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MagnaCarta 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

MagnaCarta 2 (Xbox 360) review


"Those who are willing to set jaded prejudices to the side and play along with MagnaCarta 2's ambitions will find a world of passionate youth and unfeeling beasts, wrapped up in a conflict that's not really about good versus evil. It's a study on the concept of sacrifice for the supposed greater good; national leaders are quick to sacrifice others while the idle populace, safely watching the war from home, praise their heroes' noble deaths."



Is it moral to stand up for the oppressed, if doing so may hasten the downfall of your own nation?

Is it immoral to sacrifice other people, if that's the only way to preserve paradise?

Could such a world, a world full of pleasure, plentiful harvests, and beauty, even be called a paradise if it's built upon the blood of others?

Those willing to set jaded prejudices to the side and play along with MagnaCarta 2's ambitions will find a world of passionate youth and unfeeling beasts, wrapped up in a conflict that's not really about good versus evil. It's a study on the concept of sacrifice for the supposed greater good; national leaders are quick to sacrifice others while the idle populace, safely watching the war from home, praise their heroes' noble deaths. MagnaCarta 2 puts players in the role of those chosen to nobly die, and explores the consequences when heroes decide they actually want to live.

Unfortunately, like a 300-page novel with a 250-page prologue, the game takes a while to get to the point. Up until the final act, players must endure the cliche tale of "young spiky-haired male seeks revenge, teams up with other people seeking revenge, and tries to save the world from a very mean man". The spiky-haired male has a mysterious past, but can't remember anything due to amnesia. One of his companions is a rebellious princess on the run from a corrupt kingdom. There's also an annoying childish elf who is supposed to be cute and funny. These elements are not new; some of them fall under the heading of Gamers are Sick of This, and some fall under the heading of Cool JRPG Cliches. I personally appreciate the inclusion of attractive, spunky princesses. Amnesia I could do without.

The amnesiac's name is Juto, and he's a lazy islander who is afraid of steel swords. He's not afraid of wooden swords, nor is he afraid of steel knives (used for sharpening wooden swords). Once Juto overcomes his amusingly specific phobia and starts fighting to protect the island, MagnaCarta 2 begins its slow but steady shift from "stupid" to "fun". Similar to Final Fantasy XII, Phantasy Star Online, and Crystalis, combat takes place in real-time with visible enemies. To deal with the wizards, werewolves, and armored soldiers they'll come across, every character wields two weapons -- such as the adorably brusque ninja's shuriken and katana -- and learns numerous skills for each.

The real-time combat works because it's both responsive and dynamic. When mashing the attack button, I watched the screen for special "counter-attack" cues that could shatter opponents' weapons, while swinging my sword and waiting for an opportunity to unleash the ostentatious Celestial Crusher . . . . .

Heroic warrior Juto and his target disappear from sight, only to reappear inside an alternate reality. Stars circle the lonely battlefield.
"I NEED MORE POWER!"
Juto hulks up! His blade roars with flames!
"LET'S GO -- GET READY!"
Imbued with power, Juto takes two practice swings.
"HUA! HUA!"
Blades of energy strike the vicious [Poison Worm] for 5,400 damage!
*** NINE-HIT COMBO! Damage 70% up! ***
"THIS IS IT!"
Juto dashes towards his immobile opponent, culminating in a heroic leap!
"HYAAAAA!"
The blade spirals downwards at the [Poison Worm], dealing 14,000 damage!
*** TWELVE-HIT COMBO! Damage 120% up! ***
As the poison worm cowers in the corner, Juto turns his back and casually walks away like the world's ultimate badass.
"I have things that I have to protect."

Not since Final Fantasy VIII have I seen such gaudy, unskippable cinematic attacks. Sensible players will reserve these techniques for bosses.

After using up all of his stamina, Juto started panting and heaving, unable to lift his sword. Fortunately, I could switch to a teammate and divert the remaining worms' attention. This constant involvement in the action helped MagnaCarta 2 feel very much like a game, and a fun one at that.

It's a good thing combat is stimulating, because advancing the storyline couldn't be more brainless. Orange markers on the map identify the next event; simply follow the dots from beginning to end, slaughtering the wicked king's minions along the way. These orange markers are precise, leading directly to the specific person players need to speak to or the exact door that needs to be opened.

