RPG Review #69: Thousand Arms

NuMetalManiak
While I gleefully decide under no real reason to avoid a few popular RPG series like Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, I end up playing completely obscure titles. Like this one, from Atlus, the makers of Shin Megami Tensei, called Thousand Arms. Who's heard of this one? Apparently this game is not just a Playstation RPG, but a dating simulation at the same time, fitting considering this is my 69th review, but it never really reaches past first base if you know what I mean.

Gameplay: Don't confuse this game with Wild Arms, although the navigation is for the most part similar. The game allows usage of a map with the Triangle button, not all the time but most of the time, regular save points and healing points in inns or in dungeons. So is combat as traditional? No! It's very much different.

From a standpoint, it looks all turn-based, but that takes a turn for something different. Thousand Arms' combat system is one-of-a-kind. You get to pick your action, and then focus on the green arrows up top. Finally, when they are done, use X to utilize the action. Although you can wait there, which can be necessary sometimes. There's standard attacks, spells, special abilities, defense, retreat, and changing of characters as well. It's also possible to cancel an action, just by using Square. One tactic in the early game is to attack, then defend until the enemy attacks, then cancel and attack, which pretty much works well in most cases unless the enemy is fast. So there is some activeness in the battle system. There's a frontline and a backline in combat. You'll notice quickly that battles are usually one-on-one, with two frontlines being the main attackers. The backline can cast support spells (not offensive ones though) and on standby, they can taunt the enemy or cheer the frontline, buffing stats. Spells use up EP, not MP, which is covered later, while special abilities are finite in use and have to be replenished by resting. However, since some of the bosses have way too much health, it's a good idea to save specials for them.

So that's most of the RPG stuff out of the way. The dating simulation part is much more different, and surprisingly, what most of the game will likely be spent on. In towns, there's this statue of a goddess that can be interacted with to date with a girl, either in the party or in town. Three options: Date, Present, and Mini-Game. For Date, pick a spot in town, and just answer questions. I actually didn't like this one as much, sometimes you get pretty bad questions where there's never a good answer, and you want to please the girl and get a kiss from her. For Present, there are several shops that have girl gifts, or you can get them from treasure chests. Should be pretty self-explanatory. Mini-games will be discussed in the character section. Dating a girl uses up MP, which is gained from fights, mostly. And girls have both mood and intimacy levels. The mood may change the MP cost, but intimacy is important, you want to actually increase this with good dates, but if you make them mad, intimacy can go down.

So how do the characters actually get stronger? There's standard leveling procedures, but you can also level weapons too. The main character is actually a blacksmith, and he can forge at a smithy in town. But to do so, he has to have a correct Charisma level (increases at some level ups) and needs to forge with a girl with the right intimacy level. And forging will use up MP too. The girls can give additional special attacks, elemental properties, and spells to each forged weapon, but one important thing to note is that abilities are gained at the exact intimacy or charisma level, whichever is lower. So if intimacy is high and charisma is high, it's not possible to get the low-level spells for a weapon (but you can lower it on bad dates). It's quite complex, and costly for MP, but it's worth it to make the strongest of characters. Grade: A+

Characters: (by the way there is voice acting in this game)

Meis Triumph: Our main character, the Spirit Blacksmith, and a womanizer. He gets this from his father and his generation of families. He gets elemental summons from sacred flames, which are his special attacks, and is of course the most damaging character to use.
Sodina Dawnfried: Meis' first girl, wears pink ribbons around her. A tsundere through and through, she wields a knife in combat and is of the unique Light element. She's got the most magical power, as you would expect. Her mini-game is some Simon Says thing involving cooking.
Muza Grifford: This big armored guy is one of Meis' friends, and wields a very large sword. He's the obvious brute. But can he really converse with girls without turning blue with shock?
Wyna Grapple: This blondie may remind you of Ayla from Chrono Trigger. She's an obvious fighter girl, identical to Muza, and has a cool eyepatch. Wields a large hammer. She has an interesting Whack-a-Mole minigame.
Soushi Mahoroba: Although he wears pink and has long hair, he's a dude. A samurai, so speedy, but not necessarily the strongest. His weapon just so happens to be named Masamune.
Kyleen Nelphe: Traditional thief-class fighter, fast, but mostly weak. Wields a fencing rapier. Her mini-game is basically Blackjack.
Nelsha Stylus: The weird nerdy girl who refers to herself in third-person. She wants to be known as Dress Master, and her specials are incredibly unique, where she uses outfits to turn into completely different personas. Her mini-game is a shooter of sorts, unfortunately the most annoying one.

