Wait. What is this?! An indie game from CAPCOM? Yes, ladies and gentlemen. The other day, CAPCOM dropped Shinsekai, a cute little undersea adventure, on us, and I am here today to tell you if it’s worth your time and money! We all know them for high budget games with high budget graphics like Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Monster Hunter, but this time they decided to purposefully take an indie approach to the development to give their beloved fans something new and different. And who knows, maybe they too needed to kick back for a change?
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a new ice age has forced humanity to live underwater, a lone diver is going about his daily life in peace, but it turns out the sea cannot protect mankind from the cold winter forever. And so one day, thick ice masses force our hero to flee from his home, forcing him to go explore for resources and perhaps even other surviving humans all while navigating ever further down the watery unknown to survive himself.
During your adventures in Shinsekai, you will discover the last remains of humanity, and through rough story panels, the history of how our demise came about.
Shinsekai holds your hand a lot at the beginning, easing you into the adventure and pausing every time it wants to tell you about a new crucial mechanic, making it very beginner friendly. Trust me, you are gonna need the help as these waters can be devilishly punishing if you get too careless.
You move left and right with the left analogue stick as you would, jump with B, do an air burst by taping B again while in midair, though this consumes air, and if you need to navigate over large gaps or up steep cliff sites, you can push the analogue stick up or diagonally to propel yourself with the air from your air tanks, which of course consumes air as well.
At the start of the game you only have one, but you quickly pick up more that also serve as your health meters. As you go and collect materials, you will be able to upgrade your suit and hold more. Having a finite amount of air that you constantly need to keep an eye on and having to always weigh health against mobility is a mechanic I thought was very clever.
Normally, I dislike games that keep you on a time limit, as I like to take my sweet time exploring, but on the other hand, the game provides plenty of air streams, save points, and extra air tanks scattered about, so you never really feel too pressured.
It lies in your best interest to keep your air reserves at a reasonable level at all times, regardless, for you see the world around you may appear bright and friendly at first – and the calming music will undoubtedly support that notion – but there are in fact enemies around every corner in this bustling aquatic paradise, both natural and mechanical.
Relatively easy to defeat, most of them, but if you are careless, they will damage your air tank life meter. As long as an air tank is only cracked, it can be fixed when you acquire the repair tool, and lost air can always be regained at save points and the common air veins I mentioned earlier. But if one breaks, you will have to go and find a replacement. The bosses, of which there is one in every area, also kicks some major arse and can really wreck your stuff if you go into their lair unprepared. So be careful and watch out.
Generally, for an underwater dude in a diving suit, I’d say you are pretty nimble all things considered (I certainly couldn’t do all this in BioShock 2), and only occasionally did I feel I fought the controls a bit, especially with the grappling hook. But on the ground, you are rather vulnerable and slow, as you would be walking underwater, which is not a detriment to the game at all. It only makes the challenge more balanced.
It is just something to keep in mind. Aside from repairing your air tanks, you also unlock other tools to fill your tanks with air on the go and getting unlimited grip power for a limited time for when your need to scale walls or climb on monkeybars, as you have a stamina meter Zelda style that will rapidly deplete once you cling onto a surface. But these are all consumable, and you therefore need to keep collecting resources to create more via the item menu. Things like stamina, climbing speed, reduction of air consumption, as well as thruster speed can all be upgraded in conjunction with these consumables though.
I mentioned before that the whole journey of Shinsekai is about going deeper and deeper into the unknown. And also here the upgrade system comes into play. See not only is the ever approaching ice dangerous to traverse for long periods of time, but so is the red water. Clear water you can freely explore, but red water, which will always be found at the bottom of you current area, is too high pressured for you to dive in.
Doing so unprepared will kill you quicker than you can say ‘mac n cheese’. You therefore need to use your sensor and flashlight to uncover secret excavation spots where you will find valuable minerals that can be used to not only craft weapons, repair kits, and other useful stuff, but also to upgrade your diver suit, allowing you to traverse further down the abyss. It actually reminds me a lot of Metroid 2 in that regard, especially when you get a certain companion later on.
