Why Astral Chain Might Be the Year's Biggest Surprise for the Nintendo Switch

Why Astral Chain Might Be the Year's Biggest Surprise for the Nintendo Switch

In a year of Fire Emblem and Pokemon, PlatinumGames has found success on the Switch.

Astral Chain looked like it might get lost in the undertow of big name Nintendo releases this summer. But between critical reception and strong sales numbers, it looks like it might be one of the biggest breakouts of 2019.

August's NPD reports place it in the top 10 best-selling games of the month, securing a fifth Nintendo exclusive in a dominant August for the Switch.

With a release date of August 30, only two days of sales were tracked for Astral Chain. Additionally, the NPD Group could only track physical sales of Astral Chain within that window; as a representative of the group told USgamer, its physical sales in a 48-hour span still managed to break into the top 10 of the overall month.

While an NPD spokesperson says it tracked fifth amongst Platinum Games' best launch months, that came with some caveats; namely being some of those games did track digital, and had more than two days in a month for tracking numbers.

In the critical realm, Astral Chain saw a lot of love too. At an 87 MetaCritic average, it's the third highest rated Switch exclusive of the year, and sixth overall on the Nintendo Switch for 2019. In our own review, we praised PlatinumGames' mix of teamwork and action. As a directorial debut for Nier: Automata designer Takahisa Taura, it certainly stood out among the rest of PlatinumGames' catalog. It's hard not to wonder if that fresh perspective brought something extra to the table where previous games from the studio have sometimes faltered or failed to grab mainstream attention.

Beyond just a new director, Astral Chain is also an original IP, an area where PlatinumGames has struggled in the past. While some of its best-selling games hearken from established properties, like Nier and Metal Gear, original titles have had trouble establishing a similar foothold. Bayonetta only just cracked the top 20 in 2010, and other games like Vanquish have struggled.

Next month's results will give us a greater idea of whether Astral Chain carries the same staying power that major Nintendo launches like Fire Emblem: Three Houses or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have. It has, however, succeeded in terms of both reception and immediate impact, even as an exclusive title. What seemed like one of the lesser anticipated games of 2019 has ended up being one of the Switch's biggest surprises.

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Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

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