Standing out from the crowd is never an easy thing to do – especially not when the crowd is as full as the Metroidvania genre has become. In the last few years, we’ve seen some wonderful titles in this genre, many crossing genres to create new and compelling games. But every so often, along comes a game that blows all of your expectations out of the water. This year, Afterimage is that game.
Developed by Aurogon Shanghai, Afterimage is set in the ruined world of Engardin. After a war between humans and Engardin’s guardians, the natural world has reclaimed Engardin and the remnants of humanity have retreated to scattered settlements. But after the settlements come under attack, amnesiac Renee sets out on a journey to regain her memories and find those responsible. Her choices will change Engardin, but will they be for the best?
Afterimage is best described as a Metroidvania sprinkled with some light ‘Souls-like elements and a hefty dose of RPG-ing. Following in the footsteps of that iconic masterpiece, Symphony of The Night, Afterimage adds its own flavour to the game design while boosting its map to an enormous size.
You see, Afterimage is, even for a Metroidvania, absolutely massive. Spread across multiple areas, with each area the size of an entire castle in some games, Afterimage is truly an epic adventure full of connecting pathways, shortcuts, and hidden secrets that will take you well over thirty hours to complete – and there are still multiple endings to see.
Afterimage‘s maps are all wonderfully diverse in both look and feel. The game features hand-drawn sprites and scenery, with some truly stunning animation, and to call it a beautiful game is an understatement. It is, simply put, gorgeous.
With humanity out of the way, nature has reclaimed the world in a stunning display of colour and the vibrancy of life. Whether you’re spelunking through the Fields of Geo, or exploring the ruins of a haunted town, Afterimage‘s use of parallax layers gives the impression of a vast and richly detailed world and is nothing short of an artistic showcase.
Those stunning visuals are also accompanied by a stellar soundtrack featuring both atmospheric, melancholic tracks and punchy, upbeat tunes when needed. The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful and one of this year’s best.
Not only is Afterimage massive and beautiful it’s also challenging, with tough boss battles and unforgiving platforming sections. Of course, like any good Metroidvania worth its salt, you can’t see all of each area until you’ve acquired new abilities.
These titular “Afterimage” abilities are slowly fed to you through the game and come in two flavours: those that are always active, such as the double jump and air dash abilities; and those that need a Divine Seed to be active, such as an increasing the range you can automatically collect dew drops (think Souls).
It’s always worth revisiting old areas once you acquire a new ability, if only to open missed chests or unlock shortcuts between zones. The game also features side quests to distract you, though most of which can also be completed through normal exploration and don’t require too much backtracking. Overall, the game world is a joy to explore even if you’re not someone interested in 100-percenting every area.
Combat is of the more traditional Metroidvania hack-and-slash variety, though you can equip two weapon types and a spell simultaneously. You’ll pick up new weapons, ranging from wooden swords to ivy whips, but while the arsenal of melee weapons is relatively small, there’s something here for everyone. You also need to pay attention to the stat boosts as some attacks complement what weapons you have equipped.
There’s also a greater variety of gear and accessories to collect, all of which come with stat buffs and special abilities, such as health regeneration or attack power boosts. Sadly, they don’t change Renee’s visual look.
Renee can level up with each enemy killed, providing Talent Points to invest in her skill tree, unlocking new attacks or stat boosts. The ‘Souls-like elements are typical enough with limited save points and rest areas. Saving respawns enemies across the world and death sees you dropping all the XP you’ve accumulated towards your next level up. Once respawned, you’re going to have to trek back to the place of your demise to recollect that XP without dying if you don’t want to lose it all. Thankfully it’s a more forgiving system as it’s not hard to level up and you don’t need to grind to crash through those level ceilings.
If there’s one element I can fault in Afterimage – and one most likely due to the Switch hardware – it would be the load times. They’re quite lengthy, both when first launching the game, when loading up your save, reloading after dying, and initiating fast travel. Hopefully, the devs can optimise this but considering the size of Afterimage’s seamless world, it didn’t come as a surprise.
That single issue aside, a great story, challenging gameplay, fantastic animations, a gorgeous world, a truly haunting soundtrack, and hefty playtime, all make Afterimage one of this year’s best games and certainly one of the best Metroidvanias I’ve played. It’s also put the developer, Aurogon Shanghai, onto my “must-watch” list and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Do yourself a favour, grab Afterimage, and lose yourself to its tight combat and platforming while marvelling at the visual splendour while exploring. You’ll thank me later.
Afterimage was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Xbox Series, and PC.
Afterimage (Nintendo Switch) ReviewAfterimage (Nintendo Switch) Review
- A truly massive Metroidvania
- Tight, challenging combat and platforming
- Superb animation
- Gorgeous visuals
- Long load times on Switch