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PS2 Review: Magna Carta – Tears of Blood (EU)

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Before I get started on this review, I have to set something straight. I’m not the biggest fan of RPG titles. For an RPG to get my attention, it really needs to raise my eyebrows with a rock solid storyline, an easy to use fighting system, and artistic graphics and sound to really immerse me in the game world and protagonist’s quest, without being too similar to the endless amounts of RPGs that flood the market. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the Xbox 360 was one such title that ticked all of my boxes, grabbed hold of me, and never wants to let me go, as was Dragon Quest VIII, and so was Magna Carta…or, at least in theory, it should have been.

This is a really hard review for me to write. You see, most of my criteria to make a good RPG is not only met, but exceeded in Magna Carta, but the pieces don’t quite fit as they should.

The game is absolutely gorgeous and just oozes personality. Considering this is on an ageing system, the coders must have pushed the PS2 to its limit to create the vast, beautiful, and varied worlds that litter this game. Everything in the game looks unique compared to your common, or garden, RPG; even the old stereotypical desert areas and forests have incredible artistic design to make it all seem fresh faced and new, especially in Progressive Scan 480p.

The sound design is just as good as the graphics too. Beautiful melodies flow seamlessly into the style of your surroundings, and intense dramatic music pours out of the speakers when you’re fighting monsters. Unfortunately the voice acting is a bit shaky and lets the overall experience slide a little, but considering that a lot of modern day RPG’s still don’t have any vocal work at all, I can’t really let that affect the game’s score.

So far, so good.

Then there’s the storyline. I won’t spoil too much for you here, but let’s just say that you play the role of a mercenary for a group called “The Tears of Blood.” You participate in an epic battle against disease, famine, Yason, and Blast Worms alongside a girl with no memory. You really start to care for the characters throughout the multitude of plot twists and turns as you progress further into the world of Efferia.

Okay, so nice unique graphics? Check. Great sound? Check. Decent Storyline? Check. What about the battle system?

[ADBLOCKHERE]Well, this is where the game fails. It’s obvious that the developers really tried hard to make a battle system that has never been done before, and to some extent they’ve pulled it off, but at the expense of making it intuitive to use. The battles are turn based in natural RPG fashion, but with a slight twist, a ParRappa the Rapper style twist. In order to get maximum damage from your attacks, you have to tap a string of 3 buttons in succession with the correct timing. If you miss a beat, you lose your turn to attack. Sounds a bit cumbersome and tricky to get the hang of, right? Well, it’s about to get a bit worse. To actually pull off an attack, the characters can only attack if the land they’re standing on is blessed with certain types of Chi energy. Attack from the same spot too many times and you’ll drain it all, rendering you unable to attack until it recharges. This fighting mechanic is just far too difficult to master, and certainly isn’t enjoyable to play, let alone perfect.

Magna Carta falls at the last hurdle, which is a terrible shame. What should have been an amazing RPG has been turned into a slightly above average one for trying to be too damn clever for its own good. Still, if you think the battle system won’t force you to tear your hair out in handful sized chunks, I’d thoroughly recommend this RPG to fill the gap until Final Fantasy XII and Kingdom Hearts II are released here in the UK.

Magna Carta: Tears of Blood is rated 12+ by PEGI because the game contains depictions of violence.

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