I want to love Afterimage, the drop-dead gorgeous Metroidvania platformer by developer Aurogon Shanghai. This one is published, after all, by Modus Games, who’s been on something of a winning streak for the past several months. Unfortunately, this is a game that gets lost in its own indulgences, which I think makes it a little off-putting for platformer purists.

And yes, I am a fan of deep systems and rich narratives, but those are things that draw me to open-world RPGs and tactical RPGs. When I play a 2D platformer, I’m looking for something different.

Bear in mind that I’m the kind of player who typically strays away from Metroidvania games because they tend to reach a point where the world has become so large that remembering all the areas you’d been unable to access becomes overwhelming. I do make exceptions, of course, like with last year’s absolutely incredible Infernax, or with shorter games in the genre — I will typically enjoy a 2D Metroidvania up until about the ten-hour mark. So I might not be exactly the core audience for this game.


That being said, Afterimage has some of the typical Metroidvania bloat — I’m told the final game has about 40 hours worth of content — but it pairs that with RPG bloat, with longwinded exposition for its universe and an absurdly in-depth skill tree. This is the sort of thing I would welcome in a JRPG or even a hack-‘n-slash (like last year’s Soulstice, which was also published by Modus).

But in a platformer? I’d rather play something like Super Meat Boy or Celeste, which require intensely honed motor skills without asking players to develop a PhD-level understanding of deep game systems. Those are games that bake their complexities into the already-established expectations of one of gaming’s oldest and most beloved gameplay genres. Afterimage diminishes itself by tossing itself into the quagmire of RPG-style systems and menu-diving.


And that’s a shame, because Afterimage has a lot going for it. Not only is it astonishingly beautiful, with fantasy watercolor backdrops and anime-style character art, but it also feels smooth to play. And I have to admit that I do kind of like it when a 2D platformer incorporates a Dark Souls-style leveling system (I’m thinking of games like Salt & Sacrifice or Hollow Knight or The Tarnishing of Juxtia), something that Afterimage does a pretty decent job at. I also really like the game’s map system, which might not be blazing any new trails, but it’s simple to use and nice to look at.

But I can’t help but feel like Aurogon is piling a lot of chaff on top of a really great batch of wheat. There’s something wonderful at the foundation here, but the game is constantly distracting you from its best parts by miring you in its complexity.

Look, I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent for a minute. Lunar: Silver Star Story is one of my favorite video games of all time. But the first time I played it, I brought it over to a friend’s house. That friend got really drunk and was constantly shouting spoilers at me for a good chunk of the game’s middle section, which I was playing at the time. What was otherwise one of the most incredible video-game experiences of my life was diminished by this loudmouth drunk who couldn’t keep his mouth shut long enough to let me enjoy the game at my own pace. It was partially my fault for bringing the game over there instead of playing it at home, but I do feel like he was being needlessly obnoxious about it.

While Afterimage‘s best parts pale in comparison to Lunar‘s, its complexities feel a little bit like that drunk friend, constantly getting in the way and turning what should be a pleasant experience into something you have to grit your teeth to get through.


There are still a couple months to go before Afterimage launches on April 25, 2023, but I don’t think that’s enough time to really fix the game’s core problems. It has way too much confidence in its menu systems and far too little confidence in the part that matters most: the core gameplay.

But there are folks who are going to love this, and I definitely wish those people the best. Knock yourselves out, I say. For me, a multi-decade veteran of 2D platforming, this just feels like a bridge too far. I’m hoping the full version of the game will win me over in the end, but I’m not sure this one’s going to work itself into my wheelhouse.

Disclaimer: I was given a preview build of Afterimage on Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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