Magnacarta 2 is the type of RPG that comes out of nowhere and sneaks into your game collection before you have a chance to decide whether you actually want it or not. Even though the game carries a numeral at the end of it, you wouldn’t know it from actually playing the game. This is a follow-up to the original game released on PS2 years ago, but you do not need to have played through the original game to jump into the sequel. In fact I would almost recommend skipping the original if you haven’t played it yet and dive directly into the sequel. I am not one to usually enjoy the traditional JRPG for more than a couple hours, but something about Magnacarta 2 hooked me in enough to want to actually finish it; and it certainly was not the story.
As I have mentioned the story is easily the most underwhelming portion of the experience. This may sound like blasphemy to the RPG aficionado, but trust me it makes up for it in other areas. Riding the quintessential wave of predictability your main character begins the game with complete amnesia. It becomes more and more apparent that as you progress and start regaining more of your past, that you were once a great warrior, and of course you are destined to once again save the day. The cast of characters are entertaining and well voiced, but they just seem to lack that hook that makes them more interesting than your standard RPG fare. It is almost as if the game suffers from the standard of the genre more than on its own merits.
The main plot involves the Kingdom of Lanzheim and the inevitable war between the north and south forces that has divided this great land for centuries. You begin on an island as Juto and eventually join forces with the other main protagonist, a busty princess named Zephie. All of your archetypal RPG clichés are here including the predictable story and perky dialogue. This is once again the most disappointing aspect of the game. There are several plotlines that appear to be going in new directions, but eventually all fall back on the stale narrative. It becomes harder and harder to relate the each character as the game progresses, thus making the story kind of a drag.
Thankfully the game knows where its strengths lie and that is in the combat system. Everything in the game is in real time and actions are performed in the same space as your exploration. If you see an enemy all you need to do is pull the left trigger to enter combat mode. You can have three party members in combat at once, and actions are all performed by a series of button commands. The combat is ridiculously deep and you will still be learning new combos well into the game. You control one character at a time while the other two are dictated by AI behavior. You can adjust them for things such as healing and conserving, but for the most part they are simply running through the motions. The addictiveness comes from creating chain combos between the three.
The way things work is simple, but mastering it is intense. Each character has a stamina bar that slowly depletes as you attack. Once exhausted you have the ability to unleash one special attack before having to cool down. Once you obtain the three-person party you can opt to chain attacks together for even more impressive combos. The premise is simple; once you are exhausted you can quickly switch to the next character and continue the combo, or unleash the ultimate attack and regain all your stamina for both characters. Timing is crucial and the amount of various chain attacks is immense. You will find yourself experimenting and learning new tricks and combos long into the main game. This is really what sets Magnacarta 2 apart from everything else in the genre.
Believe it or not that combat is more than worth the price of admission if you enjoy the real-time battle system. As for the bulk of the game the actual story missions and bulk of the main quest is your typical RPG fashion. Side quests feel precisely like that, a side mission. None of them are largely original, and the bulk of them are so effortless that they only serve to add length to the game. I found myself completing them mostly for Achievements and grinding up my levels, rarely did I find any enjoyment other than that out of completing them. Things never really pick up either. The story begins to drag on later in the game and outside of the impressive cut scenes, can be quite mind-numbing at times.
Visually the game seems to rely on sex appeal for most of its eye candy. The characters are designed in such a fashion that the women are seemingly busting out of their clothing and the men look like they want to be busting out. The character models are nicely detailed and animations are fluid, but they also lack originality much like the story. Some of the spells and special attacks are truly a sight to behold and the environments range enough to keep things interesting. Some of the level set pieces are downright gorgeous in both design and execution. Sound is equally impressive offering a solid cast of English voice actors to fill in the story. Music is top-tier though providing a soundtrack that hits nearly every mood, and compliments the entire world fantastically.
Magnacarta 2 is a traditional JRPG in every sense of the word. The clichéd story and predictable characters are not going to win any innovation awards, but they also manage to entertain just enough to avoid annoyance. The combat system is definitely the champion here though as it offers nearly limitless appeal to the overall experience. Mastering moves and figuring out all the chain attacks is as addictive as it is fun. If you are looking for another solid JRPG experience on the Xbox 360, and let’s be honest pickings are slim, then Magnacarta 2 is a solid effort that deserves to be experienced by all fans of the genre.