[Review] Shinsekai Into the Depths – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Release Date: 26/03/2020
  • Price: $19.99 / £15.99
  • Review code provided by Capcom

Introducing Shinsekai Into the Depths Review

Metrovanias are a dime a dozen on the Switch. It seems that every other month, or week, another title is released, often claiming to be the newest, biggest or best thing to happen to the genre. Believe me, I love this style of game and I have ingested my fair share, from Bloodstained to SuperEpic. One thing I have noticed is that these titles tend to focus more on the action RPG stylings of the genre, the “vania” aspects and less of the “metroid” aspects.

With its beginnings on the Apple Arcade platform, I did not have the highest hopes for Shinseki Into the Depths. I am not a fan of mobile games, and while I may play them to pass the time while waiting in line, they are not something I genuinely get excited about. Yet, after an hour or so with this title, I completely forgot this was originally envisioned as a phone game. This dark and moody action game is so reminiscent of the first Metroid, I remembered why I loved that title to begin with. If you are willing to brave the depths of the sea, Shinseki offers a refreshingly different take on the overcrowded metroidvania genre.

Beyond the Depths

There is no dialog spoken in Shinsekai. Not a single word is uttered but this story is one of isolation and hope. The world is being covered by ice and the oceans are the last bastion for humanity. As a lone aquanaut, you must set out from your home base and search for any sign of life. Your unnamed protagonist may be silent, but they are far from expressionless. Fear and worry can be seen in their movements and actions.

Moving ever forward, you can find documents left behind by other settlements. These images, when found, look like they could double as concept art (and they may be) but they give brief glimpses into the history of the world. Even without speech, you can get an idea of what is happening in the world, and by the time the final climax happens, I was thoroughly riveted in the fate of this underwater world.

Below the Surface

When it comes to metroidvanias, they normally have a very action rpg aesthetic and what makes Shinsekai stand far from the crowd lies in three aspects. The first portion involves its location, the sea. This title takes place completely underwater, with very few portions being out of the water, either in deep sea caves or the rare research lab that isn’t flooded. The second portion that makes it stand out is the reliance on mining and crafting. Every item and weapon, except your trusty mining tool, must be crafted from an ore that is found. Enemies can drop them, but most of the important ones must be found. Aside from ore, other collectibles can be found that are nods to the society that was left behind, even a rather infamous Capcom item.

Your mining tool I mentioned earlier doubles as a weak melee attack but can also be used to extract important minerals which can be used to create and upgrade your weapons and your suit. Upgrading your suit is how the game controls where you go next. Each new area is guarded by an increased water depth. Unless your suit is upgraded, you can’t proceed. The max depth is shown by red water. Go into the red water, and your suit starts to take damage.

This is where we get to the third aspect of how this game stands out, the aquanaut. For starters, they don’t have a health gauge, but an air gauge that can be expanded by finding more air tanks. All movement uses air, with normal walking and jumping using less, while using your jets will consume significantly more. Next, all fighting is done with a spear gun and the mining tool. Spears can be crafted and aren’t hard to come by, but the upgraded units such as explosives and drills are harder to come by. You can eventually find an unlimited spear weapon, but it is weaker. The creatures you fight are either realistic undersea life or robotic versions of them. Sadly, the combat is where the game gets weak. It felt more like a chore than excitement. Even the boss fights felt more like going through the motions than epic encounters.

What Lies Beneath

The art of Shinsekai feels like it was pulled straight from the Xbox 360 or PS3 era of download only Capcom titles. This isn’t a shot at the game, as I personally loved many of those titles. If I didn’t love Capcom as much as I do, I would have believed this was an unreleased game from that era. Knowing it started life as a mobile title, it looks particularly smooth. The animations are fluid and the environments are quite picturesque.

The audio is a real standout and I must suggest this game be played with headphones. The surreal nature of the soundtrack is heavy on water sounds, bubbles and mostly calming music. It can get more tense and even a bit tribal. None of the tunes overstayed their welcome, and I found myself enjoying most of it. The ambient noise while playing with headphones cannot be overstated as it helped to bring myself into the game more than I expected.

In the Trenches

In my roughly 11 hours with Shinsekai, I spent most of it in handheld mode. This was due to the great pairing of the sound and headphones. Thankfully, the game ran very well in handheld mode with no glitches, slowdown or any of that sort. Playing in docked was not bad, but it did not have the same effect as playing it in handheld mode. The framerate was still solid in both forms, so if you have one preference over the other, Shinsekai will run equally as well.

Final Thoughts

Shinsekai Into the Depths was a title I held much uncertainty about, but in the end, I yearned for more time with it. It brought back the elements of exploration and the atmosphere of an alien world, even though it was on Earth. Having a metroidvania that puts more emphasis on exploration over action really harkens back to what made the original Metroid so special. I am glad the non-combat elements are so strong because the combat really is the weakest link of this entire package. Regardless, the full unit that is Shinsekai is special and it needs to be experienced as it is truly unique.

Pros

  • Undersea Exploration
  • Reinvention of Metroidvania Genre
  • Surreal Sound Design

Cons

  • Combat is Dull
  • Bosses are a Chore

Verdict
Even with its combat being a low-point, Shinsekai is the best undersea exploration action game on the market.
4/5

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