Developed by KEIZO and published by WhisperGames, Astlibra Revision is an action RPG that really drew me in the moment I started playing it. What’s more, it’s definitely one of the best of its kind, especially on the Switch, whose crowded eShop is flooded with games of a similar approach but not nearly on the same level of quality as this.
Taking a cue from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for its combat and a laundry list of Japanese role-playing games for its narrative and gameplay, it would be easy to cast Astlibra aside for its description as well as its visuals, given that, in stills, it can be overlooked as yet another phone game making the transition to Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, but in doing so, you would be missing out on something special.
The main thrust of the game comes in the form of the protagonist, a boy whose timid memories of the world he lives in are clouded by the tragic events that brought him to the place he’s in at the beginning of Astlirbra. For a while, he’s stuck in a house surrounded by a deep forest and a lake, where he can’t seem to escape from due to his apparent ignorance of what’s beyond these obstacles.
It doesn’t take too long until he finds himself company in this apparent prison in the form of a talking crow. Also without any recollection of their past life, this surprisingly scholared bird quickly becomes the boy’s best friend, following him to the outside when after years in confinement, our hero’s wish of seeing the mysterious girl in his dreams finally push him to explore and face the dangers of the outside world.
It’s then that he discovers that he’s not the only human about and that there are many of them around, in fact. Unfortunately, the first of them that the duo find is a little untrustworthy as they soon discover, but it’s not until they arrive at a village that things start taking a more significant shape and the boy’s life starts to change.
Playing Astlibra for the combat alone reminds me of controlling Alucard and maining a very specific weapon in his PS1 adventure that hit enemies so many times so quickly that his hands were a blur. Every single weapon in this game, down to heavier ones, hits so fast that it’s just funny. It makes battling all manner of monsters pop in a way that feels really good.
And that’s made even better by all the magic that you can cast. At the outset, admittedly, there’s very few of them to speak of, but once you are cooking, it can be a lot of fun to put them to use due to the way that the game works when dealing with magic, in the form of button combos.
That alone makes encounters more strategic than mere button-mashers, adding in a little more than welcome strategy to the whole thing. The best part, though, comes in the form with which you reload your magic bar, by simply hitting enemies with your main weapon, forcing you to balance your approach and adding a natural dynamic to fights that acts as a layer of depth that is rarely seen outside of Koji Igarashi’s flavor of platforming action.
The RPG part of Astlibra is where most of the playtime will be spent leveling up all weapons and skills, as they require a fair amount of farming and grinding in order to acquire the required materials to use and the skills to level your arsenal up. Thanks to the very enjoyable oomph combat-wise, going through near infinite waves of enemies in order to buff your hero up isn’t as big of a pain as it sounds, but the grind is definitely there for those looking to turn their brains off for a few minutes while playing.
Other than the sheer amount of leveling one can do simply playing the game as intended, there’s a skill tree where you’ll raise your core stats by spending the many, and I say MANY crystals that are dropped by fallen enemies. With them, you get to pick where to invest them, and in that, there’s a whole lot of variety and different resulting builds you can cook up.
I mentioned in passing that Astlibra Revision isn’t that much of a looker, at least at first glance. When in movement, though, it’s an entirely different story. There’s color and detail to its graphics that are hard to appreciate in stills, but that pop once the game is in motion. And while the overall design can feel a little derivative while trotting about the world, the same can’t be said about the bigger monsters, which there are a whole bunch of, ranging from all manner of mythical beings.
Astlibra Revision has been available on Steam for well over a year at this point, and it’s garnered quite a following since release as a sleeper hit of sorts on PC. Now, as a Switch game, hopefully an entirely new audience will get to enjoy it if they can manage to overlook its initially drab visuals and admittedly cookie-cutter initial description, not to mention its unassuming name.
If you can see beyond its unimpressive front, you’ll find that Astlibra is an incredibly enjoyable action RPG, one that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but rolls smoothly delivering surprisingly fun and cathartic combat that’s accompanied by RPG mechanics for those who love the grind. This is a game you won’t want to miss, so be on the lookout for it on the eShop!