HomeReviewsGame ReviewsMato Anomalies Review: the intrigues of a retrofuturistic Shanghai

Mato Anomalies Review: the intrigues of a retrofuturistic Shanghai

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We played Mato Anomalies: take a look at this particular turn-based role-playing game with a Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk soul.

Mato Anomalies Review: the <a class=intrigues of a retrofuturistic Shanghai">

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Published last March 10 on all platforms currently in circulation, Mato Anomalies is a “JRPG” packaged by the Chinese studio of Arrowiz and strongly inspired by the ATLUS productions, from which the developers have borrowed several elements. As also told in the preview of Mato Anomalies, both the plot and the playful component recall the Shin Megami Tensei series and the unattainable Person 5, but beyond the similarities, Arrowiz’s albeit ambitious product did not prove to be in the least worthy of the masterpieces that the independent studio wanted to pay homage to (by the way, here you will find our review of Persona 5 Royal). Having thoroughly explored the dark-colored turn-based RPG, we are ready to tell you what really worked and what didn’t.

An undone puzzle of reality

Set in a retrofuturistic version of Shanghai in which the typical elements of cyberpunk and steampunk are mixed, the plot of Mato Anomalies drags the player into that of Mato, a colorful city overflowing with life, which behind appearances, however, it hides unspeakable horrors linked to a series of extremely bizarre phenomena. The absolute protagonist of the story is a not too bright aspiring detective named Doe, who in the very first minutes of the adventure is led bodily in the presence of Madame Nightshade, the rich and always well-informed owner of the Telosma Hotel, to investigate the mysterious and highly sought-after substance recently circulating in the underworld underground.

Determined to discover the secret of the so-called “AID”, our unlikely but courageous hero almost immediately plunges into a fissure that leads to an alternate reality populated by chilling monsters (whose design is loosely inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei bestiary) and becomes trapped in it. Called “Bad Tide”, the gruesome creatures of the parallel reality prove to be completely immune to conventional firearms, which is why a Doe unable to defend himself is saved only by the providential intervention of Gram, a disturbing exorcist with fighting skills comparable to those of the ninjas and seemingly determined to prevent the monsters from invading and conquering the human world. United by pure chance in bad luck, once they return to Mato the two individuals therefore decide to join forces and their respective talents to achieve the common goal: to stop the spread of the AID, which in some way is closely connected to the other world, and destroy the “Covi” of Marea Funesta, which according to what was told by Gram they feed on the hatred, the seat of power and the distorted desires of human beingseven going so far as to corrupt and possess them.

Thanks to a well-characterized cast and a discreet worldbuilding exercise, the narrative plot of Mato Anomalies is overall interesting, especially if the player appreciates the paranormal and mature, distressing and current themes such as the fight against corruption and the power exercised by big companies and underworld groups, the government’s tendency to cover up incidents, and so on.

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What doesn’t work, however, is the exposition of the story, which causes it some hated long-winded visual novel-style dialogue and a generous dose of backtracking, slows down the development of events enormously. If the first 15 minutes of the campaign inundate the user with an avalanche of confusing information that only begins to make a minimum of sense as time goes by, the following 30 hours needed to reach the end credits (which can even become 40, depending on the time spent on the countless side-quests) felt much slower than they should, which is why on several occasions we were almost tempted to skip unimportant conversations.

However, since Mato Anomalies presents choices that result in narrative crossroads and multiple endings, one of which ends the story prematurely, on balance skipping the dialogues – as far as possible – is not a realistically viable option, as it would put the user in the position of not being able to identify the correct answers. On the other hand, we appreciated the efforts made by the Prime Matter publisher of localize at least texts and menus in Italianwhich, net of a few typos here and there, seemed more than smooth.

Detective on the streets, exorcist in the dungeons

If the narrative structure is not exactly Mato Anomalies’ strong point, it must be recognized that this already performs better on a playful level, also because the developers – drawing heavily again from Persona 5 – have divided the gameplay into two distinct phases, making a strange cocktail of genres. Set in the human world, the sequences starring Doe ask the player to scour the streets of Mato to gather clues about the incidents that took place in the city and talk to NPCs to extract some secrets from them, while those centered on Grim are consumed in the labyrinths of world, where the exorcist and the other fighters that can be recruited during the campaign are called to face the Baleful Tide in battle.

