As a fan of indie games, I recently came across the trailer for Anima: Gate of Memories and was immediately impressed with its highly stylised Japanese-influenced art aesthetic. That the game also harked back to cult hits Nier, Bayonetta 2 and Limbo, was no coincidence and together with its rousing orchestral score, helped spur me into finding out more about the game.
Anima: Gate of Memories is a third person action RPG that is based on Carlos Garcia’s extremely popular Anima franchise – a series spanning board games, fantasy RPG books, and miniatures. Initially funded via Kickstarter, the game was recently published on PS4, XBox One and PC by the indie label BadLand Indie. And whilst the game has received mixed reviews since launch (with the Metacritic average being 54%), users on Steam have however chosen to give the game a “Mostly Positive” score.
With Destructoid piquing my interest after the site rated the game 8/10, I soon discovered that the anime inspired game is actually a Spanish production for which the team consists of just three people – with series creator, Carlos Garcia, helming the project as both Producer and Director. And even though I was initially disappointed with the prospect of Anima: Gate of Memories not being available in physical form, Anima Projects Studio quickly informed me that the title actually received a limited print-run on Sony’s PS4 console. In light of this, and wanting to support the developer, as well as being a fan of physical media, I bought a copy and think that the game is well-worth it’s sub-£20 asking price.
Whilst not a masterpiece, Gate of Memories does however have plenty of redeeming qualities that intrigue – not least the interesting world of Gaia. With this in mind, and curious about the game, I interviewed Carlos Garcia – creator of the indie action RPG Anima: Gate of Memories and writer of the Anima: Beyond Fantasy books – and got to ask him as to what inspired his creation. Enjoy!
How did you come up with the idea for Anima and what made you decide to embark on making it a successful series of books, card games, miniatures and board games?
It was during the time that I was studying Law. In that time, I began to write in my free time, and once I became a lawyer, I wanted to publish the book that I had written – the first Anima book. Luckily it became a huge success, and it allowed me to work in the world of Gaïa full time.
What inspired you to take your Anima creation from RPG tabletop board game and turn it into a videogame?
Everything. I mean, I wanted to create a videogame ever since the moment Anima was brought to life.
As CEO of Anima Project, can you tell us a little bit about your company and how it was founded?
In fact, this is the very same company I started twelve years ago when I began writing my books. I simply decided to create a videogame by myself and added one more member to the team.
Gate of Memories had two highly successful Kickstarter campaigns for which the first one generated over $110k, whilst the second one got over £21,000. What tips would you give to other indie developers who want to emulate your Kickstarter campaign success and deliver a successfully funded project to market?
Work on the presentation as if it is the game itself and be sure to show the idea and concept well that you want to create. Oh, and if you are successful, treat the people who support you as best you can. They are the ones who allowed you to create your game.
When the original Kickstarter was launched in November 2012, Anima Project Studio stated that the game would be released in June 2014. However, Gate of Memories didn’t come out until June 2016. Why do you think it took so long, and what are the reasons for the delay?
Being a small team of just 3 people and creating a game of the scope of Gate of Memories was really, really hard. We had the game ready just a few months after the original date, but the quality was not as good as we wished for
Despite the game’s crowd-funding success, you decided to partner with BadLand Indie to publish and physically distribute the title on PS4. What prompted this decision, and how were you able to secure a physical release (including an expensive Collectors Edition) when so many other indie games rarely get past digital only? At the same time, why is the game only available on physical format on PS4, and not on Xbox One?
Because BadLand allowed us to focus only on the game development, whilst they were in charge of the commercial elements and distribution. The game was released just on PS4 in physical format due to the different requirements of Sony and Microsoft.
As the writer and creator of the Anima universe, how easy has it been for you to translate your writing skills to videogames and tell a rich and meaningful story? What challenges did you encounter, and what advice would you give to other writers who are also thinking of making the transition to the videogames profession?
It is not easy, since with our limited budget creating cutscenes was impossible for us. However, there are always tricks, and my advice is simply to find a different way of telling a story.
According to the Gate of Memories Kickstarter video, you mentioned that you have over 7 years of experience working in the games industry. What is your background in games development and how were you able to acquire the necessary skills and experience so as to become the Producer and Director of your game?
The term “game industry” was not related to videgames, but to board-games, cards games and miniature games. I had to adapt part of that experience to videogames, which was similar and totally different at the same time.
The previous Castlevania inspired Anima game – Ark of Sinners – was developed by Anima Game Studio. With there being so little information about the company, what is the status of Anima Game Studio today and what is its connection to Anima Project?
