Back in 2012, towards the end of the year, a Kickstarter Project was born. Based on the Anima: Beyond Fantasy series of RPG books, three individuals: Carlos Garcia, Miguel Hernández and Sergio Almagro revealed their intentions to create a full 3D RPG based on that very series. With 1,500+ backers raising over $100,000 towards the creation of the game, their dream became reality.
It’s safe to say that with Anima: Gate of Memories, that there was a lot of love and care put into it. Character designs are fantastic, the music is enjoyable and, aside from some considerable issues, the combat is fairly decent. You can also tell that the scope and vision of the game exceeded their budget as many parts of the game don’t feel as realized as I think they intended.
Anima: Gate of Memories is set in Gaia, a setting combining traditional fantasy elements and magic-effected technology. The majority of the game takes place in the mysterious tower called Arcane. While you can visit other locations, you’ll revisit this tower many times.
You play the game in two fold as both The Bearer and Ergo Mundus. You are a member of an ancient society called Nathaniel, which has, for centuries, safeguarded mankind from succumbing to the darkness. You are set to retrieve an important book, The Byblos, and just as you are about to collect it, you are attacked by an unknown figure. Before resolution can occur and the book collected, you are swallowed by darkness and awake inside Arcane.
You’ll soon gather information about beings called The Messengers, and must defeat them if you are to succeed. Messengers are bosses that can be quite fun to battle, if a bit cheap in some ways. Taking down these beings is no easy task and upon defeating them, a new mystery is born and one that must be figured out or it could mean your end.
The Bearer, a girl whose name was given up upon merging with Ergo, a demon who was banished to a sealed book, is your main protagonist. You’ll team up with this Ergo and can swap to him on the fly, sometimes combining attacks and moves to deal bigger damage. The Bearer of Calamity, the term given to anyone who has merged with Ergo, is a twenty-year-old girl with few memories of who she was before merging with Ergo, however; her name is not one of those. I enjoyed The Bearer and Ergo, but felt the constant flirting and inappropriate jokes made by Ergo to be a bit much. Ergo is offensive and egotistical and craves attention. He also calls The Bearer babe or baby and it can be a bit off-putting. There is some good to him, deep within, but it only ever peaks out in small doses.
Throughout the game you will learn more about how they merged as you defeat The Messengers, and it’s actually a fairly nicely told tale. There is also a great deal of back story regarding Ergo Mundus about how and why he was trapped and sealed away in the book, and it’s really well done. The rest of the story in the game is fairly average, and is told throughout conversations with Ergo and a few other characters you will meet along the way. Some other parts of the story is told through memory fragments you’ll find as you explore Arcane and its surroundings. I enjoyed these as they were fully voiced and nice to listen to. The voice acting can border on ok to decent, but in some instances can be extremely cringe worthy. Ergo singing a certain theme song Books, reading and rainbows made me shake my head through the whole delivery.
Anima: Gate of Memories has a cel-shaded look to its characters and it really works for it. The Bearer looks fantastic, as does the game’s bosses. Ergo looks fairly ok, but another look he has in-game is fair more impressive. Attacks look flashy and effects work with the overall art design quite well. Cutscenes are told through static non-motion models and it can come across a bit odd, but given the budget of the game, I can see why they skipped out on making animations for all the cutscenes, maybe in the sequel?
As you progress throughout the game and find items and weapons, you never really attack with them, but absorb their stats. As the Bearer you attack with flashes of blue light, wielded in different forms like distance blasts or close strike claws. Standard healing items and stat boosters are present and wow do they ever help in a crunch. Ergo attacks in similar fashion but far more violent in his methods.
When you level up you’ll earn skill points that allow you to work through a well designed skill tree. Each skill is connected to another skill with a basic line. Those lines have stats boosts on them. So if between two skills there is a health icon, it means you earn more life force. Sometimes depending on where the skill is, unlocking it could allow two lines to be active. Not all skills connect, so finding the path you want to go is up to you, thankfully you can continue via new game+ to further your progress through each skill tree. Each character has their own tree and attacks but have the same style of upgrades. Active skills you attach to a button to attack with, while Passive skills occur on their own.
Combat is very hit and miss here, but that is mainly due to the cheap-shot nature of its foes. The lock on system isn’t terribly great and only works well when there are 2-3 enemies on screen in a big area, which isn’t as often as you’d want it to be. You’ll be hit hard by off screen enemies that hardly ever miss with their ranged attacks, and while you can blast those attacks out of the sky, your speed of delivery is hardly fast enough and when they fire as a team, having two to three blasts coming in succession, you’re going to get hit regardless. When you can manage the foes before you, and dodge and blast attacks out of the air, the game can get rather fun. I wish certain enemies didn’t hit so hard, and that it was a bit quicker to fire off certain attacks, especially during certain boss moments, but it is what it is.
You can swap between The Bearer and Ergo to essentially have two health bars, and each character has their own set of skills, Ergo has this attack that fires off three homing orbs and this attack is essential to playing as Ergo Mundus as one fight, against a pumpkin headed foe prove to be his downfall as it is just incredibly powerful, but slow to pull off, so timing is crucial. Attacks and Skills offer moves like dashes, air attacks, distanced and close range strikes. Some enemies will be invincible to certain types of attacks so finding what works against certain creatures is important and necessary to survive.
Getting back to the cheap-shot method that most enemies seem to use, it really does hurt the game overall. I’m not a fan of Dark Souls or really difficult games, so maybe it’s just me, but certain attacks in this game seem designed to punish you if you don’t have an incredible amount of skill. I’m not an extremely skilled gamer, but I can hold my own in certain games. I really do enjoy the combat here, but find that the cheap nature of its incoming attacks to sour my whole enjoyment of it.
Anima: Gate of Memories, much like its protagonists, is two-sided. A detailed and well executed lore is hampered by an average at best story. I enjoy the visuals and character design, but enemies and locations can be plain and generic. The Bearer and Ergo are well executed, fun, and have a fantastic back story, but then Ergo will say something about The Bearer’s backside and you can’t help but roll your eyes. If you enjoy games like X-Blades, Blades of Time, or Nier, then you’ll find more than enough here to entertain you through its 10-12 hour campaign, with more bosses and secrets to find in its new game+ mode, you’ll easily get your $20 worth of its asking price and more.
Anima: Gate of Memories is available now for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.