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Although initially they were convincing us more than the latter, the former are the sequences that we appreciated less in the long run, since the collection of evidence and information forces the young detective to move continuously from one place to another in the city and to returning even hundreds of times to places already abundantly visited, in the hope that the inhabitants have some new clues to the cause. Bearing in mind that the city of Mato is not that vast and that in the first part of the adventure the accessible locations are very limited, the phases focused on Doe are afflicted by an exhausting repetitiveness that gets tired after a few hours.

In order to enliven the aforementioned and add a pinch of originality to the detective storythe guys from Arrowiz endowed the investigator with supernatural power through which he can literally enter the mind of one’s interlocutor and persuade him to collaborate.

Once a mental connection has been established, our alter-ego basically plays a game of cards with the interrogated person on duty, where the aim is to reset his health points. To succeed in this enterprise, at the beginning of what we could define as a real hacking of the mind the player is asked to choose one of the various decks owned by Doe, each of which favors a different type of approach: if for example the first is indicated for one-on-one clashes, the second favors the elimination of multiple targets, also because in most persuasions you will have to deal not only with the interrogated, but also with some demon intent on derailing the operation. Although nice, Arrowiz’s gimmick only half convinced us, as the secret to winning the neural challenges does not lie so much in the strategy or in the customization of the decks, but in the randomness: if with some decks it is practically impossible to obtain victory in certain duels, there are others in which it almost seems to have automatic pilot. Select the right deck at the start of the match in short, it is the only real requirement to complete the mind intrusion successfully. To the delight of those who do not like card games, the developer has nevertheless enabled the possibility of skipping neural clashes after three failures, without incurring the slightest penalty.

Once new dimensional fissures have been identified, the investigative phases give way to the exploration of the dungeons, which basically consist of long, fairly linear corridors full of enemies visible on the screen to be killed in order to pave the way towards the exit and the inevitable boss of the Cove. Strictly turn-based and based on the most tested mechanics of the genre, the combat system allows you to deploy up to four fighters on the field, whose health points are however shared.

Instead of having three individual HP bars, the team has only one, and since the use of special techniques does not require any MP, but is subject to sometimes even long cooldown times, it is very important to plan your moves and choose the suitable time to use healing skills. By having to pay attention to each enemy’s weaknesses and resistances, In short, Mato Anomalies offers a delightful strategic component, which if exploited properly simplifies even the most demanding battles on paper. In this regard, we point out that the Chinese study has preferred to implement a difficulty selector, which precisely allows you to change the challenge level at any time and adapt it to the player’s needs. Among the three available options (Easy, Normal and Hard), during our long test we chose the intermediate level, which only on very rare occasions ran into some not too high difficulty peak. Just a pity that the bestiary is quite lacking in varietywhich is why you will find yourself facing legions of common enemies that are almost always the same.


Artistically speaking, Mato Anomalies hides two extremely different souls: while the already mentioned labyrinths of the “hidden” world are linear, repetitive and a little remissive in terms of design, the city of Mato, with its flashy lights, neon and last but not least the play of shadows, is quite pleasant. The bipolarity of Mato Anomalies, however, does not stop at the rendering of the settings alone, but also touches on the polygonal models: if those of the NPCs are decidedly simpler and less detailed, at least the protagonists and supporting actors seemed more than satisfactory to us.

Also because budget constraints forced the independent developer to use Unity, an engine that is certainly accessible and versatile, but quite limiting in terms of polygonal complexity and level of texture detail. It is therefore not surprising that the publisher has opted for a budget price of €40, valid for both the digital edition and the Day One Edition physics.

We played Mato Anomalies on Xbox Series X, where the frame rate runs stably on 60 frame rates per second, with sporadic and almost imperceptible drops in the most agitated phases of the fight. Although the presence of uploads when moving from one district to another of the city can make you turn up your nose, at least on the current Microsoft flagship the speed of the same is not a problem at all. Let’s spend a few words also for the decent soundtrackwhich is well suited to the cyberpunk themes of the production and above all to the tones of the narration.

Mato Anomalies
Mato AnomaliesXbox Series X Analyzed VersionThere are several aspects of Mato Anomalies that don’t work as we would have liked. As interesting and engaging as it is, the narrative scaffolding is in fact slowed down by the presence of verbose dialogues (moreover not dubbed) in the visual novel style, while the play system does not offer particularly original solutions. Nonetheless, we do not feel at all rejecting the creature of the independent studio Arrowiz, which, net of an obviously tight budget, has nevertheless been able to shape a fun, accessible JRPG supported by a good strategic component.

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