MagnaCarta 2 - Staff Review  

If I Save the World, Will You Still Love Me?
by Mikel Tidwell

MagnaCarta 2
Xbox 360
20-40 Hours
+ A story that escapes early clichés
+ Fast paced, engaging battle system
+ Scenery worth looking at
+ Character interaction is amusing
- Story's cliché start may deter some
- Game's audio is forgettable
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   Typically when reviewing the second game of a series, I like to talk about the first. However, in the case of the Magna Carta series, this is actually the third title. Korean developer, Softmax, has released Magna Carta games for Windows and PlayStation 2. I have not played either prior Magna Carta, so I will not be able to tie this one into the originals. Based on the reviews and feedback I've come across, that's not a major loss. MagnaCarta 2 stands on its own, despite its name.

   MagnaCarta 2 starts off the way many Japanese RPGs like to: A young male adult has recently suffered amnesia and is trying to find his way. Except for his aversion to using a metal sword, our main hero Juto seems perfectly normal for someone who can't remember who he is. Juto lives on Highwind Island, a place he has made his home and paradise. Sadly, this paradise is short lived after the Northern Forces swoop down on the little island, killing islanders at will. When Juto sees his close friend Melissa and others fall in the fight, he picks up her sword and swears vengeance on those who attacked the place. The small battalion of Southern Forces was no match for the onslaught, and they quickly turn tail and flee. Juto is left to guide them to their vessel in order to escape with them.

   Once they reach the mainland, Juto learns that the land of Lanzheim is in the midst of a civil war. With the help of the princess he rescued from the island, he manages to become part of the Counter-Sentinel Unit. This unit's main goal is to come to the aid when the Northern Forces bring in massive sentinels, a major driving force in the war. Juto hopes that by fighting the Northern Forces, he will eventually find the one responsible for killing Melissa. If only things were ever that simple.

Fun with girls and chains! Fun with girls and chains!

   Combat in MagnaCarta 2 relies on a stamina and combo system. The player controls one character at a time, while the other two will fight based on simple AI settings such as attack or use magic or skills, though the player can swap to any of the three active characters with a touch of the D-Pad. When a character attacka, his stamina bar increases. When the bar fills completely, the character is in an overdrive state. During this time attacks do more damage, but when the combo ends, he enters an overheated state. If a character finished the combo with a special attack while in overdrive, there is a chance for a chain. Switching to another character nearing overdrive and pushing his stamina to the brink will then execute another special move. These attacks do even more damage than the first character's. If the special move occurs with a single combo and in overdrive, a chain break occurs and both characters stamina bars are completely reset. This creates a lively, fast-paced battle system.

   Special attacks are powered by an energy called Kan. Juto can use physical Kan, which builds up when he attacks, but doesn't fade until he converts it with a special attack. Only one other party member also creates physical Kan. The rest of the party members generate a single element of magical Kan. Unlike physical Kan, magical Kan is clearly visible as a small orb of power and only affects the immediate area. When the party moves away from the Kan, the magic power fades from the characters. Fortunately, each area has a constant level of magical Kan and making use of these elements helps keep the magic flowing.

   Despite how complex the battle system sounds in text, it's very easy to execute after getting the hang of it. There's an achievement to execute a Chain Break 500 times, which was obtained with around five hours to spare in the game. In fact, most of the controls for MagnaCarta 2 are fairly intuitive. One of the only complaints would be weapon enhancement. In order to do this, each weapon has slots where players can insert a Kamond. This Kamond enhances only a single attribute: attack, defense, HP, stamina, magic, etc. The type of Kamond being placed is limited by the color of the slot. For example, attack and defense are red, stamina levels and recovery are white, so if the slot is pink, then either of these will work. However, if the slot was yellow, it is limited to enhancing only magical stats. This system is easy to understand until the item gains an additional enhancement, presumably from the combination of Kamonds, but how to exploit this is rather unclear. After dumping ten or more Kamonds into a weapon, the time for experimentation for a random stat boost is over. Remember, with six characters to do this for and their weapons changing roughly every three hours or so at least, that's a lot of time spent customizing a weapon for marginal stat boosts.

Use the power from within Use the power from within!

   During the journey, Juto and his friends come across many different locations. The scenery of the world of MagnaCarta 2 is outstanding. The only problem is that it's too diverse for such a small area, but each place has its own style that should make players take a moment now and then to just admire the view. MagnaCarta 2 is one of the more colorful RPGs to hit the Xbox 360, and the characters aren't half-bad to look at either. Despite the over-zealous box art, there is not an emphasis on the top half of the female body around every corner, though the Mare, a race who has kept to themselves, could be dressed a tad more modestly. That's not a complaint, but some might not appreciate it.

   There is a single completion point for each area of the main quest. The rest of the game is filled with helping random people in need, be it a hungry soldier or a party member who needs to find something they have lost. So instead of simply grinding for money and experience, there are at least quests with some depth to them. Unlike most RPGs, money is not plentiful. It is not uncommon to run low on cash at multiple points throughout the game, so the additional financial boosts from questing was a welcomed addition. Despite being optional, most of the quests are related to the main plotline as well as fleshing out characters' stories. The land is at war and each of the party members has a reason to fight, so those who skip the optional content, these elements would never be discovered.

   The music and sounds of MagnaCarta 2 are one of the low points of the game. The music isn't very memorable in any way, and it's difficult to come up with a single point in the game that would be considered memorable. Voice acting is fairly well executed, though some lines could have been delivered with a lot more effort. The raw emotion that should be apparent on a battlefield was just not there. The repetitive sayings of the party members performing special moves left a lot to be desired, especially in terms of variety or at least in an option to mute them.

   MagnaCarta 2 shares a story about war and all the emotions that come with it. In the end, is doing what is right better than following what others believe, even if it may hurt the ones you love the most? How much is one willing to sacrifice to fulfill what he believes is the right decision? That is the overlaying question that the story tries to answer. I was moved by the story and felt a sense of accomplishment and closure when it was over. This story mattered to me, and I have found fewer and fewer games over time where this occurs. The memorable story, and the way it was told, combined with an innovative, fast-paced battle system, is what truly makes MagnaCarta 2 stand out for me. The game was refreshing, never dull, one I would love to experience again.

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