If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know that I have great criticism of the Metroidvania genre. While games of this type, especially indie games, often have beautiful settings and unique stories to tell, they fail to innovate with the genre’s stale gameplay. It’s like a lot of these games just want to tell you a story and then follow through with the gameplay to use a game as a way to tell their stories.
So how does Afterimage, a self-announced new Metroidvania title from studio Aurogan Shangai, stand up to this phenomenon?
Afterimage follows the story of a fantasy world recovering from a great cataclysm, bringing great monsters and titans back into the world, destroying the environment, and perhaps most importantly upsetting the natural order of death. Countless souls are unable to return to the stream where they belong, lost in the land of the living and knowing no peace.
You play as Rene, a spiritual warrior tasked with freeing these trapped souls and returning them to the afterlife. On a routine mission, Renee encounters a dangerous beat, too close to her village for comfort. After losing her life in battle, Renee discovers she has a special gift; The power to subvert the natural cycle of death and reincarnation. Knowing this ability, Renee seeks to discover more about herself and the world around her while carrying out her duty of losing life.
At least, that’s what I think is happening. Afterimage uses a type of storytelling I’m not a huge fan of, which throws the player into a fantasy world completely different from ours with little to no similarities to it. The game uses a huge glossary of terms that you’ll learn more or less through context clues, which can make the world and dialogue between characters feel weird.
At worst, this glossary has to do with gameplay mechanics, which can make the game more confusing on the go. Fortunately, you’ll retain many of these mechanics without having to memorize the meanings of many of these new words.
Afterimage’s gameplay is pretty straightforward, and honestly it’s about as cookie-cutter as you can get with the Metroidvania genre. Each level is a platform that you have to run and jump to move through. You have an attack button and a back dodge button that help defeat enemies that have telegraph attacks.
Defeating an enemy is as simple as learning their attack pattern, dodging their attack, and then randomly sending the attack button until they die. A cool feature that initially had some problems is the ability to use the attack button after a jump to force Renee to hover when stopped, which gives you much more time in the air.
Simple, tried and true gameplay that won’t surprise anyone. Afterimage is another example of a Metroidvania title without the inspiration for a change or evolution in the genre’s aging gameplay. For fans of the genre, this probably isn’t a problem, but I don’t understand how people don’t age.
The game also features a talent tree, allowing you to customize how Renee interacts with the world around her. Unfortunately, I’d say this is one of the most uninspired parts of the game, as pretty much every single talent is just a fixed percentage to one condition or another. You have one branch for health, another for damage, and so on. Fortunately, if nothing else, the talent score allotment allows you to interact with the game’s beautiful display.
As I described earlier, what I call the “Metroidvania problem” is the phenomenon of platform games for recycling old, uninspired mechanics to create games with unique settings and beautiful graphics. It goes without saying that half of the so-called problem isn’t actually a problem at all, and Afterimage certainly sticks to that idea.
The game is great. There is not a single person who will play this game and see its beautiful hand-drawn environments and think that what they are looking at is average or boring at all. The worlds you explore in Afterimage are vibrant and colorful, and even the enemies you have to kill along the way are colorful and fun to look at.
The HUD is very animated and has a cool black and blue color scheme that looks like a nice, contrasty escape from the Afterimage overworld. Navigating the menu to check out equipment or level up talents is a fun experience that can serve as a little relaxing break before a big boss fight or more exploration.
The game also does a good job of mixing its platforming puzzles with the environment in a way that makes it feel like a natural set in the larger world of Afterimage. These puzzles, in addition to being believable, are also very competent and will test your platforming ability without being too frustrating.
The worst I had with this experience was the part where an enemy was camping along a ledge that I needed to run through, but that felt like an intentional challenge on the part of the game.
To culminate a discussion of the game’s cool look, I’d like to say that Renee’s animation and overall character design are fantastic, and I never found myself tiring of seeing the sword-swinging animation, which was bright and fun and made my attacks feel as though they mattered.
With so much in Afterimage that clearly works, it’s even more disappointing that the game play in general is pretty much the same as for other titles in the genre. The developers poured so much obvious passion into the title, it’s hard to believe they didn’t have the desire to innovate in the overall Metroidvania gameplay. Is it that they couldn’t, or were they just such fans of the genre that they didn’t care to change anything?
Additionally, the intentionally vague and unrelatable way of world-building (something I think was popularized by Dark Souls) doesn’t really manage to make players feel intimidated; She never does. Instead, the world feels foreign and foreign, and without anything grounding me within it, I felt like I didn’t belong there.
The last word
Afterimage excels in its presentation but suffers from a widespread reluctance to innovate in its gameplay. The story may seem a bit off-putting, but it’s nonetheless interesting and introduces characters that you can’t help but love.
This Try Hard Guides PC review version of this game has been provided. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the game reviews section of our website! Afterimage is available at steam And Nintendo Switch.