Title: Astebreed
Platform: Steam, Windows

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Shoot-em-up, Bullet hell
Players: Single player


Written by Dragoon 30th January 2015


















Astebreed by Edelweiss is one of those rare gems that manages to harken back to the days of retro shoot-em-ups whilst also being fresh, modern and innovative. PC gaming is not as popular in Japan for the mainstream audience but it has always had a thriving indie community for low budget indie (known as ‘doujinsoft’ in japan) games and Astebreed is a shining example of a fantastic game made on a small budget. The game is a shoot-em-up where you pilot a mecha blasting through space at break neck speeds while fending off a constant barrage of enemies and bullets.


The story focuses on humanities struggle against the Filune, a mechanical alien race that has set its sights on the extinction of humanity. In a last ditch effort to turn around the war humanity turns to human experimentation and weaponizes two gifted young sisters, Fiona and Esto. The sister’s consciousnesses are integrated with a specially-designed mecha weapons system known as the Lucis System.


The Lucis System is far faster and stronger than anything that both Filune and humanity have brought to the fight thus far but before it can be properly implemented the father of the sisters, the creator of the Lucis System, goes missing in action along with Esto. Roy Beckett, a janitor bent on avenging his father's death, is chosen to pilot the first Lucis System-integrated mecha, Xbreed, along with the remaining sister and together they fight to end the war and find Esto.





























The story is told through a constant barrage of radio chatter during the missions which is subtitled in a ticker-tape box at the bottom of the screen but unfortunately this speech is all in Japanese so unless you are fluent or have super human reading ability you will find it very hard to keep up with. The games plot is probably one of its weakest points due to its presentation and use of clichés but shoot-em-ups have never really been about the story so it doesn’t detract too much from the game itself.


One of Astebreeds most interesting features is its constantly shifting camera, one minute it’s a side scrolling shoot-em-up akin to games like Gradius and the next it’s a Panzer Dragoon-esque 3D on rails shooter. This keeps the action fresh and really makes you feel like a mecha pilot constantly flitting around the ever changing battlefield. It also really makes boss fights feel unique with the constant perspective changes as the boss shifts its attack patterns.


Speaking of visuals the game looks fantastic. The stages all have a unique look with some set in the crumbling remains of a destroyed city and others in the middle of an epic space battle with gargantuan ships duking it out in the background. The enemy designs really fit the robotic alien race aesthetic, especially the bosses which are all unique and shift into various forms seamlessly.


Your mecha has two different shot types, a focused straight shot and a wide ranged spread shot. These both have a charge version that lets you lock on to various enemies and blast them all in one go or fire a massive barrage at one target. The combat option that’s the most satisfying though has to be the sword, your blade can deflect bullets and destroy enemies and by holding the blade button and a direction you can dash in that direction which is great for getting into a better position or avoiding attacks.


Many would probably think that hammering one of the shots and the sword at the same time would be the key to victory but doing this nets you less points, by destroying enemy bullets with your own you build up a multiplier that is cashed in when you use your sword attacks. This causes you to think more carefully about when to use your melee option. Your multiplier is lost when you lose your shields so you have to make sure you don’t lose out on those points but you don’t need to worry about your score if you don’t want to.





























The game has a fantastic tutorial mode which takes you through every aspect of gameplay which you can access from the menu and it also lets you try all the mechanics at the start of the game in a straight forward prologue which can be skipped if you want to get straight into the fray. The game is much more newbie friendly than a lot of others in the genre but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are 3 different difficulty levels that each change enemy and boss patterns in a different way, meaning you can change up how the game plays depending on your skill level and experience.


The game runs at a steady 60FPS with no issues and it also supports resolutions way over 1080P, which is much better than a lot of Triple A developers can provide. There are also many options for both video and sound to tailor the game to your personal setup and it can easily be played with either a mouse and keyboard or a controller with customisable button setups for both options. The game also has an integrated online leaderboard so you can easily see how you rank up with the rest of the world.


Overall Astebreed is an amazing example of what can be achieved by a small developer and is a great addition to the shoot-em-up genre. While it may be let down by its lacklustre and bizarre story and its presentation of said story it’s still a fantastic game with great replayability and easy to pick up but hard to master mechanics. It’s rare to have independent Japanese games released in the west but with the advent of digital platforms like Steam I hope to see many more in the future.




Pros:

Well designed levels,

Great camera, graphics and soundtracks,

Tight controls.


Cons:

Lacklustre story that is difficult to follow,

No English voice acting.


Final Verdict,

Astebreed shoots it’s way to a 9/10.



Written by,
Dragoon


















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