Shinsekai: Into the Depths is essentially one big underwater Metroidvania. At first, it seems rather linear and enclosed, but after you defeat the first boss, you find an underwater facility where you discover a submarine that looks awfully familiar, if you are at all familiar with the works of Jules Verne.
You board it, and from here on out the game opens up immensely, as the sub can shatter ice with its drill, traverse through high pressure waters, and is more or less invincible. After all the stuff you just went through to acquire it, taking your new toy for a ride seems like a godsend, and while it is an effective means of transportation, you will eventually have to disembark it for when you get to areas or passages too narrow for it, when you need to excavate resources or when you need to investigate certain objects or constructions.
When you disembark it, you are still connected to it via a cord, and as long as you are, you can swim freely around with unlimited air, making exploration a cinch. But the cord, while long, is limited, so you may have to disconnect yourself now and then. Let me tell you, though, I had so much fun exploring and swimming into long narrow corridors in search of rarities, and then just use the R Up command to have the sub retract me instead of me having to backtrack manually!
That said, though, while the sub is a nice vehicle, it is ultimately just your mode of transportation between areas, and let me tell you, this world is enormous! Almost overwhelmingly so. You do of course have a general goal at all times, being shown as a shining beacon on your map, but how you get there is all up to you, and the game is rigged with numerous caverns and passages that need to be mapped by you manually. This game is a deep sea explorers dream come true, but those four zeroes on the hour timer by your save file also make me a little nervous.
For those of you interested, the game also features built-in achievements.
The audio in Shinsekai is idyllic throughout and creates a peaceful atmosphere in conjunction with the pretty underwater visuals. This is hugely complemented by your typical underwater sounds like air bubbles leaking out from the seafloor, fish swimming by as well as other exotic life, and your own heavy footsteps as you clumsily trot ahead.
At first, it may not sound it, but the soundtrack is quite varied and knows when to be ambient, mysterious, dangerous, and euphoric. CAPCOM really outdid themselves on the sound in this game, and nowhere was that more apparent to me personally than after you acquire the Nautilus and navigate through a series of dark narrow caves after which you end up in a big bright open space where you are free to explore. I literally lost my breath at how beautiful the music was in conjunction with the colorful visuals!
The developers at CAPCOM even went the extra mile and recorded the entire soundtrack being played through submerged speakers to give it an extra layer of underwater realism, and when you boot up the game, it highly recommends you play the game with headphones on – please do so! When I sorted through the footage for this review on my computer while wearing my gamer headset, I was downright amazed at how good Shinsekai sounded, and few games can lay claim to impress me like this.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
As I mentioned in the opening, CAPCOM decided to go the indie route on this game, meaning we aren’t getting sexy ripped anime boys or photo realism here, but honestly this game doesn’t need that.
What we get instead is a charming underwater adventure with graphics and models that are, at the same time, a bit rough around the edges and immensely beautiful. CAPCOM Japan has done a stellar job at making this submerged world in Shinsekai come to life with their use of color and textures, and with all the numerous ruins and caverns to explore that all feel distinct enough, you are always kept visually interested and just want to see what’s down the next corridor.
Shinsekai: Into the Depths goes for a generous £15.99/$19.99, considering the sheer scale of the game you are getting. It is visually appealing despite the lower polygon count than what we are used to from CAPCOM, I would even say that the humble graphics are one of the game’s charming strong points.
The game offers exploration for hours, lots of ways to upgrade your suit’s performance and durability, new interesting weapons and support items to collect, and the soundtrack, oh my goodness, don’t get me started on the soundtrack again. I would buy the game just for that! I’m serious. You could fall asleep to it, and yes, that’s a compliment.
From a AAA company that normally deals with high graphical wonders of epic proportions, it is a nice change of pace to see them lean back and take a more relaxed and humble approach to a genre of gaming we usually associate with smaller studios. We have come full circle, guys!
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Audio - 10/10
Visuals & Performance - 9/10
Value - 9/10
Come with us on a deep sea adventure into the unknown, as an ever approaching ice age threaten to wipe out the rest of mankind. Shinsekai is a wonderful experience and a great and bold endeavor by CAPCOM, and we cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are a fan of this genre.
- Charming indie graphics
- Fun crafting and oxygen management
- Stellar soundtrack
- Hours of exploration
- You tend to fight the controls