Makai Kingdom
Platform: PS2
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 7/27/05
Japan 3/18/05

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Somebody got a little angry...
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A typical battle.
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The enemy has the high ground.
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Pimpin' ain't easy.
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Mike Wilson
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Mike Wilson

If you're a fan of the strategy RPG genre, then you have definitely heard of Nippon Ichi. Known for their ridiculously deep gameplay and witty humor, the company has established a rabid fan base in the United States. Their newest game, Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome, is no different. The game was originally titled "Phantom Kingdom," but Nippon Ichi changed it to "Makai Kingdom" because it doesn't tie into Phantom Brave. Regardless of its name, Makai Kingdom promises to be the strangest entry yet in Nippon Ichi's acclaimed SRPG library.

The story takes a number from Disgaea by returning to the Netherworld with a brand new cast of characters. It revolves around Lord Zetta- the egotistical overlord of the Netherworld who has instilled fear in his kingdom for ages. One day, he hears from his oracle Pram that his reign will soon come to an end. Both curious and angry at such a prophecy, Lord Zetta sets out to find the Ancient Tome, a magic book that holds record of the past, present, and future. When he finds the tome, he learns that the prophecy is indeed true; and in a quick burst of anger, he destroys the book, and with it, the universe. In order to save himself, Zetta selfishly merges his body with the Ancient Tome, becoming extremely vulnerable. Unfortunately, when he awakens, he learns that he has been banished from the Netherworld, thanks to a few of his worst dissenters. Lord Zetta then sets out to build an army to take back his kingdom and recover his lost body.

Battle-wise, Makai Kingdom takes ideas from both Disgaea and Phantom Brave. In order to create a party member, you must "Invite" souls into objects on the battlefield (trees, stones, flowers, etc.) Each object spawns a different kind of character with a unique set of stats. For example, binding a soul to a tree will create a different character than if you did the same to a rock. As you progress through the game, you'll be able to create different races such as mechs, demi-humans, and monsters to do Lord Zetta's evil bidding.

Once you have a small army, you can take things to the next level by creating a building to store your troops in. Buildings are created by sacrificing a member of your party, and the type of building you get in return depends on the dead character's stats and his or her class. Buildings can help your army in many ways: they can be hospitals, item shops, or storage houses for soldiers. Buildings are "dropped" onto the battlefield and can be moved anywhere on the map by throwing them. Yes, by throwing them. In fact, there are many strategic options available to you once you have your first building; you can cram your soldiers into it and throw it behind enemy lines to start an assault, or you can store wounded characters to keep them out of harm's way. The only drawback is that buildings are not invincible, so you'll have to protect them fiercely. Even worse, enemies have buildings of their own and can attack yours.

Battles are turn-based, and are the meat of the gameplay. Like Phantom Brave, the game has done away with the conventional grid system, and each character can move within a circular radius. Makai Kingdom also breaks the mold in the types of weapons that it offers. Not only can your army use swords, spears, and magic, but they can also use guns, tanks, and heavier artillery at the same time! There are also stranger weapons that you can collect, such as UFOs (yes, you heard right.)

The item system in Makai Kingdom keeps things simple, unlike its predecessors. Instead of having to level-up items, every item you find comes with a fixed experience level rated by stars. If you want a stronger weapon, you'll have to find one. You may also use items to create new fighters, which makes the number of fighters available almost endless, since there are tons of items to be discovered throughout the course of the game.

On a visual note, Makai Kingdom has the same sprite-based graphics that were used in previous Nippon Ichi games. The characters animate nicely and have a high level of detail. Aurally, the game sounds great from what has been presented so far. The game's voice actors move the story's dialogue along nicely. The story is also complemented by a high quality soundtrack, produced by Super Sweep- who scored Drag-On Dragoon. For a full review of the soundtrack, check our Soundtracks section.

Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome is looking good. It promises to refine the gameplay that made Phantom Brave and Disgaea so great while still maintaining the tried-and-true Nippon Ichi formula. For all Nippon Ichi fans, this title is a must have. The quest begins on July 28th.


© 2005 NIS America.
All Rights Reserved.

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