You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Take, for example, Anima: Gate of Memories. An action-RPG backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Anima has so much going for it on the surface: crisp, stylistic visuals and a fleshed out universe make for a welcoming invite, encouraging you to play though until the end. Once you accept that invitation, though, you’re treated with nothing but boring, uninspired gameplay.
The premise for Anima is standard RPG fare, offering a heroine named The Bearer, who is tasked with saving the world from destruction. Accompanying her is the other playable character, Ergo, an immortal being whose soul resides in a book. As The Bearer’s pact with Ergo involved the erasure of her name in exchange for his power, the two have a rocky relationship. While it makes for an interesting set up between the two protagonists, ultimately, like all aspects of Anima, it never becomes worthy of your attention.
Combat is similar to the Devil May Cry and Bayonetta series. Or, at least, it tries to be. Make no mistake, you’ll definitely be mashing buttons as you juggle enemies in the air, as well as performing last-minute dodges by the skin of your teeth; however, you won’t have fun doing so. The combat for Anima simply isn’t as polished as the games it tries to mimic. There’s no sense of weight and impact to your attacks, offering extremely unsatisfying battles. If taking inspiration from other games is the goal, then inspiration needs to be taken well (see: Darksiders). Because Anima doesn’t successfully pay homage to other games by borrowing their mechanics, it simply feels like a pale imitation of those games.
For the RPG element, there’s a skill tree system, offering you the chance to unlock new abilities or upgrade existing ones. Unfortunately, it’s completely bare-bones and arguably useless because you can get through combat with basic button-mashing. Even aside from its failed RPG element and boring combat, too many other issues plague the game and hold it down from reaching any of its potential.
There are long, dull platforming sections that are more frustrating than anything I’ve played in other action-RPGs. In fact, Anima seems to bring platforming, by far its weakest gameplay aspect, to the center too frequently; this is especially noticeable in
the first mini-boss, which relies on it completely. It’s just too easy to fall off of platforms and lose a good chunk of health because of a frustrating and clunky camera.
The game tries to for an epic, cinematic feel, but unfortunately, it can’t live up to its goal. The fixed camera angles come in at random times, and while this is obviously to help provide a sense of cinematic atmosphere, it often just feels confusion and even downright jarring. The audio presentation is bad too; from completely forgettable music to flat voice acting that ranges from bad to godawful, Anima seems to strive to make players reach for their mute button.
I applaud the game for shooting for the moon, but with its weak execution of its concepts, it feels more like it overshot its landing and headed straight into the fiery, white hot burn of the sun. I say this because even if I could find a way to excuse the aforementioned problems, I absolutely cannot excuse the game’s terrible, horrendous script.
Ergo is one of the worst characters I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing in recent memory, constantly coming across as trying too hard to be edgy. There are confusing pop culture references, ranging from The Legend of Zelda to Reading Rainbow. Rather than making me giggle, they just left me confused as to how they were supposed to gel well with the ham-fisted story.
I doubt there’s any way most people could care about the game’s characters, because the writers made damn sure you wouldn’t. How am I supposed to want to finish a game when I couldn’t care less about its cast? I didn’t want The Bearer to save the world—I wanted her to sit around and wait for its impending doom so I wouldn’t have to suffer anymore.