It is titles like Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven that helps me truly appreciate the work that niche publishers like XSeed put into their localizations. I do not say this because I enjoyed Lord of Magna, as I honestly found it rather bland, but more so because it shows they care for the genre as a whole. Yes it is a pipe dream to live in an industry where every time I see a new JRPG announced, I don’t need to tell myself “this game looks very cool, it’s a shame that it likely won’t be loacalized” but when even some of the more mediocre titles like Lord of Magna are being localized, it definitely provides a lot more hope that a lot of the best titles will get one.
I will also admit that curiosity plays a large factor in that I like to see if these games are any good in the first place, and even when a game does not get the best reception I still tend to prefer seeing it for myself. As such I generally am hesitant to take any claims of “this game wasn’t localized because it’s terrible” seriously. It can sometimes make one feel like an ass if you ask a publisher to localize a game that can take up time and money only to say that their game is bad and their effort was pointless. So despite me not caring for Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven, I am still glad XSeed brought it over and I’m glad to have given my money if only because it supports them for doing so (plus it comes with a nice looking box with a soundtrack CD, which the collector part of me always appreciates).
Unfortunately, when it comes to the game’s quality I can’t say the same thing. Lord of Magna certainly was not a bad game but it was rather unsatisfying and mostly for reasons I have not seen many people touch upon. People have pointed out the short length and how rushed the plot was, but to me the game was just never interesting to begin with in either story or gameplay. I thought the game may be interesting enough when I first started because I assumed it would try to build upon itself, but the game never really went anywhere and just stayed bland and boring throughout.
The story of Lord of Magna stars Luchs, the owner of a small Inn on the outside of town that is apparently doing really poorly in business. I don’t say this because it is part of the plot or anything, but more so because the amount of people that have ever come to this in are in single digits. As a result, Luchs and his friends Bart and Amelia have sworn to treat any guests they receive as no less than family. As fate would have it, this comes into play when he is rescued from monsters by a girl named Charlotte, who… wait for it… cannot remember her past!
Luchs then agrees to help her find her sisters and remember her past., and when you find them it turns out that most of her sisters also have amnesia as well until the plot decides that they don’t. In case one didn’t notice, the game does a pretty poor job at utilizing the amnesia plot device. The main reason this plot device has become considered a joke among many gamers is not simply because it is used so often but more so because it’s used as a forced way of leaving players in the dark when they would otherwise know everything right away. Yes there is an explanation in the game given for why this is the case but it still becomes hard to suspend one’s disbelief when half the cast has amnesia.
This is one of only many problems with this game’s storyline. The plot of Lord of Magna may not have many holes or lapses in logic but a majority of it feels very forced. For example, pretty much every battle in the game comes down to “you go to some place where story development occurs but before you can get going you are ambushed by a bunch of generic mooks with no relation to the general storyline.” Any moments of character development have one of the girls acting out of character due to some type of self doubt, only to have Luchs reassure them after a plot mandated battle against random grunts. Afterwards, said girl goes back to how she was before. It should also be noted that these sequences almost always have no relevance to the current plot and are shoehorned in randomly.
It never felt like any of our characters developed at all over the twenty hours of this game despite the massive amounts of text and dialogue. The game’s dialogue is often overly wordy, takes way too long to get to the point, and could have done so a lot quicker if in the hands of a more competent writer. It is games like Lord of Magna that make me miss the SNES days when translators needed to cut down on text in order to fit the limited amount of space and needed to use words conservatively. When you make someone miss a period when a lot of important aspects of a game’s story could have been lost in translation, you definitely done fucked up!
In general the story of Lord of Magna was just boring. For about the first half of the game the plot can best be summed up ass “you sit on your ass while waiting for Charlottes other sisters to show up.” There is a complete lack of conflict during this period nor is there any sense of progress. You instead alternate between cutscenes that can take between ten and twenty minutes that you just want to end so you can get back to the gameplay, only to have battles the drag on for way too long to the point where you just want them to end so you can get back to the story; rinse and repeat.
The second half of Lord of Magna is clearly where the developers went “uh oh, we finished half of the game up but only got 10% of the story completed, quick, shoehorn the rest of the story in haphazardly (or something having to do with a change in developers)!” At this point the plot moves forward way too quickly by just having the remaining sisters appear without any development and dumping the game’s backstory right on you. There is a complete lack of any sort of suspense or tension behind this part of the game because it forgets about establishing any sort of depth and merely goes through the motions.
I constantly noticed how several scenes in Lord of Magna played out in ways where the player was clearly supposed to be emotionally invested. Despite this I could never bring myself to hold any sort of interest in how this story was going to turn out. I did not care about any of the game’s characters nor did I care about its world. The reason for this being the case is simply that the game gave me nothing to be interested in. Yes the game could have been interesting if put together in the right way but it never was. Lord of Magna never gets past the “this looks like it could have some potential, I hope it gets better later on” point of the players impression.
