Thousand Arms is a cliché, bare-bones role playing game that has no unique aspects to it besides the ill-conceived dating system and somewhat interesting battle system. It's also got nothing new for anybody who has played even one traditional RPG before. RED Company also opted to make this a very easy game, since they must think that all RPG fans are stupid, crybaby, mainstream gamers who care not for challenges... are they right?
However, if thou can get passed the lack of innovation presented here, you will probably find a very well done RPG underneath the half-assed play mechanics and plot.
Stories in RPGs become annoying if they don't draw you in as soon as you start playing. This is where Thousand Arms runs into a problem; the story sucks for most of the first CD, and only becomes partially good for the rest of the game. Though the theme of dating and a purposely cliché plot feel right at home in this game, not even that is enough to prevent Thousand Arms' story from becoming tiresome and stupid. The plot does its part to progress the personality development of the characters, but the game's perverse mood and childish theme prevent it from becoming the next Lunar, which it could have been.
It's not that Thousand Arms has a terrible storyline and insipid characters like the Chrono games, it's just a poorly organized title that could have benefited from a little spit n' polish in the story and characters area, but the plot has its moments, however tame they may be.
Control is slightly off the mark, as it is quite difficult to position your character to open a door or examine an object/person. I also can't get over the fact that my character CANNOT RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE! This becomes a thorn in Thor's ass when you reach some of the straight paths and walkways; instead of continuously pressing up or whichever direction you want to walk to, you have to waste energy repositioning Meis as though he were a drunk.
There's also the matter of the camera, which can be focused in some areas, but is static in dungeons and individual rooms This wouldn't have been a problem had the developers seen fit to make the buildings and other obstacles invisible, but keep their outline so you could see where you were going. But if you can get over the trashy camera, this game controls well enough.
The music ain't nothing special unless you've never heard any of the better soundtracks out there, like Lunar 2 or Chrono Cross. Some of the tunes are memorable, but nothing that'll make you tap those toes like Final Fantasy themes or anything else from Square. It's not a worthy OST, but it fits the game decently.
Sound is pretty decent, but the treachery of the voice actors is what drove the score down to a 69. These cartoon characters don't fit well in this game and don't even create a comedic mood, they just suck. Most of the "actors" sound terribly forced and every single voice sample is over-acted and ear-piercing. The sounds of doors slamming and battle music, along with a certain few environmental effects are what saved the score from a 30 or 20, but the game should still be played on MUTE.
Gameplay is where Thousand Arms (tell me why it's called Thousand Arms again? Why not Tokimeki Memorial XXX (30)) runs into quite a number of problems, mainly concerning the childish difficulty level. Battle engines keep getting better in Atlus games, or maybe I should have said quirkier. Ogre Battle 64 featured the revolutionary team-battle strategy and Persona 2 had its Demon contacting engine, and then there's TA. Here you have a battle system where you take one of your characters, have him/her do all the attacking, and have your other party members sit in the back cheering you on. Those characters fighting behind the main attacker support him/her through healing spells/items and status upgrading spells. Surprisingly, this system works quite well in light of the fact that it's completely devoid of any strategy and can be learned and mastered in a few minutes.
This is where TA runs into its first really painful problem: the difficulty. Put simply, this game is EASY! The only dungeon that was remotely difficult was the last one, which is an RPG standard; that all last dungeons are to be hard. The rest of the caves and factories were simple, puzzle-free romps with one or two diverging paths that never sprawl around enough to confuse someone, and the random battles are also very simple, sometimes taking half a minute to complete; you rarely even have to heal yourself afterwards.
The last boss is a little harder, but that's still not enough of a challenge to please the Xeno3998.
Thousand Arms also reuses room designs and only changes a few colors to make it look fresh. This probably happened because the game was rushed, or just done half-assed, who knows, who cares, it's a big no-no and shows a lacking work ethic and a lack of dignity on the part of RED Company's programmers.
Why is this within GAMEPLAY you ask? Well, it's because the reused room designs detracted from the fun of the game, and made me think I was playing something done by a rookie RPG house, which is something RED Company is not.
Character animations and locale designs are nice to look at and easy on the eyes. The super-deformed characters look really cute and transform to their anime counterparts with ease. RED could have taken a little time to fix up some truly horrid jaggy lines, pixilated character animations, and slowdown, but none of this is enough to ruin Thousand Arms. The anime here is done nicely, and honestly looks better than Lunar SSSC, but the designs of these characters is uninspired and even more half-assed than the reuse of room constructions. Maybe if they hired the brilliant chaps who worked on the Xenogears anime, the characters would have left a more lasting impact on the Xeno3998. Too bad, this game has some real nice clips at the end of the game.
Overall, Thousand Arms is one of the ten best Playstation RPGs out there along with Xenogears, FFTactics, Lunar 1 & 2 and others. However flawed the game might be, it's still one of the more memorable RPG experiences of 1999 and comes strongly recommended by the XenoGod3998. Now, if only they would bless me with a sequel.