A few years ago, an acquaintance introduced me to the world of Anima, an RPG so out there, so farfetched in its mechanics and world that “anime-like” doesn’t even come close to describe it. We never got to play it though, as there wasn’t interest in the rest of our merry band of geeks for Anima, but I went through all the books anyway, trying to make sense of them…I didn’t. The rules were a mess so even if I liked the game and wanted to play it I knew it would’ve been a nightmare to do so.
I forgot all about Anima and moved on, so imagine my surprise when I saw Anima: Gate of Memories pop up on Steam. I immediately looked at the store page and the user reviews were favourable, something not entirely common considering the festering pit of malice that are the Steam reviews these days—though still not as bad as your average YouTube comment, we can be happy about that.
I bought the game, it was fairly cheap and immediately found that Anima: Gate of Memories was a brawler RPG. You can fight enemies with basic attacks and a large variety of special abilities you put on different slots. At certain points you level up, though I didn’t see an experience bar anywhere. Levelling up gives you access to the skill tree to unlock new abilities and passives, with the different parts of the tree being gated by character level, something I’m not a big fan of, as it means I have to either hoard up points for when I want them, or dabble in everything until I reach the required level to unlock what I really want.
At the start you only control the Bearer of Calamities but after the prologue missions you unlock Ergo, the Bearer’s companion, an ancient being trapped in a book. Sadly, while he looks cool and has the liveliest of personalities in Anima so far, the difference between the two characters is mostly aesthetic, as they share the same overall skills and damage. I would’ve preferred to have Ergo show up as some sort of Devil Trigger a la Devil May Cry, an unlockable boost mode that lasts for a limited time. On the upside, each character has its own health pool and Ergo’s regenerates when he’s not the active character.
Voice acting is abysmal, and not in the “this is too cheesy and over the top” kind of way, which I would dig to be honest. It’s lifeless, as if the actors couldn’t be asked to give a damn about the characters and the world they live in. Ergo, as I mentioned, is the liveliest of the bunch and his snarky attitude won me over, if only because he at least seems to have a personality.
There is no lip-syncing in Anima: Gate of Memories’ cel-shaded visual style. I have no problem with this, as I’ve always firmly believed that it’s better to not have it than do a bad job at it!
The plot so far is intriguing at least. After pursuing The Red Lady, a member of the same demon-hunting order you belong to, you fight a stranger who easily defeats you. You then wake up in a mysterious tower and you learn that it’s calling ancient extradimensional beings, an event prophesied to bring about the end of days. So it’s up to you to explore the tower, find its secrets and release those imprisoned within, at your own peril of course. As one NPC puts it, “some don’t deserve freedom.”
The world is also pretty interesting, set in a tumultuous time when the great Empire of the world fell and the different powers vying for the throne rose in arms against one another, plunging the world into chaos and potential ruin. As you progress through the first village, the Bearer accuses the Red Lady of razing a town, and she calmly explains that it wasn’t she but the villagers themselves, wishing to leave nothing for the advancing enemy forces to find and pillage. They even went so far as to kill everyone who didn’t agree to leave the town behind. Perhaps it’s a symptom of the coming end of the world, or just the madness that war brings with itself, but this is a cruel world.
Even more fascinating for me is the Order of Nathaniel, the one the Bearer belongs to, an ancient organisation fighting against shadows and monsters to keep the people of the world safe and blissfully ignorant. As wars threaten to break the world, the order pays them no mind and focuses instead on its task, seeing the recovery of the relic the Red Lady stole as the first and only priority. When the Bearer of Calamities reaches the tower, the order’s leader quickly shifts priorities to the new mysterious place that exists outside of time and reality. He cannot reach it himself, so he entrusts you with the mission. He seems to know more than he’s letting on, particularly on the true nature of these beings of the end, as he calls them. And just by hiding this, he keeps me on the edge of my seat, waiting for that momentous revelation.
Also, I just love those organisations in stories that completely ignore current events because they see them as unimportant, even if there’s a real chance the world will go to hell because of them.
And then there are our protagonists and their strange contract, the ritual that bonded the current Bearer of Calamities to Ergo Mundus. Apparently, that binding takes something from the new host and in the Bearer’s case it was her name. No one knows it because by being “consumed” by Ergo it’s as if it never even existed. I think that’s an awesome concept!
So far I’m enjoying Anima and this week when I finally take a break from streaming Overwatch, I’ll probably play it, so if you want to take a second look at the game, feel free to pop into my LawfulGeek channel for a chat and a look at this interesting game. Sure, it’s a flawed game but it has enough going for it to keep me interested so far.
Let me know what you think about how the game looks in my gameplay video in the comments, here or on YouTube!