Shinsekai: Into the Depths was one of the many, many launch titles for the Apple Arcade subscription service; then developer Capcom figured, why restrict this neat little underwater adventure to just one service when there are fifty-three million plus Nintendo Switch owners who would love another unique take on the Metroid formula.
At its core, that’s what Shinsekai: Into the Depths really is: a Metroid-style adventure with its own signature gameplay style, but still emphasising exploration above everything else. Where most of the world is obsessed with outer space, this neat little adventure from Capcom appreciates just how little we know about the sheer depths of the oceans. Under the sea, down where it’s better—so they say.
As an Aquanaut—and a sole survivor of a long lost civilisation—players venture into the depths of the unknown, as they make their way through the mysterious remnants long submerged into the deepest of waters. As much as it is about discovery and wonder, this mute Aquanaut must also deal with the looming disaster of an underwater ice age of sorts. Sometimes the desire to survive is motivation enough to embark on an adventure, and that’s what this game is about.
The undersea world is beautiful as it is haunting, filled with lost artefacts and hidden treasures—many of which serve as materials which can be used to craft upgrades for the underwater suit. Given the depth of the journey, lack of oxygen and high pressure are constantly against you, as are the mysterious creatures who are usually unfriendly (no mermaid musicals here). The gameplay mechanics add to the experience too, capturing the tumbling experience of trying to walk underwater, but never to the point of so realistic that it stops being fun. Instead, the core mechanics add a level of depth and strategy to all the underwater shenanigans.
Perhaps the most remarkable and memorable aspect of Shinsekai: Into the Depths is the sound design. The atmospheric sound effects feel authentic—a bit like one of those guided tours at a fancy Singapore aquarium—and it’s really worth taking the title screen’s suggestion to use head phones, as the aural underwater immersion just feels amazing. To complement the sound design further, the soundtrack is just as memorable—with haunting, mysterious melodies. This game stands out for many reasons; but, if it ever gets shortlisted for any game of the year categories, then it absolutely should be for both sound design and music.
As a launch title for the Apple Arcade, Shinsekai: Into the Depths was ideal as an experimental underwater take on a Metroid-style adventure; but, even on the Switch where there is no shortage of Metroids or Metroidvanias, Shinsekai: Into the Depths still provides a genuinely immersive underwater adventure.