Platinum Games’ upcoming Nintendo Switch exclusive, Astral Chain, involves controlling two characters at the same time during combat. The game is not necessarily designed to be played by two people at once, but according to Astral Chain director Takahisa Taura, there is a way to do it that he described as both “challenging” and “really fun.”
One of the playable characters is a police officer who is part of a unit fighting off interdimensional beings called Chimera. The other character is called a Legion: a captured Chimera who has been trained to fight on the side of humans. In an interview at Nintendo’s E3 booth, Taura explained how the two characters—the cop and the Legion—have a mystical link that allows them to fight in tandem.
“You may have noticed that the characters are connected by a chain,” he said, with the help of the translator present at our interview. “That’s not to say that I have a thing for chains, or anything, but that when you’re controlling two characters, that chain allows you to see where the other character is in relation to the one that you’re controlling.”
One player controlling two characters was what most fascinated Taura, but the idea of including co-op did occur to him as he and his colleagues designed Astral Chain. “I thought as I was developing the game that, of course, it could be made into that kind of system where it could be split up, but generally what I wanted to do is have one player control two characters at the same time,” he explained. “But the Switch actually has this great feature where, obviously, you can detach the Joy-Con and share play. We wanted to take advantage of that as well.”
This resulted in one specific Easter egg of a method to play Astral Chain cooperatively: When the Joy-Cons are removed, Taura explained, the controls for the cop will be on one Joy-Con, with the controls for the Legion on the other. In this way, and only in this way, the game’s dual combat sequences can be played with two people instead of just one.
Taura compared it to Super Mario Galaxy, in which one player can collect star bits while the other plays as Mario. “But this game is different from that,” Taura went on, “Because you don’t just have one person doing assists. Both players actually have to put effort into controlling the characters and playing the game.” Although Astral Chain was not available as a hands-on gameplay demo at E3, the team did show off some of the combat sequences in a Nintendo Treehouse segment, and it does look deliciously tricky.
In Mario Galaxy, having a partner help you collect star bits is a huge benefit. It makes the game easier. But in Astral Chain, playing the game in this cooperative fashion will pose a larger challenge. “If you’re going for a high score, it’s challenging to do this, playing in two-player. As one example, while you’re playing the game, there are several synchronous moments where you’re doing attacks with the Legion at the same time. And if you’re playing two-player, the other player and you—actually, it’s almost like you would actually have to be of the same mind.” Or, I suggested, connected to one another by a chain? “Yes,” Taura agreed, laughing. “But it’s not just that it’s hard. If you’re sitting next to somebody and playing this game, it’s also really fun.”