Despite the offerings available on the 3DS when it comes to JRPGs, not all of them are gems. Thus enter Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven, a game once on its deathbed after its developer went belly-up, now lying on store shelves ready to be played by anyone looking for a slightly different take on the genre. But is this one of those just-mentioned classics, or just a poor trip into JRPG town?
Lord of Magna is about two things: its adorable graphics and its unique take on combat systems. The former is something to especially write home about thanks to the sheer vivacity of its aesthetic. Bright colors, chibi character models and some solid animations all serve Maiden Heaven‘s mission of delivering a lush, vibrant world to its players. While we don’t particularly mind fan-service, especially in our niche JRPGs, it is nevertheless refreshing that Magna opts for a softer, cuter approach to its cast of ladies as opposed to a more skin-showing obsessed one. Neither is right or wrong per se- – really only a matter of preference — we just thought that in the case of Maiden Heaven, its charming, big-headed characters fit the world and overall theme better.
It’s a shame that the story isn’t as vexing, often times feeling like a trope-laden adventure with all the predictability of a Kemco mobile RPG. Any game that stars a main character with amnesia is enough to make eyes roll and the premise itself is probably grounds enough to indicate that this isn’t trying to be the next Final Fantasy. Storytelling isn’t the game’s strong suit, however, with most of its efforts focused in the gameplay department.
In fact, battling is 90 percent of the endeavor here, making the game only worthwhile to those interested in the combat mechanics. It’s fortunate, then, that duking it out in Maiden Heaven is a blast. You can tell the developers poured their time and devotion into it, and thus have given us an experience that is extremely satisfying for those who enjoy more tactical combat setups a la Valkyria Chronicles.
Battles are shown from a top-down perspective and are turn-based, though like VC or Arc the Lad don’t take place on a grid. Instead, characters have a speed rating that determine their movement radius and turn order. Players can go anywhere within said radius, and also attack, defend and use skills as well as items. It’s nothing groundbreaking, that much is true; but when these systems have been refined as well as they have here–to the point that they go off without a hitch–there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
The main objective with each tactical scenario is to take down as many foes as possible. This is done a number of ways, but one of the most effective strategies is to knock an enemy into a larger group of baddies, sort of like bowling, so as to score big-hit combos which in turn grant additional turns. This is the combat’s primary focus and tactic, thus players will need to set up these situations as much as possible to make it through battles alive. Because this approach is heavily relied on, it’d be easy to think the game would quickly tire folks, yet each big combo is so fulfilling that it rarely happens.
Thankfully, battlefields are pretty interactive and offer items to be found and environmental hazards to trigger in order to help obliterate opponents, which helps keep things fresh. And with a party of four fighters, there’s plenty to keep track of during these encounters. It’s also nice that the game’s difficulty feels just right, never too easy nor overwhelmingly hard. It’s one of the few JRPGs out there that doesn’t feel the need to make you grind or destroy you over and over again in order to feel complete. It’s nice to know some developers aren’t msochists.
There’s some replayability here as well, as Lord of Magna contains seven endings. This is nice too, seeing as the game isn’t all that long. Our first playthrough took us around 20-ish hours and a second one took us even less. Going back to it a second time was pleasant as well if for nothing else than a quality soundtrack. Tunes are bouncy, bubbly, and while lacking emotional poignance, plain fun. The lighthearted nature of them fits the game’s tone quite well, but those looking for a stirring OST need look elsewhere.
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is a quality, albeit quirky, JRPG. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t dabble too much in the story department. Instead, it focuses its attention on combat, which excels in big ways. The vibrant aesthetic and charming soundtrack also do a lot to offset the lackluster story and character development. Those looking for a unique take on the genre or are wanting an engaging tactical combat system might find Lord of Magna worth the investment.