Review by Prealienking
It is a JRPG. It gives you what you expect from a good JRPG, and nothing more.
First, the story: Throughout the game, there was a phrase that kept coming to my mind that, I felt, perfectly described the story in essence. That phrase is "generically deep". An oxymoron, I know, but hear me out. The plot utilizes plenty of RPG clinches. Boy wakes up with amnesia, boy's home is destroyed, boy meets girl/love interest who agrees to help him, they go on an awesome adventure, meet new people, and save the world.
MagnaCarta 2 takes place in Lanzheim, a land driven by civil war between the north and the south. Shortly after the war started, Doomseeds, which take away a wizards ability to use magic, began to fall from the sky periodically. Thus, the war increased in magnitude with each side trying to end it so the Doomseeds would stop falling.
The game stars Juto, a young man who woke up on Highwind Island with amnesia. Highwind Island is attacked by the north, Juto's sister-like friend is killed, and he flees with the Princess.
Once safe, Juto decides to join the Princess' military group called the Counter Sentinel Unit, which operates to take out monsters the North create. By the way, I will give the Counter Sentinel Unit one thing. They have the most straight-forward directive I have ever heard. "Absolutely do not die." is their primary directive. Even that plays a large role later on in the story.
The depth comes from your experiences throughout the game, and seeing the world's view on your actions helps with that. The character's interactions with the people of the world also help flesh out the land of Lanzheim. Though, however deep or shallow the world can be, it is still employing a large amount of clinches.
The characters follow, pretty much, the same phrase as the all-around plot line. "Generically deep." You have Juto, the boy with amnesia who is driven by revenge. Followed by him is Princess Rzephillda, whose name is so complex, even in their world, that people just call her Zephie. She also commands the Counter Sentinel Unit. Her close friend, and squad mate, is Argo, the overly large and noble beast of the group. You also meet Crocell, the fire using and fiery-headed douche of the group. Later on, you meet Celestine, the childishly nice grown-up child of the group. Finally, Rue, the ridiculously strict grown-up child of the group. I do have to say though; Rue was a pretty surprising character who wasn't pegged on first sight.
Each of the characters has their own back stories, minus Rue. Her only back story was her job of protecting the Princess. Juto has, arguably, the most interesting back story, due to his amnesia. You get hints of the back story, misleading hints, throughout the game in the form of dreams and visions. This leads to some pretty surprising twists and turns later on.
The place where the characters really shine lies in their interactions with one another. This game will actually stop you occasionally so two characters can exchange a few lines of dialog. I know it may sound annoying, but it really helps you get attached to the characters. This game also takes some risks on certain, um, relationships, or should I just say a relationship.
It is also really hard to talk about the characters without giving some praise to the voice actors. You will probably recognize a decent amount of the voices, as a majority of the characters are voiced by the same voice actors that do the anime, "Bleach". They even share the same main voice actor, Johnny B. All around, the voice acting is done wonderfully. The actors do a great job of getting and staying in the role. However, there are some questionable pieces of dialog throughout the game, and one casting I just didn't understand. The common mare man, who looks like an elf who decided to be a trapeze artist, has a deep voice.
Besides that, the voice acting very well suits the characters and compliments them in nearly every way.
The graphics look nice. The style they chose is a very aesthetically pleasing on, and really pushes the idea that they live in a "paradise". The colors are vibrant and the character designs are detailed while still remaining in the anime style.
The animations used throughout the game bring new life to the characters. Each character has their own set of individual animations that occur during cut scenes, and while limited, the animations do a fantastic job of what they need to do: give the characters life.
The computer generated cut scenes serve the purpose of the actions and presenting the more dramatic dialog. With the cg cut scenes, when you mix in Juto's monologues, and the normal cut scene format, you get some fairly strange presentations that jump between monolog to dialog to cg back to the monolog and ending with a bit of the dialog. The presentation definitely is a strange one early on, but by the end, they grow to make more sense and follow a better pattern.
