The shoot’em-up genre is no stranger to consoles, and in fact over the years it’s not uncommon to see hundreds of these games released, especially with the surge in indie developers. The Switch has its fair share to pick from, and it’s not even two years old yet! With such a vast breadth of titles to choose from, it can be difficult to pick out the good ones out of the pack. Despite the challenge, Astebreed attempts to break new ground on the Switch. It is an anime style Shmup featuring fantastic stylized graphics, but screen shots alone can’t tell the full story.
Much like the classic Super NES shooter Axelay, you have access to three weapons right off the bat: your gun, sword, and missiles. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses and you’ll need to balance your effort if you hope to effectively destroy your foes. The gun is your weakest option, which is fine for taking out smaller enemies but not so useful for larger ones. The tradeoff, however, is that when you fire your gun at enemies it will fill up your Shield Gauge. This gives you an extra layer of health against enemy attacks, plus it can increase the damage of your weapons.
The missiles are slightly stronger than the gun, but still have trouble taking out bigger enemies. What makes them useful is that they can slow down any enemy they are locked on to, as well as cause continuous damage to the enemy for a short time.
The sword is the primary focus of the game and with it you can take out enemies with a single swipe. What’s better is that you’re able to destroy some enemy projectiles that you can’t with the gun. As overpowered as the sword may seem, it still has a big flaw – attacking enemies with it won’t fill up your Shield Gauge, meaning you’ll be defenseless against unbreakable projectiles. Switching up weapons on the fly to fit the situation is essential in order to master this rather difficult game.
The visuals are the highlight of Astebreed. In fact, as I played through the game I completely forgot this wasn’t some AAA effort with a huge budget. The mech suits look amazing, the background environments are stunning, and the transitions throughout the levels keep the action intense. I love the way the game effortlessly changes from 3D and 2D shooting segments and the game feels very cinematic with its fantastic focus on the story throughout. While you’re slashing away at hundreds of enemies, you will often get bits of story with the characters talking in the background. This usually causes the level to transition into a new area or some minor things like seeing one of your allies being attacked in the background. Whatever the case, this game is far more stunning than it has any right to be.
Despite its absolute quality in visuals and gameplay, the game does have on major flaw. As much as I enjoyed my time with the game, it was over far too soon. The game is absurdly short, with there only being six levels (excluding the prologue and tutorial missions). It took only about an hour for me to complete the game, and when I had finished I was beyond confused. What’s worse is that the game severally lacks in post-game content. You have the option of replaying the game again on a higher difficulty and with a more powerful mech suit, but beyond that, the game doesn’t have much else to offer. Arguably it could be beaten in well under 30 minutes, but the game relies on its difficulty to rack up the playtime.
The short length negatively affects other areas of the game as well. The story is heavily anime inspired, right down to throwing you into the plot without any idea of what’s going on. The story revolves around a universe-wide alien invasion that the protagonist is destined to stop. While I’d love to try to explain the rest of the plot, the game tells it in such a rushed way that I could only understand half of what was going on. The game gives you little time to warm up to the cast of characters and thus the investment just isn’t present for gamers to really care about any of it. Plus, when it comes down to it does there really need to be a huge story in a shooter like this? Not if it’s going to be as thrown together as this one obviously was. A better option would have probably been to ditch the story stuff and spend more time and resources on creating a longer game with at least double the stages. Having said that, it’s a good game for the hour or so that it lasts!
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Astebreed is a good game that makes you see quality over quantity in a whole new light. The game is stunningly beautiful, to the point that you would mistake it for a triple-A title. However, the game is absurdly short and severely lacks in content beyond the story mode.
Jordan is a gaming fanatic who grew up in a home of shovelware. Years of discounted drivel has molded this man, shaping him into the seeker of quality he is today.