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Story: You start off with Calintz, a young, confident (and bishounen!) commander of the Crimson Tears military regiment. As many humans do in this world, he hates the Yason, non-humans, for destroying his hometown, and is determined to wipe them out. While on a mission, he saves a girl whose only memory is that her name is Reese, who joins him in the hopes of getting her memory back. Because she has no memories, she doesn’t understand the animosity between humans and Yason, and causes a good deal of trouble for Calintz by being too softhearted. But it’s obvious that they begin to care for each other deeply (if you didn’t get the message from the opening movie). It’s not obvious until a few hours in what the actual objective is, and even what Magna Carta refers to. But the bulk of the gameplay involves racing to get pieces of it and assemble it before the enemy can, while the story evolves alongside with Reese’s memory slowly coming back, pieces of Calintz’s memory being shown, and encounters with various other characters filling the picture.
Characters: Magna Carta’s premise is a common one in video games – a world torn in two between humans and non-humans, with the player trying to beat the non-humans. But in Magna Carta, the non-humans aren’t all-out evil, and as you proceed in the story the doubt grows that either side is really ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Even characters that at first seem plain evil are fleshed out with backgrounds and complications that make you, if not like them, at least dislike them less. You also might not be that fond of your allies – at first I found the big brute ** totally obnoxious, and even after his backstory was uncovered, I find him annoying. But it’s believable, and everyone’s personality is strong and consistent – it’s fun talking to a character and having your ‘friendship’ level change depending on your response choices.
Visuals: This game is gorgeous. I would pay money just to watch the opening movie, and the character models always look great, although their movement is a little robotic. The in-game movies are also very nice. The backgrounds are attractive, detailed, and varied, but within areas it looks pretty similar – sometimes you can get confused between where you’ve been and where you’re going, and it can get frustrating. Also, most of the dialogue (at least 70%) is done by talking heads, and in the beginning there’s a lot of it – often not voiced, so it can get dull. Other than the cast of about 15 main and semi-main characters, all townspeople are randomly picked from the same 10 models, and merchants look the same everywhere according to type.
Gameplay: Outside towns, where you can run around freely, you can either run and risk getting ambushed, or walk with your guard up – always the better option. You can see enemy monsters when they come into your field of view, and can also see them as a coloured arrow in the corner map. When you or they attack, the screen changes to the battlefield, with your party and the monsters ranged on it in varying positions. You control only one ally at a time, and the time-based turn system is interesting – both parties have a bar with their next turn marked by an arrow, and as time passes the bar fills. However, several factors influence who gets to go first – the number in your party vs. monsters, how good a relationship you have with each of your party members, and how fast the character you’re controlling is. Also, when you run to get close to a monster, the bar stops filling, so you have to act efficiently. When it’s your turn, the character you control will have a move they perform, but to do it well (or at all), you must push the X and O buttons in the correct order and corresponding to a circle that shows up on the screen. Depending on how well you match the rhythm, you could totally miss, get a Good hit, or a Great hit. Then, if you’re successful, the next turn you may be able to perform the next move in the series that increases in damage (or healing power for the healers). It makes things a lot more difficult in the beginning until you get used to the buttons, and varying your speed based on the character; and even later you have to pay attention or else you can easily miss a crucial hit and get slammed. And this isn’t even all of the battle system’s intricacy – I could get into the different elements which your moves require to be available in the environment. This sounds really complicated, but when you play it out it’s easy to understand.
Moving around the world from place to place, I found it a little annoying that you can’t go far from your assigned path most of the time. Unlike traditional RPGs where you can take some time and build up levels, in Magna Carta there is a limited amount of extra fighting you can do. This also affects ‘quests’, which you can choose to do for specialized weapons. Though you can choose to do one and are then assigned certain objects you need to collect, you often can’t go the right place to get them until much later in the game, so it’s a little pointless for a while. On the other hand, I haven’t had much trouble progressing with what weapon and armour upgrades are available as normal merchandise, so it’s not really a hindrance.
Music: I love the opening song, a Japanese song that would fit right in an anime series. The background music for normal gameplay is very good and is different from many other games, and the battle music is enjoyable over many many repetitions, so all in all the music is well above average.
Conclusion: This game is awesome. It’s a lot of fun, the characters are really well presented and you want to know what happens next. Though some of the gameplay is tricky and it’s not as high budget as, say, FF, the important things are still there – beautiful graphics, interesting battle system, and involving plot. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys RPGs.Review by Jill Astley
Overall Impressions: Magna Carta is a treat to look at – the opening movie will blow you away, and the in-game graphics are very good as well. Although movement is not very natural, it doesn’t lessen the enjoyment. Music and voice acting is very good, although it’s not fully-voiced, and gameplay in general is fairly easy to understand, without being too easy. The storyline and characters are involving and you really want to see what happens in the end more and more as you play through all the plot twists. Overall, this is a great game – any RPG fan will enjoy it.