Astebreed is a arcade style shooter, that constantly (mid level) changes scrolling direction. So it's a schizofrenic mix of a top-down/sideways/tunnel shooter.
The story and theme is what I reckon can be described as manga, which I'm entirely unfamiliar with. To me it just came of as hysterical japanese kids yelling constantly, so I turned off all the in-game dialogue and skipped as many animated cutscenes as possible.
The gameplay itself is really solid (I used a 360 controller) - you have two projectile fires modes: Spread and focused. Additionally, you have a close range/melee kind of sword attack, and the ability to gradually lock some sort of homing nanomites onto your enemies. The longer you hold the lock-on button, the more nanomites (theres a limit though) will eventually fly towards the targeted hostiles and slowly damage them over time. The lock-on mechanism also comes in two modes - either a far reaching tight cone, or a short ranged sphere.
The action is VERY hectic - there can be an overwhelming amount of enemies shooting an even larger amount of projectiles against you. Hats off to the rendering engine though - the framerate never once dipped below 60fps on my nVidia 780 despite an obscene amount of transparent objects were plastered all over the screen.
Imo, there's simply too much going on. I would've prefered half as muh stuff to avoid, but having it do double damage. It's often absolutely impossible to avoid getting hit. I'm more into the good ole 1942 kinda shooter where 1 bullet killed you. You end up being a little too indifferent to your enemies attacks when you can pretty much endure to wade on through a rain of bullets. Unfortuneately theres a friggin' monsoon of them, so you can still die.
The graphics are very good - very colourful and polished, but the "cutscenes" made with the game engine are so poorly directed they often made me wonder wtf I just saw.
I'm sad to admit that beating the end-game boss on normal difficulty proved too hard for me, and the motivation to keep at it too low. But the third try on easy was a success :)