When Spike Chunsoft announced Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness, we instantly got excited. Now that we’ve played the PlayStation 4 version of the game (which is also available for the Switch and PC), we can share our review to see if that excitement was justified.
We had two main reasons why we were looking forward to Binary Star Falling into Darkness, and one was that its art style reminded us a little of Ni No Kuni, which we fondly remember from when it premiered on the PS3. The other reason is that it’s based on the popular and acclaimed Made in Abyss anime, which I still hadn’t seen but had heard great things about, from its visual style to its dark tone and gripping narrative.
In video game form, Made in Abyss is a two-part experience, with what are essentially two very different games bundled together. It’s a novel idea, though there’s a bit of a disconnect between the two that makes it feel like part 1 (Hello Abyss) was made by a different team than part 2 (Deep in Abyss), though you still have to play them in order. Hello Abyss acts as an extended tutorial of sorts that catches you up on what happened in the anime, while Deep in Abyss is an original story with a new main character.
If you haven’t seen the anime yet, then Hello Abyss is a good way to at least get a basic introduction, as it introduces you to Rika, who’s looking to become a seasoned adventurer and follow in the footsteps of her (missing) mother. Joining forces with an android boy, you set out towards the Abyss to uncover its secrets. It’s definitely the sparknotes version of the original though, so I’d encourage watching the anime before starting the game (speaking as someone who has now finally seen it).
One element that translates well to Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is the fact that you have to travel ever downwards, as traveling upwards triggers the Curse of the Abyss, which means you’ll quickly get nauseous when you ignore it, and you can even die from it. It merely seemed like an interesting gameplay mechanic when first playing through the game, but having now seen the anime it’s actually one of the better ways they’ve implemented some of the original themed into a video game form.
It’s striking how much the gameplay changes in between Hello Abyss and Deep in Abyss though, making “Hello” feel like a tutorial that then dumps you into a game and goes “surprise! bet you didn’t see this coming!”. Deep in Abyss suddenly introduces survival/crafting elements, makes inventory management and upgrades far more important and removes your android buddy from combat. Where things initially feel very story-driven, the game then makes a U-turn and becomes a survival-based RPG that focuses on mechanics that don’t necessarily strengthen the game’s narrative or atmosphere, turning your attention towards resource management instead.
The fact that your weapons constantly break also doesn’t help in making combat enjoyable, and it’s a little clunky before your weapon breaks as well. This is a game that’s mainly going to appeal to those who enjoy the original anime and also happen to love survival-based games, but unfortunately that makes it a bit of a niche proposition. The character designs are wonderful though, and capture a bit of that anime look and feel. Our advice would be to watch the original first, and if you really love it you’ll probably be able to look through the shortcomings of the game.