Persona-likes have certainly become a trend in the world of gaming, but the unique approach and familiar visual style of Mato Anomalies could help it rise above the rest. One part Sherlock Holmes and one part Persona 5, it’s set in a neo-futuristic Old Shangai and follows a private detective named Doe as he investigates the emergence of spatial anomalies that link to demon-filled pocket dimensions. And, after he looks into an unusual occurrence at the city’s docks, he meets Gram, a swordsman with a bandaged face and ragged samurai outfit. From there, these dual protagonists become a very different kind of Holmes and Watson.
Mato Anomalies isn’t even in the “beta” phase of its development. However, developer Arrowiz has nailed an aesthetic that evokes but differentiates from Persona just enough, and the way it blends together various concepts gels really well.
The Persona inspiration shines through in the bustling open-world city. Doe wanders around Mato to complete quest objectives and interact with others. We went hands-on with a PAX West 2022 build that wasn’t ready for a full exploration of the city, but it showcased brightly lit buildings and lanterns hanging in the streets like something out of a futuristic Chinatown. The signage (and the Arrowiz base in Shanghai, China) also indicate that it's supposed to be based on the idea of a Chinese city.
Most of the combat happens in anomalies or “mind hacks,” where the player engages in card games to change someone’s mind. Gram was the only character available for turn-based combat in the demo, but the team plans to make it possible for more characters to attack in one turn like in Persona 5 or Honkai Star Rail. Choose moves depending on their strength and cooldown to defeat an enemy with as little damage as possible. The strongest move might one-hit KO an enemy but take a couple of turns to recharge. Meanwhile, you can use your weakest attack every turn.
“Have no fear...You might not live long enough to regret it.”
On the other hand, “mind hacking” involves attacking with ability cards instead of weapons. Players draw four or more new cards at the start of each turn and can only play three at once. Only a few types of cards are available at the moment and sometimes don’t deal the damage they’re supposed to. Some cards strengthen your attack power, attack your target, or raise your defenses. So far, the offensive cards seem like the most useful for getting to the point. Arrowiz confirms that it’s reworking the mind hack feature so that more than one viable strategy stands out.
Mato Anomalies has a promising setup with only a skeleton of a build so far. Arrowiz informed us that it only had the “alpha” build of the game at the con, meaning it was one of the earliest builds that the company offered to players. It has parts of the story told through comic book-style panels and others told through dialogue boxes with different expressions. The comic panels look static, like something out of a Microsoft Word doc, but the actual character icons for dialogue boxes look like something out of Octopath Traveler. It’s a graphic dissonance that can stand to be polished, but again, it’s an early build of the game.
These are the sorts of things that can easily be refined during later stages in development.
The team assures Inverse that they have since revamped the prologue, clunky dialogue, the card game, and other major features — enough that it’s basically a different game. Will it slip sideways into a pocket dimension where things feel a little worse? Or will Mato Anomalies solve the case?