A slew of sidequests -- over a hundred -- add some much-needed adventuring to what would otherwise be a storybook with interactive battles. Participating in these quests yields money, experience, and gems that imbue weapons with new abilities (some of which actually increase gold or experience earned). As a certified master of fetching, I enjoyed these diversions . . . but those who roll their eyes at collecting ingredients to make potions, and instead focus solely on the main quest, will likely be put off by its marked linearity.

That's assuming you weren't already put off by the fat birdman carrying a blunderbuss.

Hyung-Tae Kim's divisive character artwork -- with large perky bosoms and wide mammoth hips -- has been toned down for the digital product, resulting in competent character models that provoke neither lust nor laughter. Blunderbird is a thankfully rare exception. The creatures that Juto encounters project appropriate levels of menace, although they could stand to be a bit more varied in appearance.

Unfortunately, the sparsely-populated cities and countryside don't feel nearly as "alive" as environments from other recent RPGs. Those of you who have been around a while may recall the 16-bit era, when RPG world map water actually started to move. Back in the day, that was pretty cool! MagnaCarta 2's water is static. It's just a shiny, translucent texture; there's no flow, no ebb, and no ripples when you wade (because you can't wade). Despite years of development, I can only assume that this game was produced on a shoestring budget. Numerous glitches -- such as characters getting trapped in the pitch blackness of "what the hell just happened to my screen, and why won't any of the buttons work" -- certainly don't help.

In short, MagnaCarta 2 is not an easy game to recommend. It feels small-time, it looks small-time, amnesiac heroes are stale, and the PS2 fiasco left a bad taste in many peoples' mouths. Despite all of those issues, I would still suggest JRPG fans give it an honest chance. The dynamic combat alone kept me playing long enough to appreciate the subtleties of the storyline, its complex moral study, and the believable maturation of its hero. It's not a powerhouse title, but a lot of prettier, slicker games could learn something from MagnaCarta 2.

//Zig

Rating: 6/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (November 10, 2009)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this MagnaCarta 2 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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randxian posted November 10, 2009:

Fantastic work as usual. I really like how you are up front and specific about the storyline and general mood of the game. That way, the reader can decide if this RPG would be appealing.

I tend to like the good guy vs bad guy thing, but this story does sound a bit intriguing.

And kuudos for poking fun at all the ridiculous spiky haired badass cliches.
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jerec posted November 10, 2009:

I admit, I only clicked on the review because of that picture. Then I read the first bit of the review, but got distracted in my search for more pictures.
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zigfried posted November 10, 2009:

I thought about including more art in the review somewhere, but then I realized that would be really misleading and thought better of it.

//Zig
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zippdementia posted November 11, 2009:

I second Jerec's opinion, though I also read the big block of different text in the middle and I clicked on the PS2 link.

But that was about all the energy I have for tonight.
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radicaldreamer posted November 11, 2009:

The Magna Carta series seems kind of not good. Surprised there was a sequel.
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bloomer posted November 11, 2009:

Hrm, actually I felt this was the least good Zigfried review for a while. This comment is potentially unfair in that I'm reading reviews only sporadically atm, and Zigfried has put out a ton I still haven't read. But I was reading it and had problems to the extent I was motivated to click and type this. I should also say this is a genre i never touch to play.

The start talk is about the moral dilemma and the heroes who decide they want to live. 'Those who are willing to set jaded prejudices to the side and play along with MagnaCarta 2's ambition...' says to me this part is basically serious in intent. Then 'Those who don't care...' directs us away from it, and it's left for good, but after the time spent writing and presenting this, I thought 'why?'. Also I didn't feel the chunk of gameplay quoting in indented paragraphs added anything. The point it was intended to illustrate didn't need that much illustration, so to me this was mostly filler. Okay, more kindly, perhaps it's just the interest in doing something different after you've written a zillion reviews.

