Astebreed is a significant downgrade on the Switch

Live by the sword, die by the sword

Astebreed is a fantastic bullet hell game that originally launched on PC and eventually made its way onto PlayStation 4 too. Last week, it was quietly released on the Switch eShop without much marketing or fanfare. After spending some time with it, I can’t say I’m all that surprised.

The first thing worth pointing out is that this is a fairly large visual drop from the other releases. The textures are muddier, and the whole presentation takes a hit all around. There’s still no English voice acting for this outing either, so it’s as impossible as ever to keep up with the story, which is delivered via text in the bottom left corner of the screen while you are in the middle of battle. For obvious reasons, this issue is compounded substantially when playing in handheld mode.

Speaking of handheld mode, the Joy-Con just don’t offer the precision a fast-paced action game like this demands. It’s worth emphasizing that I do mean a game like this, where you’re constantly switching between attacks relegated to the shoulder and face buttons depending on the situation. As ever, the Pro Controller works much better by sheer virtue of simply having the buttons more conveniently spaced apart. The default mapping of your sword attack to the left bumper still doesn’t feel right at all, but luckily, you can remap everything as you see fit in Arrange mode.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Arrange mode is the newest iteration of the game which was added to other versions last year in a major update. It offers controls more suitable for consoles as well as some other goodies like new scenes and enemy attack patterns. Instead of holding down the face buttons to use your lock-on attacks, you use the right joystick to highlight enemies and release to deliver a flurry of projectiles. It’s a small addition, but it does feel slightly more natural on a gamepad. None of this is new, but it’s still worth noting, and it quickly became my preferred play option. The original mode is still here as well if you’re looking for that too.

The biggest issues for the Switch port are instances of slowdown during particularly hectic battles and slightly more sluggish inputs. It seems to run a bit better while docked, but it can still prove to be an annoyance. Returning back to the PS4 version after spending a good deal of time with this felt like a difference of night and day. Everything was snappier, crisper, and just all around more enjoyable.

Astebreed is still a great game, even with the setbacks, but this is clearly the inferior way to play. There is something to be said for taking it with you portably, but personally, I don’t feel that the trade-off is worth it. In theory, this should have been the best version yet, but things just didn’t shake out that way. If you’re a fan of the genre, and you haven’t yet experienced this beauty, get on that. It still holds up phenomenally. However, I’d recommend picking it up on other platforms.

[These impressions were based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

About The Author
Kevin Mersereau
I like video games, music, comics, and corgis a whole lot. Pretty much everything I do in my free time revolves around these four things...
More Stories by Kevin Mersereau