Anima Mundi: Dark Alchemist
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I didn't want to start this review without first explaining a bit about this genre and the company that produces these games.
Hirameki International has been creating interactive DVDs for three years. These DVDs are a mix of anime, manga and "choose your own adventure" books. They're called AnimePlay, and Hirameki has been responsible for bringing this type of game from Japan to North America, making every otaku's delights. The American versions of AnimePlay keep the original Japanese voice acting while translating the subtitles into English, combined with beautiful manga artwork and anime-style music and sound effects.
Anima Mundi: Dark Alchemist is the latest interactive novel by Hirameki, a gothic horror visual novel with interactive play and multiple endings.
The story revolves around the life of Count Georik Zaberisk. Georik is a doctor and a defender of the country town he lives in with his sister, Lilith. In an unfortunate turn of events, Lilith is identified as a witch and beheaded by some cult in the presence of all the villagers. Georik returns to find his sister's head on the ground, and in a fit of rage sets the entire town on fire, fleeing to the capital city. Strangely enough, Lilith's head still lives, talking and breathing as if her body was still attached to it.
The main plot deals with Georik's efforts to find a way to restore his sister back to her former self. In a world where scientists are trying to fuse mechanical parts to flesh, there is no room for magic or alchemy. As Georik finds his late father's laboratory in the basement of his mansion, he decides to study alchemy and find a new body for Lilith.
Anima Mundi: Dark Alchemist is a story of good versus evil, demons and voices from heaven, magic and science, love and hate, trust and betrayal. It's like a Shakespearian tragedy with interactive elements, that slowly unfolds into more complicated choices. The gameplay will test the boundaries of morality, seeing how far will you go to save your sister from her horrifying situation. Georik constantly struggles with the conflict between the honorable intent of helping his sister get her old life back and the unpleasant means used to achieve that goal.
With a series of mouse clicks, you sit and watch as the story progresses. But at certain times you will be given a time limit to make a choice, which will affect how the game goes on. For example, right in the beginning, you will be asked a series of questions that don't really make sense (at least not at that point in the story). These questions will influence your progression and what ending you will get. In other occasions, you get to play a guessing mini-game with Lilith or you can have you fortune told by picking a card. And later on, you also gain activities to do at night before sleep, such as researching, searching the mansion, visiting the alchemy shop or going to the library.
Usually, searching, researching and reading will add new entries to your Alchemy Encyclopedia. Whatever is available in the Encyclopedia is what you will be able to use in your research to discover new things.
This interactive digital book offers beautiful artwork, great musical score composed of symphony and chorus, superb voice acting even though it's all done in Japanese, and I was especially impressed with the storyline and dialogs. These are wonderfully written aside from a couple of minor typos here and there, and I was extremely glad for not finding any "Engrish". Hirameki has truly done an outstanding professional job in this title.
Anima Mundi: Dark Alchemist will provide you with hours of gothic horror entertainment. Expect a lot of reading (I would have liked a little more interactivity), but if you enjoy the macabre, plot twists and shocking revelations, you will keep on clicking just to learn more.
Special thanks to Laura Nuffer and Hirameki International for providing a copy of this title.