The Forbidden Arts is an action platformer that combines 2D stages set in 3D overworlds. The Forbidden Arts tries to combine the ability acquisition of a Metroidvania with the explorable overworld of a Cuphead or Super Mario Bros. 3, but it doesn't manage to achieve either goal in an entertaining way.
The Forbidden Arts follows the story of Phoenix, a warrior who seeks to learn the mysteries of pyromancy. Phoenix needs to travel to different realms and seek out various masters of magic in order to increase his own knowledge of fire spells. The game is broken up into different regions, each with their own 3D world map that contains hidden treasures and NPCs to interact with.
Might As Well Button Mash
The individual levels in The Forbidden Arts are 2D platforming stages that are filled with monsters and treasures to find. Phoenix fights using two swords and can jump off of walls in order to reach higher places. It's here that the problems with The Forbidden Arts begin. Phoenix's controls are janky, especially in regards to hit detection with his swords, while the jumping controls leave a lot to be desired. The real problem with the combat controls come into play when flying monsters start to appear, as the game has great difficulty detecting aerial strikes made by the player. The people who remember the bird enemies in the original Ninja Gaiden will know what to expect here, and sections that involve mandatory battles against flying opponents will come down to sheer luck, as there is no guarantee that any of your attacks will actually land.
The graphics in The Forbidden Arts wouldn't look amiss on the Sega Dreamcast, while the terrible character animations wouldn't look amiss in the movie FoodFight!. The poor quality of the visuals has done little to alleviate the load times, which are extremely long for a game that looks this bad. The random nature of a lot of the deaths (thanks to the previously mentioned poor combat/jumping controls) means that the player will be seeing a lot of this loading screen.
Light It Up
Phoenix learns new abilities over the course of the game as he defeats more bosses and these are spells that are tied to fire magic. In order to replenish his mana pool, Phoenix needs to draw fire from nearby sources in the game world (such as torches). This is an interesting mechanic and it would have worked in the game's favor if it had been included more, but there are an abundance of fires in the game and the player doesn't need to worry too much about running out of spells.
The random nature of a lot of the deaths in The Forbidden Arts is alleviated by the fact that the player has infinite lives, and the only consequence for failure is restarting from a nearby location. The Forbidden Arts also has the original Kingdom Hearts problem of including annoying dialogue scenes at the beginning of boss battles. The boss fights are the toughest parts of the game, which means that you could end up seeing the same dialogue repeated over and over again if one of the bosses is giving you trouble. The game ultimately comes down to brute-forcing through different combat encounters against the same repeating enemy types and hoping that the RNG gods are working in your favor.
It's possible that you might see The Forbidden Arts on sale for a dollar at one point, but that money would be better spent on a roll of paper towels, which could have some fun extracted from it by using it as a fake lightsaber after you're done with it.
1 Out Of 5 Stars
The Forbidden Arts is available now for Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Xbox One, with a PlayStation 4 version planned for Q4 2019. A digital copy for the Nintendo Switch version of the game was provided to TheGamer for the purposes of this review.