Thousand Arms - Retroview  

Of Meis and Women
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

Very Easy
20-40 Hours


Rating definitions 

   In 1998, Red Entertainment, responsible for Sega's Sakura Taisen series, developed the unique RPG Thousand Arms, featuring a strong dating aspect. The next year, Atlus localized it, making it the only one of the developer's titles ever to cross the Pacific. While the dating aspect shows strong potential alongside a general sense of humor, Thousand Arms nonetheless feels a bit lacking.

   Combat in the game is unique. You have three characters in your fighting party, one in front row and two for backup. What really sets Thousand Arms apart from other RPGs is that you fight enemies one at a time, despite enemy party size. When a battle begins, you input a command for your front row character and a command for your backup party, limited to standing by, using a healing or support spell, or using an item. Gauges on the status bar indicate when your front row character and backup party will be able to perform their commands, although if you put your backup party on standby, they'll perform commands such as taunting the enemy to reduce their attack, defense, or whatnot, or cheer you on to increase your own stats.

Slip, slide, and get stuck And that's when they realized the water slide needed more water

   When the green arrows of each command gauge representing your front row character or backup party expire, the player must press the X button for front row or O for the backup party to execute their commands, after which the player inputs another command for whoever just performed their action (though if you had put your backup party on standby, you just immediately input another command for them). The front row enemy and occasionally the backup foes perform their commands too, with a box beneath the status bar indicating what kind of commands the enemies will perform next. Luckily, you can cancel your front row character's current command for favor of another order. Once you win a battle, you gain money, experience, and MP (with EP being used to cast magic in battle).

   Another thing that really sets Thousand Arms apart from other RPGs is its dating system, where the hero, Meis, can date several women by consuming MP at special statues, and possibly increase their intimacy level depending upon the success of the date. The dating system ties in with the weapon forging system, where each experience level increased means an additional level to which the player can forge their party's weapons, again, by consuming MP. Depending upon how high your women's intimacy levels are, moreover, you may gain magic and special skills when forging. Characters can only use special skills, in addition to summon spells gained from story events, a certain number of times in battles before refilling them at inns or recovery points. It's possible, moreover, to miss skills acquirable only at certain intimacy levels, and it might've been nice to be able to get them when forging at current intimacy levels instead of having to go on bad dates just to lower your women's intimacy to do so.

   Still, despite all this, combat in Thousand Arms feels a bit too simplistic. I managed to plow through the game relying almost entirely on physical attacks while making sure to forge my weapons occasionally, with only the last few bosses posing even a mild threat to my party. I also never used items until the very last boss. In the end, the developers could've easily made combat more strategic alongside its existing depth.

NO WISH FOR YOU! Why you shouldn't piss off the genie of the lamp

   The interface is acceptable. The menus are easy to navigate albeit a bit slow, with little equipment to worry about aside from accessories. The dungeon design is a bit lousy at times, with many containing dozens of rooms that look exactly alike, but otherwise, there isn't room for complaint.

   Thousand Arms is the only RPG I've played with a dating system, not to mention a battle engine of its kind, and even today it stands apart from other titles in the genre, even though little things such as summon spells have clearly been in other games.

   The story is okay. The protagonist, Meis, from the wealthy Triumph family, flees his hometown when a group known as the Dark Acolytes attack, after which he ambitions to become a great Spirit Blacksmith, and must eventually stop an evil Emperor from taking over the world. A bit clichéd, though the game has a decent sense of humor that partially redeems the plot, despite its failure to develop many of Meis' party members (you get an idea of their attitudes in dates, though little detail on their backgrounds). Overall, an average storyline.

   The soundtrack in Thousand Arms has some pretty nice tunes, chiefly in towns, though dungeon tracks are far too atmospheric and unmemorable, and the voice acting can easily get on your nerves.

   The visuals are interesting. The 3-D scenery looks like crap, though sprites contain a decent, and in some cases expressive, anime style of design, and sometimes during cutscenes, the game really closes in on your sprites. No, this doesn't pixelate them and make them look like ass, but instead, they appear as full-fledged and animated anime portraits, which adds a bit of luster to story scenes. Your sprites, along with monsters, are also well-designed and animated in battle There are some anime cutscenes and FMV, as well, and in the end, the graphics are somewhere in the middle in terms of quality.

   Finally, Thousand Arms is largely devoid of challenge, and can take anywhere from twenty to forty hours to complete, depending upon the time spent with dating, forging, and such.

   Ultimately, Thousand Arms showed great potential, chiefly with its dating system, yet falls short, especially with its simplistic battles. It's certainly playable (as most any easy game is), but is certainly unchallenging, yet if challenge isn't something you're after, by all means pick this one up. Just don't expect greatness.

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