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Afterimage’s Nonsensical Plot Doesn’t Get In The Way Of Its In-Depth Search Action Bliss

Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Search action game made by Chinese fans of Hollow Knight

Will indie developers decide when the 2D search action game will fade style-wise? After all, we have plenty of them in 2023 right now with no sign of them slowing down soon. At the very least, I don’t mind the influx if they’re as exceptionally built like Aurogon Shanghai and Modus Games’ Afterimage.

Visionary

Afterimage tells the tale of a white-haired warrior apprentice named Renee who is accompanied by a tiny familiar named Ifrit. She finds out her master is dead and has to find answers as to how this all happened by exploring eastward in the strange land of Afterimage. In Metroidvania fashion, you platform and fight in 2D form, defeat tons of tough enemies and bosses, gain new abilities to traverse and bypass obstacles (double-jump, slides that go through tight crawlspace, groundpounds to destroy marked ground obstacles), and collect new weapons to improve your arsenal.

Renee herself is a joy to play as and control; her movement, jumping, attacks, and animations aren’t too weighty but not too loose. There’s enough heft in her heavy weapon attacks, but she’s agile enough to jump around and dodge whatever incoming attacks and hazards she has to deal with. Renee gets to carry two different weapons and a spell for us in the game’s many, MANY combat segments. She even has a decent-sized talent tree that lets you buff up her passive stats and activate new weapon moves (and some hidden ones that are stashed all over the world), assuming you have the Talent Points and appropriate level to activate them. Fighting bosses and going through “gauntlets”, and also uncovering valuable treasure chests & hidden spots, will net you Talent Points to grow, so exploring every corner of Afterimage’s world from the undersea ruins to the hot-as-heck lava-and-igneous-terrain levels are important.

And the challenges get very tough. It’ll take beyond the 8-hour mark for the game to unveil its “Dark Souls” boss mentality after it eases you in with a few simple challenges here and there, and that’s just for the main quest storyline. Some of the game’s late-game bosses are very brutal as they deal more damage than they should despite your character reaching high levels, to the point where it can feel pretty cheap at times. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve been challenged by a search action’s group of badass gatekeepers since Metroid Dread; ones that really keep me on my toes and rely on skill and evasion than actual health potion-spamming.

The game also features a ton of late-game secrets and endgame content featuring an optional section and additional endings that let you uncover more about Renee and Ifrit’s past and predicament. These come with pretty awesome secret boss fights and challenging locations, so if you feel like you’re up to test your full abilities in a search action title, Afterimage will sort you out well.

So far, I’m doing alright with my Scythe and Blade combo, with the latter weapon reminding me of the old Castlevania titles that has weapons that come out instantly without any set startup or recovery animation frames. I’ll probably need to upgrade my weapons and change up my arsenal for future boss fights that require you to be mobile, but that just highlights Afterimage’s beauty in its combat and design; you have to adapt to what’s thrown at you if you want to experience its many conclusions and gain its rewards.

With a ton in store and to explore, Afterimage is not short on gameplay and exploration at the very least, as well as with eye candy. The game’s visuals are pretty stellar and shows off a lot of outstanding 2D-drawn areas of fantastical and mystical nature; Goliathfall and Forest Foregone are my standout favourites to explore and admire.

The character animations are solid, the colours and look of each different search action location are unique and distinct, and seeing all of it in motion is just a treat. I just wish the mid-game portion featuring a flying manta ray you can control on a map looked just as good; this particular eyesore of a section -which honestly looks like an intern’s first stab at making an overworld hub- is the only blemish in Afterimage’s graphics portfolio.

Botched Sight?

While we’re talking about flaws, the game’s story does get bogged with its terminology and mash-up of multiple fantasy tropes that really confuses its viewers more than making them intrigued. It starts off innocent enough, then you’ll be waylaid with a lot of dialogue and chatter that just amounts to “go here and found out what’s up”, followed by the usual boss fights and wandering around for the right items and Afterimage powers to proceed. The late-game ending portions and New Game+ bits does try to make sense of most of it, but your average player and game-focused search action aficionado will just tune out and skip tons of the hard work the narrative designers and writer(s) have put in.

Speaking of wandering around, the backtracking can get insane especially since one of your teleporting resources that cut down on the walking is finite in its quantity. At least until you find a late-game merchant who hangs out at the far reaches of the map. It’s pretty annoying to say the least.

Regardless of those niggling issues, you’ll have a blast with this title, even if you have no idea what most of its fantasy plot is. You have to give props to developer Aurogon Shanghai for putting a lot of secrets and areas to explore and conquer, as well as a New Game+ and a couple of extra endings to unlock that try to make sense of the plot involving an amnesiac and her tiny familiar. Afterimage is solid search action bliss that will keep you immersed and engrossed for 20+ hours on end, even if it sounds like a third-party Photoshop plug-in.

 

Pros

  • Great controls.
  • Plethora of weapons, special moves, and spells to experiment with.
  • Fun and large in-depth world to explore.
  • Lovely art style.
  • Challenging yet fair.

 

Cons

  • Plot gets incomprehensible (until New Game+ at least).
  • Some UI issues.
  • Fast backtracking options can get limited in the early and mid-parts.

 

Final Score: 80/100

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Comment(2)

  1. Afterimage Endings Guide: How To Unlock All 10 Of Them | Kakuchopurei

    May 1, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    […] Afterimage is out right now on PC and consoles. It’s one of 2023’s possible sleeper hit titles as it came out of nowhere, has positive reviews so far, and has a lot of secrets and content jam-packed for its price tag. And if you’re a fan of multiple endings and secret bosses, you’re in luck! […]

  2. The Last Case Of Benedict Fox’s Setting Isn’t Enough To Hide Its Janky & Awkward Experience | Kakuchopurei

    May 12, 2023 at 11:00 pm

    […] If you can somehow stomach all that along with some odd production choices like ho-hum voice acting, you’ll at least find something to love in this potential cult hit that misses the mark. The Last Case of Benedict Fox isn’t a complete failure, but it’s hard to experience when there are other better Metroidvania-style titles out there these past few months, like the Dead Cells DLC and Afterimage. […]

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