Made In Abyss deserves a good video game, and isn’t this one
September 20, 2022
Anime adaptations of video games are entering something of a renaissance with the critical success by Netflix Cyberpunk: Edge Runners, Esotericand Castlevania. Unfortunately, if we reverse the process, the same cannot be said for the latest video game adaptation of the dark fantasy anime. Made in the Abysswhich leaves a lot to be desired.
Made in Abyss: A Binary Star Falling into Darkness, developed by Chime Corporation, is a 3D action-RPG based on the anime. You play as the heroine of the anime Riko, the daughter of a famous cave diver. After meeting a mysterious robot named Reg, who she assumes was sent from the depths of the abyss by her mother, the pair embark on a harrowing journey to the bottom of the abyss where they encounter increasingly dangerous monsters and plants. The game was released for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam on September 2.
Although Binary star falling in darkness was supervised by the creator of the franchise Akihito Tsukushi and the original Japanese and English anime voices recorded new material for the game, I walked away from it feeling as hollow as the pit Riko and Reg plunged into. Made in the Abyss is one of the most impressive and visually thrilling adventure anime out there, but this game is a pale imitation in almost every way. And worse than just being a bad game, it’s also half-baked and terribly boring.
Binary star falling in darkness has two modes. Hello Abyss lets you relive events from the anime’s story as you descend into extremely dangerous levels of the abyss, and Deep in Abyss puts you in the role of a created character, who explores the surroundings shortly after Riko and Reg.
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On paper, Binary star falling in darkness has all the workings of a great game. Fully voiced English dubs in which the original anime actors reprise their roles are a rarity in anime-adapted video games, and the game’s attempts to replicate the tradition of the series in its game mechanics are ambitious. However, these same mechanics create an aggravating gaming experience.
The only parts of the game I enjoyed were when it followed the basic principles of exploratory RPGs. For example, the game has health, stamina, and hunger gauges. The longer you explore, the more your hunger gauge depletes. If you climb the side of a mountain, your stamina gauge will also deplete. Foraging plants and murking aByss Wildlife, you can craft food that fills one of three bars. Transforming creatures into trail mix and mining as you go fills your backpack with items that you can use to craft better healing items and tools, respectively, and can clutter you up if you don’t. Warning. While these are rudimentary survival mechanics, it was quite enjoyable balancing my party’s health, hunger, and stamina while gathering ancient artifacts and vital food.
When the game tries to evoke the feel of anime, it starts to fall apart.
The Curse of the Abyss, which essentially works like a deep-sea diver’s balance that goes haywire if it surfaces too quickly, is implemented in the game in a boring way. If you increase your altitude too drastically while climbing a cliff, your character will go insane, which can be fatal. However, in-game, just going up a slight incline will cause your screen to vibrate with purple, ink-like distortions. This always brought the game to a screeching halt; if I was going up a hill, I would have to pause until the purple warning signs disappeared, then keep going up until I inevitably encountered the curse of the abyss again.
The game’s real-time combat is rote, shallow, and boring. Crossing paths with any creature in the abyss always leads to a fight that Reg can quickly finish with two good hits from his pickaxe. If it’s a giant ass bird, chances are you need to give it three or four more hits. Besides providing a steady stream of crafting ingredients, combat is usually just a waste of time.
At one point I messed up the game by asking Reg to hang onto a mountain. Instead of having a game over for ignoring the curse, Riko fell off the cliff safely. However, she was still in the fetal position and Reg’s pattern was entirely gone. I’d chalk it up to the Curse of the Abyss, but it was just a good old bug that caused me to reload my entire save from that level.
When the exploration wasn’t grinding to me, his vocal performances were. Vocal performances in Binary star falling in darkness ranging from adequate to excessive, especially in Riko’s case. Like with Xenoblade Chronicles 3repetitive dialogue, Binary star falling in darkness also suffers from having too few vocal lines and from poorly deploying those he has.
If you walk by harvestable flora or aggressive animals, Reg will no doubt drop that he smells something. If Riko needs to climb something, she will make the exact same little grunt while doing so. If you get hit multiple times by an enemy but don’t think it’s worth using your health items, Reg will pester you for not looking too good until you give in and snack Something. Even documenting creatures in your notebook by scanning them with your binoculars is quickly compromised by Reg. Before you can even get halfway by scanning a venus flytrap, Reg’s aggro-ass AI will grind it to dust, making your expedition even more tedious. Instead of immersing me in their journey, every time characters opened their mouths to spout the same repetitive drivel, it just kind of got me out of there.
The visual novel chunks are also difficult to skim through. While the voice actors do a great job of expressing the same emotions as in the anime, the 3D models do a poor job of matching their voice inflections. For example, in the scenes where Riko remembers her presumably deceased mother to Reg, her soulless 3D model mimics like an animatronic Chuck E. Cheese.
Considering the game developer cut their teeth creating the 2021 visual novel for Re: zero (deep breath) Re:ZERO – Starting a Life in Another World – The Throne Prophecy, I couldn’t help but wish it would restrict the 3D models to exploration scenes and just throw a few PNGs of proper character art on the screen during the visual novel segments. Hell, it might even have jostled them around like they were glued to a piece of plywood and it would have felt less awkward than staring at the 3D models stiffly.
Made in Abyss: A Binary Star Falling into Darkness is by no means a replacement for watching its anime – which just entered its second season this summer – and barely manages to deliver the immersive gaming experience it’s marketed as. Rather, it plays like a hastily thrown in blockbuster movie tie-in that leaves all the heart and soul of its source material by the wayside.