Other than those, there are five other dateable girls that don't leave their towns:
Palma Esterte: Priestess of a pirate ship and a housecleaner. Has a really fun mini-game.
Mil Wind: Actually, this is the first girl Meis sees. Obsessed with science and math and has a shape-based mini-game.
Kyoka Mahoroba: Soushi's naive sister. Has a memory-style minigame that reuses three patterns and is really easy.
Marion: Really weird inventor girl who is childish and a tad annoying. Has a rock-paper-scissors mini-game with an annoying twist.
Metalia: Jewel Master, one of the last people encountered, and the oldest date. Has a trivia mini-game.

Plenty of personalities. A few other villainous characters exist, most are cliche like the evil Emperor, a five-band team of mechanic-named henchmen, a sort-of emo anti-villain who becomes known as Dark Master, and some really weird gay guy named Bandiger obsessed with love. Grade: A

Plot: Well, sadly, this one is quite typical, although it does start in medias res. Meis is on the run after his hometown gets attacked by Dark Acolytes (the Emperor's faction), and ends up apprenticing under Jyabil, Sodina's brother. After awhile we meet Schmidt, a rival Blacksmith. Where Meis is light, Schmidt is dark, and he eventually becomes Dark Master. Also Sodina's town is also destroyed and Jyabil dies fighting the enemy. Meis is tasked by the dying Jyabil to find the five sacred flames before the Acolytes do, and Sodina joins him here.

Not long after that, they get the first flame and Muza tags along. Wyna offers this group onto the big pirate ship of Langoud and continue along. One of the henchmen, Bolt, attacks here, and has one of the most hilarious death scenes ever when he falls, although it damages Langoud. We end up meeting Kyoka and Soushi afterwards, and get rid of the dark power that is infecting Soushi so he can tag along. Sodina gets briefly kidnapped by Dark Master/Schmidt, before long the group reaches a cloud city. At the cloud city of Sharan, we meet Kyleen, and then Mounthand, where Marion's from, is also occupied, and with Marion's help is eventually liberated from Wire, another henchman.

With Langoud repaired, the next town has Nelsha apparently looking for her dress bag, so she tags along on the way to the creepy ghost city where the Damashi (an apparent mascot in the game) reside. Nelsha gets her dress bag and fights with Ratchet, the rather annoying one of the henchman. Not long after that, we meet Metalia at the library town, and the Emperor puts the Death Crimson in command, apparently it's a sword-shaped ship that just rams into things. Meis fights off Bearing, another henchman, while Sodina gets captured yet again. Not long after that though, invasion of the Emperor's base, Dianova is imminent, and both Dark Master/Schmidt and Shaft, the last henchman, are defeated. But Emperor, like any other villain when the heroes come to his heels, gets the upper hand and steals the flames. There was, however, a sixth flame, and at the moon (yes, it had to be the moon again) we fight the emperor, finally. This is where Sodina is revealed to be the sword spirit, and becomes Meis' new sword for the finale. Eventually, the flames are restored, and Sodina is back to normal.

This plot honestly is very linear, and quite cliche for a plot. So I didn't like much of it, although it was nice to see what the bad guys were planning every once in a while. On the other hand, it's also really easy to completely forget about the plot, because the dating of girls tends to take the upper hand a lot of times. Grade: C

Music: It's there, but then again, my audio settings aren't really that good sometimes so I don't hear it that much. Average. Grade: C

Overall Grade: B+

I always say gameplay is the one thing that a game needs to have, and I maintain that stance pretty well. With two central aspects of gameplay, and one of which more unique than many others I've played in the past, Thousand Arms becomes a worthwhile RPG. Lots of good characters and gameplay, too there's not much else to talk about in terms of the other things. But's it's worth a whirl.

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