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Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (3DS) artwork

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven (3DS) review

"Lord of Magna is easily recommended to fans of strategy JRPGs and those who just like simple, innocent stories."

When I was a teenager, I played 10 minutes of Harvest Moon and hated it. By extension, I always assumed I would hate its RPG spin-off series, Rune Factory. I donít even know why I bought Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven, a spiritual successor to Rune Factory, but Iím glad I did.

Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is the latest game from Yoshifumi Hashimoto, the producer on both Harvest Moon and Rune Factory. Going in, I expected another game in that vein with a sheen of otaku polish provided by the titular maidens. What I got was a strategy RPG with sublime combat and a whole lot of heart.

The game begins with a player-named character that runs an inn in the middle of nowhere. The inn has never seen business, but it continues to operate as the family has promised to wait for ďcherished guestsĒ and treat them as family. As JRPGs are wont to do, our protagonist just so happens to stumble upon one of these guests after an earthquake. What follows is a heartfelt story of a young man discovering a family heís never had as seven women move into the inn.

Itís at this point that I thought the story would devolve into otaku bait, especially since the protagonistís best friend, Bart, gives each girl a maid outfit to wear at the inn. While the intention may have been to appeal to maid fans, the experience never devolves into the creepy master-servant relationship that so many other maid-based media runs into. Instead, the story stays focused on the familial relationship between the protagonist and the women that live at the inn.

Not to spoil too much of the story, but it does venture into very generic JRPG territory as it progresses. Thereís a kingdom ruled by an insane man thatís hell-bent on using the maidenís power for his own ends. On top of that, the story gets into prophecies, ancient wars and a brooding anti-hero whose relation to everything else is painfully obvious from the beginning.

Of course, the strength of a JRPG never lies with its overarching plot, but rather its characters. With seven party members, thereís plenty of time to get close to each one of them and learn about their past, fears, insecurities and, ultimately, how they feel about our hero. Yes, thereís a romance subplot where the game allows players to court one of the maidens, but itís played with the utmost of class and never comes off a wish fulfillment.

I certainly enjoyed the characters and the story, but the gameplay is where Lord of Magna really shines. At the start, the game presents players with a standard strategy RPG formula with each character having a set distance they can travel within a circle around them and from there can attack, use skills or utilize items. Things get interesting, however, when you actually strike an enemy. Small enemies are flung backwards with even the smallest hit and knock over other smaller enemies they happen to run into. The combat is essentially just like bowling, with the satisfaction and frustration that can bring. Be prepared to run into a lot of frustrating 7-10 splits.

Not all enemies are susceptible to the bowling mechanic. In fact, the small enemies always accompany a commander of sorts that canít be knocked back. Instead, players will have to rely on standard attacks and skills to bring these monsters down. The bowling mechanic adds another layer of strategy to these enemies, as well. Each turn, the commanders have to sacrifice a fraction of their HP to summon more small enemies to the battlefield. Oftentimes, itís smarter to focus on the smaller enemies to force the commanders to drain away their own HP. It doesnít hurt that killing more than 10 of these smaller enemies nabs the attacking character an extra turn at bat so they can go in for a hit on the commander after killing all of its minions.

Outside of battle, thereís surprisingly not a lot else to do. Thereís the aforementioned bonding with party members, but the Rune Factory elements have apparently been toned down a lot. I consulted with a Rune Factory-playing friend to determine the amount of crafting and farming that takes place in the series, and Lord of Magna doesnít have anywhere near the amount of those elements, based upon what he told me. Item crafting is a small diversion here, in which you can craft items and skills for characters in a workshop and farming is relegated to a Streetpass feature. Itís simple stuff and nowhere near the simulation that previous games provided. Truth be told, the scaling back of such elements didnít bother me one bit because I donít have a history with the franchise, plus it doesn't seem like the developers were interested in going that route, anyway. If simulation elements were forced on the player, the game wouldnít be quite the snappy, heartfelt JRPG it is.

I bought Lord of Magna on a complete whim. To be honest, I only bought the game because I was happy XSEED was localizing more Legend of Heroes titles and wanted to reward with them a sale. Iím flabbergasted that an impulse buy ended up being one of my favorite RPGs on the 3DS. Itís easily recommended to fans of strategy JRPGs and those who just like simple, innocent stories. It may not be like Rune Factory, but fans of the simulation RPG should still give this one a shot. Thereís a lot of heart in this one and it shouldnít be ignored.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (June 22, 2015)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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