Shinsekai: Into the Depths (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 27.02.2021

Review for Shinsekai: Into the Depths on Nintendo Switch

Every now and then Capcom dabbles with a new IP usually to a great result. Shinsekai Into the Depths is a curiosity. Released in March 2020, almost at the same time as Animal Crossing, it seems to have flown under the radar avoiding the mainstream, however going by Metacritic, it has quite the cult following with pretty high scores across the board. This unique take on metroidvania takes it's player into the deepest ocean. It is time for a deep dive.

A lovely, colourful, and lively ocean; a lone diver digging for minerals; colourful environments with more than a hint of post-apocalyptia. Shinsekai is beyond intriguing. It has the ability to build its intrigue silently. The story has no dialogue, except for tutorial messages, and the main character simply emotes physically allowing the player to empathise with its situation. It begins with a small clip of the diver's normal life from work to sleep, when disaster strikes in the next day, where a mysterious and malevolent ice wall tears through the home and cuts off the route to the surface, forcing the character further and further into the depths.

In this world, the surface of earth has frozen and driven mankind into the ocean. Structurally there are similarities to the 2D Metroid games. Exploring each level of the depths freely and looking for new powers to traverse further in search of upgrade materials, with the upgrades providing a small amount of role playing into the mix. What this game pulls off is an incredibly simple and satisfying gameplay loop that is a prime example of the "metroid/Iga-vania" trope without turning into a rehash of another game. This is driven by pure imagination and it's all the better for it.

Screenshot for Shinsekai: Into the Depths on Nintendo Switch

Gameplay and control are two factors that add a level of immersion into the world. The slow heavy and cumbersome diving suit movement with plenty of water resistance physics feels great. This is enhanced by air jets that can essentially provide incredibly nimble movement in any direction. Simple combat with a few little tricks to strategize, such as using the grapple hook to pull monsters in, then clobbering them with the wrench. All of which is given providence by a limited supply of air through expandable tanks, comparable to Metroid's Health Tanks.

Using the water jets, for example, sacrifices breathable air, and can lead to death. Clumsiness in combat or traversal can lead to damage, which destroys and damages the air tank, meaning careless players might have a harder time surviving. It is enthralling to play. One of those pretty much pitch-perfect designs making it all the more staggering that this title goes mostly forgotten.

There are occasional control niggles with ledges proving hard to climb over, or the occasional fall damage from low heights, but most are perpetrated by user error. The few times they happened were during exploratory gameplay, meaning it had little to no impact on the important encounters. Yes. Encounters. Occasionally there's a boss or combat section, where wiping out the enemy is the only way forwards. So as not to spoil any bosses this will be kept vague. The boss fights typically have an airline that the diver can connect to, allowing for dynamic combat using the water jets to zoom around, trying to find an angle to chip away at enemy health. These are excellently designed bosses that feel overwhelmingly Metroid in style. It is yet another outstanding point in favour of this.

Screenshot for Shinsekai: Into the Depths on Nintendo Switch

The atmosphere is built meticulously via the setting. It manages to ooze loneliness through the main character's actions. It's almost as if they are looking fervently for other members of the civilisation of divers, but all they ever find is abandoned structures and remnants of other suits. The whole thing feels so hopeless, yet it drives the players to continue by always hinting at a next discovery that could save the hapless protagonist. Outside of the story path there is a fair bit of exploration, and the environments, while quite samey due to the underwater theme, are surprisingly memorable, and like Metroid and Dark Souls, each new area has a convenient way to travel back to other locations, usually unlocked with a skill found in said new spot. It's fantastic to explore and incredibly satisfying to work towards the story goals.

There are even light RPG elements which drive progression. The character's suit can only take so much pressure, so it is important to increase that integrity using resources farmed during the level. It's also possible to upgrade weapons and traversal items by mining resources. The resource collecting isn't just randomly shoehorned in either, it seems to be that this was the character's job before the opening takes place, so it's natural for them to work this way. All of these progression points like new tools, weapons and skills are well explained in a lovely tailored UI that is very in keeping with the game's aesthetic. It's shocking how far the developer went to make this action side-scroller immersive.

Screenshot for Shinsekai: Into the Depths on Nintendo Switch

Aesthetically, the artists have done an amazing job. Everything in the world gels well, and from a technical perspective the graphics are fantastic with loads of little details like foliage and remnants of a society that clearly suffered a disastrous event. Each level has loads of cool little tech puzzles that utilise semi-fantastical sci-fi equipment that gives an interesting air to the areas. Monster and sea life design is immaculate and amazing to see. The boss battles are memorable; each of their designs feeds into how they fight.

Everything just feels incredibly polished and fresh. It's the soundscape that really cements the atmosphere though. Shinsekai has a beautiful soundtrack, with everything from haunting vocals in its theme tune, to the second level sounding like an amazing Metroid Prime-esque land. This amazing OST is supported by loads of sounds like bubbles and clunking footsteps, which are not only high quality themselves, but really add to the weight of all of the activity and are a constant reminder that the game mostly takes place in the water.

Screenshot for Shinsekai: Into the Depths on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

How Shinsekai: Into the Depths breezed under the radar isn't really a mystery, given it released around the launch of Animal Crossing, but let it be said: this is truly an underrated classic. With a fantastic gameplay loop, intriguing world design, and silent but compelling plot, this proves to be an absolute powerhouse of a title on the Switch. It deserves a hearty recommendation and then some! Capcom once again proves that it makes games of an incredible quality, and can provide a truly unique and wondrous experience.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   


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