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Astral Chain release date, gameplay, multiplayer and trailer

The Nintendo Switch is just a lovely little system, the place where grand, left-of-center gaming has found a caring, supportive home. And the best of AAA gaming now has the ability to travel outside the living room. But if there's any one area where the system has been lacking, it's in the kind of wild, flashy, blindingly fast third-person action that Sony and Microsoft have been able to deliver seemingly once a week. Platinum Games is apparently out to change that.

Astral Chain, Platinum's first exclusive title for the Switch, is on its way, which is not only playing around in a starving genre on that platform, but also happens to be one of the few wholly new IPs from an established studio. That's an exciting thing to see and support, and we've got all the details for everybody to do exactly that.

Astral Chain's release date

Astral Chain will be hitting shelves on Aug. 30. It'll be competing that week with that Blair Witch game Microsoft dropped on us out of nowhere back at E3, as well as Supermassive's The Dark Pictures: Man of MedanAstral Chain is definitely the standout among that bunch, but it's also the last calm game release week we get for a while. After that, the September tsunami starts with Catherine: Full Body, Monster Hunter: World – Iceborne, and NBA 2K20.

Still, Platinum's games have such a unique tone and timbre, it's hard to look at the chaos of September and see anything like it. The closest cousin is Daemon X Machina on Aug. 13, and even then, that's more like a fancified Virtual On than anything else. Either way, that's a lot of breathing room for this kind of experience to stand out from the crowd. 

The trailer for Astral Chain

The first trailer, which was announced during a Nintendo Direct in February of this year, is more of a brief statement of purpose than a full fledged look at the game. Still, even without that Platinum Games logo, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind where this came from and which minds were responsible for it. There's a distinct feeling to the combat even without the Joy-Con in your hands. It's a sight to behold.

The real curveballs are in the second half, which are all seemingly detective work, environmental puzzles, and just the slightest hint of the larger plot. There's a lot more of that in the trailer from this year's E3. Even then, there's some very odd hints at the asynchronous gameplay going on that's different from Platinum's usual bag of tricks. 

The creators behind Astral Chain

For those who actually are in the dark about who and what Platinum Games is, these are the brilliant, bewildering minds behind Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and what many would consider their masterpiece, Nier: Automata. That's to say nothing of their excellent deep cuts: buried-treasure titles like The Wonderful 101, Vanquish, and MadWorld, or their work as Clover Studios, which gave us Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and God Hand

That brings us to Astral Chain, which is being shepherded into existence by Takahisa Taura, a game designer on MadWorld, Revengeance, and a Senior Designer on Nier: Automata. That pedigree is all over the gameplay footage, and it's all the more intriguing for it. Graduating to director is a daunting task, though, which is why it's even more promising that Hideki Kamiya — who directed Okami, Bayonetta, and Viewtiful Joe along with the first Devil May Cry and the original Resident Evil 2 — is onboard as the game's supervisor.

Why is Astral Chain a Switch exclusive?

It would be easy to say that this is another one of those titles that Playstation 4 and Xbox One owners look upon with envious eyes, but if nothing else, Platinum Games have always been rather generous in giving each of the major platforms their own exclusive bit of love. The PS4 had Nier: Automata, which was exclusive to the platform for about a year and a half. The Switch is also home to the two-pack re-release of Bayonetta 1 & 2. The PC got stellar ports of both Vanquish and the first Bayonetta. Yes, Nier: Automata's also over there, but we don't talk about that. The Xbox was supposed to get Scalebound, but that project was scrapped, although rumor has it the Switch might inherit it

Still, if there's one simple reason why Astral Chain went to the Switch, it likely lies in the same logic that caused Bayonetta 2 to be a Nintendo exclusive: they showed up, when no other publishers did, even Sega, who published the first Bayonetta. As long as that continues to be the case, Nintendo will always be in the company's best graces. 

The story in Astral Chain

According to Platinum Games, Astral Chain takes place on The Ark, a massive, thriving, diverse city. A name like "The Ark" does beg a few additional questions about where the city actually is and whether we're even still on Earth. Either way, things seem to be going as well as can be expected for a cyberpunk metropolis, except for the tiny obnoxious problem of interdimensional portals opening randomly across the city unleashing unholy aliens called Chimera who terrorize the populace and distort the very atmosphere itself. 

Eventually, the Ark's police force establishes a special branch called Neuron, specifically to handle the problem. Because, clearly, placing aliens under arrest isn't an option, the Neuron forces are also paired with an experimental new living weapon made from the Chimera, called Legion, allowing for a sort of synchronized attack strategy against them.

That's all we know so far. The rest will be revealed once the game invades our consoles.

What is the gameplay like in Astral Chain?

The short answer: it's Platinum Games. If fast paced, stylish, lethal action has a name, it must be Platinum. The gameplay we've seen thus far backs that up, with that same satisfying mix of flashy melee attacks, aerial combos, and light-show special attacks. It's a thing of beauty, as one might expect. The big gimmick is the fact that Legion is involved, both mirroring the player character's attacks as well as setting enemies up for what seems to be a capture move involving the titular chain. 

While this could still just mean having an AI companion shadowing you every step of the way, Pokemon has also been cited as a major influence on the game, which could mean your Chimera buddy could have a lot more to offer. Structurally, according to the official descriptions, the game's looking a lot like Nier: Automata, which had self-contained stories and areas, but with a lot of freedom to roam and explore in between. 

The beat cop lifestyle

The story was inspired mostly by cop shows and sci-fi anime, which may mean some intriguing changes of pace may also be in the cards. One of those changes is, apparently, the ability to truly live life in the Ark as a flatfoot detective. 

According to a Polygon interview from E3, there's going to be plenty of room for the player and Legion to take on the smaller problems along with the big. That could mean anything from solving random crimes throughout the Ark to solving the easier issue of litter around the city. 

In addition, it won't just be the story of a random detective, but your random detective, with plenty of character customization, including for Legion, to be found throughout. You'll be able to truly become a cop of your own making. Whether that means taking the occasional bribe or showing no-good litterers what for remains to be seen.

A different kind of multiplayer?

So, if there's two characters onscreen at all times (the cop and his living Legion armor), does that mean there's multiplayer? Well, technically — technically — the answer is yes. According to a hands-on impressions piece by Kotaku, there's an Easter egg actually allowing the game to be played via couch co-op when the Joy-Cons are separated from the Switch, thus making the cop and Legion controllable manually. 

That's pretty awesome. But there's a catch. While the game will ordinarily sync the pair's attacks automatically, a second player performing the moves may make some of the more complex maneuvers a bit harder to pull off.

"If you're going for a high score, it's challenging to do this, playing in two-player," said director Takahisa Taura. "As one example, while you're playing the game, there are several synchronous moments where you're doing attacks with the Legion at the same time. And if you're playing two-player, the other player and you — actually, it's almost like you would actually have to be of the same mind."

Astral Chain's Collector's Edition

So, the good news: there is a Collector's Edition of the game on the way. It will include the game (obviously), a copy of the soundtrack on CD, a snazzy looking 152-page hardcover artbook, and a collector's edition shikishi art board with an illustration from the game's art director Masakazu Katsura, all in a fancy onyx case. That's not a bad way to spend a few bucks, to be sure. 

The bad news, however, is that the Collector's Edition will be exclusive to Japan and Europe. Even that's only a mild inconvenience more than anything else, because of the other good news: lest we all forget, Switch games aren't region locked at all. So, yes, if you want to import the European Collector's Edition, by all means, do so. The only downside is that if the game ever gets DLC, you're likely going to have some problems with that. Import at your own risk, folks.