This ends up with a game that is just kind of… there. It is playable, and has a nice art style and soundtrack; but there is nothing remotely interesting about its storyline or writing (or the gameplay but I’ll get to that later). Yes one could just keep playing this game just so they can beat it, but why would you playing it? It doesn’t take much from you but it doesn’t give you much either. It is the JRPG equivalent of the planet of the Neutrals from Futurama; no strong feeling one way or the other. Also, “operation M.A.I.D in Heaven” isn’t funny and I’m pretty sure that was the name of a hentai.
The presentational aspects tend to be what Lord of Magna does best. The art style is fairly serviceable and the character portraits are well drawn, albeit not very unique. The in game graphics use a chibi style that looks colorful and bright enough. Unfortunately the enemy sprites look quite bland and lack any sort of flair to them. Most enemies look the same and not even the bosses look intimidating in the slightest. One of the main appeals of RPGs is going up against strong monsters and taking them down through thought and planning rather than fast reflex. When one does not make the monsters look interesting at all it drains away most of the atmosphere.
There are a few animated scenes in the game but I could probably count them on one hand. The only ones I remember were the cinematic intro, the ending, and a bath scene with all the girls (which I like to imagine is what 50% of this game’s budget went towards). The scenes are well animated though and do their job. The music is pretty good with a mix between atmospheric and intense songs that capture the mood well. The voice acting, what little there is of it, leaves a lot to be desired. This is mostly because you will only have single lines out of several paragraphs of text that will be voiced and it will come across as jarring when you hear them spoken out. It does not help that the performances themselves are rather dry.
The battle mechanics of Lord of Magna are a lot like its story; they look like they can be good but never go anywhere. The battle system’s main innovation is the ability to create combos by knocking enemy grunts into each other and creating a domino effect similar to bowling. Taking out enough enemy grunts in one turn will allow you to get another turn right afterwards. Unfortunately there is no attempt to implement this feature in an interesting way.
The only way one can ever get this to work in battle is to use an attack with a large area of effect when there just so happens to be enough random grunts about. You can never get this bonus through normal attacks and there is practically no incentive to try and use it unless you just so happen to have enough grunts around. This is made worse when one considers that these special attacks are no stronger than standards attacks yet you need to waste precious AP in order to do so. This is made even worse because the only way to build up more AP is to not perform any actions in battle which just means more waiting.
The battles themselves are done in a very typical turn based SRPG format. You move forward as much as your range will allow you while you wait for enemies to walk over to you. After about three turns, you will come across a group of grunts lead by one grunt leader who can spawn more of them and kill them. Rinse and repeat until the battle is over. While it may seem like I am oversimplifying things here, I will say that there is just not that much depth to these battles. A majority of these battles consist of moving forward or mindlessly mowing down enemies. The battles only take long because the strongest monsters just have a lot of HP and the only reasons you ever get a game over is either being out of healing items or because you weren’t paying attention. The whole item thing also has to do with the fact that the game does not let you use items on party members other than the current user. Furthermore you don’t even get access to any healing spells until over halfway through the game.
There is also no real content to the game aside from battles either and the game puts all its eggs in this one basket. As a result, Lord of Magna is flat out boring. Yes it is playable and will appeal to anyone who thinks there is no such thing as a bad SRPG, but it just isn’t interesting. There is nothing remotely interesting about these battles despite what could have been done. Why not at least implement the scenery into the game? It would have been nice if you could defeat enemies by bowling them into each other so they go rolling off the edge. They could have allowed the ability to target enemies from behind cover and pick them off. They could have implemented some actual strategy into this strategy RPG, but nope, just need to make it as flat as possible.
I don’t know how else to describe Lord of Magna other than just as “boring.” Aside from the music and artstyle there was just nothing particularly great I can say about it. There is certainly far worse out there and I still am hesitant to say that Lord of Magna is necessarily a bad game but it may as well be. Sure some aspects are serviceable, but I just cannot imagine anyone going “hey you know what was an awesome JRPG; Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven!” At most this game will be serviceable to those who are just looking for a time sink and have played absolutely everything else on the 3DS that could qualify.
Unfortunately I cannot actively suggest that anyone should go out and buy Lord of Magna because it’s a fun game. As stated before, I don’t regret purchasing this game simply because I support XSeed’s decision to bring this game over simply because it is a good sign when they clearly believe there is enough of an audience for even the more mediocre JRPGs. Granted I could naturally express some disappointment that this game gets localized in favor of more interesting titles like Beyond the Labyrinth, Exstetra, Metal Max 4, Seisou no Amazones, UnchainBlades EXXiV, and Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland, but chances are I’d be saying a similar thing if one of those got localized and I didn’t like it. So either way I applaud XSeed for bringing over Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven but I sadly cannot recommend the game itself.
If you would like to play this game anyway despite my warnings, it can be purchased here.
This review was originally posted to GameFAQs on December 1st of 2015 and has since been re-edited with enhanced presentation.
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