If you’re a Persona fan, this anime-inspired game by Arrowiz might be right up your street.
Set in Mato, a futuristic version of an old oriental city, Mato Anomalies finds it protagonists fighting against forces that bring out the worst of its populace. In the real world you’ll be in control of Doe, a private investigator tasked with finding out information about something called HANDOUT. But your efforts will lead you to digital domains called Lairs, where demons called Bane Tide present a physical threat. Doe, not being a fighter, hangs back from these, allowing the powerful Gram to take centre stage.
This dual protagonist setup works well for Mato Anomalies, giving it a unique feel. Your time with Doe is spent information gathering, travelling across Mato to meet informants. He’s also in charge of keeping the team stocked up with with helpful items and providing them with weapons. He’s the brains of the operation, although he sometimes needs help. When dealing with uncooperative types, he may use a special glove to try and hack their minds, opening them up.
This Mind/Hack procedure instigates a card game, which is actually pretty fun. At the start of each round, a selection of cards from a deck is placed in front of Doe. Some of these are persuasion cards, which chip away at an opponent’s mind when used. Whittle it down to zero, and they’ll spill any info you need. But getting in the way are demons, which protect the target in various ways. Perhaps they absorb the effect of the first persuasion card you play each round, for example, or heal their host when they attack you.
To win at Mind/Hack, then, you need to balance dealing with these demons and making attacks on your target. Add in other complications, such as the unique features of each deck that becomes available to you and more, and you have a diversion that serves a purpose but is also entertaining in its own right.
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For some, though, the dungeon crawling in Mato Anomalies will be more of a draw. Over the course of the game, players will be required to venture into many lairs, solving puzzles and overcoming powerful enemies to push the story forward. As already established, Gram is the party leader here, but he doesn’t fight alone. Or at least not for long. Other powerful individuals will eventually join the fight, providing a wider range of skills and abilities.
Battles are turn-based, with each character able to make use of one action per turn. The catch here, though, is that some abilities have cooldowns. Gram can perform a basic attack whenever he wants, for example, but if he performs Bladeless Blade, an attack that hits all enemies, he’ll have to wait a few turn until he can use it again. MP is not a thing here, though there is a gauge that allows powerful Ultimate Skills to be used when full.
Other than that though, and that fact that party HP is pooled, it’s largely business as usual. Characters and enemies have strengths and weakness, and it’s important to take these into consideration when planning your actions. Developing your characters is also important, and so you’ll need to carefully consider how you invest your skills points, as well as place gears strategically on a board to boost stats.
Those fond of the game’s dungeon crawling will be particularly happy to hear that Mato Anomalies has a random dungeon feature, allowing them to explore and battle to their heart’s content. For some, completing these dungeons might become a bit of an obsession as they seek to max out their characters and obtain the best equipment. Multiple difficulty levels are available, too, so you can tweak how much resistance you’ll meet in combat.
Holding everything together is the story of Mato Anomalies, which so far has kept our interest pretty well. Like the rest of the game, however, it feels pretty streamlined and a little scrappy at times. Things move along at a brisk pace, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes there’s a lack of build-up to what should be a big event or revelation. Basically, don’t go into Mato Anomalies expecting a grand tale on the scale of Persona 5.
Playing on PS5 for review, the most disappointing thing about Mato Anomalies so far is its presentation. It’s not an eyesore, but it hardly makes use of the console’s power. Textures are bland in places, and certain story scenes are strangely blurry. Even at the best of times the visuals aren’t sharp. But at least performance is solid.
We’ve still got some time to spend with Mato Anomalies, but we’ve enjoyed what we’ve played of it so far. It’s not the most polished RPG, which may disappoint some, but its streamlined nature is a breath of fresh air, and it has a neat premise and some cool ideas. Fans of the likes of Persona are most likely to resonate with it, but it’s perhaps worth a look for any RPG fan looking for something new to sink their teeth into.