Madou Monogatari - Reader Retroview  

Mmm... Monogatari...
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Charming and whimsical
+ Very import-friendly
- Simplistic
- Too easy at times
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Lagnus has trained for this day. The evil Yog must be destroyed, and he has gained the power necessary to end the evil eye's reign of terror. Ascending Yog's tower, Lagnus easily triumphs over its guardians and seems to vanquish Yog itself. But Yog has a brain in addition to its eyeball, and manages to spring a nasty trap upon Lagnus. With his spirit separated from his body and both sucked to another world, Lagnus is out of the picture for now. Thus as evil begins to seep into the surroundings it falls to Arle Nadje and her rival Rulue to undo the influence of Yog upon their own world.

    Those last two names should mean something to players of Puyo Puyo, for that is the world Madou Monogatari takes place in. All the usual suspects show up in addition to Arle and Rulue; Skeleton T, Satan, Suketoudara, Harpy, etc. As Puyo Puyo makes no claim on sanity the story frequently is quite outlandish and silly, but that fits with the general mood of the game and makes perfect sense given these characters. Yog's malaise is seeping into the land, and that provides the grounding for the hijinks that ensue.

Arle the arsonist claims another victim... Arle the arsonist claims another victim...

   To save the day Arle, Rulue, and whoever their current teammate is must traverse many parts of the world while engaging in random, turn-based combat against a variety of adversaries. There are occasional exceptions, such as healing magic seeming to be automatically cast first, but the turn order is not nearly as subject to fluctuation as most turn-based RPG's experience. Carbuncle the Puyo Puyo mascot will occasionally join in by shooting his Carbuncle Beam in combat, though he won't do it often enough to be counted on. The major twist in Madou Monogatari's combat is that there is no simple 'attack' option. Instead Arle and Rulue each have two spells that use 0 MP, and each third character also has a spell without any MP cost. Another atypical twist lies in the SP gauge for each character. Arle's gauge charges each time she casts a spell, Rulue's each time she takes a hit, and everyone else also has one of those two conditions. Once the SP gauge is full the character can use a normally unusable attack which tends to be more powerful than anything else. There is unfortunately no way to preserve the SP gauge short of blocking repeatedly, but whatever attack is dealt with a full SP gauge will be more powerful than usual. Bosses also have an SP gauge that allows use of their most powerful attacks. Victory in combat grants experience and money, which work exactly as they do in so many other RPGs. Arle and Rulue learn new spells from time to time as their levels increase.

    Interaction is quite easy. At the beginning the isometric view will confound players, but a little playing time will accustom one to its annoyances. And the isometric view is not used to hide things where enemies can reach, instead being used to situate items in towns just out of visual reach to encourage the player to poke around everywhere in each town. Item usage is easy, as is spell usage outside of combat. Equipment is easy to deal with also, though the language barrier rears its head when dealing with accessories that usually do not offer a flat statistic increase. The only real issue lies in the tendency of the characters to keep moving when up against an object or a corner, since this can either mean wandering around a treasure chest or having to repeatedly adjust position in order to try out a character's special onscreen action. Other than that, which is not a big issue thanks to the encounter rate not being high, interaction is fine thanks to the simplicity.

    Visually Madou Monogatari shows off the Saturn's abilities. It doesn't show off the Saturn at its peak 2D capacity (that would be Princess Crown), but the sprites are generously sized and well-animated with plentiful color and multiple attacks for every enemy - even the palette-swapped ones have at least one unique attack. Spell animations are very nice also. The music is not incredible, for the most part. But it is nice to hear, the battle theme is catchy, and the in-battle voice acting is entertaining. Some themes that originated years prior in other games of the Puyo Puyo variety are quite good.

I spy with my little eye something that is green. I spy with my little eye something that is green.

   Later bosses do offer some challenge, but any RPGamer with some experience in playing a turn-based RPG will not be overly taxed. Items to replenish HP and MP are easily purchased should any of the dungeons prove too demanding. The game is fairly substantial at least - 40 hours seems a reasonable estimation of how long it will take to finish. And though it is quite linear there seems to be at least one major optional part, in that both Dracocentaur and Witch are apparently playable characters but Witch never joined my party in this playthrough.

    The ease of play and charm on display make Madou Monogatari an easy recommendation for any RPGamer seeking something worth importing on the Saturn. Anytime a new location needs to be found, just keep talking to people in the last town and something will eventually give. Had this game been translated it would have picked up a following, but as it stands, even without a translation much fun may be had here.

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