Bandai Namco's Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is, at its heart, an action adventure game with something of a fantasy setting. It becomes clear from playing that there are a variety of parallels in it that can be drawn from many titles, such as God of War, Metal Gear and the works of Team Ico. Though Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom may lack some of that spark and originality that would elevate it to greater heights, it nonetheless remains a fairly decent title and worth the current going price for a console game.
When a young thief tries to fight against the forces of darkness that have invaded the kingdom, he stumbles across the Majin, the legendary gigantic protector of all the lands before you. After freeing him from his bonds, the Majin anoints your player character the name Tepeu, the significance of which is revealed only later on in the story. Majin informs Tepeu that they must defeat the corrupted king who resides in the inner sanctums of the castle. To do this, they must first beat the king's four dark generals to break a sinister seal on the doors leading into the castle. Complicating matters is the loss of Majin's memory, which he must gradually gain back through the course of the game.
The most prominent characteristic of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom's gameplay is its partnership system. You primarily control Tepeu, but are able to give Majin some orders. You can have him follow, wait or attack enemies using physical strikes or elemental attacks, which are acquired as you progress though the game. Not only do elemental attacks defeat enemies, they will also be required to beat some of the many platforming puzzle elements that stand in the way of your goals. Some of these puzzles are quite inventive and remain one of the game's strong points. You may have to order Majin to blow a tied up barrel to make it swing back and forth so you can access new areas, or use lightning to power up a generator. By comparison, Tepeu has a more limited skill set. He can give orders to Majin, jump and wield his weapon to unleash attacks. Tepeu also picks up objects and can pull levers. When the two of them fight alongside one another, you are capable of some quicktime combos to defeat enemies, in a similar fashion to God of War. As you play and collect items, your friendship level will increase and give greater power and variety to your combos. Another quick time event is present when you sneak behind an enemy a'la Metal Gear and wait for a button prompt to deliver a brutal skewering attack. When you and Majin aren't busy solving puzzles or defeating hapless enemies, you will be fighting bosses using many of the elements described above. Many of the fights aren't terribly difficult, but they are at times very inventive and satisfying to take part in. Again, partnership is the key, as Majin will have to use his newly acquired element against the enemy and Tepeu will have to be the one to finish him off via a quicktime prompt attack. There's definitely a touch of God of War mixed in with a hint of Metal Gear in the cinematics when you finish a boss off.
The health system in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a curious beast. As Tepeu incurs injuries, his body is covered with a thick black sludge that is reminiscent of the enemies that you face. Should your health go all the way down, he will collapse on the ground. But all is not lost - if the Majin gets to you in time, he can absorb the sludge from your body and revive you. Majin is able to heal you normally before this stage as well, which can be particularly handy. He also has his own health bar and he can die, but you can give him a health flower before his meter reaches zero to replenish his health. Majin will also heal after boss fights and when you visit certain areas of the game. As you progress, the overall health meters can be increased by collecting various upgrades and acquiring new clothing for Tepeu, combinations of which are able to give you different battle attributes.
The visuals of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom are very hit and miss. The appearance of the normal gameplay is average to less than average at some stages. The environments don't stand out to be particularly memorable or visually spectacular, and there are occasions where aliasing is present, especially with plants. However, Majin himself is rendered respectably. Some fully rendered cut scenes are quite impressive, though it's the simpler silhouetted memory flashes of Majin that prove to be quite a beauty to see.
As with the graphics, sound design in Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a mixed affair. There isn't a lot of music in the game, but what is there proves to be most subtle and atmospheric for the situation unfolding. When enemies spot you, the usual near silence will be broken by an orchestrated track, which suits the urgency of the situation. There isn't a lot of musical variety, however, which may be a detraction for some. The voice acting of the game is an even more perplexing issue. One of Tepeu's abilities involves talking to animals which give him hints to progress, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with any of the performances, there is something that just doesn't sit quite right about them. They are often of an exaggerated and slightly humorous manner, which doesn't quite fit in with the fantasy tone of the rest of the game. Outside of this, the voice acting for Tepeu is okay but not spectacular, and Majin's vocals manage to really amp up his dopey but lovable manner, perhaps to an extent that will frustrate some.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom will take about thirteen hours at the very most to complete, though for many this time will be shorter. There are some collectibles, such as clothing and memory shards to collect, but many of these are simple to find, as the overworld map will indicate how many special items are still to be collected in an area. This doesn't increase the play time significantly and there isn't a lot to inspire people to replay the game multiple times, but given that it can be picked up for less that $40 at some stores, it is perhaps not as big an issues as it might otherwise be.
Overall, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom doesn't bring anything new to the action adventure genre and is let down by some aspects of its visual and sound design, but it still remains a solid game that fans of the genre will enjoy. At its current pricing it's hard to pass up and if you can look past its flaws you will definitely find something that is worthy of a place in your gaming collection.