The rest still covers the bases well, but this review raises points and draws attention to things (and takes a lot of space with it) that don't get pursued, or didn't seem important.
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zigfried posted November 11, 2009:

It's not my personal favorite review either. I used a different approach for this one, in that it's written towards people who are already planning to buy the game (most of my reviews are written towards people who are interested in the game, but possibly still on the fence). First, consider the following review that I could have written:

***********************

At heart, MagnaCarta 2 is a moral study on the meaning of "sacrifice for the greater good" and the consequences that ensue when heroes who have been chosen to die, decide they actually want to live. Like a 250-page book with a 200-page prologue, the game takes a long time to make its point, instead deluging us with peculiar sword phobias, spiky-haired heroes, amnesiacs, and rebellious princesses. MagnaCarta 2 contains so many cliches that, by the time the game does make its point, most people are unlikely to realize it even had one.

What everyone will notice is the responsive and dynamic combat. The player constantly taps attack buttons, watches for visual cues, and swaps party members when one character expends all their energy. The game also emphasizes some really elaborate, unskippable cinematic attacks (that wise players will reserve for bosses, due to their length).

Unfortunately, players who actually liked the cover artwork (which has proven to be a turn-off to just as many) will be disappointed by the shabby graphics and frequent glitches. MagnaCarta 2 provokes some interesting thoughts, but only if given the chance by the most forgiving soul.

****************

The above is more concise and, I'd say, a better review in most regards. But people who really care about the game, people looking for reviews of newly-released Xbox 360 RPGs, expect to read more than that. Plus, while informative, the above doesn't accomplish my true goal.

You see, the review is a test. If someone can go into the review planning to buy MagnaCarta 2, read the review, and come out of it still planning to buy MagnaCarta 2... then that's the kind of person who might actually like the game. That's also why I end on a positive note: to reinforce that if you care about what the game does right, it's something different and worth experiencing.

The fact that some people here got bored by the intro and wanted to see more artwork, shows that the game's appeal is limited. Unfortunately, I can't discuss the moral message too much or try to make it sound cooler because (1) spoilers, and (2) the game takes so long to get to the point. This would be an easy game to misrepresent. A lot of people don't even care about moral messages in the first place, so I put that part upfront, knowing it would bore some people. If people are bored by the ultimate message, then playing the game would waste their time. If the message does sound interesting, then the rest of the review is basically a big "but it's not quite as good as that may sound" disclaimer.

The indented part's purpose was to be big and unavoidable. In the game, the special attacks are long and cannot be skipped. I probably could have just said that, but I decided to be a smart-ass instead. By indenting the section and making it look important, people will read it (expecting to find something of value at the end). The intent was to make that section "unskippable" to reinforce just how ridiculous those cinematic attacks can get. Most modern RPGs insert some form of interaction into their ultimate attacks, but in MagnaCarta 2 you just watch them over and over again and again. Or start reserving them for bosses.

So I agree, not my best, but the above is what I was going for.

//Zig
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bloomer posted November 11, 2009:

Okay. It is a difficult proposition. Not being in the target audience for your pitch, all I can do is go on the response of slack-jawed yokels like Jerec here :)
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zigfried posted November 11, 2009:

Your comments were actually pretty interesting. Especially the one about my review mentioning a lot of things, but not pursuing them, and many items not seeming important -- it made me ponder what would be worthwhile to discuss in other, more distinctly noteworthy, RPG reviews.

//Zig
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darketernal posted November 11, 2009:

I refuse to believe this game is average, let alone leaning towards good, and this has nothing to do with the reviewer whose work is commonly extremely well written, but it's the fact that it's Magna Carta that makes me disbelieve any credibility towards it's possible awesomeness.
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randxian posted November 11, 2009:

Also I didn't feel the chunk of gameplay quoting in indented paragraphs added anything. The point it was intended to illustrate didn't need that much illustration, so to me this was mostly filler

My problem with this portion of the review is I don't feel like it addresses people who have not played this game. I read through that section twice, but I'm still not sure I understand how the game play mechanics work.

However, that's overshadowed by the excellent opening that elaborates on the story and themes prevalant in the game. Story and mood are just as, if not more so, important than the game play itself, so knowing about this aspect up front is a plus in my book. Not knowing about the game play itself didn't bother me so much since I already knew what kind of game this is from the first couple of paragraphs.
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zigfried posted November 11, 2009:

That section isn't actually saying anything about the gameplay -- it's describing a long, unskippable cinematic attack. I'll tweak it to make that clearer. The cinematic attacks are pretty ridiculous, especially in a game that otherwise fails to make any kind of positive graphical impact.

EDIT: tweaked'd

//Zig

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