Bite-sized Review:
Astlibra (Revision)

Developer: Keizo

Release Date: 13 October, 2022

Platform: Windows, Switch

Genre: ARPG

By Chris Picone, 04 December 2023

Astlibra Revision's a quirky hybrid game - it plays out like a JRPG but features sidescrolling action.  The writing could be better in some places but the story's solid, the combat's fun (mostly because there are tons of abilities to experiment with).  Astlibra also features a range of unusual and experimental mechanics that I really enjoyed, it's a hidden gem for sure.  

For those who are as confused as I was, the original Astlibra released some time ago as a free game.  Revision is the commercial version of the product, featuring upgraded graphics, higher resolutions, multilingual support, some changes to make the game suitable for all ages, other quality of life improvements, and a longer story.  It also released a year ago.  So why am I covering it now?  It just released on Switch!


For the most part, the graphics are pretty damn nice.  The background art in particular is quite lovely, although sometimes I have trouble telling what's actually stylised artwork and what's been blended with photos - some of it is very realistic.  The characters have more of a pixel art look but the devs have somehow managed to blend the two styles and it doesn't look weird.  The other objects and sprites can be a little hit-and-miss, though, particularly when you get past the first chapter and reach the main town, where it seems to be a weird mish-mash of stylised buildings and environments, some photo-real and some just kind of awkwardly copied and pasted in.  Possibly the developers are still working on some of this as part of the upgrade, I don't know.  Finally, because the game plays out like a sidescrolling action game, every time you kick and punch or use your abilities, damage numbers and effects flash up, it's all very exciting.


Astlibra is an RPG so there are towns to explore and you will go around and talk to characters and they'll drop little tidbits of lore here and there.  The story itself is mostly carried through cutscenes - and there are lots of them.  It can get a little annoying at times because there are sections where the game's very stop-start where you might kill an enemy or two or move from one screen to the next and be interrupted by another cutscene but the story's interesting enough to carry it.  The shops are well-managed, with items requiring both coins and a variety of items (bones, bat wings, wood) found through exploring, mining, and beating monsters.  It's a good system where you'll get most of what you need just by playing through the game but where a little bit of grinding is encouraged, which will also help you gain the experience and demon blood needed to level up to fight the bosses.  The levelling system is also particularly well-made.  You do periodically level up as you gain experience, which makes you stronger and occasionally unlocks new skills and abilities, but you can also enhance your abilities by absorbing variously coloured demon blood gained by killing enemies.  As an action RPG, combat plays a huge part in Astlibra.  It starts simply enough like a sidescrolling brawler where you just spam the attack button and kill enemies with flashy combo attacks. But as you progress and face harder enemies, you'll also gain access to a huge range of both combat and non-combat abilities such as dash, double jump, magic eye, shield master, special attacks, and possessions.  All of these combine to make for multi-layered and interesting battles where you'll actively be evading enemy attacks, timing your own special attacks, and eventually trying to fight off massive dragon and demon bosses.  



Astlibra is a hidden gem - tons of positive reviews but appears to have missed any major coverage.  I'd highly recommend any JRPG fans to give it a go, although its unusual hybrid sidescrolling style I think really opens the game up for a wider range of players.  The writing and graphics might be lacking in some areas but overall it does look good, play smoothly, has a solid story, and engaging interesting combat and levelling systems.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with it.