Anima: Gate of Memories — Anima Project / BadLand Indie — PS4, Xbox One, Steam — June 7, 2016 — $20.00
Before starting “Anima: Gate of Memories,” I discovered that it’s based on the (popular?) pen and paper RPG “Anima: Beyond Fantasy,” developed by Carlos B. Garcia Aparicio in 2005, which apparently, is heavily inspired by Japanese Role Playing Games. He and two other people began the project, started a KickStarter campaign in November 2012, and after raising more than $110,000 from its global backers, BadLand Indie stepped in as publisher.
The story of “Anima: Gate of Memories” follows The Bearer of Calamities — a hunter of nightmares — and her sexist hardbound companion, Ergo Mundus — a powerful “demon” whose soul was trapped inside a book centuries ago, keeping him from sending the world into chaos. After the stale epilogue, and awakening inside the Arcane tower, they receive an order from the ancient society Nathaniel to find the renegade group that stole The Byblos, an ancient artifact said to bring an end to existence.
Mere minutes into my playthrough, I despised these characters as well as their atrocious and laughable voice acting counterparts. It’s as if the voice director found people on the streets and offered them a couple hundred dollars to read from a script, full of interesting lore and sexism, and sent them on their merry way. Cutscenes are questionably presented in a smaller widescreen format and play out as an interactive novel — the characters have little to no animation and when they are in motion, it’s like cardboard cutouts at your neighbors feeble attempt at a haunted house. The environments range from being quasi detailed open world locales, empty linear hallways, and boring rooms full of locked doors. It can’t go without mentioning that the visuals look better suited to the previous generation of consoles, and the cell shaded outlines are a poor excuse at trying to make this game look visually unique, let alone better.
Action RPG’s, for the most part, make you feel empowered in combat by testing your ability to think on your feet and forcing you to make good use of the abilities you’ve chosen as you’ve upgraded your character. “Anima: Gate of Memories” makes a valiant effort, but the abilities you unlock become an irreversible (and less than intuitive) meta game of trial and error. Upgrading characters is straightforward and accommodates many playstyles. When two skills are developed in the same Skill Line, it unlocks passive stats that complement their respective abilities. After unlocking these skills, they can be assigned to Triangle, Circle, L1, and L2. From there, they act differently on the ground, inside of a combo, or attacking from the air. The combat is driven by piecing together combos and chaining the attacks of both the Bearer of Calamities and Ergo Mundus, but the gameplay tiptoes between being partially enjoyable, frustrating, and mundane. The idea that the Bearer fights the light, and Ergo fights the dark is a great concept, but the enemies proved to be more annoying than challenging. Most enemies have an attack that is easily dodged and another to make the encounters last longer than they should. The same goes for the bosses and sub bosses you encounter throughout the game — there’s no diversification in their attacks and they’re all predictable. What makes these encounters even more frustrating, is the camera. I haven’t dealt with a more frustrating camera since the 2002 “Shinobi” reboot. The auto-lock feature is uncooperative and moves too quickly when I had control, and questionably placed when I didn’t.
“Anima: Gate of Memories” is a very ambitious game for a team made up of three people. It has a lot of great lore to discover and a decently sized world to explore. However, it’s mundane gameplay, bland characters, atrocious voice acting, and overly wrought sexism hold this game back from being an enjoyable experience. For those familiar with the source material, you’ll enjoy every minute, but there are far superior games in the genre more demanding of your time and money.