Rally to Me
April hasn’t been the best month for new releases on the Nintendo Switch. Among a few standout titles, there are mostly some lackluster indie games to scroll through. Because of this, it would be easy to throw Masters of Anima by the wayside. At least, that’s what I expected going into the game.
Fight for a Cause
Masters of Anima is a top-down adventure game where you take control of Otto, an impatient young man who is learning how to use an energy called anima to “animate” warriors to fight at his side and become a legendary Shaper. While he doesn’t have a natural talent for that ability, he has to bite the bullet and improve his skills when his much more skilled fiancée is captured by the evil Lord, Zahn.
It’s a standard hero’s journey scenario, but Masters of Anima‘s strength is what it does with this premise. By giving the game a fantastical and mechanical feel, it feels unique enough that the formulaic story never got grating. Furthermore, it’s made a bit more interesting by Otto finding pieces of his fiancée throughout his adventures (mind, heart, and body) that allow the writers to flex their creative muscles.
That said, it’s important to note that Otto isn’t that interesting of a character. It’s refreshing to see someone who isn’t the “chosen one” taking the lead role, but after the first few cutscenes, we don’t get a lot of personality out of him other than, “I have to save the woman I love.”
Pikmin with Robots
Right out of the gate, it’s clear that Masters of Anima was inspired by games like Pikmin. Otto uses Anima to summon a series of different types of guardians who then follow him in a pack and be commanded as a group or individually. You’ll start with standard swordsmen, but you’ll quickly find yourself sporting archers and commanders as the game progresses.
These guardians each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s your job to micromanage them all when fighting giant golems. It’s incredibly satisfying when you start to get into a rhythm and command all of your guardians to victory. Unfortunately, there’s a catch here. The way the game introduces you to all of the commands needed to control the individual aspects of your army isn’t very intuitive. When you’re trying to keep track of four different guardian types while an enemy is getting ready to launch an attack, you’re almost guaranteed to lose a few guardians. This isn’t so much an issue early in the game, but when you’re throwing 100 guardians in the battlefield, it can test your patience.
Fighting isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing with your army. The game is split up in levels that will also give you a fair share of puzzles to complete. While it never goes beyond each guardian type doing a unique action, it’s when those elements are blended together that the puzzles are interesting and make you think. Otherwise, they aren’t too difficult to get past.
It’s Not Just a Boulder
When it comes to fighting, the only enemies you’ll be doing combat with are evil golems that are controlled by the main antagonist. They all have the same color scheme, but each different type is designed with a different fighting style in mind. Because of this, it’s your job to alter your play style to overcome each challenge. Sometimes I had to change my strategy quite a bit (more healers and less fighters) and other times I could approach it the same way I had fought other golems.
The combat and puzzles come together for a series of enjoyable levels. The only issue is that they’re all predictable. They all boil down to get a group of guardians, solve some puzzles, fight some golems, rinse and repeat. Essentially, you’ll know what to expect from the entire game after playing the first few levels. That’s not to say Masters of Anima is boring, it’s just something to keep in mind if you plan on picking this one up.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Masters of Anima was provided by Focus Home Interactive.