Imagine, you wake up on an island with total amnesia; no knowledge of who you are, where you’re from or anyone who may even remotely know you. Such is the situation of our main character, Juto, from the game MagnaCarta 2. In the time he spends on the island, it’s peaceful and we are given a tutorial on how to access different functions such as opening our menus, fighting enemies and interacting with NPCs.
After the tutorial sequence has ended, we’re redirected to the main plot where Princess Rephillda and her army arrive at your island, cluing you in of an ongoing civil war that has separated the continent of Lanzheim in twain. She pleads for your chief’s leader assistance by letting them use the island as a supporting location for the Southern Army of Lanzheim only to have the primary antagonist, Schuenzeit show up and try to take over with his Northern Forces. As you question the madness of having war brought upon your peaceful life, you decide to join Zephie and her crew after seeing your best friend killed before your eyes by a mysterious man, Elgar. Your journey starts, fueled by revenge and with a heart filled with hatred only to see, as things go along, nothing is as it seems.
As you progress through the story, the game tips you off on various things you can do in the world you’re left to explore and do quests in such as pulling off stronger techniques, enhancing characters’ equipment to better tailor to the player’s needs, beefing up characters’ traits by applying skill points to two skill trees presented for each and the ever present equipment shops that’ll provide the player with whatever they need for a stiff price.
As far as gameplay goes, MagnaCarta 2 does provide the player with a decent level of difficulty, but only seems to peak at difficulty when confronted with a boss or when the player is low on items. Much like the Legend of Zelda games, it’s something that progressively grows harder and more complex as you play along, but does so in accordance with how far one’s gotten through the game. Thankfully, it’s not a terribly long game either; running in at about 50 hours of gameplay which is a pretty cushioned area for an RPG. It provides a long enough time frame to keep one entertained adequately and it's not too long -the error of many RPGs as of late- dragging players through unnecessary and arduous hours. If the player decides to try and blow through the main story and forgo the side quests however, the game will last roughly 20 hours, quite possibly less if they choose to take advantage of the Xbox Marketplace’s downloadable content (priced at 400 MSP) for the game, giving the player a stock of twelve super-powerful weapons and three cinematics (all of which required for full completion).
As is custom for Banpresto, Bandai Games and Atari, graphics are a key selling point. At many points in the game, the player gets to see elements of the story played out through high definition cutscenes while more important story-based conversations are displayed with a near full-body shot of the character speaking and gesticulating to the other character in the conversation, displayed as a one-on-one sort of thing.
Nothing new, yet nothing flawed about it, other than the feeling that conversation may come off as somewhat flat from time to time. One praise-worthy thing I could mention is that in the execution of team attacks or in the case of powerful signature techniques, the attacks come off as a bit of a visual treat for the player, displaying a somewhat better picture quality than regular in gameplay animation.
The battle system for MagnaCarta 2 seems to be the game’s balance point; in the sense that it’s easy to learn and doesn’t require much skill to get the hang of, yet at the same time can be seen as overly simplistic, going into territory that was more or less covered by preexisting systems. One could even go so far as to say that it feels outdated and the enemies lack any real AI; basically giving your enemies a set attack and solely working with it, rather than have them adapt to the player characters, instilling more of a challenge. This hearkens back to my prior statement that the only peaks in difficulty are at bosses and when the player runs out of items and lacks a healer. As the player progresses through the game, the enemies start getting more and more bothersome, eventually just watering down into a source of annoyance and experience points.
The premise of the story, while possessing potential, eventually does water down somewhat, along with combat. It draws players in with a good hook and starts up a nice, long path for character development, but roughly halfway to three-quarters of the way into the story, it dissolves into your typical “boy saves kingdom” storyline. Again, nothing new, but it doesn’t necessarily disappoint, in the sense that it at least follows through with its plot and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
If anything does set it apart from most other games, Softmax does try to press an environmental and moral message to the players, that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted and if we are blessed by anything, be it magic or technology, we should always consider the great deal of sacrifices that go into the development of these things; be it crops that grow in mere moments or the technology that we use in our daily lives. Everything has a price that must be paid for convenience.
Lastly, there’s the voice acting. For a JRPG based game such as MagnaCarta 2, the voice actors hired would have to sound genuine, unlike Tidus’ acting from Final Fantasy X… much to the grimace of many players who had to endure their terrible forced laughter scene. Thankfully, when translated for the English version, Bandai sought the aid of talented voice actors such as Johnny Young Bosch and Yuri Lowenthall. Of many games that I’ve played over the years, I honestly felt like their voice acting was genuine, and had a definitive tinge of character immersment. In their acting, they made themselves sound genuine and all of the lines felt as though they were part of a believable conversation.
In many games, it’s not hard for a voice actor to come off as artificial, just reading the lines off in a half-assed fashion, but over the course of gameplay, I felt as though the actors put in a solid level of effort in, making sure they made the game more appealing to the player. If I could point out one bit of criticism though, it would have to be over entering and participating in battle; the game’s engine does have a tendency to go over the same lines too often, making it annoying every time you hear “Eat my fists of Flame!” whenever you enter battle as Crocell.
MagnaCarta 2 as a whole was enjoyable and worth the money I spent on it, roughly around $30. It provides a comfortable amount of gameplay, the player can easily immerse themselves in the plot, but not get lost in it, the flow of the game is rather straightforward and the side quests aren’t terribly bad. If interested in purchasing a copy, I would recommend the buy, considering that other than minor criticism here and there, there’s nothing wrong with the game. Plus, with SacAnime coming up, those who own a copy can get theirs autographed by the voice actors for main characters Juto and Crocell, if so inclined. In summation, it’s a good game, it’ll keep you entertained and it does come to a satisfying conclusion. There are a few missable achievements and if I can recommend anything, it would be that over the course of gameplay, save your skill points towards the end of the game, save, then max out one of the character’s skill trees so you can get the achievements for them. It’ll save on time and an additional playthrough.
Played and reviewed by:
Kristoffer "Kaz" Sturm