13th Aug2018

‘Anima: Gates of Memories – Arcane Edition’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

anima-gom-switch

Released back in 2016 on PS4 and now ported to Nintendo Switch, Anima: Gates of Memories is a Japanese-inspired action adventure game based on a table-top board game. Naturally rich with lore, this release has some really solid good points but the difficulty and strangeness of certain design choices can be off-putting.

The game begins with your character The Bearer and her partner Ergo (a floating, sentient book) chasing down The Red Lady for unknown reasons. The first thing that stood out to me was the smoothness of movement in the game and general fluidity. Traversing the various areas and locations that the game takes you through, whether open cliff-tops and ruins to more claustrophobic dungeons, the movement is always a steady ride. The visuals themselves are crisp and the anime-styled characters speak with equally anime-inspired voice acting (dryly bombastic, mysterious or seductive). The ability to switch between the Bearer and Ergo (a demonic-human character when not in chapters and pages form) is a nice touch, acting as two health bars during battles and boss fights, adding a layer of depth to the combat (although both characters feature relatively similar move sets beyond special attacks) which reminded me of Ikaruga with it’s light and dark attack flipping.

The combat itself is a bit of a mixed bag with the challenge coming from the awkward in-game camera, specifically with the targeting mechanism which requires the player to push in the thumb stick to lock-on. It results in getting attacked from enemies behind or out of range as you focus on one particular assailant, unable to quickly flick between them, or for the camera to zoom out to show more of the action. There are times when the camera does zoom out in certain scenes to a distant position, allowing a fuller view of a certain arena, however it zooms away so far that it’s difficult to see what’s going on down below. On several occasions I was hammering away just trying to stay alive as I stared at the tiny characters on the screen (this was especially a problem in hand-held mode, as was reading some of the text boxes in the menus). Aside from the camera issues, the combat feels responsive, with various attacks and tricks at your disposal, along with the ability to collect and unlock items / skills as you level up in progressing through the game although id id feel a lack of variety in the enemy types.

Aside from the standard combat, the game often throws some platforming sections at you which can be somewhat tricky due to the game seeming more open that it actually is. I often either hit invisible barriers or fell whilst thinking I had discovered a possible secret area, it’s not too much of an issue as the game just plonks you back to the last checkpoint if you fall but a shame that there aren’t more branching paths. Be prepared, however to curse that camera whenever you jump to a moving platform.

The dialogue in the game is overblown in a way that works for the genre. Ergo pretty much calls The Bearer ‘baby’ every chance he gets and his sneering tones reminded me of the book in Nier, as did the relationship between the characters. The stoic character of The Bearer can feel a little bland but as dialogue isn’t really a focus as the story is mostly told through set-pieces, it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

Having never played anything else in the Anima universe before Gates of Memories, it was pleasing to find that a deep knowledge of the world lore is a requirement for the game. The story and characters aren’t too far removed from others that we’ve seen before and the game play here is quite standard and will probably feel the norm for players of the action adventure genre. It’s not a stand-out title that really absorbed me as much as other games have of this ilk but for its budget, there is a lot here to like. It’s just a shame that the irritating aspects of the game become more of an issue the further you get with some uneven boss battles and awkward platforming sections affecting the flow, somewhat and taking away from the more positive aspects of the game.

Anima: Gates of Memories is available on the Nintendo Switch now.

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