Ever since I first picked up Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I have loved Metroidvanias. They’re incredibly challenging at times, but they’re not impossible to beat.
Once you’ve figured out enemy patterns and have convinced yourself to have the patience to not charge in head first, you can make a lot of progress in Metroidvanias. They’re incredibly rewarding games to play, and Afterimage is no different.
I first started to play before Aurogon Shanghai released its first big patch, shortly after the game was published.
In that patch, Aurogon Shanghai fixed a lot of issues that players had within the first day or two of its release. As such, I’m sharing this Afterimage review for the patched version of the game, considering that it gives Afterimage the fairest shot and will be what people actually play.
The visuals were one of the first things that attracted me to Afterimage, though it ended up being better than I expected. Although the game tends to be bright and colorful, the various biome color palettes are used exceedingly well.
An area that’s next to a volcano uses brilliant reds and oranges, whereas an area in a highly forested area is a vibrant, lush green. And all of it is pure, hand-drawn artistry.
There were times in the game when I wanted to sit and marvel at the world around me, fully immersing myself in the fantasy. The world of Afterimage is an absolutely beautiful one, and it’s one of its strongest points.
The contrast of Renee, our main character, in her white clothing and long white hair makes it so you can never lose where she is on the screen.
There are some Metroidvanias where platforms can blend into the background a bit too much though I, fortunately, rarely came across that in Afterimage. I would also like to point out that Ifree has a notably simpler art style (or portrait) than other characters, which can be a little bit jarring to see.
Pleasing to the Ears
Music can make or break a game, and Afterimage doesn’t disappoint. On the whole, the music tends to be very pleasant background noise, fitting well with the often colorful atmosphere. Though when you get to areas like the Town of the Exiled, the music becomes more haunting, a perfect match for the ghostly and decrepit town.
The same can be said of every area you go into, really. Each area’s music fits perfectly into its environment while still feeling as though it all belongs together. I can’t say this for many games, but I would happily put on the soundtrack for Afterimage in the background while I write.
Three words: Full Voice Acting. I cannot express enough how lovely it is when a game has fully voice-acted dialogue. It gives the game immersion that others who skip over it can often miss out on. Even Hollow Knight has voice acting, though it is Hallownest gibberish.
Fully voice-acted games make me, at least, want to listen to the audio rather than turn it off and listen to a podcast or my own music while I play.
The voice actors are, admittedly, quite good too, and they make characters like the Blacksmith, Martin, very endearing. Admittedly, there are points where the dialogue might sound awkward, but considering that the way characters speak is consistent, I would point towards it being a character trait rather than a flaw in the game.
Accessing the Stream
The user interface for Afterimage is fairly self-intuitive. Press buttons, and you’ll figure out what they do. The only thing I didn’t get for probably too long is that you can bind consumables to your D-pad for quick consumption. Had there been a small note when I first entered the menu, I would have taken advantage of that feature much sooner.
The controls of Afterimage are pretty smooth and easy. Through the Talent Tree, you can gradually upgrade Renee to move faster or jump slightly further than before, which is a nice touch and helps to set the end-game play experience apart from the early game.
While playing, I didn’t feel like there was any floatiness to the character or that she moved too far or not far enough when I needed her to. The only issue I ever had was accidentally dashing into enemies instead of away from them.
Through the Confluence
Each biome only has two to three save points, which are generally spread out fairly and equally. However, the trick is finding those save points. Small details (such as branches) sticking up out of the ground guide the player to each save point. There are three different kinds I’ve found:
- Main Area Save Points (large trees)
- Checkpoint Saves (small trees)
- Travel Points (after arriving at docks)
Concerning the trees, also known as Confluences, you can travel between large ones without consuming any items.
But, when moving to or from a small tree, you do have to use a consumable. This is found scattered throughout the world or can be purchased, which I think is a fair trade. This makes jumping around the world fairly easy to do, especially on such a large map.
You have access to a wide array of weaponry in Afterimage, which lets you customize your combat playstyle however you’d like. Each weapon has a unique move set that you can upgrade through the skill tree.
