On November 8, a collaboration between SoftMax and Atlus USA will see the first ever Korean-made RPG for the PlayStation 2 finally hit the shores of North America. Magna Carta: Tears of Blood is a second addition to relatively new series that was started by an previous title known as Magna Carta: Phantom Avalanche that saw copies sold throughout Korea.
The game's story takes place on the continent of Efferia, where a war is being waged between humans and a human-like race called the Yason. 600 years prior to this event, humans actually lived on a different continent across the ocean, but they were forced to migrate when a mysterious plague swept over their lands, decimating their population by turning all those who were infected into stone. From the very beginning the Yason were never really comfortable with humanity settling onto their continent. They kept their distance from the newcomers, and tried to live their lives separately, hoping that the humans would do the same. As time passed, however, the human population multiplied and began to marginalize the Yasons on their own land. Tensions rose and eventually a vicious war was instigated.
Thirty years into the conflict, the humans mount a massive assualt on the Yason stronghold, one that they hope will end the fighting once and for all. Calintz, a young warrior whose home village was destroyed by Yasons, eagerly joins this operation as part of his relentless quest for revenge. At his command is a mercenary group called the "Tears of Blood," which consists of other young warriors who have also had tragic encounters with the enemy. Together, all them hope to see an end to the war, though some of them are willing to be a bit more forgiving to the Yason than others.
After the assualt on the stronghold fails miserably, however, Calintz finds his destiny taking on an exciting, new path when he meets a mysterious, young girl named Reith. Reith has amnesia and thus doesn't know anything about her past, yet she has a power inside her that might play a significant role in Efferia's future. The Yason also know of her, and they are interested in acquiring her gifts for their own means.
Calintz and Reith will both act as the main characters of Tears of Blood. As mentioned before, Calintz is a young warrior, whose village was destroyed by the Yason; this happened when he was just a child. Because he always carries the pain of this event deep inside, Calintz often comes off as being cold and calculating, but he wouldn't hesitate to put his life down on the line for those whom he cares about. There are three other warriors under his command in the Tears of Blood, and their names are: Azel, Eonis Milan, and Haren. Azel is a warrior that is even younger than Calintz. He owes his life to the other, though, for saving him from a Yason attack and gladly fights as part of the Tears of Blood to help return the favor. Eonis Milan lost her parents to the Yason, but she doesn't want revenge so much as an end to the war. She is a highly educated mage and a source of rationality and calm with things get rough. Last but not least, Haren is the probably the team member with the most physical prowess. He's quick to join a fight, usually with his fists, and not big on expressing his emotions. The Yason killed his fiancee, so his hate for them lies very deep.
Reith joins Calintz, after she finds him lying injured in the woods not too far from the Yason stronghold. Suffering from amenesia, she still doesn't hesitate to magically to heal his injuries and be friendly. In fact, being kind and helpful to the others is very much a part of Reith's nature, whether the others are human or Yason.
"Character designs are the work of renowned Korean artist, Kim Hyung-Tae, who has also done work for Magna Carta: Phantom of Avalanche, and The War of Genesis III."
Calintz, Reith, Azel, Eonis Milan, and Haren are not the only major characters that will be encountered in Tears of Blood, however. Throughout the game there exists at least a dozen other allies and enemies for players to tangle with as they become immeshed in Tears of Blood's rich storyline. Character designs are the work of renowned Korean artist, Kim Hyung-Tae, who has also done work for Magna Carta: Phantom of Avalanche, and The War of Genesis III.
