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Magnacarta 2
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Softmax/Banpresto
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 10/13/09
Japan 08/06/09
EU 10/16/09
Official Site: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 85%
Sound: 70%
Gameplay: 80%
Control: 85%
Story: 65%
Overall: 77%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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The game is undoubtedly gorgeous.
 
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Flowers solve everything!
 
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He's not quite as emo as he looks.
 
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You pissed him off. And he's big.
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John McCarroll
Magnacarta 2
11/05/09
John McCarroll

I am struck straight away by how much I will like or dislike a lot of games. Occasionally, games will turn my opinion, but it doesn't happen very often. However, what happened to me with Magnacarta 2 is unique - even after playing it, I can't tell you whether or not I actually like this game. That's about the only part of Magnacarta 2 that is unique, though. The game is an amalgam of RPG cliches rolled into a ball, with just small bits of newness thrown in. It's not that Magnacarta 2 is bad in any way, but it's not good, either. It's a functional, generic RPG from Korean developers Softmax, and maybe that's why it reminds me of Korean automobiles. Magnacarta 2 is a Hyundai Accent. It's not bad, but there's no way I'll remember anything about it even a month from now.

That's not to say that Magnacarta 2 is not a completely adequate RPG - in fact, it's entertaining, and for those looking for an eastern-flavored RPG will feel right at home. The battle system is where the majority of the new content lies, although the game is also prettier than the Xbox 360 game that it reminds me most of, Infinite Undiscovery. Still, while Infinite Undiscovery was full of issues and ended up being a mediocre-at-best title, Magnacarta 2 runs well and is good clean fun - it's just not particularly original.

Players take control of Juto, a young man who has everyone's favorite RPG standby: amnesia. He lives a carefree life on Highwind Island with a young woman named Melissa, who acts like an older sister to him. The continent of Lanzheim is in the chaos of a civil war, but the island has been kept out of it, mainly because of its lack of strategic value. The Northern Forces, led by the usurper Schuenzeit, invade the island to find an ancient machine called a Sentinel found deep within the island itself. During this conflict, Juto comes into contact with Princess Rzephillda Grena Berlinette (known to her confidants as Zephie), who teams up with Juto to remove the Nothern Forces from the island.

Long story short, Juto strikes out to fight for the good side, and the story is actually presented very well. The dialogue is fairly good, it's just that the overall story feels stale. It's a tale of betrayal, self-discovery, and all of the other standbys of the RPG world. While the story itself is fairly generic, it is intriguing enough, and there's not much about it I can really complain about. A couple of the party members can be annoying, but that seems to be par for the course in modern RPGs, unfortunately. All-in-all, it's passable, but were the battle system not entertaining, I couldn't see myself trudging through Magnacarta 2 for the story.

The annoyance with the party members is doubled by the fact that the audio in the game is a very mixed bag. The soundtrack itself is very good, and I'm not usually one to notice music in a game unless it's fantastic. There were a couple of tunes that stuck with me throughout the game, and I'm all for that. My main problem with the audio comes with the voice acting. Zephie and Juto aren't bad, just fairly generic, but a couple of the party members, most notably Celestine, were grating. It's not the worst voice acting I've ever heard, but were it better, it would really help the subpar story. As it stands, it just keeps it steeped in mediocrity.

The characters themselves are beautifully designed, and while I was not a fan of Hyung-Tae Kim's art in the first Magna Carta, Magnacarta 2's next-gen graphics capture his style well. The characters, particularly the females, have very exaggerated proportions, but it's consistent with Kim's art style, and doesn't detract from the game. The environments are gorgeous as well, although they're repeated quite often. Players don't spend time in many inhabited places other than the city of Abazet, and some areas are used multiple times. On the plus side, the re-used areas scale monsters to the player's level, so it's not like going through early areas in an MMORPG, where there's no challenge. The graphics are clearly the major redeeming feature for the game's aesthetics, since the sound and the story don't do them much justice.

The gameplay, however, is where Magnacarta 2 gets most of its points. The overall structure of the game is familiar - go to town, get a story sequence, get some quests, go out and kill guys. The inclusion of several sidequests that can be completed in or around areas that are linked to the story is fantastic, as I personally am not someone who will go out of his way to do the extras. Magnacarta 2 makes it simple enough to enjoy both the story and the sidequests without detracting from either. The quests are not particularly inspired, and they draw their design from just about every MMORPG you've ever played: "kill 9 rabbits," "collect 5 herbs," and "find my dog" are all the sort of things that will get you experience points. It's not a bad thing, but it would be nice for non-story quests and battles to be a little bit more varied.

The battle system itself appears at first to be a generic action-RPG battle system, but the game introduces some twists fairly early on. Players control one member of a party of three, while the AI controls the other two active members. At any time, the player can swap to another member of the party, which may seem pointless initially, but the importance of doing so becomes clear when the game introduces the stamina bar and chains. Characters exert stamina every time they attack or do a special move. When the stamina bar fills, the character gains a significant bonus to damage for the rest of their sequence, but then enters an Overheat status, where they cannot attack or perform actions. Initially, this just means you don't want to spend too much time mashing buttons , but then the concept of Chaining appears.

Chaining is the concept of swapping from a character who is Overheated to a character who still has leftover stamina. After the swap, the character who has stamina will gain the damage bonus from the previous character, but they too will enter an overheat mode. That is, of course, unless they max out their stamina bar and perform a special move called a Chain Break. When it's performed, both characters have their stamina bar completely reset, allowing for more ass-kicking. It's really the one feature that gives the battles any kind of strategy other than just "mash the buttons." It's also the only thing that keeps the entire game from being just another generic title.

All of these things are very easy to pull off due to Magnacarta 2's generally smooth control scheme, though there are some caveats. Rather than go into depth into exactly what's what, just note that there are some awkward portions of the control scheme. They're not major, and have mostly to do with pathfinding while sprinting (an artifact of the battle system). The gripes are just minor points in an otherwise competent control scheme and aren't something that should stop you from buying the game, but they're still worth noting here.

In short, Magnacarta 2 is a competent, if forgettable, RPG. As long as you don't go into the purchase expecting the most groundbreaking title on the planet, you'll be satisfied. The battle system is entertaining, the controls are competent, and the graphics are good. On the flip side, the story and the sound are pretty far from top-tier, and that detracts from the overall experience. Magnacarta 2 falls into the same category as Star Ocean: The Last Hope - as long as you're willing to overlook some flaws in its presentation, it's good fun.



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© 2009 Softmax, Banpresto, Namco Bandai Games. All rights reserved.


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