Each comes with risks and benefits and provides a fun experience. It changes the combat and gameplay as you progress and provides an opportunity for a new experience when you play again.
There are also spells that you can use by equipping unique tomes, though I found myself accessing spells far less than my weapon and sub-weapon. I really enjoyed the mechanics of the whip, scythe, and blade. I will admit, however, that I am minorly annoyed that you can’t sell old weapons to clear up space (and if you can, I have yet to find where).
When you first start Afterimage, you’re given a small bit of the game’s lore. It’s ominous and vague and leaves you searching for answers (probably like the remaining survivors are doing). It can be a bit difficult to parse together what’s going on, especially in the early game.
Listening to past echoes, listening to dialogue, and reading item descriptions are crucial to knowing what is happening and what might happen.
I think that Afterimage is really great at foreshadowing, and when you do run across strategically placed NPCs and cut scenes, they leave enough of an impression that it’s easy to keep them in mind as you move through the game.
Plus, in various areas, the background speaks quite a bit to the story, telling the story of a society that stands no longer, with its remanents simply trying to survive.
There are points where I do think the narrative could be more clear, however. It can be confusing if you’re trying to parse through it on your own, so working with the community to pass theories back and forth and clarify certain events is helpful (especially with ten endings in the game!).
The progression in Afterimage is pretty smooth. If you’re not supposed to be somewhere, the game will make sure that you know you’re not supposed to be there (generally because you don’t have the ability needed to get there yet).
Plus, with a smooth and consistent leveling experience as you play, you really don’t have to grind to level up for a fight. As a metroidvania, you will naturally move back and forth between areas you’ve already visited, so I don’t have any issues with needing to backtrack.
If there is anything I could point to as the biggest flaw in Afterimage, it would be the achievement system. Understandably, some achievements can only be gained when you do something exceptional in-game.
However, that’s what most of the achievements feel like they are in Afterimage. They’re markers for exceptional moments rather than symbols of progress as you move through the game.
Achievements are a fun part of gaming that Afterimage missed the mark on because they didn’t include progression achievements in favor of “exceptional” achievements.
Returning to the Confluence
As mentioned earlier, the weaponry mechanic in Afterimage encourages replayability by allowing you to have a new combat experience. Even better is that because the map is so big, there is a lot that you may miss or forget about on your first playthrough that you can discover as you go through the game again.
With 60+ hours of gameplay, you’ll spend a lot of time playing and replaying the game as you look for new endings (there are about 7 in the base game and 3 in NG+, I believe). The New Game+ also encourages replays and offers a more challenging experience to those searching for it.
If you like darker atmospheres, some great alternatives to Afterimage would be:
- Hollow Knight
- Ender Lillies
If you like the more colorful atmosphere of Afterimage, however, consider the following:
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Yoku’s Island Express
- 9 Years of Shadows
Afterimage is a fun game with fascinating lore, though it might take a lot of exploring to know what’s happening, both in the game and in online communities. Nonetheless, the world remains immersive, with beautiful graphics and music.
It feels like a very grounded fantasy and is a great break from the dark and soul-like atmospheres that most new Metroidvanias like to take. The gameplay is challenging and encourages you to master your chosen mechanics. Plus, you’ll have dozens of hours of content to indulge in.
The only substantial downside is the achievement system makes it feel like you aren’t progressing through the game or doing the “right” things, which is incredibly frustrating as someone who loves to earn achievements and see what I’ve done.
Although she only earned two achievements in about 15 hours of playtime, Tallis managed to get about half of the primary abilities and most of the movement skills. She reached level 52 and is eagerly awaiting her chance to play more and explore every bit of Afterimage’s massive map.
Question: What consoles is Afterimage on?
Answer: Afterimage is on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox, and PC.
Question: How long is Afterimage?
Answer: Depending on your playstyle, you’ll probably be looking at about 50+ hours of gameplay.
Question: Is Afterimage hard?
Answer: Afterimage is a reasonably challenging metroidvania. It requires you to adapt to and learn the mechanics rather than brute force your way through. In my time playing, however, I would say that it was slightly easier to pick up on than Hollow Knight.
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