One of my all-time favorite games is Chrono Trigger on the Super NES. Aside from being a superb RPG for the console, I was also fascinated by the time travel aspects when I first played it, with certain things in the future being affected by what you do in the past. While Astlibra isn’t quite that involved, a side-scrolling action RPG that involves time travel didn’t take long to catch my eye. I’ve never played Astlibra so Astlibra Revision is my first look at the title, and to say it left an impression on me is an understatement.
Astlibra Revision begins with you and your childhood friend attempting to run away from some monsters when they get knocked out (you and your friend, not the monsters). You eventually wake up in a house and find not only that your friend is missing, but that a talking crow found you and brought you to safety. Having trouble remembering what happened, you and the crow (named Karon) wander around for nearly a decade before finding another adventurer. The main plot of the game involves you and Karon trying to remember the past and find out what happened to your childhood friend and home, though there is a lot more involved in the plot that I’m going to try and not spoil.
When first starting up Astlibra Revision, the game recommends you go through the tutorial/demo to get acquainted with the mechanics, and for the most part I recommend doing so, as it does go through most of the mechanics you’ll encounter throughout your journey. The main objective is your standard Action-RPG fare: defeat any monster in front of you with whatever equipment you have while ultimately reaching and defeating the boss at the end of each chapter. As with any RPG, you can upgrade your stats and skills as you go, but Astlibra Revision has several ways to customize your character. It can get a bit overwhelming at first until you understand it all. You have stat points you gain after each level up that you can allocate to several skills, force gems in six different colors you can spend on a skill tree to unlock more stat upgrades and learn new skills, and various weapons and armor you can purchase in shops. In addition to spending coins on most equipment, you also have to have certain materials to craft that equipment.
Each of these has their pros and cons. Force Gems drop from defeated enemies and occasional rocks you can break, and you can convert one color of gem to another at a ratio of 30 to 10 if you’re low on a particular color. However, with multiple branching paths and ultimately having to spend more and more gems to unlock one skill point upgrade, it can take a while to learn a new skill at the end of one of the branches, and a couple skills are more useful in certain situations like boss battles. You also can’t freely scroll the tree around to see where each branch leads, so it’s basically trial and error with each branch or just grinding out a bunch of gems. Thankfully, you can reallocate the skill points you gain after a level up or at various locations throughout the game (usually in a shop). This is especially useful if you typically put your points into a couple of stats and want to try different playstyles, like gearing more towards magic as opposed to physical attacks, and you’ll still have the permanent stat point upgrades from the skill tree.
Then comes the equipment, which I’m kind of torn on. The weapons you can get each have their own range, weight, and handling stats that can determine how fast you can swing them and whether they’re one- or two-handed. You also have shields that can be used with one-handed weapons to help block certain attacks. The one minor issue I have is that each piece of equipment you purchase also requires certain materials to make, but shops will have plenty of options and you can freely roam around the areas to find the materials, so it’s not terribly difficult to obtain what armor and weapons you want. Between all of the equipment you can find and purchase, along with the skill points, attributes, and abilities you can acquire and customize, there’s a lot you can alter to fit your playstyle. There is one issue with that concept though that I’ll get to in a bit as it can be a bit of a game changer.
The flow of the game kind of acts like episodes of an anime, even opening each chapter like the intro to an anime (thankfully you can skip this so you don’t have to watch it every chapter). From there you’ll obtain your objective for the chapter, head to where you need to go, ultimately find and defeat the boss at the end, wrap up the story for that chapter, and repeat. After a while, you’ll obtain a set of scales that becomes in integral part of the story, but they also let you travel back to the areas from previously completed chapters so you can either grind for materials found in those locations or even enter optional areas that were once deemed two deadly with prior gear. These are also very useful if you just want to grind up a few more levels without having to deal with enemies too powerful for your current level.
When I first started playing Astlibra Revision, the art style and animation gave me vibes similar to a couple of the earlier Ys games. The graphics look great for the style of game it is, and the gameplay feels pretty smooth and fluid, provided you know how your current weapon works in terms of weight and handling. Plus, you can gain experience on the equipment and skills to improve them a bit the more you use them. The music matches whatever the current situation is, whether it’s slower during more calm moments or downright rockin’ when out fighting the demons. The gameplay itself is pretty fluid and does require a bit of strategy beyond just “run in and rapidly hack and slash at the enemies”. If you can equip a shield, you can use that to block attacks and projectiles before getting in with a few hits Some monsters will require you to get a few in, back out while avoid their attacks, and then getting back in when you can, requiring more of a hit-and-run strategy. The difficulty overall feels pretty progressive and fair…for the most part.
There is one area that made me bash my head against a wall for a bit, and it also goes back to the whole “use the equipment that fits your playstyle” thing I mentioned: bosses. The bosses are typically the same as the other enemies in terms of how you fight them: learn their attacks and apply a hit-and-run strategy. However, I did have a couple where I had to keep changing not only my loadout, but my stat point allocation and grind a lot of force gems to get to a certain skill to help me out. To put it simply, I first tried one particular boss at around level 18, whaled on it with attacks and some skills for about five to ten minutes, and then realized that I hadn’t even made a dent in its HP (there is one ability you can equip that allows you to see an enemy’s health meter, including bosses). This ultimately led me to grinding out gems to get a specific wind-type skill (and ultimately got to level 21), put all one hundred of my stat points into magic, made sure I had plenty of healing items, and the fight still took several minutes. The boss itself was a fun fight, but it was frustrating that I had to grind a few levels and a ton of force gems to find and get to the skill I needed to beat the boss.
The other issues I had were minor but still worth mentioning. First is the demo I mentioned at the beginning of the game. Astlibra Revision recommends going through the demo first to get acquainted with the game’s mechanics, and that’s understandable. However, if you just decide to start up the main story you’ll still be taught just about everything the demo shows you as you go. On top of that, you can download the demo separately on Steam so there’s not an incredible need to do a one to two hour demo if you already have the full game. The story is also pretty good, though it can take some “interesting” twists along the way that kind of just make you look at the screen and go “huh?”. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT of dialogue. I’d say that in my first hour of the main game, the bulk of my time was spent on dialogue and story. Then you have the occasional situation where to progress the story you have to basically go back and forth across the area/location you’re in which can get a tad annoying. Basically you’ll have a situation where to go through an entire area, talk to someone important to the story, go back to the start of the area, have to return to that NPC for some reason, then go to another area, just to go back to the NPC to trigger something else in that area. The areas themselves aren’t that big, but you’re constantly going back and forth to where it can get a bit repetitive.
Beyond that though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with Astlibra Revision. While it does have a few things that can drive me nuts at times, this is a very solid game. It can get a bit grindy at times, though as I grinded a bit in the early going and still had to grind some more before a couple of bosses. Then again, with a soundtrack as good as this, I’m perfectly okay with that from time to time. If you enjoy anime-style action RPGs and don’t mind A LOT of dialogue, running back and forth in the same areas several times, and a bit of grinding here and there, I’d say definitely give Astlibra Revision a shot. At the very least you can check out the one to two hour demo before you buy it to give it a shot.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.