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Anima: Beyond Fantasy

October 6, 2008

I had picked this up only because Anima: Shadow of Omega, the cardgame, is such an awesome game.  Sadly, it seems none of the design logic behind the cardgame made crossover to the rpg, which brings us the state of the art rpg design from the late 80’s.  I liken it to Artesia, Exalted and Rolemaster getting into a boating accident.

What’s good?

Well, it is very pretty.  The artwork great and there’s lots of characters and neat monsters.  There’s tons of powers.  It has a couple of neat ideas about siloing powers and abilities with a point build system.  And, uh… that’s about it.

System Hurts, Setting Scattered

I’d like to say this is a could be a cousin to Artesia.  Like Artesia, there’s lots of crunchy subsystems to navigate.  Unlike Artesia, there’s a lack of cohesive vision of setting to hold it together, AND, the subsystems are pretty crucial to the system- even playing a simple combat monkey means you have to look hard at the Ki and martial arts stuff.

And combat.  Whew.  You have to cross reference at least 2 charts anytime you make an attack.  And then maybe a hit location chart.  And then maybe a critical chart.   There’s just a general kludgy-ness and inelegance to everything that makes you think of bad Rolemaster house rules.

Experience is rewarded typical “handwavey” style- points for showing up, points for roleplaying (“Interpretation”), points for challenges.  All at GM’s discretion.

And then the setting.  Which is classic heartbreaker.  Tens of thousands of years of history, a cruddy fantasy version of Earth set of nations,  poorly described shadowy organizations (it’s repeated at least a dozen times how powerful they are, without, you know, any indication of what they do ), and my favorite heartbreaker cliche that pops up here and there – “Jesus is a lie” thrown in as a footnote (somewhere, I see some designer is getting his or her adolescent “So there!” jollies).  The writing tone is pedantic and lots of “Realistically” admonitions towards “good roleplaying”.

To be honest, I have no idea what characters DO in this game.  The fact that the setting stuff is not in the Player’s section also makes me wonder what exactly players are supposed to work with other than powers to define their character.

Representation

The art is pretty.  But not without it’s problems.  

The biggest being that female is synonymous with cleavage.  To their credit, most of the women are wielding swords, summoning demons, or at least being kind of badass.  But of course, there’s the classic “Too weak to stand” poses and at least two pictures with a male figure looming over them.  Bleh.

The fantasy setting version of Earth includes a fake China, Japan, Mid-east, and South America.  The Euro/anime nations are basically Renaissance with better hygeine and more enlightened, while all the other areas fulfill stereotypes- fake China has martial arts competitions, fake Mid-east revels in slavery, and Latin America?  “Uncivilized Aborigines”.  Yeah.  Like that.  There’s also a remark that the enlightened areas abolished slavery “regardless of skin color”, though there’s no mention of color based slavery anywhere in the book.  

On the other hand, this game was produced in Spain, where we saw the “Chinky Olympic team photos”, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect much there.

All in all

Go buy Anima: Shadow of Omega.  It’s a great card game that really gives you the Final Fantasy epic feel and is an awesome game.

Do not buy Anima: Beyond Fantasy.  The system and the setting hurt.  You can probably find the images online somewhere if you want the pretty art.

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