|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SoftMax||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Experiencing the rapture of getting lost in plots of turmoil set in a gripping, epic world of magic, fantasy, and machinery for the first time can be a wondrous event. The most masterful RPGs will draw you into their depths for many hours at a time and leave you not wanting to hit the power button at the end of the day. But having slain countless demons, grinded through thousands of dungeons, and cast more spells than I care to admit over the years, it's increasingly difficult to recapture the sense of wonder those first tentative adventures evoked.
Though MagnaCarta 2 weaves an entirely new plot that doesn't require owning the previous games to get the gist of, many aspects of this lengthy JRPG smack of familiarity. The tale kicks off by introducing a young man named Juto who has lost his memory and inexplicably can't bring himself to pick up a sword. How unfortunate, considering the small village he's settled into is caught up in the middle of a massive civil war between opposing armies on the Lanzheim Continent. When the town is razed and ill befalls Juto's sister-like mentor, he quickly overcomes his fear of weaponry and sets out for revenge. To this aim, he winds up joining a young princess and her special contingent of warriors who are leading the charge against the evil forces bent on conquering the land. In true JRPG fashion, the nitty-gritty details of the conflict are far more complex and thick to penetrate until you've spent some time in this fantasy world
It takes a little while to learn the ropes in the first stretch of the game, but soon after you'll control Juto and his companions as they plow through their war-strewn lands in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the conflict and settle personal vendettas. Your party starts out with a mix of combat-heavy characters like the hulking, axe-wielding humanoid Argo and elemental magic users like the bratty fire wizard Crocell. Others also come and go during the adventure. You can switch between anyone in your party on the fly during battle, which plays very heavily into the game's innovative combat system.
The complexities of MagnaCarta 2's battle system are initially tricky to grasp. However, once you get used to it, combat quickly stands out as one of the game's selling points. While adventuring around the beautifully detailed map environments in third-person, other part members will tag along behind you. As you approach enemies, a single button tap sets your entire party into attack mode. This slows your movement and lets you lock onto enemies to deliver blows and fire off special abilities, although you can always tap L to stow your weapons and return to the adventuring mode for a haste retreat. The transition back and forth is seamless.
Attacking opponents drains your stamina, and pushing yourself too hard initiates an overdrive mode that lets you deliver another round of quick, power attacks before becoming exhausted and temporarily unable to function. Using a special move at the tail of the overdrive and then immediately switching to another character passes on the overdrive to them, and you can chain attacks together this way to create powerful combos. If your timing is off, you can also risk exhausting multiple party members at once, which can spell big trouble in the middle of a larger fight. In practice, the chaining and combo features really add to the dynamic nature of the battle system.
Unfortunately, other areas of the gameplay don't venture far off the beaten path of tried-and-true RPG tenets. Slotted weapons can be outfitted with gem-like Kamonds that boost stats and add other unique properties to your attacks, and skill points are spent on an ability tree to unlock special powers and bump up stats. Yes, more than a few of MagnaCarta 2's tricks seem to be torn out of the pages of the good book of Final Fantasy. You'll also find rote optional side-quests aplenty that send you out to kill a certain number of specific enemies, collecting random things, and deliver stuff to people, among other tedious tasks. It's not that any of these elements are poorly implemented; like much of the mechanics and features found in the game, they're just not particularly new or interesting.