Marica: Shinjitsu no Sekai - Staff Retroview  

Will You Let the Terrorists Win?
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Intricate and lengthy story...
- ...that is unskippable and requires great Japanese knowledge
+ Reliable, solidly entertaining combat
- Having to wait for traffic signals to cross the street
- Oddball, confusing equipment system
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   Marica: Shinjitsu no Sekai would have been a long shot for localization upon its release in 1997. Even if the Sega Saturn had been doing better in North America, Marica's anime visuals would have been a tough sell to publishers not yet convinced that customers outside of Japan would buy such things. Which is a shame, because many of Marica's problems stem from its enormous quantity of untranslated Japanese dialogue and the fairly high Kanji reading ability that is required to progress. With a good localization Marica would still not be among the great games exclusive to the Saturn, but it would have been much improved.

   The story of Marica begins with its title character encountering a strange man in a disused warehouse near her home in Shibuya. This strange man is a member of a terrorist group who is trying to escape from his former comrades, and when that fails, he passes on to Marica a crucial disc with incriminating information about the terrorist group. Marica then becomes the target of the terrorists. Allied with her is Akira, whose life was forever changed when she uncovered a plot by the terrorists to scramble mind-altering messages onto a popular group's CDs, and saw most of her friends killed by the terrorists in response. The third of Marica's protagonist trio is named Kaname, and she begins fighting the terrorists because of her powerful psychic abilities that clue her in towards the disastrous direction these people want to take Japan.

   The story has a number of facets to it, and Japanese is required to figure out most of the details. The developers made the game even more unfriendly to importers by having all of the story be told with voice acting that cannot be paused and with no subtitles. Unless one is completely at home with interpreting spoken Japanese, it will be impossible to fully comprehend the plot. Since story sequences take up a very large part of the game, this is not a minor issue.

   Fortunately, the three protagonists fight the terrorists using a turn-based battle system that will be easy to comprehend for all RPGamers. Experience and yen are earned after battle, with enough experience making each of the girls level-up. Enemies are not encountered randomly but are visible and will charge towards the girls if within a certain distance. Turn order is not random in this game, and having all participants take their turns in a steady progression is pleasant to experience. The girls have basic physical attacks, usage of items, defense, running away, and use of their special powers as options in battle. If two of the girls use the necessary special attacks (which are magic in everything but name) on the same turn, they will combine for a stronger technique. These combination techniques are not recorded by the game in any way, so a good memory will be needed.

Magura: not just a pretty face, he Magura: not just a pretty face, he's out for your blood too!

   Combat is easy to deal with, but navigation will be harder to accomplish without high Japanese knowledge. Since Marica is a very linear game, finding the proper path to progress is necessary, and doing so is helped greatly with an understanding of the current situation. It is possible to continue the game by fumbling around looking for the next plot point, because there are a limited number of areas that can be entered, but doing so is rather boring.

   Inventory management is tolerable, save for equipment. If an item is already in inventory, attempting to equip it will show what statistics it increases or decreases, but not by how much. If an item is being newly purchased from a shop in Shibuya, all that can be determined is who can equip it. The ability to purchase all items in one lump from stores instead of singly is the only positive ingredient to a frustrating inventory recipe.

   Marica's opponents are not terribly hard to defeat. Particularly thanks to the effects of status-enhancing spells cast in battle stacking, it is possible to make all enemies into fairly feeble foes. The game is not short, and close to forty hours will be needed to finish. There are a few minor story choices to elicit replay, but no real change to the story and no optional dungeons or post-game content.

If all of that Kanji isn If all of that Kanji isn't making much sense, buck up for a rough ride.

   Marica's visuals are like a less impressive version of Tengai Makyou The Apocalypse IV anime-inspired look. All story and combat sequences are full-screen still frames that could have been taken from an anime in the mid-1990s. Though lips are synced for dialogue, there is little other movement with these graphics. The effect is less impressive when there is almost no actual animation but simply a series of stills, and thus the visuals cannot be called awe-inspiring.

   Every line in the game's story is voice acted, and the quality is generally good. There are some unimpressive performances from several characters that are fortunately balanced by the majority of seiyuu, including all of the leads. Since the story is told without text, the voice acting needs to be good, and it mostly is. Like the voice acting, music is varied in quality but the good outweighs the bad.

   Marica is enjoyable to play, but the intense Japanese knowledge required and the lengthy story sequences that cannot be stopped or paused make the game more of a chore than it needs to be. The immense patience required to play the game without great Japanese knowledge makes this a tough import to recommend. Enjoyment can be had from the game, but it is tempered by irritations that keep Marica from rising to a high enough level to truly recommend.

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