There is a nice variety of music. The music adds a very subtle touch to the atmosphere that just helps push it even further. However, there were some strange choices of music. About halfway into the game, there was a pretty dramatic boss battle; during the actual battle, the same music that played during regular monster battles was played. The choice of music for that battle really detracted from the dramatic tone the dialog and character aesthetics tried to set up.
Now to talk about the big one: the gameplay. All the other sections could be pure bliss like bouncing on clouds, but a bad set of gameplay mechanics can turn that bounce on clouds into being chained to a rabid wolverine. Fortunately, MagnaCarta 2 doesn't toss you to the dogs.
Let's start with the biggest part of an action RPG, the action. The game utilizes a real time battle system with a three member party. Each character can have one set skill, and one support skill. You can change the set skill by upgrading your skills to get even better abilities, but the support skill stays the same based on the weapon your characters use. You use the changeable skills by acquiring kan, the games version of a magic bar. Instead of refilling your magic using items, you acquire kan from either combat, or items. Strength kan, which is the type of kan that the two tanks use, is saved, whereas spirit kan, which the four other characters use, diminishes over time. You can also create items using kan to replenish it at a later time, so you don't get have to get stuck in a boss battle with no way of healing or buffing your team mates from the get go.
On the subject of teammates, then we should also discuss the AI. Simply put, the AI does their job...barely. You can change what their focus is in the battle menu, but for the most part, that is useless; telling the AI to attack the nearest enemy works for nearly every single battle in the game. The only problem with that is that there are times where they won't battle at all. The character will actually stand back and watch you fight. Not only that, but even the enemies have a state where they enemy will run as far away from the battle as possible. The enemy won't heal, they won't buff, nor will they attack from a distance. The enemy will just run away and stand there until you walk up to them and they suddenly remember that they are in a fight, as if the fight never began in the first place.
The game employs the use of a quick switch system where you can change between active characters in your party quick and seamlessly. Building on this, the developers put a stamina bar on each character. When the stamina bar fills up, you go into overdrive mode. In overdrive mode, you do more damage. However, if you stop your combo in overdrive mode, which does happen eventually, your character overheats. The way to get around this is the "chain system". In the chain system, you go into overdrive and use one of your skills. Then, you switch to a new character after using the skill and that character enters a chain drive. If the new active character can use a skill without ending his combo, then both characters get to skip the overheat phase. This can be very useful in boss battles, so you don't have to worry about standing there helplessly.
MagnaCarta 2 also allows you to upgrade your weapons through the use of kamonds. The kamonds work in a similar fashion to the weapon augmentations in Fable. Kamonds provide the ability to upgrade skills, provide immunity to status ailments, and allow more generation of Kan, gold, experience, or skill points. Mixing and matching the kamonds effectively will even give your weapon a bonus ability that will either help you or hurt the enemy more.
Finally, what is an RPG without upgrading characters? Each character has two skill trees, which are based on the two weapon types they can use. Upgrading in the skill tree allows you to use better skills for battle. For example, I didn't realize there was a skill tree until I was around twenty-some hours into the game. Before that, my strongest attack did roughly one thousand damage. After that, my, new, strongest attack did thirteen thousand damage.
All in all, MagnaCarta 2 is a well-crafted Japanese RPG experience. The fusion of voice acting, a fairly well written story, a fantastic art style, and an enjoyable combat system brings a memorable experience to the Xbox 360. If you are a big Japanese RPG fan, then chances are, you will like this.
On amazon, you can get the game for anywhere between 24 and 30 dollars new. You can get it for 20 dollars used from GameStop. If you are a very big JRPG fan, then this game will probably be worth the 20 to 30 dollars. If you are a regular RPG fan, then this might be worth the price. Look at other gameplay and see what you think. In my play through, I got roughly 55 hours of gameplay. That is doing a majority of the side quests and doing a fair amount of grinding, which is in no way required.
Product Release: Magna Carta 2 (US, 10/13/09)
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