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Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) artwork

Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) review

"Town without pity (or entertainment value, for that matter)"

Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) image

Anima: Ark of Sinners whisks you into a wonderfully dark and mysterious city called Ark. There, stone streets stand bereft of human life. Instead, they teem with shadowy demons, hellhounds and will-o'-the-wisps. Busted sky walkways connect dilapidated buildings, forming numerous platforming segments. Massive cathedrals lie open, their stained glass windows intact but their pews empty. Meanwhile, a factory bustles with activity despite its lack of workers. Questions mount as you peer into the game's melancholy assortment of locales. Why is this town so barren, and yet mostly whole and active?

Anima's unanswered questions and tenebrous environs beg you to play further franchise installments. They might even lead you to the game's source material, which includes a tabletop RPG (Anima: Beyond Fantasy), a miniatures set (Anima Tactics) and a non-collectible card game with four expansion packs. Unfortunately, the rest of Anima's content serves as a tremendous red flag, warning you to stay clear of the above products.

Imagine Castlevania: Symphony of the Night spliced with Devil May Cry. Now shave about three-quarters of Symphony's length and remove its interchangeable equipment. Also, water down Devil May Cry's combat mechanics and subtract its rating system. The result is a Metroidvania-lite title that features a stilted, combo-based battle system and minimal exploration.

Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) image

Yes, optional routes do exist. There are a few avenues hiding behind faulty walls or lying just out of reach, but those only lead to massive tablets containing bits of backstory. The rest of the campaign, however, consists of three hours' worth of garden variety material. Anima's world map forms a simple, Q-shaped structure that offers a mere three or four distinct areas to explore. Within each stage, you'll find a vast number of empty hallways and the occasional platforming sequence. Sadly, Anima's obstacle courses don't amount to anything more than average, and surviving them requires only a moderate amount of skill. A collection of standard wide chasms, floating platforms, high speed lasers and the aforementioned troublesome wisps fill a void, but aren't tricky, challenging or memorable.

Even during the two sections in which you race a humongous canine, stage layouts are nothing to rave about. You sometimes jump over a basic pit, hack a weakened wall to pieces and continue running. These segments fail to capture the frantic nature of each predicament, settling for gauntlets full of banal traps.

Gripping tales occasionally salvage middling games, but such is the not the case here. I wish I could say I analyzed Anima's plot in depth, but the truth is I missed a lot dialogue. Voiceless cutscenes crop up now and then, providing you with a couple of seconds to read speech text before it vanishes. I often only progressed midway through a line before it disappeared. The real kicker is that after three or four exchanges, a prompt allowing you to skip to the next line appears. It's borderline insulting to know that the developers could have featured talkie segments that allow you to manually advance chatter, but instead opted for a system that only intermittently permits you to do so.

Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) image

Anima also uses these cutscenes to guide you to your next goal. If you only catch half of the blather, there's a fair chance you're going to miss the subsequent mission objective. You have two options at this point: Google a walkthrough--and those are scarce--or select an arbitrary route to travel. Choosing the latter typically means engaging in frustrating, clunky battles, only to discover that you've headed in the wrong direction. In that case, you must retrace your steps and fight every infuriating foe all over again.

Anima's combat is simple, yet bothersome. Utilizing the standard attack button and the analog stick, you create rudimentary combinations of slices and hacks. However, the protagonist Celia's initial slash is a touch too slow, often leaving you susceptible to blows. Because of this, your timing has to be spot-frickin'-on when you're up against even moderate enemies. The worst is battling your doppleganger, who possesses a faster version of your move set. No matter how often you try to preempt her, she always manages to nail you and send you flying.

Anima: Ark of Sinners (Wii) image

Whenever you receive a fair blow, you spiral backward through the air a good fifteen feet. You sigh as Celia creeps back up, then watch in horror as she takes another shot and sails through the air again. And again. And again. And again. Meanwhile, Anima's pace slows to a crawl. Sure, you can dodge attacks by tucking and rolling and 'git gud' to avoid being used as a lawn dart target, but that doesn't change the notion that the opposition uses a lot of cheap shots that send you hurtling.

Ultimately, the fog of your brain will devour the one hundred eighty minutes required to beat Anima: Ark of Sinners. I'll wager that you'll mainly remember flying through the air after sustaining a medium-strength slap and cursing when you realize you've taken the incorrect path, if anything. These are not exactly the kind of memories you want to stick with you when you're checking out an eBay bid for Anima figurines or a rare, unopened package of the Anima card game. Suffice it to say that if Anima: Ark of Sinners was meant to draw attention to its franchise, it took the wrong road.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (January 11, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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