There is no connection at all, other than both have developed a game on the same franchise. Anima Game Studio was an external company which was founded to create games based on the Anima franchise, but my involvement with it was partial. The final result was not what I wished for a game of the franchise. After the release of Ark of Sinners, the company made no more sense. Anima Project is now the only company that develops all Anima [related products] – books, games… a videogame.
Even though you acted as Chief Designer on Anima: Ark of Sinners, the game was ultimately headed up by Kubik Media’s Mario Ferrer who acted as Project Leader. What made you choose him and how come he hasn’t returned for Gate of Memories?
He has not returned because he was the Project Leader of Anima Game Studio. He has no relationship with Anima or the game we were developing. We wanted a fresh start. No links with anything from the past.
Wen Yu Li has been instrumental in forging the look of the Anima universe since the very beginning, with the graphic designer also playing a key role in conceptual and character designs for both Ark of Sinners and Gate of Memories. How did Wen Yu Li get involved with the Anima franchise and in what way has his work helped the series?
By chance. I loved his works, and contacted him when he was not yet well known. And of course, his huge talent has helped us a lot to be able to create the visual feeling of Anima.
Anima: Gate of Memories reminds me of Square Enix’s Nier in terms of its numerous genre-hopping play mechanics. When there are so many developers who struggle to get the basics right for just one genre, what inspired you to try your hand at incorporating numerous genre play styles (including third person exploration, isometric combat, and 2.5D platforming) as part of the game? Which titles would you say have been the biggest influence in taking this approach as well as the overall direction which Gate of Memories has taken?
We are passionate guys who always want to give the best of us. We wanted to create a game which was not repetitive – adding new mechanics and unique gameplay elements. The titles that influenced us were Kingdom Hearts, Nier, Devil May Cry, Bayonneta, Castlevania and Final Fantasy.
At the same time, what challenges have you faced in implementing these different play-styles, especially as part of a small 3-man team, and how did you overcome these obstacles?
Hehehe… So many challenges that I can’t even begin to count them. I guess the secret is hope, loving what you do, and spending countless hours at work. We worked every day of the week for 12 hours a day.
Most indie developers usually attempt to release a project on one platform before porting it over to other platforms. Given your limited resources, how were you able to release Gate of Memories on three separate platforms in quick succession? What hurdles did you face, and how were you able to overcome these?
With a lot of sacrifice and dedication.
To what extent did your Spanish upbringing and environment have an influence on the game, and how supportive has the development scene in Valencia been in helping you realise your goals?
No influence, and no help.
One of Anima: Gate of Memories‘ key strengths is its soundtrack, with both the PS4 Standard and Collectors Edition coming with a music CD. With the musical score being headed up by Damien Sanchez, how did you decide that he was a good fit for the project? What kind of feeling did you want to him to evoke via his music?
C’mon! It was easy to decide! That guy is a monster. We really loved what he did. About the feeling? We wanted him to create an orchestral OST that was full of evocative themes.
The original Kickstarter campaign in 2012 implied that Anastasia Devana would be heavily involved with the making of Gate of Memories‘ soundtrack, but the final product has no mention of her in the game credits. In the end, what was the extent of her involvement with the project, and why was she ultimately replaced by Damien Sanchez?
Anastasia is an incredible artist who we really wanted to work with, and we hope we will in the near future. But with our limited budget, we just couldn’t afford her talent.
One of the main criticisms that Game of Memories has faced is that certain aspects of the game feel unpolished, with the likely culprit being that you over-extended yourselves as a result of the team only consisting of three people. Knowing what you know now, how would you approach the game’s development if you could go back and do things differently?
We did what we wanted to do, so are happy with the result. But if we could go back, we would change a lot of the elements – especially the platforming sections and some jokes.
You originally had plans to release Game of Memories on Ouya and Wii U platforms. Is this still the case, and if so, when will the ports be coming out?
Ouya was just a possibility at the time, but I am afraid that it doesn’t have enough power for a game like Gate of Memories. Regarding the WiiU, we are all Nintendo fans and we are still working on the port. I can’t say if it is possible or not, but it will depend on how and when the NX is presented to the public.
Now that Anima: Gate of Memories has been released, what are your plans post-launch? Do you intend to support the game via DLC, expand on the world-building with a sequel, or focus on other projects not necessarily related to Anima? In other words, what are your and Anima Project Studio’s plans going forward?
Time will tell, but you can bet that our intention is to keep working in the world of Anima.