By: Brian Gunn
Anima: Gates of Memories is a crowd-funded action game set in the world of the somewhat obscure Anima tabletop role-playing game. Can it act as a window into a new world, or is it only meant for those heavily invested in the setting?
Anima is a game that sits between being a traditional action RPG and character action games like Devil May Cry, though it isn’t nearly in depth as the games that are more focused. Still, it has its controls down fairly well. It’s easy to get into the groove of dodging, locking on and aerial combos, even if they are on the simple side. One nice touch is that the game largely lets you bind the controls how you like them.
Visually, Anima will likely conjure up a lot of past console generation comparisons. Many areas have that sort of barren, isolated feel of games from around the late PS2 or early PS3 era. Character art fares better, appearing like comic book characters.
Its limited budget is more evident in the story sequences where there’s no animation, just various poses held while dialogue spews forth. It also performs somewhat shoddily, at least on PS4, for the visual quality presented. It looks like a game that should easily be running at 60 FPS all the time, but it has more than a few dips.
Sound is an area where Anima mostly falters. One of the most grating aspects is the voice acting, and there’s a pretty heavy story focus so you’ll be hearing a lot of it. One of the leads, Ergo, is supposed to be a creepy demon type but sounds more like a cheesy lounge singer. The other lead, The Bearer, is bland and sounds sleepy half the time. It ends up being very distracting.
The music is fine, typical epic fluff that won’t stick with you or bother you much. Sound design could use some work as some of the attacks lack impact, particularly the main combo.
Anima starts players off with a sort of amnesiac character, The Bearer of Calamities, doing a vague mission of importance while mysterious characters talk cryptically. While the game loves to load you up on world-specific titles and jargon, most of their meaning is hard to decipher, and the game is in no rush to explain them.
So while it is dumping a lot of exposition on your head, everyone and everything seems intent on being mysterious, which makes most of the early game fairly frustrating to latch onto. Usually with characters like The Bearer games use them as excuses to better set up the world for other newcomers, but that’s not so here.
Anyways, The Bearer is paired with Ergo, a demon-like entity that’s sealed inside a book. Their character interactions are the meat of the game, but a lot of that meat is rancid. Ergo is fairly annoying, his defining trait seemingly being his insatiable need to hit on his partner with every line. The Bearer herself doesn’t fare much better, mostly acting like a bland doormat.
The game allows you to switch between the two characters freely, but another glaring issue is that they don’t really feel too different to play as. Ergo is more close-quarters focused, and by the end of the game you can sort of craft them into different play styles, but for much of it the only real benefit of switching is that they don’t share a health pool.
Combat itself is fun in a basic hack n’ slash way. It calls to mind games that rarely seem to get made, B-tier action games that go for stylish looks rather than in-depth mechanics. Enemy variety isn’t ideal, with too many enemies able to be dealt with via the basic attacks or air juggles, while the others just need to be chipped away at with ranged attacks.
Anima: Gates of Memories is a bit of a throwback game, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional in design or not. It does improve in the second half, but between the dull story, irritating characters and repetitive early combat, I don’t see too many players getting that far.