags along) and the several Legion types, each with different skills and abilities, and also have the option to swap out the Legions in the middle of a skirmishes. You'll use swords, batons chains and a blaster gun to take down the various Chimeras, solve a few environmental puzzles, engaging in some platforming elements, and unravel more of the story by completing missions and talking with NPCs (non-playable characters).
Is it any good?
This action adventure game is one of the best -- and most surprisingly fun -- Nintendo Switch titles of the year. Astral Chain offers rewarding real-time action, with a compelling art style and simplified controls. While the combat might grow a tad repetitive after a while, the ability to swap out Legions changes things up nicely. There's also new environments to fight in, puzzles to solve, and a surprisingly interesting story tied to the alternate dimension called the Astral Plane, where the deadly Chimeras originate from. It's the simultaneous action against the enemies -- man and machine -- that will keep you glued to the screen. And there's a surprising amount of depth to the melee battles between you, your twin, and the Legions. You'll earn up to five Legions over the course of the game (each with its own skill tree), and learn to master the timing of their attacks -- from locking down the Chimeras to unleashing various blows to their body, exchanging tandem strikes, and then finishing with a deadly move that results in a dramatic takedown. On a related note, the combos vary, too, which you'll start to get a grip on, including the temporary option to unleash two Legions at once on the relentless (and often huge) Chimeras.
Many of the side-missions (listed in your police notes) aren't worth writing home about, but it does break up the combat and fits the story, so it's not like these slower-paced and more exploratory parts feel like they're an afterthought. It really does all work well together. There are a couple of extra modes as well including a much tougher version of the game and a strange co-op option, where both players use their own Joy-Con controller. In that mode, one person controls the character and the other character is in charge of the Legion. Astral Chain is a surprising treat for Switch players -- especially those who like action and magna/anime. It's well worth the price of admission.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Astral Chain has a lot of gameplay that makes you want to keep playing, so how do you set reasonable time limits for gameplay?
How does the gameplay emphasize how important teamwork is to accomplish goals? Can you use the lessons learned about teamwork in this game in real life?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: September 3, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Robots
- ESRB rating: T for Drug Reference, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence
- Last updated: October 01, 2019
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