After an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign in March of 2022, Afterimage is making its way to Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles on April 25th, 2023. I was able to go hands-on and spent a good 4 or 5 hours playing and exploring the world and its various locals, taking on fun monsters, and trying to save what remains of Engardin. While I didn’t know much going into this preview of Afterimage, I walked away incredibly excited for the game’s full release in just a few months.
Welcome to Engardin
Afterimage is a Metroidvania-style 2D action-adventure platformer set in the ruins of the fantasy world of Engardin. You take on the role of Renee, the amnesiac protagonist, as she and her companion, Ifree, explore and fight a wonderful cast of monsters as they try to save what’s left of the world following a cataclysmic event known as “The Razing”.
During my hands-on preview, I was blown away by Afterimage’s presentation. The world and its inhabitants are stunning and lively. They react exactly how I’d hoped they would to Renee as she approaches and prepares to tear them apart with a surprising variety of weapons. The hand-painted art style on display in Afterimage is fantastic and lends itself well to the story being told and the characters within it. While it wasn’t perfect with the occasional Z-fighting or dead enemies floating on ramps, the world was a joy to explore and get lost in.
The world seems completely innocuous when compared to the dangers that await players. These disparate areas are beautifully unique to one another and provide all sorts of eye candy. I died more than once just admiring the scenery while a monster snuck up on me and forced me to respawn at the nearest save point. I couldn’t wait to progress just to see what the game had to show me next.
Reminiscent of Insomniac’s Song of the Deep, Afterimage has a soundtrack that is simultaneously whimsical and heartbreaking. I can feel the devastation in this world as though it’s my own memory and considering the plot of Afterimage as it surrounds the memories of a world lost to evil, I can’t imagine a soundtrack that could fit better.
This theme is carried through in the sound design as well. The enemies you face all have engaging grumbles and satisfying noises as you ruin their days with a swing of your sword. Aurogon Shanghai has outdone themselves with this game’s presentation full stop, and I just can’t wait to see more of the world and what surprises it has in store.
While Afterimage may look simple on the outside, its systems run deep. Players collect Talent Points from defeating bosses or reaching certain milestones that are used to unlock perks in the Talent Tree. I had full access to the game’s entire Talent Tree, and while I wasn’t able to get anywhere near maxed out on any particular path, the options at hand are plentiful, nigh on overwhelmingly.
This ties well into the game’s combat which feels great with tight and responsive controls that make Renee an absolute joy to pilot. Enemies attack with charges and ranged arrows or by throwing objects. As long as I could get close, I felt like I had no problem overcoming those challenges. Perhaps most satisfying was the discovery of being able to send physical ranged attacks back at my opponents, while ranged magical attacks required a bit more finesse and strategy to deal with. My only failures in my time with Afterimage were my own.
As you advance through Afterimage, you’ll unlock new movement options, attacks, weapons and gear that will grant you special abilities and resiliencies. While these things didn’t have a massive impact on my gameplay in the early game, I can see how important a plus one to defense is or just a little bit more sword damage on an Iron sword versus the starting ‘Stars blade’.
The movement tech on display, even just as early in as I was, had me giddy. Whether its inclusion is intentional or not, Afterimage allows players to combine jumps, dashes, and even midair attacks to gain just that much more hang time to help clear gaps that might otherwise remain inaccessible. The jumps are extremely precise, but these tougher jumps are also very forgiving. I never felt that I had to traverse far at all to give something another try if I didn’t make it the first time.
In Afterimage, death doesn’t reset your progress. Instead, you’re sent back to the most recent place where you saved, and you begin your trek back to collect the XP you may have lost upon dying. The good news here is that after you die, any paths you may have opened or items you might have collected are maintained, meaning finding shortcuts as you explore are just as exciting as finding that next save spot, getting you back to progressing that much faster. These save points will also heal you when you back track to them or find a new one, but they also respawn all of the monsters you’ve faced, much like any Soulslike game in recent memory. I found this to be just another great layer of Afterimage’s genuinely fun gameplay loop.
My first few hours with Afterimage have surpassed my meager expectations. Despite its increasingly rare visual bugs, Aurogon Shanghai seems to have a great game on their hands that rewards exploration, encourages failing, and respects the players’ time. I might not have had Afterimage on my radar before this preview, but it might be one of my most anticipated games of this Spring season.
Afterimage will release for the Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on April 25th, 2023.