Meet the girls, save the world in Thousand Arms for the Playstation
(IDG) -- With FFVIII and Suikoden II on store shelves, and Grandia on its way, it looks like this'll be a hot winter for RPG fans. Atlus gets into the action with Thousand Arms, a cute and compelling RPG that, with a quirky story, lovable characters and anime style, may steal some of the spotlight from the big guys.
The all-new dating game
Meis Triumph is a "spirit blacksmith," latest in a long line of craftsmen with the power to imbue swords with the powers of elemental spirits. The noble Triumph family is disgraced when the Dark Acolytes attack their homeland, forcing Meis and his folks to flee. You take Meis and restore his good name, defeat the Dark Acolytes and save the world.
Oh, and you must also date a lot of beautiful women along the way. Got it?
In a unique twist to the RPG genre, Thousand Arms mixes in a Japanese dating simulation, challenging players to rely on their mackin' abilities to help them get through the game. Dating ladies is the only way you can forge the more powerful swords; for example, you cannot get the Heal+ spell unless you have a certain Intimacy Level with Sodina. There are lot of women to date, each giving your forged weapons different abilities, so you really have to "work it" to win the game.
A picture's worth a thousand arms
Thousand Arms is presented as 2D sprites inhabiting a completely 3D world. Cities and dungeons swoosh around Meis as he moves, so that you can always tell where you're going. Battles in Thousand Arms take place on 2D backdrops, with the combatants rendered in hand-drawn anime style. Thousand Arms is an anime fan's dream; in a lot of ways it's like living out a Japanese animated serial.
Thousand Arms sounds very, very nice. Great music dances behind ambient effects and frequent spoken dialog. The spoken parts are definitely a welcome addition to the genre, but the voice acting is about as good as the very worst American anime dubs. Battles take place under tense music and sparkle with the sounds of combat.
Game play in Thousand Arms is often woefully similar to other games of the type, which is a disappointment in light of the game's innovations. Battles come all too frequently and are often tedious, and you'll find yourself using the Retreat command just to avoid wasting time.
The front line/back line system (your front character can only attack and cast attack spells, and your back line can only carry out support actions) introduces a level of strategy that other games ignore, but it's not enough to keep the frequent battles interesting.
The dates are surprisingly fun, though they consist mainly of a question-and-answer session. You have to tell each girl exactly what she wants to hear.
Of Meis and women
Thousand Arms is an RPG for someone looking for something different. If you're an anime fan, then you'll definitely want to give this game a shot. Hardcore RPGers might find that it lacks the depth they've come to expect, but others will fall in love with Thousand Arms' charm and humor.
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