Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Review

By on February 23, 2011

Justly forsaken?

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First Impressions
My reaction is

While it may sound overly cynical, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom seemed destined to    exist in anonymity from the get go. Being too similar in essence to the highly anticipated The Last Guardian, Namco Bandai’s game needed to really strut its stuff in an extravagant way if it was to capture the attention of flustered holiday season gamers. Despite being directed by Yoshiki Okamoto and released on both Sony and Microsoft’s consoles, Majin was not accompanied by much of a marketing push and never really blossomed into the sleeper hit it could have been.

The story takes place in a kingdom that has been plagued by darkness and left to wither away. With the king and his generals possessed by the powers of the darkness, the kingdom is beyond hope, that is until a desperate thief finds and frees a magical beast, known as “the guardian”, from the cage that has imprisoned him for many many years. The thief and the guardian develop a friendship that motivates them to work side by side in order to free the kingdom from the ubiquitous darkness.

While the premise is not new and the plot remains under-developed all throughout, the relationship between the two protagonists is heart-filled and provides for an interesting cooperative gameplay mechanic. The thief, Tepeu, and the Majin must use their complimentary skill-sets to overcome environmental obstacles as well as soldiers of the darkness. While the player controlled Tepeu is swift, agile and subtle, he has no powers to speak of beyond wielding a magical weapon bound to the Majin’s powers and is naturally susceptible to the overwhelming power of darkness. The Majin, on the other hand, is physically powerful, capable of casting various magical powers (once acquired) and can heal Tepeu when he is overcome by darkness. The down side is that the Majin is big, slow and cannot get past certain environmental obstacles. While you can never play as the Majin, you are required send him orders such as Follow, Wait, Attack etc. and have him do tasks you are incapable of doing. The same applies to combat, but that is where the gameplay takes a real nose dive. While most soldiers of darkness are not invulnerable to Tepeu’s attacks, his general ineffectiveness means going solo is never a good idea. The Majin is powerful but is hopelessly pea-brained when AI controlled. That would be okay is he was responsive to commands, but his capacity to be distracted from performing simple actions can make even simple battles very frustrating. For example, when groups of enemies are accompanied by a necromancer capable of summoning enemies infinitely, he must be eliminated first but getting the Majin to focus his attacks is like teaching a dog kanji, only perhaps a little more frustrating. In fact, be prepared to babysit him throughout the campaign, knocking enemies off his back, waiting for him to follow you down a path (only to watch him trip on his own feet), feeding him fruit when he foolishly takes on too many enemies at once and needs healing… in fact, the majority of the puzzles are figuring out how to get the Majin across obstacles because God forbid he attempts to squeeze through an opening in a wall (that could otherwise fit a bus!).

Since the combat grows dull very early on, its up to the exploration aspect of the game to keep gamers engaged throughout the campaign but somehow manages to make a meal of that as well. While much of the puzzles are fairly interesting they can prove quite lacking in variety. In addition, the game will require quite bit of backtracking, visiting areas you couldn’t access before due the Majin not having the required power at that time. This is only really frustrating because your pace is, of course, dictated by the Majin and having to fight enemies that have respawned is never something you want to do if the fight was a burden to begin with. What the game does pretty well however is boss battles. Each boss will test a newly acquired power and forces gamers to think before running up to the boss and mashing the attack button.

While the musical score is truly fantastic and arguable the very best aspect of the game, the same cannot be said about the voice acting. This has got to be one of the most inappropriate voice casts in a while. The Majin which is supposed to sound simple yet sincere comes off as mentally handicapped. Even Tepeu himself seems miscast which is unfortunate. As for the visuals, it appears as the common case of interesting design but mediocre implementation. While the colors are vibrant, much of the textures and model work is sub-par. Also a pity since the game is really meant to immerse the gamer in a magical world. That said, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom sports a lovely art style for back story cutscenes, its a shame that the art style was not somehow implemented, albeit in a more practical manner.

While the game undoubtedly has heart, it lacks bite. All its interesting ideas are underplayed leaving the whole experience somewhat forgettable. Still, if anyone is interested in taking a simple adventure into a magical world in need a savior, I can think a fair amount of titles that may be better, but Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom cannot be completely disregarded as a candidate.


The Scorecard
GAMEPLAY
6
Some interesting puzzles and boss battles are let down by incredibly tedious combat.
GRAPHICS
7
A game that really needed to be pretty is unfortunately average at best.
SOUND
8.5
Beautiful music, shame about the voice acting.
VALUE
6
A lengthy adventure, but not the most entertaining one. Backtracking is not value.
FUN FACTOR
6
A game with redeeming qualities, unfortunately too few of them.
OVERALL
6.5
For everyone who ever thought that commanding a beast can only be great, this game demonstrates otherwise. It has good points but they are few and far between.

About

As an opinionated young gamer many years ago, I made three predictions: 1- Sega would dominate the console wars for 50 years. 2- Simon's Quest would be remembered as the definitive NES game. 3- I would be gaming even more as an adult. I suppose one out of three isn't bad.

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