Mark Marrow
24 Apr, 2006

Magnacarta Review

PS2 Review | Women with big boobs and that’s about it.
Magnacarta is one of those games where you ask yourself numerous questions, such as: “Why did the developers limit themselves?” “Why does the game feel dated?”, “Why is the combat system so broken?”, “Why did I even bother playing this game?”. All right, maybe the last one not so much, but Magnacarta is a severely broken game, and a dated one at that. There are a few twinkles of hope throughout the experience, but aren’t praised upon because everything else overshadows them.

The game itself has a fairly interesting and compelling story that might interest some people to continue with. Borrowing some elements from other RPGs, Magnacarta takes place in Efferia, where two races, the humans and the Yason, are locked in a full-scale war that has been brewing for hundreds of years. Calintz, the hero the story follows, is the leader of a mercenary outfit named the Tears of Blood, who are dedicated in helping the human race in defeating the Yason. The game begins when Calintz and his group are asked to escort a group of humans to launch an attack that’ll hopefully end the war. However, the Yason catch onto their attack and is foiled by the Queen Amilia of the Yason. Soon after, hell breaks loose, forcing Calintz and crew to retreat the area, and soon after meeting a girl named Reith who has lost her memory, but wields incredible powers.

The two form a tight relationship, with Calintz wanting to help Reith gain her memory back and find out where her powers came from, as well as helping rid the World of the Yason. The story has its typical twists and romances, and the cast of characters are well developed. The only real downside to all this is that the game progresses at a snail's pace, but as soon as it does get into the nitty-gritty, the game does offer enough interest and action to keep you on your toes.

These two ensure for a lot of entertainment.

These two ensure for a lot of entertainment.
The story is the bread and butter of the game, but it does have its issues. The game's progression is fairly linear, and there are only a limited amount of side-quests to sink your teeth in. Many might not see this as an issue, but being forced along a path for 30+hours isn’t much fun when you have little variety in what and where you can go.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t backed by a user-friendly gameplay system, but it does however do a decent job of trying to mix the genre up. There are no random battles, although you can attack enemies on field that’ll begin the battle. The system employed here is a turn-based system, which also allows gamers to roam the battlefield and move around. This allows gamers to choose whom of their three selected characters can dish out the damage, and who would be the more likely choice to sustain the damage. This isn’t a bad system, it is quite interesting once you've got an understanding of it, but it is broken and the way the system was implemented just ruins what creativity it had going for it. For instance, each turn is determined by a timer gauge at the top of the screen that indicates when you can attack. During that time you can run around to get closer to your enemies. However, in doing so, it slows down how fast the timer gauge fills, meaning if you were to run around a lot then your turn would be further delayed. That all seems well and good, however the way the camera is situated during these battles it ends up hurting you when having the advantage.

The game even results to shameless motivation to keep you playing.

The game even results to shameless motivation to keep you playing.
The battle system is another tired mess. The battle system is sort of like the Judgement Wheel from Shadow Hearts, but is less forgiving. In order to attack you need to press the appropriate buttons in succession to lay a successful hit. However, unlike Shadow Hearts, if you miss a single button you fail your attack completely, which then leaves you open for attacks from the enemies and your turn gauge goes down to zero again. This is exactly what hurts what could’ve been a great system, since there are quite a few interesting concepts behind it. For instance, overtime, as you successfully hit the buttons more precisely, you’ll learn new and stronger abilities. In the end though, due to absolutely poor execution the battles just seem like more trouble than they are worth; they can become far too long – especially when you’re only fighting two enemies – and the fact that everything seems either too complicated or is just too poorly executed.

Another nagging issue throughout the game is the unbelievable load times. Sure, I think we’ve all had a good joke about the PlayStation2’s load times when it was first released, but those seem like a thing of the past now. However, Magnacarta doesn’t seem to want to let go. For a game that isn’t that overly detailed, it’s surprising to see so many load times situated throughout the game, and long ones at that. Every time you load to a new area you have to sit through at least a 30 second wait before being able to proceed with playing again. And the most frustrating thing is that this happens everywhere you go. Enter a house, 30-second wait; leave that house, another 30-second wait. It just slows down the game completely, and makes it that much more frustrating.

I’m not too sure if it’s a Korean thing, or whether Softmax just enjoys cross dressers, but it seems that almost every character in this game wants to be or looks unbelievably close to a female. Take for instance our main character, a male (so I’ve been told), he dresses like a lady, facial areas look like a lady’s and for some sick, twisted reason his chest area is a little too puffed-out to seem like a male’s pectoral area. Looking past that though, there’s no denying that the art and character design for most characters look really well done, besides the fairly dated modelling work. There’s a lot of variety in designs and they fit exceptionally well with the story and setting of the Magnacarta universe. Just like a lot of JRPGs, Magnacarta expresses itself through a number of highly detailed cut-scenes. However, these are often spread too far from one another and the in-game engine cut-scenes just makes you quiver in pain.

A girl or a boy? I sometimes wonder.

A girl or a boy? I sometimes wonder.
The audio is a train wreck. The voice-overs are some of the worst we’ve ever heard – they don’t fit with the animations, they talk as if they’re reading from cards, and there’s absolutely no emotion from the actors. The voicers do suit each character quite well though, but it’s just an overall poor performance it’s impossible to pull out anything good from it. The soundtrack is quite decent though, and the sound effects are also quite good.

Where do I go with this review? There are areas in the game that I truly enjoyed, but there are far too many issues with it. The gameplay is a complete mess, the voice-overs are awful, and the graphics feel a tad dated. It’s a sad cause though, since Magnacarta has an unbelievably amount of potential. I think it’s safe to say that if there was a bit more fine-tuning with the battle system, the graphics and a bit more care with the voice acting, the game could’ve been a bit more enjoyable to play. However, it doesn’t fix any problems and the whole game feels like a complete mess.
The Score
I like to think Magnacarta as Mr. Potential. If everything else wasn’t so bad, the game could’ve excelled quite well. But, it didn’t and it’s a fairly poor excuse of a game and one that everyone should try to avoid.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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'Boobs you say?'
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