Eastern RPG’s, as they are often called, are plagued with some stigmas; they tend to be repetitive, have odd design choices and are generally fairly linear. Magnacarta 2 is a new RPG from developer SoftMax and it falls prey to every generalization you have heard of or experienced.
The story of Magnacarta 2 centers around a young man named Juto who has amnesia and is thrust into a large scale conflict he doesn’t understand. A much-overused premise that is also compounded by the fact that Juto has a hidden power that he cannot control. Early in the game Juto meets Princess Rzephillda or Zelphie as her friends call her and he joins her and the squad she commands to battle the obligatory evil forces.
Basically, Princess Rzephillda’s kingdom was overrun and she went to an ally for assistance. He has his own plans, one of which is marrying the princess to solidify his power, and of course he is not what he seems. Juto develops feelings for the princess and has complex interactions with the other party members. He has a love/hate relationship with the volatile Crocell, camaraderie with the towering Argo and bemusement with the 12 year old Rue (who has an adult’s body).
Over the course of the game the customary twists occur and story is presented in three ways. At rare occasions a CG cutscene is displayed, most times dialogue is presented with semi static close-ups of the characters and voiceovers. After pivotal moments there is a washed out scene and Juto narrates his feelings. The issue is nothing here draws your emotions enough to truly care about what is happening. Juto is on this mission because of a lost friend and home but I had an issue even caring about it.
The story, as mentioned, is fairly cliché and does not bring anything new to the genre. It is not horrible, just bland and average and didn’t make me feel compelled to continue just to see what would happen. I really wish some of these eastern games would take a risk and try a new angle when developing. I know there is a saying that there are no original stories, but we have seen/played this type of story dozens of times already.
The look of Magnacarta 2 is a very mixed bag, I absolutely hate Juto’s design, while the small head and long anime body look works somewhat for the females, it looks ridiculous on him. Argo and Crocell look very nice and the females have the exaggerated hips and breasts that seem to be an anime trademark. The rest of the game looks nice but not groundbreaking. This is not a mature Xbox 360 game graphics wise; instead it seems like an early title with little in the way of standout visuals.
There are some nice touches at times when special powers are used but the camera in the game is not terribly intelligent and the close-ups during these moments block most of the effect. The camera is touchy much of the time and while it doesn’t hamper gameplay terribly it doesn’t do a great deal to impress most times either.
Audio is also hit and miss in the game, like many eastern RPG’s the voice acting in the English version is sub par at times and just okay at others. The music is really quite nice though and sound effects are handled competently. I will never understand why these games don’t find a perfect voice actor for the main character, Juto’s voice is incredibly annoying and he has a great amount of spoken lines in the game. Combine this with his not very appealing design and you have a main character you just cannot get attached to.
The real star of the game is not the story or the characters, but the combat and customization the game offers. The combat engine is actually something you activate, believe it or not, you can freely move around the world, but until you enter combat mode you and your companions cannot battle. Once you activate combat mode your three party members start attacking automatically and your hero is under direct control.
There is a twist in the fact that you can switch between party members at will. This is a crucial fact because the link command is truly the engaging part of battle. As you battle your energy, or stamina is depleted, when you hit the edge you enter overdrive mode where your attributes are increased. After an attack in Overdrive mode your character overheats, if you switch to another character quick enough you chain with them and they get bonuses as well. Balancing your characters, using your special attacks, watching your stamina and chain linking through the party to deal massive damage is fun and effective.
This engaging battle system really makes you pay attention in battles, you have to keep track of everyone and ensure you switch effectively to plow through your enemies. The characters also have interesting signature moves that are triggered as a quick time event. Some break armour, others regenerate the party and others deal massive damage. This system is well designed and as mentioned, fun, it would be nice to see other games take as much effort on their battle systems as Magnacarta 2 did.
The customization system is both appealing and basic in many ways. Each character has two weapon styles, as an example Argo can utilize either an Axe or a Hammer. He can equip each weapon and you can fairly easily switch between them. You can also attach Kamonds (gems with various benefits) to the weapons. The rarer the weapon the more Kamonds you can attach. This is a nice way to make you decide whether to keep that new weapon or upgrade the older one. You can also equip Kamonds and accessories to enhance your overall characters as well.
While the weapon customization is nice you have no control over your characters skill progression or levelling (it happens automatically). As well there are no visual changes when equipment is altered (aside from weapon changes), in this day and age this is inexcusable as the changes are an appealing cue when upgrading. Magnacarta 2 has some nice features when equipping your characters, but the depth and excitement is just not there because of the basic nature overall.
Magnacarta 2 is not a terrible game, it is just thoroughly average and doesn’t attempt to be anything more then that. It dabbles from time to time with some interesting concepts, the combat in particular, but fails to capitalize on the potential. At the end of the day Magnacarta 2 will be somewhat enjoyable for those that enjoy a very traditional eastern RPG experience, but it does nothing to set itself apart as a landmark title.
Magnacarta 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Mild Suggestive Themes.