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Thousand Arms
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Thousand Arms is a quirky RPG that uses its more amusing elements to disguise its lackluster and painfully underwhelming story.  And it almost works.  The story goes much like this.  Meis, pronounced like the rodent, is the son of a long line of womanizing but proud spirit blacksmiths.  His family name is suddenly ruined when his father picks cowardice in the face of an attack.  So Meis stumbles into another town and finds a master smith and decides to become an apprentice, more to impress the girls than to learn anything.  Avenging his family name is actually never brought up, the story is just an excuse to go from shrine to shrine collecting all the "Holy Flames".  After you beat one shrine, someone typically goes "Hey I've heard about these ruins somewhere here."  And then you repeat the process while the main villain laughs menacingly in the background waiting for his master plan and sending out his minions one by one.  And that about sums it up.  Plus the villain is one of the most trite and cliched ever made, with utterances so melodramatic and drawn out like "Flaaaaaaaaaame of Daaaaaaaaarkness."
The battle system is also questionable.  You pick which character to be in the front line and which two characters to be in the back.  Fighting takes place on a flat 2D plane, and with both the enemies and your characters, only the frontline combatants fight each other one on one.  Meanwhile the support characters are stuck doing nothing except cast healing spells and tossing "spells in bottles".  And since there are no class distinctions and everybody can have every spell, you'll want to use your three most powerful characters over and over again.  This.  Does.  Not.  Make.  Sense.  Add to this annoyance spells that are not helpful except for healing spells and some utterly horrendous music, and you've got the makings of a subpar game.
What keeps this game from being totally painful are some of its more amusing aspects.  Meis is completely unlikable, but a lot of the other characters are some of the funniest you'll ever see in a game, especially the girls.  You'll see an apparently good-natured girl spout off some of the rudest language allowable in a game.  I don't know if there's an uncensored version of this game, but just the concept of hearing the "beep" in a game is a trip.  There's also a lot of other giggle-inducing buffoonery happening.  Thousand Arms is also a different type of creature than most RPGs.  See not only is it an RPG but it's also a dating game.  Okay, granted it's a really shallow dating game, a genre that's already shallow in its own right, but it's really fun picking locations and answering the questions of the many girls in the game.  Some of the girls are pretty immature, and dating them is actually kinda creepy, if not pedophilic.  But what the hey.  As Meis dates all these girls, his intimacy level with them increases.  Then as each of the characters go up in levels, Meis picks a girl and uses her "spirit power" to reforge the characters' weapons, making them stronger.  Each girl also has different spells and special moves to offer at each intimacy level.  I found this to be an interesting spin on the typical RPG elements.  Another plus in this game's favor--even though you bump into an enemy every few steps, the battles are still fast and not "deadly" challenging like most RPGs.  Just be sure you can stomach that lousy combat music.
Thousand Arms is definitely worth a look, especially if you're a fan of the funnier animes.  But beyond the characters and the dating, it left me feeling rather empty, especially with the fairly weak resolution.
Grade: Flawed

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