Turn-based JRPGs are a dime a dozen these days. While there have been some absolute bangers in the last year or so, standing out in this scene is becoming increasingly difficult. Especially for those looking to replenish the void left behind by the glorious Persona 5 Royal—you’ve got to bring something special. Mato Anomalies, the latest game from Chinese developer, Arrowiz might just help fill that space.
“You’ll Never See it Coming!”
This traditional, turn-based JRPG of Mato Anomalies may seem generic at first, though specific aspects like a shared HP pool, skill cooldowns lingering after battle and certain context-specific actions make for a compelling set of stratagems. For example, the Explode skill raises your critical rate and damage when health is low, while the Butterfly Dance trap reduces any incoming damage before countering with an AOE blast of the entire enemy line-up. There’s an awesome variety of skills and tactics on display, as each battle requires different measures depending on the enemy type and current cooldown length of your abilities. Meaning that you can’t always rely on the same set of moves to get by on similar encounters. A smart way of pushing players outside of their comfort zone and familiarising them with the rest of their arsenal.
The mind palace-style dungeon designs and mechanics of Mato Anomalies pale in comparison to the royal standard of Persona 5, with most obstacles feeling like hurdles to climb rather than being something interesting to interact with. Waiting for blocks to fall in succession, moving around a simple surveillance system—it’s all pretty stiff and mindless. However, the main hub of Mato does contain some cool-looking environments and locales to explore during detective Doe’s fieldwork. You won’t find any social link or confidant systems like in Persona, but this is where Doe can trade and upgrade his team’s equipment for battle, as well as pick up some side quests for juicy gear and extra story content.
There’s also a decently fun card game to play as the trenchcoat-wearing gumshoe that involves mind-hacking a host to gain information. It’s got a Life Point system similar to Yu-Gi-Oh! but it’s mostly just about using cards in a certain order so that you can maximize their effects during your phase. Similar to the main party battle system, it regularly forces you to use your full kit. But rather than being restricted by a cooldown, cards are instead limited based on their power, as you can’t just spam the strongest attacks to win each showdown. Oftentimes, thinking 2 or 3 turns ahead to plan out attacks and deciding which cards to keep between rounds will be the make or break. This card game even grants players several decks with different styles of play to choose from, so some people will surely enjoy it. And while I definitely was vibing with it at first, something about this game started to grow stale for me.
A Different Approach
The visual novel/comic book story has some interesting moments and characters, even if the awkward lip sync and low-res graphics don’t do it justice. When delving into the dark and shady past of Mato, it feels a lot more focused on a local setting than its contemporaries. Many JRPGs tend to go for a grand-scale adventure of dazzling epicness, whereas Mato Anomalies puts the spotlight on the little guy, highlighting what it’s like for those who don’t have much of a voice. While it does have its share of over-the-top anime moments, the English dub from the main cast is really solid. They all play off of each other with ease and the writing is fairly captivating too.
I just wish the graphics were up to snuff. While the game does run fairly well on PC, the cel-shaded art style seems like it’s missing something. The general animations in Mato Anomalies can often come across as very sudden and jerky, while the dungeon designs could’ve used some work in fleshing out their backgrounds and visual effects. The battle music is hype though, with some banging EDM tunes and drum beats that had me tapping my feet for hours. While the more lite, synth-based atmospheric tracks emanate a soothing quality that’s great for walking around the towns/dungeons.
If there’s one reason to pick up this game, it’d have to be the turn-based JRPG combat. The story is good in Mato Anomalies—don’t get me wrong—but the simple, yet highly complex battle system is where it’s at. The graphics and mind palace designs could’ve used more work, and the card game interrogation aspect doesn’t have the most staying power. Although, all things considered, this is one game that Persona fans should get some enjoyment out of.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
Mato Anomalies has some rough edges but is ultimately worth playing. If you can get past it’s sub-par graphics and dungeon designs, the unique turn-based combat will keep you hooked for hours. Couple that with a solid story, endearing characters and a slick Shanghai-inspired city to explore and you’re in for some enjoyable JRPG escapades.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by PLAION. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.