Coming from the aptly named Anima Project is the follow up to the original Anima: Gate of Memories game released back in 2016. Called The Nameless Chronicles, it follows the exploits of an immortal without a name, who was condemned to walk the world forever. The original experience is best remembered for being “not bad”, so can the follow up expand on that?
Described by the developers as a third person action role playing game, the story of The Nameless Chronicles is set in the world of Gaia. It was only when doing research that I discovered that the Anima name is actually from a whole series of tabletop role playing games, so there is a large amount of lore to be built upon. The world of the video games features art in the manga style – all floppy hair and big eyes – but this sits very well with the tone of the game. This time around, the world is under threat as a confusing series of events unfold. From what I can gather, a while ago a dark god was defeated and sealed away in a world built of memories, and now some people have decided it would be a good idea to try and resurrect him. Obviously, this would be a very bad thing, so good ol’ Nameless straps on his sword and decides to do something about it. The story is very compelling, as you’d expect in what is basically a JRPG, and really helps to pull you into the world that the game creates.
It does however immediately throw you in at the deep end, with just a basic tutorial detailing how you should go about hitting and dodging things. But straight away the camera becomes something of an issue, with it coming across as one of the most dim witted I’ve ever seen in a video game. You have to find the camera controls in a menu and reverse the X axis in order to make it even remotely useful, which is a little annoying, and admittedly once this is done, you can make the camera work, but it still isn’t the best example of its breed I’ve ever seen. Locking onto enemies also brings a few challenges, as the camera can become embedded in a wall as you cartwheel about the place, trying to avoid being hit. This is very pronounced in tight encounters, and does lead to a few cheap feeling deaths as you desperately fight not only the bad guys, but the camera as well.
Away from that though and you’ll find that the combat is, to be kind, functional. Nameless has a range of attacks at his disposal, both up close and personal and ranged. What this means in practice is that almost every fight where you aren’t treading on the enemies toes devolves into a long ranged projectile match, falling into the pattern of “attack, dodge, attack, dodge” until they fall over. Close quarter fighting sees a variety of combos to unleash, but it’s important not to push your luck too far as for an immortal, Nameless is quite squishy. Waiting until an enemy has committed to a combo and then counter attacking is very much the order of the day, so learning attack patterns is very important. The combat is ultimately shallow, sadly, and despite the new weapons that can be found, there isn’t much of a sense of impact. There are certainly no bone crunching contacts as you swing a big lump of pointy metal around.
Graphically there’s nothing here that would stretch current day consoles, and to be honest it could probably run on an Xbox 360 or PS3 without too much trouble. The enemies, excluding bosses, are fairly generic, and you’ll find yourself fighting clouds of similar looking enemies on more than one occasion. The bosses are slightly more memorable, requiring a lot of running around and missile flinging to take down. Some of the landscape and backdrop effects are very good, ranging from a burning cathedral to a creepy basement full of puppets. The weirdest level is found off the hub of the memory world, where the stage reconfigures itself based on you putting pieces into a puzzle in a certain order. This is undeniably cool, with new paths leading to new pieces, which in turn open up new paths through the world.
Aurally and The Nameless Chronicles is a lot better, with good voice acting that sees the main character, Nameless, coming across like he has been to the Christian Bale school of acting. Only a growled “I’m Batman!” is missing. The voice fits the character though, so it’s hard to be too sniffy about it, and in a nice touch, when you find the save point, the lore of the world is read out by Nameless, which again helps with the immersion. The voices of the NPCs are again to a high standard, and seem to be read by actors who actually care about what they are doing.
Gameplay wise and the whole thing plays out like a cross between an RPG, with XP points being accrued and spent on new abilities in the expansive skill tree, and a platformer, where Nameless’ ability to execute a double jump comes in handy. As you can imagine with the camera issues I mentioned earlier, the jumping can be challenging, particularly when traversing the 3D sections of the world. Oh yes, did I mention that the game randomly flips to a 2D platform style section with movement into and out of the screen allowed? Well, it does, and one of the boss fights is set in an area like this. That in itself takes some getting used to.
The main issue with everything that Anima: Gate of Memories – The Nameless Chronicles brings however – above even the camera and dodgy combat – is the sprawling nature of the world. When you reach the Nexus, as the world of memories is called, you are basically left to your own devices to sink or swim as may be. Should you action the puzzle world first or deal with the burning cathedral? Does it actually matter? There is almost no guidance about where you are meant to be going and what you are meant to be doing, and to be honest, that is a recipe for getting lost. Stumbling across one of the NPCs can help, as they can give an insight into proceedings via stories that shed a little light on what you are trying to achieve, but it feels like those behind the development of The Nameless Chronicles have gone for quantity over quality. With a little more scripting I think a more enjoyable game could have resulted.
In conclusion then, Anima: Gate of Memories – The Nameless Chronicles is very much a game of two halves. A vibrant world, massive back story and compelling narrative are counterpointed by a bad camera, unsatisfying combat and too little guidance as to what to do next. It’s not a bad game by any means, and the story will keep me playing, but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to make a memorable RPG.