Astebreed is a 2014 PS4/PC shoot 'em up from Japanese developers Edelweiss. Now arriving on the Switch, despite being four years old it looks and feels like a brand new game, a testament to the quality of the developers' work.
All of the dialogue is in Japanese, with English subtitles, but good luck keeping up with those when there's so much happening on screen. All you really need to know, as far as the story goes, is that you're a pilot in charge of a flying mech, travelling through space blowing loads of things up in spectacular fashion. Completing the game unlocks a ton of lore documents, artwork galleries and cutscenes, all helping to fill in the story gaps if you feel so inclined.
Astebreed's gameplay is pretty unique for a shoot 'em up. Your mech can only fire forwards, and can lock onto enemies in a couple of different ways. Hostile bullets can be wiped out using certain attacks, and your mech is also equipped with a blade which is super powerful but can leave you open to damage. There are also three special attacks that vary depending on the circumstances in which they're used. Performing the desired attack in the heat of combat can feel a little fiddly due to a slightly weird control setup the Joy-Cons' small buttons, but custom controls can be defined in the options menu so you'll most likely be able to find a more comfortable configuration.
The game includes some fairly deep score mechanics that reward expert play for those wanting to chase high scores, but these are entirely optional and have no bearing on success or failure in the game. The temptation to use your bullets and blade at the same time is ever present, but the scoring system discourages this by resetting your multiplier when using the blade, forcing the more thoughtful player to be a little more tactical in their approach to gain the best scores.
Astebreed isn't an especially long or challenging game - our first death didn't come until the final boss encounter - but it's incredibly good fun and the score system adds a layer of replayability. It game runs tremendously well in handheld mode, and its short levels are perfect for portable play. Possibly lacking in some memorable over the top set pieces and environments, it's still an absolute blast and deserves to be played by any shoot 'em up fan.
ASTEBREED / DEVELOPER: EDELWEISS / PUBLISHER: PLAYISM / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, NINTENDO SWITCH (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: 8TH NOVEMBER