Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 28.06.2018

Review for Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition on Nintendo Switch

The Anima Project is not exactly a household name, yet somehow it was able to gain enough support for a crowd-sourced developed action RPG. Originally known for being a series of table-top RPGs and card games that were influenced by classics like Final Fantasy, becoming an actual videogame seemed like it was destiny. With a rich lore at its disposal, crafting an adventure to bind it and some decent gameplay was all that was needed to make all the pieces fit. Sadly, it was not meant to be since Anima: Gate of Memories and its expansion quest, The Nameless Chronicles, suffer from some dire gameplay and a truly bizarre script. Is the Arcane Edition of Anima a 'so bad it's good' kind of game, or is it another example of not every game needs to be ported to Switch?

It is rare when a videogame can be both very impressive and an unmitigated disaster at the same time. When looking at something like Anima: Gate of Memories and The Nameless Chronicles, it shows a lot of promise based on the visuals alone. For such a small development team with an extremely modest budget, there is a sense that the art department is talented and able to work with very little. The atmosphere conjures up similar emotions felt in the original Nier, due to the gothic architecture and operatic music. There is even an emphasis on sexuality and perversion that is frequently highlighted in the hammy dialogue. The extremely rough spots that break any hope that Anima might be good lie in how poorly everything plays.

Screenshot for Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition on Nintendo Switch

The story to Gate of Memories might start off slightly interesting since the protagonist shares a body with a deranged demonic entity with a penchant for pop cultural references, but it won't take long to realise that it is a vanilla plot of go get the plot coupons. This in itself would not be so bad if there was some decent gameplay to keep things interesting or if the world didn't feel like a barren under construction cathedral. What is appreciated is that Anima does offer plenty of room to explore and experiment at any pace since most areas are available to explore from the start. Even The Nameless Chronicles lets players choose what areas they can play but on a much smaller scale with slightly more restrictions. If Anima does anything right, it is the sense of discovery and exploration, even if there are far too many long corridors and empty feeling zones.

The Nameless Chronicles manages to have some skin-crawlingly bad voice acting that has to be heard to believed. The performances are so poor and over the top that they become hilarious and are by far the highlight of the entire Anima experience. Nameless does appear a few times in Gate of Memories, too, but he really commands the scenes in his campaign. His performance is elevated by his edgy high school, deviantart-esque character design that truly adds the right amount of cheese to this fondue of bad ideas. In more intelligent hands, Nameless is the ultimate parody of "edgy" characters, like Shadow the Hedgehog and the reboot of Dante from the Devil May Cry series. In Gate of Memories, things are a bit more light-hearted at times, even with inappropriate dark sex jokes. The Nameless Chronicles takes itself so straight-faced seriously to the point where it becomes utterly hilarious.

Screenshot for Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition on Nintendo Switch

When looking at how the combat in Anima is supposed to work, it becomes clear that the developer had a few games influencing it when designing this. The most obvious contemporaries that stick out would be the likes of Kingdom Hearts II, Bayonetta or one of the Devil May Cry games. What is most sad is that Anima is nowhere near as good as any of the worst games from the aforementioned franchises. This is a very janky and unresponsive action affair with overly long animations that end in poses that cannot be interrupted. Even the dodging mechanic does not follow any sense of logic since it is extremely delayed and sticky. It is made worse by the fact that the distance for dodging or teleporting is absurdly far, creating too much space between opponents and then having to run back towards the fight. This is always a problem when fighting all close range enemies. It is barely useful, yet necessary since projectiles can come at any moment (even off-screen) but too often players will find themselves getting sucker-punched because either Nameless or Bearer/Ergo's animations cannot be cancelled. Usually in good 3D action games, when enemies are off-screen, the AI tends to ease up a bit for the sake of fairness and will move about to try to get into the user's POV. This is makes for a fairer and more enjoyable experience; otherwise AI could just stay out of view and wail on the player-character, stun-locking them. This happens often in Anima.

Since Anima is also using some of the worst aspects of action RPG design, it locks the most useful skills behind a superfluous skill-tree. This means being skilled in the game is limited by how much the user is willing to grind, or else the most effective strategy is to stay far away and spam the long range attack. It gets boring really fast. Launching enemies to do air-combos just does not work they way it should since it feels so stiff and awkward. It is rarely effective since enemies tend to get slapped down or out of the way which means they suffer less damage than just spamming basic attacks or projectiles. Things fare a bit better in The Nameless Chronicles because Nameless, himself, is capable of a homing melee attack, which is effective at closing gaps. Compared to what is playable in Gate of Memories, The Nameless Chronicles is a bit more enjoyable thanks to some tweaking to make for more fluid action. It is still not a good game by any stretch, but still plays better than the core Anima campaign. It is really disappointing when such early 3D action games like Ocarina of Time or the original Devil May Cry are more polished, tighter and play better than something made past 2015. Character-facing lock-on targeting is something that people figured out in 1998, Anima should not have bungled this feature.

Screenshot for Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition on Nintendo Switch

When not combating witches, demons and inquisitors, Anima manages to get some basic adventuring elements right. Regardless of the two scenarios that will be played, both of them are centred on a hub world that leads to various worlds and settings. To break up the terrible combat, there exist some creative puzzles to solve and some labyrinths to explore. While the locales do feel mostly dead and empty, what set pieces do exist happen to look passable. The Switch manages to deliver a very stable game with some decent vistas at times and the Bearer herself is quite sexy. The only problem with all this is that the Nintendo Switch itself deeply loathes Anima and will frequently crash as a warning to the poor soul who might try to subjugate themselves to this unusual form of torture. This happened multiple occasions during review - too many to count during the 40-plus hours spent playing both stories. Many long battles had to be re-fought since this crash typically happens during the load screens between areas. These bugs should be a warning to anyone interested in playing this.

Screenshot for Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Anima: Gate of Memories: Arcane Edition is a real drag to play thanks to how terrible the combat is. This is a poor man's Nier- not the good one with the Automata subtitle, the really rough one that is actually somehow more polished than this. So much of the experience is just hammering on hit-sponges and getting sucker-punched from constantly spawning enemies until the protagonist kills the required amount. The few nuggets of interest like the environmental puzzles and beautifully surreal landscapes just are not worth the hassle of shoddy and unresponsive mechanics. The team behind Anima is very clearly dedicated and it seemed to have really tried to make the best action RPG possible, but the reality is that it is just not experienced enough or the team just does not understand how to do it. The Nameless Chronicles was only a marginal improvement over Gate of Memories and both campaigns are not recommended at all.

Developer

Anima Project

Publisher

BadLand Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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