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Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven

Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment Inc.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is JRPG through-and-through, but with a couple of neat twists to separate it from the pack. While the "bump-based" combat and choice-based progression systems wonít win everyone over Ė particularly those who donít like JRPGs to begin with Ė they are enough to entertain anyone who enjoys the trappings of JRPGs without overly-complex gameplay systems.

If thereís a JRPG trope out there, Lord of Magna has it covered. The cast is made up primarily of elfin girls who transition between battle garb and maid uniforms throughout that fight an odd assortment of enemies ranging from a scythe-wielding, leather clad 60ís biker to propeller-topped teddy bears. It is weird. It is bizarre. It is a JRPG.

Though the gameís visual stylings were a bit of a turn-off early on, Iíve come to appreciate the gameís presentation. While the girlís attire flips between barely functional and not exactly work appropriate, it is remarkably restrained and tastefully done Ė at least when compared to uncomfortably risquť trappings of other games of this type. Character designs transition well between the in-game chibi style and anime-styled portraits. Though not fully voiced, some key lines are well-performed, while the battle music is just dramatic (and catchy) enough to work.


Gameplay:

As previously mentioned, Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is a tried-and-true JRPG. You are an inn keeper who long ago promised your father youíd always keep the innís doors open to travelers and treat them as nothing less than family. Not a bad thing for an inn, only the village has a strict "No Outsiders" policy. As such, running an inn isnít the best of trades.

To make ends meet, you collect crystals from a nearby cave. Following an earthquake, you set out to collect crystals from a newly-opened cave, only to discover a mysterious girl trapped in a large crystal. Monsters attack and you somehow break her loose just in time to save you. Following the battle, you discover the girl Ė Charlotte Ė has amnesia and you promise to help her out.

From here, Lord of Magna gets ever crazier. Charlotte is one of seven sisters, each with devastating elemental powers. This would be a bad thing for everyone involved were it not for your bracelet which allows you to command and recharge the maidens, as well as locate them. Honoring your promise to Charlotte and your late father, you set out to find the other girls and restore their memories. Oh, by the way, in addition to possessing amazing battle skills, each girl is uniquely qualified to fill a position at your inn. In other words, while Charlotte isnít out squaring off against monsters, giant sword in hand, sheís turning down the beds.

As crazy as Lord of Magna sounds, it still manages to spin a somewhat compelling story. The characters are likable and youíll want to see where things are headed from chapter-to-chapter. Where Lord of Magna breaks from tradition is in how the story flows. Thereís a through-line involving the sisters, though how particular elements play out is dependent on your relationship with the individual sisters. You canít sweet talk everyone, so you have to decide whose story to follow. Doing so not only affects the story, but also unlocks new combat abilities, opening up tactical considerations as well. Your choices will also affect the gameís ending.


Difficulty:

Combat is incredibly fun and is the gameís most unique attribute. Battles are staged as top-down turn-based affairs. Each round combatants are placed in an action cue and given one turn to move and attack. Movement is based around a movement radius; you can go anywhere within the shaded circle and attack anything adjoining it provided it is within your characterís attack radius. This differs based on the character. Charlotte, for example, has a wide, sweeping range matching her large sword, while Beatrixís bow offers a longer, narrow range. However, attack ranges are only the smallest part of the entire system.

Enemies are either leaders or minions. Leaders are harder to kill and can summon new minions each turn. Attacking minions causes them to fly in all sorts of directions, taking nearby minions (and leaders) with them. Itís a bit like bowling; you hit a pin and it will hopefully knock down others as well. Your goal is to knock down ten in one attack, granting another attack. Much like bowling, this isnít easy since enemies will often times fly in unintended directions, even when you think youíve got a good line on a combo.

Admittedly, it is not the deepest combat system ever conceived, and the knockback can seem completely random. Though fun, I had a hard time coming to grips with Lord of Magnaís difficulty. I could enter the same battle multiple times and get a different result each time. Sometimes the bowling pin effect goes your way, other times it does not. It is just as much based on luck as it is strategy, though strategy does eventually win out in later battles with powerful bosses.

Deepening your relationship with the seven girls, unlocking new abilities, will also affect your overall strategy. As far as I can tell there isnít an optimal set of girls; some are more effective than others. Thankfully, you are given ample chances to try them out in combat before you're allowed to create your own party.


Game Mechanics:

As interesting as the relationship mechanic is, it doesnít save Lord of Magna from itself. In fact, most of the gameís problems seem oddly self-inflicted, as if it has to stick to a checklist of things every JRPG needs. For one, story sequences seem to drag on forever and are overly expository. At times, it seems the narrative has little faith in the playerís ability to figure things out on their own, choosing instead to spell everything out in the most basic of terms. Worse, the drawn-out sequences feel like stand-ins for world exploration. Youíre never given the option to walk around Lord of Magnaís world outside of combat zones and the inn. Instead, you watch the story play out and beam you around via map.

Worse still, you canít save during story sequences, a trait that doesnít lend itself well to on-the-go play. You can always just close the systemís clamshell case, but be warned Lord of Magna will drain your systemís power quickly. Thankfully, this is only true for the first third of the game. The second two-thirds are combat heavy and offer a "Quick Save" option.

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven wonít win over anyone who isnít already a fan of JRPGs. That much is for certain. However, it is still a fun, if a bit flawed, experience.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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