Blacksmithing, RPGs, and dating sims collide in Thousand Arms, a game where smooth talking the ladies can help power up your weapons as well as earn you new spells and abilities. Atlus scores yet another hit on this playstation classic that blends multiple genres, lots of great humor, and much more. See? Being a pervert DOES have its benefits!
Available For: PS1
Developer(s): Red Company, TOSE
Release Date: 1999
Archetype(s): Date Sim, RPG
Back in the 90s, I was still wrapped up in what the next big Squaresoft title was, so it was few and far between that I actually played something else unless it was Enix or something. Sure, Atlus releases great RPG after great RPG these days, but back in the 90s I didn’t pay much attention to them. It should also be noted that most RPGs back then were pretty serious with only a few rare exceptions.
In many respects, Thousand Arms is highly innovative, especially for its time. I think what threw people off initially was the graphics. Sure, the full screen stills, cutscenes, and battle graphics were really good, but outside that the overall chibi look is a bit…odd. In fact, especially for the time it was released, it gave an overall impression of low production value if you simply judged by first glance.
The other major issue was a lack of marketing. If you ask most JRPG enthusiasts now, they’ll usually speak pretty highly of Thousand Arms, but if you’d asked them back in the 90s, they probably wouldn’t have any idea what you were talking about. So what’s the game about, exactly? Well, the game is effectively about becoming an adept spirit blacksmith, restoring your family name, and ridding the land of evil.
Fairly standard stuff, but what really brings charm to this title is the date sim aspect, overall humor, and how battles are handled. Now let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, the game is super pervy, much like what happens in some of the Ar Tonelico stuff, but taken to the nth degree at times. The main character, and often some of his male companions, are huge womanizing bastards that come off more hilarious and exaggerated than disgusting and pig-like.
The date sim aspect is kind of a toss up too, because it’s mostly just the girl asking a bunch of quiz-like, obvious answer questions about herself with some questions having no correct answer basically relying on her “mood” to dictate the course of the date more than really thinking about what she likes and dislikes. Even still, the voice acting and dialogue overall is very good, so this is a minor point.
There are also minigames you can play with the girls, but they’re all pretty crap and it’s better to simply save date points up to go on dates rather than stupid side diversions. The whole point of dating, however, is to get new abilities. See, here’s the thing. All the girls that join your party (and certain special ones that are special NPCs) have different elements linked to them, complete with differing abilities that can be unlocked by increasing intimacy levels.
Once you get to these levels, then you need to expend date points to forge and reforge weapons. In a way, it’s almost like Suikoden’s forging concept, but with elements, dating, and multiple levels that grant abilities. It’s really quite ingenious from a technical angle. Furthermore, even if you don’t get the intimacy levels to raise, you’ll want to continuously revisit the forge when you level up so your weapon level can match your character level.
As far as combat goes, you have one character in the front line and two in the back. You can set up individual tactics for both and often the back row will cheer the front row while you perform attacks, abilities, and so on. It doesn’t sound too innovative, but the timing of your tactics is key and there are a variety of strategies you can set up with just this one simple setup.
So would I recommend it? Well, the first question is how adverse are you to having to do dating sims in order to progress the game? If you really don’t mind it or actually want it, then there you go. If it’s something you think would bother you, then yeah, give it a pass, but know that you’re passing up an absolutely marvelous game. For oldschool RPG fans, this is a must have.