CIMA: The Enemy - GBA - Review
"A revolutionary new type of RPG!" That's what the box promises, and it isn't lying either. CIMA: The Enemy is one of the most unique role-playing games I have ever experienced.
It's obvious from the screenshots alone that this is an action/RPG. What the shots don't tell you is that the game includes one very interesting goal: to protect your people. Arc J, the star of the game, is a Gate Guardian. His everyday tasks include walking around and talking about how he will protect all of the train passengers from danger. One day things get ugly when the train gets sucked into a mysterious portal. The train car – along with the game's hero, his friends and several passengers – end up in another world. You're stuck, and would prefer to just forget the whole thing and go home. But you have a job to do: protect the passengers and see that their safety comes before your own.
That story element is an important part of the gameplay. The train car passengers are no match for the danger that awaits them in this crazy world, so you'll have to be clever, think and plan each move carefully to guide them to safety. The first level seems easy once you've figured out what needs to be done and how to do it, but until that point it feels like a chore. Players are required to direct each passenger to specific parts of the level, creating necessary bridges and opening other areas that must be crossed. While trying to figure out where the passengers should go, enemies begin coming out of a crystal enemy generator. You can kill the enemies but they'll never stop coming. Your primary goal is to protect the passengers and prevent their health meters from dropping to zero. This presents an entirely different kind of challenge to gamers. We're all used to battling to kill, or battling to defend ourselves. But battling for the sake of others -- that's never been done on the Game Boy Advance before.
CIMA has a little bit in common with console-based real-time strategy games. To direct the passengers to safety you press the R button. Upon doing so a plus-shaped menu will appear on the screen. It has five squares within it, and you can choose to select one, two, or three of the four passengers. After doing this a cursor will appear, and as you may have guessed, you use the cursor to mark a path for the passengers to follow. This can be difficult. The frequent enemy attacks make it hard enough. The passengers seem to follow the commands pretty well, almost too well at times, but the level layout and unobvious puzzles make things confusing. Puzzles aren't supposed to be obvious – I always welcome a challenge there. But this is a new experience for all of us. It would have been better to start CIMA with a clear, step-by-step tutorial.
Although you may not always enjoy protecting the people, RPG nuts will love all of the story details that each character has to offer. You can talk to them frequently and will hear some interesting things from them. Repeated chats with the same person will not usually yield any new conversations until the game has changed or advanced in some way, but that's true of any RPG. Since the 10+ passengers are more or less main characters, their stories are generally important. The children have less interesting things to say than the adults though.
If talking to chatty Shelly or cranky Doug isn't your bag, you have one reason to stick out their dialogue: item creation. In CIMA, the helpless people who expect you to save them are not really that helpless at all. They can create antidotes, healing potions, defense items, and more. Some of these characters (which are typically unplayable) can become playable to conquer certain parts of the game! You may need new character to help you solve a puzzle. Or you may want to make one active to enhance the storyline.
CIMA: The Enemy is without a doubt the most unique RPG released on the GBA this year. Unique gameplay doesn't necessarily translate into a fun experience though. This is a good game, but know what you're getting yourself into. You won't be summoning monsters, racking up tons of EXP, or spending your time trying to save a princess. The game is all about your people – the people you were appointed to protect on the train. RPG lovers will appreciate, but not necessarily love, what this game has to offer. It's unlikely that rental chains will offer this title, but do your best to try and rent it anyway. Or, if you really want to purchase it, I recommend getting it from a store that accepts returns. Some game shops accept returns of opened titles up to seven days after the purchase.
CIMA: The Enemy will come as a surprise to nearly every RPG fan. The screenshots will lead you to believe that this is a standard action/RPG, with the possibility for strategy game elements. CIMA is anything but "standard." Your serve-and-protect mission will have you defeating monsters merely for the sake of your people's safety. You must lead them to safe places, activate them to solve puzzles, and talk to them to forge items. It's quite an experience, but it's not for everyone. A good game for a long car trip, but it might not be the kind of game that you'd want to spend hours playing at home when you could be playing something else.
Mostly average. There are no spectacular 2D effects or anything else out of the ordinary to be seen in this game.
Game Boy Advance has some great RPGs, but rarely is their soundtrack comparable to the gameplay. What a shame.
If you can beat this game without getting frustrated, you're ready to take on anything.
Worthy of getting the attention of every RPG fan on the planet, CIMA: The Enemy is a new kind of action/RPG.
As Yoda might say, "Difficult to rate, this game is." Indeed, CIMA: The Enemy has a lot going for it. It gives players a mission to complete that is unlike any other they've experienced on the GBA. That alone makes it intriguing and worth checking out. The gameplay is slow, but fun and also repetitive. With only one main goal, the innovation seems less important when you wish you could just abandon the passengers and go on a new journey.