Namco-Bandai recently released the sequel to their popular Magna Carta: The Phantom of Avalanche which was released in 2001 on the PS2. Even though the game is titled Magnacarta 2, this isn’t a direct sequel of the original title. Magnacarta 2 will have players fighting their way across the Lanzheim Continent, but will players have any fun doing so?
Magnacarta 2’s story takes place in the war-torn Lanzheim Continent where the tyrannical Northern Forces Army are slowly taking over the continent. The only opposition is the Southern Forces, which are comprised of liberation fighters who wish to free Lanzheim of the Northern Forces Army. You play as Juto, who coincidentally was stricken with amnesia and can’t remember anything from his past. He was found by villagers of Highwind Island, to which he made his new home. When the war between the Northern Forces Army and Southern Forces makes its way to Highwind Island, that is when Juto meets his future colleagues and vows to put an end to the war once and for all.
The story sounds like a typical RPG, and although it’s slow to start, the story certainly picks up a couple of hours into the game. Each character has their own reason for their fight against the Northern Forces Army and interact with each other in interesting ways. For example: Juto and Crocell for the most part don’t like each other since Juto is amnesiac, Crocell gets easily annoyed with the constant questions from Juto. On the other hand, Crocell is a sarcastic jerk who Juto doesn’t care for due to his thick sarcasm. The interaction between the two brings some fun conflict during some hard times.
The gameplay mechanics have you traveling from point to point in order to progress the story in a linear fashion. Points of interest are shown on the map as flags, which indicate an area where a cutscene will occur that will progress the story. During your travels, there will be side quests a-plenty as nearly all new areas you discover will have a couple of people who require your assistance. Rewards for completing side missions vary from experience to valuable items, weapons, or accessories. The battle system is where Magnacarta 2 becomes really fun. The combat system is action based and rewards players who use strategy over simply mashing the buttons. The system relies heavily on stamina. Every character’s attacks use up a particular amount of stamina. Once you fill up your stamina bar, your character enters ‘Overdrive’. In overdrive, characters attacks deal 1.5x more damage than normal, although you need to attack continuously before entering ‘Overheat’ mode. In overheat, your character is completely worn out and unable to move which makes him highly vulnerable to incoming attacks. That is where your companions come in. When one character overheats, you can then use another character to either defend them while they recover or perform a chain attack which pushes the next character into overdrive, then activating their special attack which brings both characters back to normal. It might sound a bit complicated in text, but trust me when I say it’s very rewarding to master the combat system in this game.
The inventory system isn’t as cluttered as most RPGs are. You can outfit your characters with weapons of two different fighting styles depending on the character you use. A support slot, which is similar to armor in typical RPGs, highers your defenses. There are also two accessory slots which can be used to allow for more powerful upgrades to your character. Each character has their own skill tree as well which skill points (or SP) that is collected during battles can be used to unlock upgrades. The final section is the ‘Enhancement’ menu, which allows you to upgrade your weapons with ‘Kamonds’ that can boost your weapons with boosts to your attack, defense, or spirit.
The art style for Magnacarta 2 might seem a little strange to most people. For the first couple of hours, I couldn’t help but stare at the characters during dialogs. The reason for this is because the heads of the human-like characters seem awfully small compared to the rest of their body. This doesn’t add or detract from the enjoyment of this title, but I just thought I’d warn you there is some weird stuff going on with some of the character’s body proportions. Regardless of the freaks walking around, graphically the game looks great. All characters have a high amount of detail to them and the world around them looks beautiful and inviting. Loading times were also very short compared to how much detail there is in the world. Character voices during cut-scenes and moments of dialog are all done with vocal soundtracks. The voice actors do a good job with their performances, but sometimes some of the dialog can seem cheesy. It would have been great if a Japanese audio track and subtitles could have been an option, but I’m one of those people who prefers hearing RPGs in their original soundtracks since English soundtracks of Japanese games can sound like nails on a chalkboard to me.
FINAL THOUGHT: With the lack of JRPGs coming out in time for the holidays, Magnacarta 2 is a title that should satisfy any fan of JRPGs. The combat system is simple to understand, but takes much practice to master and can be rewarding when done so correctly. The story doesn’t seem that unique, but it still offered some interesting twists and turns along the way.