Anima: Gate of Memories starts off quickly, at least if you ignore the somehwat cringey Powerpoint-style intro that provides the world setting. Within the first five minutes, you know about the Holy Empire of Abel and the war for the throne that’s kicked off, and you know about the shadowy, hermetic Order of Nathaniel, who are fighting the forces of darkness quite oblivious to the politics of the people.
Then you’re plunged into the action as the Bearer, a beautiful blonde girl with no name and no memory, who happens to be a powerful agent with the Order of Nathaniel. She’s on a mission to retrieve a book from an Order agent turned rogue, and the game teaches you the control basics (walking, jumping, attacking) along a single street as you head to a square to face off with this rogue agent. And jumping is so much fun. It’s not underwhelming or a task to perform – it actually makes you feel powerful.
Then you get a chance to practise battle skills as the agent summons a bunch of henchmen. What I love most about this is that it teaches you in a very natural way, introducing a different kind of attack or evasive maneouvre with each new enemy attacking. The battle gameplay feels very much like Devil May Cry and flows exceedingly well – it was a joy to play. Did I mention that jumping is fun?
You get introduced to the Bearer’s companion – a devilish man named Ergo Mundus, trapped in a book she carries. He’s an interesting character, and their interplay of dialogue can be quite entertaining (mostly revolving around him goading her and her telling him to shut it, which just puts me in mind of the relationship between Integra and Alucard in Hellsing). However, there is something slightly cheesy about some of the dialogue and the way the voice actors deliver it. This is no terrible thing, and is actually sort of nostalgic.
Early on you get some nice and faintly challenging battles to fight, and you are allowed the chance to switch between the Bearer and Ergo during battle. I was delighted to find that you’re allowed to switch between them outside of battle too – something it seems is too rarely done in games with multiple party members.
The cel-shaded character models are beautiful, too. I may be biased, as I’m a huge fan of this style, but this game does pull it off very well. Some of the church-influenced settings carry a Journey-esque feel to them, everything feels elegant and shimmering. And the outdoor settings – in particular the meadow of the first plane of existence – feel a bit like Shadow of the Colossus. Within the first half hour of playing I felt comfortable and somehow relaxed.
World-building wise, the game does not overload too much at the start. This is often a problem with RPGs that try to inform the player about everything. Anima gives you the basics during the start sequence, and provides a number of extra info pages in the ‘Memories’ section of the inventory screen. These are easy to read through – the jargon is not as unwieldy as you might expect. The world has a great religious feel to it – lots of esoteric and demonic things combined with cults and magisteriums, rituals and holy orders.
The inventory screen itself puts me in mind of Devil May Cry once again, or other PS2 gothic classics like Primal. The interface has some typos in English, but seeing as it’s primarily a Spanish game and is from an indie studio, this makes some sense and doesn’t impact the game to any serious degree. You are given the option of setting the language to either English, Spanish or French.
Anima: Gate of Memories is based on an older Spanish tabletop roleplaying game, called Anima: Beyond Fantasy. First released in 2005, the tabletop game has already had one spin-off videogame released for the Wii in 2011, Anima: Ark of Sinners, which apparently did not do too well. Following this flop, Gate of Memories was successfully crowdfunded in 2013 and took a further three years to produce. It seems it was worth the wait, and I’d recommend any fans of gothic action games to give this a try.
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