If Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness’ first few hours represented its full experience, it’d be just another anime game.
It adapts a small portion of the story from the anime series accurately, remaking Riko and Reg’s initial dive into the Abyss in a way that works for an interactive medium. The gameplay is serviceable enough to fill players’ time, and the graphics work for the simpler art style of the characters and environments.
Unfortunately, this is also where the game’s major faults lie. It only ever does enough to be serviceable toward what it stems from. The gameplay doesn’t feel fleshed out enough, and interesting mechanics like the Curse of the Abyss impacting the characters and how well the player can control them feels underdeveloped. The story isn’t any better, running through major points like it needs to check certain boxes off a list.
There’s nothing that strays from what already exists from the series, and it doesn’t give any reason to play the game other than to see what happens in the anime series and movies from a new medium’s perspective. It comes off as one among many shallow video game adaptations of popular anime series, and anyone who’s not a fan of Made in Abyss wouldn’t be blamed for passing it over.
Fortunately, there’s the other 90 percent of Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness to consider.
Granted, it’s still shaky at first. The title starts trying to tell an original story about new characters learning to be cave raiders, only for a major tragedy to occur without any build-up or emotional investment. Some of the issues from the game’s early hours remain present too, with the gameplay never quite clicking and only being good enough to get players from point A to point B.
After some time though, everything starts to fall into place. The story slows down, giving players more room to breathe and experience the world they’ve been dropped into. They’re given time to learn about the Abyss, and about the cast of characters from the show proper who weren’t given enough time to shine in the anime.
The gameplay benefits from this slower pace as well. Where the first few hours slam players with new mechanics and challenges one after the other, the game proper finally allows them to take everything in. They’re given time to explore how the combat works, fighting smaller and weaker enemies in scenarios where one can learn how their patterns work and how best to deal with them. Before long, the once janky battles start to feel strategic, with a hidden depth that is only expanded upon via the RPG skill mechanics.
The exploration and survival mechanics are given time to shine too, feeling less like padding and more like a core aspect of the experience. One gets to learn the intricacies of each different section of the map, and has to puzzle out how to traverse them using limited supplies and stamina. Reaching an unexplored corner or hard to reach high point feels exciting, and managing to do so without cutting off one’s return to safety is all the more gratifying.
The Curse of the Abyss even plays into everything just as prevalently as it does in the anime. Not only that, but the way it’s adapted via visual and tactile repercussions that impact how one can play the game is a stroke of genius.
It all goes toward making Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling Into Darkness feel like more than anyone expected it to be. It’s a proper video game that strives to be more than an adaptation, and even if it doesn’t reach the heights of something like Dragon Ball FighterZ, it stands as something special all the same.
Does this make the lackluster start to the game more bearable? Not remotely. If anything, it shows how much trying to make it a direct adaptation in any regard held it back. Its original ideas, and how it applies them to the concepts already available through the source material, is what sets it apart as something worth checking out.
Most importantly though, it makes the first of Made in Abyss’ video game adaptations one which is memorable for the right reasons. Instead of being a train wreck, it’s a hidden gem worth experiencing whether one is a fan of the series or not, and shows that maybe anime games can be more than a retreading of what’s already available.
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