Thursday, November 8

Review: Astebreed [Nintendo Switch eShop]

With as many titles as I’ve steadily played week over week, and I pretty well always have something to say about games on the Switch it takes some real effort to leave me practically speechless. As hard as it may be to believe that’s precisely what Astebreed managed to do though. Going in I knew it was a shmup of some kind with anime-style art and characters but that was about it. Forty minutes later, when I decided to take a break, I was a bit gobsmacked. I couldn’t quite describe what I’d just played beyond stating it was complete insanity.

To say Astebreed throws a lot at you would be a gross understatement. Enemies are flying in from all angles, the perspective you’re playing from is almost constantly in flux between side-scrolling, top-down, or even head-on, and there’s an almost constant flow of anime dialogue going on while you’re doing all of this. You’re shooting, you’re slashing, you’re dodging, you’re locking onto targets everywhere, and you’re keeping an eye out for filling your gauge to unleash your EX attack. It’s pretty intense. That said, though it may be confusing and a bit overwhelming I will definitely say it has left a positive impression on me and I’ve consistently wanted to return for more.

The main concern I have with the title absolutely has to do with its default control scheme. There’s a set of original controls that behave more like they did on PC, which I tried and would agree aren’t very friendly. In order to help make the controls more approachable they’ve set up another scheme that’s meant to be more optimized for console play like on Switch. Whoever thought that using the clicking press on an analog stick as a core control, mapped to something you’ll be doing almost constantly, really made a terrible decision. About a half hour into playing the game before I decided to remap the controls (thank god this is supported) my hand started to cramp a bit and that was really pulling me away from the craziness on the screen. With some experimentation and thinking about what would suit you best you should be able to set up something far more friendly and comfortable to you, problem solved.

With as many bullet hell shmups as I’ve played over the years, including ones that have dabbled in different perspectives of various kinds, I’ve simply never played anything like Astebreed. It’s visually full of detail that you’ll blow by and struggle to appreciate as your screen is full of targets, but for all of that intensity the gameplay rarely has any hitches. Once you get the controls in order it’s smooth sailing and feels very natural, even as the game constantly shifts perspective and style on you. While I couldn’t really tell you much of anything about the story, there’s certainly one there, just since it plays out while you’re desperately trying to stay alive I’m not sure you’re really meant to digest it more than in passing. If you’ve been looking for something different and intense in a bullet hell shooter, Astebreed is a solid choice.

Score: 8.5

  • Has a distinctive style that looks great on Switch
  • If you’re all about intensity and surprises the game delivers that in spades
  • The challenge somewhat sneaks up on you making it a bit more approachable and less aggravating than your typical shmup

  • If you want a cohesive story or a feeling that you’re in any way in control of anything at all in the game this won’t be for you, it is absolute chaos from start to finish
  • The default control scheme I found to be pretty awful, though it is easily reconfigured
  • It isn’t terribly long, though it may take you some time to completely beat it regardless