Love or hate the Metroid series, it’s undeniable the impact that it’s had on gaming with the vast offshoot of Metroidvania games. Afterimage is another such game, boasting impressive visuals, a large world to explore, and a variety of combat styles. Of course, as you would expect of a Metroidvania, there are plenty of skills to unlock that will allow you to explore more and more of the world.
You play as Renee, a young girl who has lost her memories and her mentor, and must set out to discover the truth of what happened to her. It feels like the game starts in the midst of a story already being told as a lot of information is thrown at you at once and it can seem a bit overwhelming. The one thing I knew for certain was that there were enemies to fight, and buttons that allowed me to fight them.
Renee starts off with a basic sword capable of simple strikes. As the game progresses you’ll come across great swords, whips, dual blades, and more, all of which afford their own combat style. There are also different armors and accessories that come with their own effects, which can greatly influence the way you play.
I really enjoyed the feeling of the combat in Afterimage. In most games, I always find a weapon that I have a strong preference for, defaulting to that preference. With Afterimage, I found myself experimenting a lot more with different stat buffs and weapons, especially when it came to boss fights.
There are also chefs spread throughout the world and these guys can cook dishes for Renee if she digs up the ingredients. These add temporary and permanent buffs that make them well worth searching out, and I made sure to make full use of them during boss fights too.
Speaking of, some of the bosses in Afterimage are tough. Properly leveling and quick reactions are vital if you want to beat them all. Thankfully, as long as you stop to fight as you explore, you’ll usually arrive with enough strength to take on the boss of the area. There were some points in the game where I did go out of my way to grind levels, though.
On the flip, there were some optional bosses that I absolutely steamrolled because I was over leveled. I managed to get a little lost and wander through some areas that were likely intended for a much higher level than I was supposed to be exploring. Mid-playthrough there was a pre-release update that added level recommendations to the end of each area’s name, and boy did that help explain all the deaths. Well, some of the deaths at least.
Turns out I was trying to overcome 30+ level differences, with mixed results. That patch made exploration much clearer and got me on track to actually completing the game. Which is good because it shows the developer is working to improve the quality of Afterimage, and I’d hope they’ll continue to do so even after release.
Afterimage is a fully voiced game, which gives life and personality to the characters, but surprisingly it still chooses to reveal much of the lore through hidden notes and item descriptions.
Because of this, some of the story and exploration elements can feel a bit more complicated than they probably need to be. There isn’t a ton of direction on where to go or what to do at any given point, beyond the brief notes in your quest guide. In fact, I’m fairly certain I missed out on a couple of important aspects of the game because I clicked through some of the dialogue a bit too quickly, which is on me.
That being said, most people and special places you come across are not automatically marked on the map. The only places that get added are the confluxes that you can rest at. These are trees that provide safe haven and, after you do some extra exploring, they also allow you to fast travel between a select few of them.
This is an incredibly helpful ability, which honestly I wish was acquired sooner, because Afterimage’s world is huge. There are a ton of different areas, each with their own enemies, themes, and soundtracks.
There are “resting potions” which allow you to travel between any of these trees, but they are in limited supply, so it’s important to use them sparingly. Thankfully, as more traversal abilities are unlocked, it becomes a breeze to get around the earlier levels. Not only that, but exploring almost always leads to new paths to get to where you need to be.
The world is beautiful and the music for the most part hits the mark. I say for the most part because there was one boss song that every time it played, completely pulled me out of the fight. It only comes up a few times, but always leaves an impression. The fights weren’t even bad; the song was just that out of place.
But getting back to the world and there is a lot to explore in Afterimage which is great. But the lack of markers makes it challenging to make sense of where things are. Especially starting out. There is an option to manually place markers, which I did once, but ironically I did it for a location I never actually revisited. At least I tried, right?
This is probably my biggest complaint about the exploration. There should be a way for markers to be added automatically, and if there is and I missed it, then it should be on a more mainline path.
Regarding length, it took me just around nineteen hours to complete my first playthrough of Afterimage, and I know there were still new bosses and secrets to uncover. It’s great how much content there is. In fact, optional content in Metroidvania’s are what really contribute to the world building and replayability. Knowing that I can dive deeper into the game is exciting, but it’s also nice to know that there is no need to take in everything in order to finish it, too.
That being said, I am glad I spent the time to explore a bit more. Because towards the end of the game, I took notice of just how many similarities there are between Afterimage and that of Hollow Knight. It wasn’t until I unlocked an ability to dash through energy streams that it finally clicked just how much inspiration was drawn from the game.
This is almost exactly how the progression in Hollow Knight works, for anyone who hasn’t played the game. And as if the abilities weren’t enough of a tell, gamers who choose to explore a bit more will uncover an easter egg of their favorite little bug hero that removes any doubt.
I love seeing things like that in games. For one it’s a great homage to another game that I thoroughly enjoyed and secondly, it shows the sheer amount of care and thought put into designing Afterimage. There also seems to be a few different endings to unlock, but they require a bit more legwork than the standard one. Again, another similarity to Hollow Knight and just another reason to go back for more.
While there are certainly things that could be improved upon, like adding markers to the map and maybe a bit more explanation on some of the systems, I found the gameplay challenging, yet enjoyable. Afterimage is one of those games in which you’ll need to actively switch between different weapons based on the boss you are up against, because almost all of them feel good to use depending on the situation. While I found the exploration to be a bit tedious at times, I kept wanting to come back to discover more about the world and Afterimage as a whole.