Whenever players travel around outside of town in Tears of Blood they will notice that a certain area of the screen around them will be clear and bright, while the rest will be dimmed in shadow. The bright area is the player's field of vision by which he or she can see if any danger or treasure chests are nearby. Enemies and chests in the shadowed area are not invisible, but they are more difficult to spot. The game has three modes of movement that players can use to manipulate their field of vision. Dash Mode is the fastest mode of movement and consists of basically running about the terrain. While this mode can cover distances fairly quickly, the field of vision associated with it is small, allowing for things to be missed if players aren't careful. Below Dash mode is Detect Mode. Detect Mode is similar to walking. Calintz will travel slowly with his weapon drawn, significantly increasing his field of vision for players to spy any hidden dangers or treasures lying ahead. The final mode of movement in Tears of Blood is called Rest Mode. Funny thing is, this mode doesn't really even involve movement. By pressing the square button, a player's party will kneel down and take a good break. Resting allows for HP to slowly be rebuilt, but the field vision in this mode is limited. Also, players will be open to attack. To get out of Rest Mode, players must simply press the square button again.
Combat in Tears of Blood is handled in pseudo-real-time. Enemies walk around in plain sight, giving players the option to either avoid them or ambush them for an automatic first strike. Of course the reverse side to this is that enemies can ambush players as well. At the start of every battle a leadership meter will appear that will decrease and increase depending upon whether or not the party is attakcing or standing still. Characters cannot attack until the leadership bar is past a certain mark; where this mark is on the leadership bar will vary depending upon the level of trust that party memebers have in the leader (Calintz).
Attacks are carried out through a rhythmically based system called the Trinity Circle, which uses a rotating three-button ring to measure out regular and combo attacks. For those, who are having a hard time visualizing this, think of the "Judgement Ring" from the Shadow Hearts series. As the circle rotates, players must try to punch a certain button pattern that shows up on the screen. Hitting all of the marks on the circle in a timely manner initiates a "great" attack, hitting all of them in a not so timely manner gets a "good" attack, and pressing one of the wrong buttons brings about a "failed" attack, in which the leadereship bar is depleted but nothing happens. The difference between a "great" attack and a "good" attack is that the former deals more damage, plus it goes towards putting energy in the Trinity Drive bar. Each time a player manages to hit three perfect Trinity Circles, the Trinity Drive bar is filled up 5%. When the bar gets to 30%, players can activate the Trinity Drive for a new circle that, if punched in correctly, will lead to a devasting critical attack.
Every character in the game will start out with his or own fighting style. These styles will revolve around certain long range, close range, physical, and magical attacks. Some moves will be available right from the start, while others will require a certain level of skill advancement before being accessed. New stlyes can be learned through dojo visits and treasure chests.
Within each fighting style there will also be the option of up to three different battle modes: Standard, Combo, and Counter. When the leadership bar reaches its mark, players can switch between them. Standard Mode comes automatically with each fighting style; it features basic attacks and easy Trinity Cirlces (and in order for players to acess the other two modes, they must open all of the fighting style's skills in this mode first.) Combo Mode strings together multiple skill attacks within a fighting style for one very powerful attack; but there are multiple Trinity Circles for players to maneuver through if they want to use this mode. Counter Mode allows players to counter the enemy's attacks, if they can guess the correct circle pattern that they are using. When Counter Mode is initiated a Trinity Circle will appear with question marks instead of buttons. If players guess the right button pattern behind the question marks, then their character will counterattack the enemy. Not all fighting styles will have full access to the different battle modes.
The eight-member chi system that Magna Carta series is named after will of course be making comeback in Tears of Blood. Every skill attack that players use is based on a different type of chi energy: earth, wind, water, fire, lighting, ice, celestial, and mountain; and this energy gets depleted with each attack. Chi will exist in both the characters as well as their surroundings, and certain chi will have affinities as well as non-affinities to other chi that can affect the level of damage doled out in attacks. For instance a person with a water chi will be able to deal a greater level of damage to enemies with fire chi's, but in an area where the chi orientation is fire, such as a volcano, fire chi holders will have an enhancement factor added to their attacks. Traveling in areas that are friendly to a certain chi will also cause it to regenerate on its own.
Magna Carta: Tears of Blood is scheduled for a very near release of November 8 in North America. Will this artistically vivid game make a splash outside of Korea and pave the way for its successor Magna Carta 2, said to be coming out later on the Xbox 360? Keep your eyes peeled for an official staff review.