It feels like a throwback to the PlayStation era in the best way, when there were always new JRPGs showing up in the hopes of getting the same sort of cult reception as Final Fantasy VII, always new titles to try out and new stories to experience, some of them winding up a bit generic but others turning into unexpected little gems along the way. Astria Ascending feels like one of those gems, except it’s a new game right now and benefits from all the hindsight that implies.
At the same time, I do think there’s an appealing and fun game there just the same. The core gameplay loop is well-defined and unique, and the game has a unique charm to it. I might not be the target audience for this particular title, but I can tell that the people who are the target audience are going to get a real kick out of how harsh it manages to be while always feeling just shy of being unfair. It’s never easy, but it’s always unwelcoming in that peculiar balanced way. Just… be prepared for some interface weirdness and losing before you get into it, and you’ll probably get more out of it in the long run.
But if you loved these games before, these remasters are perfect for what they’re trying to do. They’re charming. They feel like a sudden rush of nostalgia not because they’re exactly the games you remember, but the rare form of remaster that does add some stuff on top while still preserving all of the spirit and intent perfectly. And if you’ve never played these games but want to understand why people loved them so much, these are the perfect way to try them out.
This is a slower, more painful, and in many ways more failure-prone sort of game. But for players who enjoy the option of a slower ludonarrative and want to experience a build through this difficult situation, stalking the wreckage of the exclusion zone is going to be a lot of fun. If you’re willing to be patient and survival-minded, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here in Chernobylite.
It’s not an instant classic, but I think fans of the original are going to really find stuff to like here. And if you’re like me and never played the original, you still owe it to yourself to give this one a solid look. The weirdness of its controls and some of its quirks mean that it might not be for everyone… but give it a fair shot, and I have a feeling you’re going to get a lot more out of it than you might initially expect.
I loved the original. I love this remake. And if you’ve never played the original or you did, you owe it to yourself to give this one a check. It’s a game that was always good made that much better, and it’s going to stick with you a long time after the credits roll on the final ending.
At the end of the day, if you’re a genre fan, Deiland will provide you with enough bang for your buck that you won’t feel your time was wasted. But it’s kind of a lightweight thing, and between the short duration and the lack of long-term hooks it’s more a case of genre fans wanting more than it is of a new game to really sink your teeth into. That doesn’t make it bad or disappointing, just perhaps a bit more slight than you’d hope.
For some people, that’s not going to be enough, just because… well, as mentioned, this is not an underserved genre at this point. It’s not hard to find a variety of roguelikes out there, and I’m sure there are people who will take a look at what the game has on offer and determine that they hardly need another one in their library. But if you like this genre? Well, you’re in for a solid treat, because it does what it’s trying to do well. What more could you ask for from a game?
In some ways, Natsuki Chronicles is a slight thing. It’s certainly not going to be the game that makes people who never play shoot-em-ups reconsider that stance, nor is it the sort of thing that you’re likely to devote months of play to unless you have a burning desire for a new shooter and this is the extent of your options in that regard.
On a whole, though, this is a pretty solid collection of little games that are in many ways frozen in amber from a specific time in gaming history. This isn’t going to make a huge fan out of anyone, but if you’re in the mood for some classic 16-bit shooter fun, this’ll deliver.