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Thousand Arms

Developer: Red Company | Publisher: Atlus
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/13/99 | Genre: RPG

Developers are starting to see a market in games that illustrate the importance of relationships. Final Fantasy VIII's heartfelt love theme is a sterling model of this idea, and Thousand Arms in another example that drives this point home. Red Company has brought us a turgid cache of loopy games like Bonk's Adventure and Sakura Taisen, but this latest hybrid RPG looks to be their best showing yet.

You take on the role of Meis Triumph, scion of the Triumph lineage of "spirit blacksmiths." The story is pretty standard fare-assemble an energetic entourage to thwart some bad dude's idea of utopia-but in a time laden with plot twists, betrayal, and death [cough Final Fantasy cough] it's refreshing to see a story simple and straight forward.

I briefly mentioned that this is a hybrid RPG. The genre it merges with is one new to the States but nigh saturates the Japanese market: dating simulation. The Triumph family may be exceptional blacksmiths, but they are probably most notorious for their licentious, womanizing male members [no, this is not a euphemism, I am being quite literal]. Meis must befriend a handful of lovely young coquets throughout the game and further his relationships with them in order to accrue spells and forge better weapons for the party. The more emotionally attached a particular woman is to you, the more powerful the weapons and spells you can forge. Therefore, it becomes imperative to date, by playing minigames, sightseeing, or buying gifts for the woman, to facilitate your progression through the game. Finally, a gamer can semi-truthfully tell his more popular friends that he can't go out to Putt-Putt with them because he has a hot date on Friday night.

The graphics are pretty impressive, utilizing 2D hand-drawn sprites on polygons. The CG cut scenes are done in a similar manner, which fortifies the aesthetic immersiveness of the game. On a personal note, I prefer 2D graphics to polygons, and the anime artwork in this game is enough to persuade most polygon promoters. With a cast of baddies rivaling Earthworm Jim's in bizarreness, the enemy design and animations alone make the game worth the cost of admission. The voice acting is decent as well. Since you must date so often, it's good that the voices aren't gratingַell, not as much as some other games I can name. In fact, one of the game's only shortcomings is its nondescript music. I guess the upbeat, whimsical tunes fit the quirky atmosphere, but it seems as if it could have been of better quality and implementation.

Thousand Arms is a very well made game and the breezy, lighthearted nature will help ease you into this niche title. RPG fans should at least give this a try, if only to experience an exciting genre foreign to the US market.

By Ira Humphrey - 08/01/00
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Screenshots for Thousand Arms

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