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An Underrated Gem That Shouldn't Be Missed
When I walked into my local video game store and asked for CIMA: The Enemy, all I got was a blank stare. The clerk waiting on me took over twenty minutes trying to find it and when he did, he was surprised that there was such a game. This game wasn't even on their display of Game Boy Advance games and I had gotten their last and only one. Indeed, this game is a rarity and most people have never even heard of it. It is a shame because it is an excellent game, that dares to break away from the norm and gives us new innovation for our GBA. Not only that, but it looks excellent!
Let's start off with the plot. Three gate guardians who are Ark J (main character), Jester, and Ivy, and fourteen pioneers are aboard a train heading for the new frontier. The pioneers range from a magician to the conductor, to a blacksmith to a priest. As the train is traveling along, all of a sudden a Gate opens up and the train is sucked into a world of CIMA.
CIMA are monsters who feed on the hopes of humans. With this in mind, it is up to Ark, Ivy, and Jester to save the fourteen pioneers and lead them out of this world safely. By doing so, you must lead the pioneers through a series of dungeons to find the exit. There is an interesting plot twist that takes place in the beginning and I don't want to give too much away so I really can't say more about the games plot without spoiling. However, throughout the game, the plot stays somewhat simplistic. True, there are plot twists and the characters do indeed develop, but in the end, I wanted more depth. The localization is very good throughout the game until the end. I found nearly four typos close together in the end. It is like they didn't have time to edit the entire text. Still, the localization quality is top-notch.
Now we go on to the battle system. It is rather simplistic, as is the rest of the game. Basically, the main character has two attacks. A simple slash with the sword, and a charged attack that is comprised of two quick slashes. See, the point of this game is rather to keep the pioneers, themselves, rather than defeat the endless CIMA so a majority of the game isn't based around fighting, so it isn't too bad. Besides, there are times when you play as one of the pioneers to battle CIMA. Some of them are strong and others are absolute wimps. Also, for some stupid reason, Ivy follows you nearly everywhere you go, but she does nothing but get hurt. If anyone dies, it is game over, so she doesn't help the matter much. Luckily though, during boss fights, Ivy can't get hurt.
The interface takes a bit of getting used to. At first, I was very confused on how to do everything, but about an hour or so in, I got the hang of everything. In no time, I was directing my pioneers where I wanted them. However, there is one flaw with the pioneers; to put it plainly, the AI stinks. If you don't line up your points on where to put them up in a straight line or diagonally, they will get stuck. A couple times, which I think may be a possible glitch, my pioneers got stuck when there was nothing even in front of them. That was just pathetic. Alas, you will have to get used to this minor annoyance. And another problem I had is your pioneers will just sit there and let the CIMA unmercifully slaughter them (even though they have weapons) so you will have to go over their and save their necks. However, the concept of the pioneers is very original and brings a fresh air to RPGs. The game retains old school goodness while bringing in enough innovations so it never feels old or stale. Not to mention, this game is a blast to play.
Now, if everything else is good, so does it sound and look good? I can give that question a good solid yes. The music, from the opening theme is excellently composed and makes good use of the GBA's speakers. Everything sound sensational. Some of the sound effects do get annoying from time to time, but nothing terribly annoying. Visual wise, this game is absolutely stunning. Every character, CIMA, dungeon, and area looks fantastic. The forests are lush, the caves are earthy but full of details, and even snowy caverns look top notch. The shadowing is amazing, and never once does the game experience slowdown even when all those pioneers and CIMA are on the screen. This is one of the best looking games on the GBA up to date.
Even though as great as this game is, I can't see myself going through it again for a good long while. It just doesn't have any secrets to unlock, and rare items to get (there are a total of like only 20 items in the game), and nothing really special to do the second time through. While the replay value is lacking, your first time through is guaranteed to be a blast. See, you never go up any levels at all. You start with 18 HP in the beginning and you finish with 18 HP. However, in the middle of the game, you can upgrade your weapons and armor with material and that helps out a bunch. Speaking of which, the game's difficulty is a bit of a mixed bag. In the dungeons and puzzles themselves, the difficulty is medium or moderate, but the boss battles are pretty hard. When you battle them, prepare to die...a lot. Yes, I counted one time, and I died a total of 30 times before I beat one of the bosses towards the end. Luckily, you can save right before them, and going back to try again doesn't take long.
Lengthwise, it took me about 23 hours to finish this game and I can see where people could rush through and finish it a little over 10 depending on how fast or slow you are. The time really seems to fly when playing and it doesn't feel that long when you have already wasted 3 hours. That's how good it is.
Overall, this is a must-own for anyone who has a GBA or is searching for a good RPG to play. Sure, it's simplistic, its difficulty is a bit unbalanced, but it an absolute blast. This is one of my favorite GBA RPGs. Also, there is supposed to be a trilogy of these games and I can't wait for the other two. All in all, this is a worthy purchase for anybody!
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