Title: Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven
Platform: Nintendo 3DS, eshop
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven was on my radar since it was first teased for a North American release last winter. At the time I didn’t think anything of how rare and special a NA release would be for this game. What looked like a charming strategy role-playing game (SRPG) with a unique battle system ended up being the swan-song for a once great great development team Neverland. The team recognized for the Rune Factory series went bankrupt and it took Marvelous act of cobbling the remaining development team back together to finish the game. Moments like this put me in awe about what certain game developers in dire straights will do to release a game here, while financially sound companies won’t do half as much.
Lord of Magna is broken up into chapters, thirteen to be except, ranging in length and objectives. The game is also shorter that most modern RPG’s, which considering the amount of time I can play games is trunkated having a smaller game is a good thing. After about 5-6 hours the game starts to open up allowing you to free-play and grind different areas of the world map. This comes in handy when leveling up your characters or experimenting with your roster. This was also another huge help when I only had limited time to play, the story segments could sometimes stretch to over an hour which wasn’t always conducive to my schedule. Having multiple free play areas to fight allowed me to play in shorter bursts. During most chapters there will be an opportunity for an Heart Events with one of the seven sisters (Artemis) . Aside from the battle system this is also one of the more clever details that helps Lord of Magna stand out. These Heart Events help grow the story line and determine the ending of the game determined by which one of the sisters you have spent the most time with. These Heart Events also help each maiden uncover lost memories from their past and the more memories each sister regains the closer your bond becomes with them. This system allows you to equipped multiple and greater skills to the characters you bring into battle. Each maiden has three Heart Events to play and it’s impossible to get them all on your first play-through. This is where the shortened game length and the ability to fast-forward dialogue help because in order to collect every Heart Event and experience every ending you’re going to have to play through the game multiple times.
One of the things I like about Lord of Magna is it doesn’t pile systems on top of systems which is a trop of the SRPG genre. Even though that style of gameplay is common and it has a faithful audience with series like Disgea; the over the top system stacking is one of the things that keeps me from enjoying most SRPGs. Lord of Magna does manages to have in-depth combat without being a complete chore to get into. I never felt like if I put the game down that I would’t be able to easily pick it back up and remember how to play or get the most out of each battle. Even the crafting system is very straight forward allowing two items to be crafted and showing a highlighted list of what recipes will work. But, the really shining gem with Lord of Magna is the battles themselves. The battles take on a top-down map view without the traditional grid allowing you to have a much greater range of movement and freedom. The real enjoyment comes with the bowling or combo affect that happens when you hit the enemies. Lineup your strike and you can send foes flying through the air hitting other enemies racking up your combo. If you can get at least ten hits with one action you get an additional turn. This was by far my favorite part of the game, it felt so gratifying sending a screen full of badies flying with one mighty swing.
The graphics of Lord of Magna are solid, the chibi-styled a characters look great in the battle field and in the charming cutscenes. Their anime rendered counterparts used for the dialogue portions look great as well and there is even some animated clips with some flashy gallery art that also helps the art direction. One downside with the graphics is the 3D isn’t as great which isn’t from the graphics but more or less the games theme. Turning the 3D on with all those little units on the battle field made things difficult to see. I can imaging trying to play an entire battle with the 3D would make for a head ache. Also the voice acting is spars with only certain lines and phrases acted out. This isn’t a terrible thing just a reminder of how limited the resources where to put the final product together. Having the characters blurt out their battle cries over the top of dialogue or random voiced exposition brought me back to the RPGs of the Playstation One and Dreamcast era.
Lord of Magna is, in some parts an, unrefined game but the only major flaw I have is with the sexualizing of the seven sisters. The biggest culprit is the main characters friend Bart who has a suspicious enthusiasm with dressing each sister up in maid costumes. The idea is that the other-worldly Goddess (Artemis) sisters with their limited recourses to make money will work as maids in the hotel to pay off their debt. This doesn’t sound too disturbing on paper and helps set up the background of the main characters history around this unsuccessful family owned hotel you have been tasked to run. But, the idea of ‘dressing’ these ladies up as maids plays too large of a portion of the story and sometimes boarders on creepy. Even though the main character and his long time female friend ridicule Bart for his pervy nature the distraction of fetish dress-up persists. Early in the game there is a mission objective were you must rescue Bart because he’s trapped by monsters while attempting to procure more fabric to make more maid uniforms. Later there is a moment where Bart jumps off a boat in an attempt to swim back home before the party arrives so he can, once again, make more maid outfits. Thankfully the visual objectification of the ladies is relatively low; other than a couple cheesecake cut screens and a bathing screen shot that I’m sure you can find somewhere online. Maybe there is something lost in translation and your supposed to think Bart is a ridiculous character, but the maid outfit scenarios is played out so many times the effect feels less like a gag on the trop the heroes’ man-child companion and more like a thin vail to protect the games sexualization to reward the player. Giving the player the ability to view past cutscenes and images of what are supposed to be God-like beings dressed up as eye candy plays drastically against the anger the main character expressed towards Bart. Thankfully, like I said earlier, the amount of sexualized imagery is low and some of it needs to be sought after but, the frequency may lead some players away from what is otherwise and enjoyable experience.
High: If you are a fan of RPGs and especially SRPGs Lord of Magna will be a great addition to your collect. If you are a new comer to the SRPG genre this is a perfect starting point. Simple to learn systems, fair difficulty, and shorter gameplay experience help to not scare away new comers. The unique battle system is definitely the selling point and along with multiple endings even an SRPG veteran will have plenty to enjoy. If I never start the game up again (I hope I do though) I still had plenty of enjoyment out of my thirty-plus-hour game experience. Plus, there always seems to be a list of hidden gems that comes out after the passing of a console generation and I feel like this would be on such a list. Thankfully it’s on the shop too so it’s always available even if physical stock becomes scarce in the future.