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If you’ve grown tired of dark RPGs with brooding characters, menacing monsters and a plot thick with copious details, then Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven may be the change of pace you’ve been looking for. It’s a lighthearted, colorful SRPG romp from the folks at Marvelous Inc. and, while it suffers from a handful of drawbacks, Maiden Heaven proves to be a charming, fun distraction for the Nintendo 3DS.
Lord of Magna’s story and structure is by-the-book RPG blended with a dash of harem anime. The player takes on the role of the fiery-haired proprietor of a struggling inn. He’s taken up a family oath to keep the place running until his “special guests” arrive, though they’ve apparently taken their sweet time in showing up.
With his comedic-relief of a sidekick Bart left to tend the shop, the player-named protagonists heads into the nearby caves to gather some crystals; because this is an RPG, and you can’t have an RPG without crystals. It’s not long before you’re set upon by a group of monsters that clearly outmatch your paltry combat skills. Luckily, all of this commotion happens to awaken a young maiden who is trapped in a particularly large crystal. It turns out she’s battle-ready and makes short work of those beasties before passing out. You later discover she has amnesia, because of course she does.
Long story short, the world is on the edge of turmoil and it turns out that your new guest, who you have now hired to serve as a maid at the inn, might be the key to saving the day. Your job becomes helping her uncover her memories, as well as locating her six sisters who also happen to be suffering from a severe case of can’t-remember-anything.
It’s a pretty light premise, but it works well enough for wat evolves into a rather light SRPG adventure. Outside of combat, which we’ll get to in just a moment, the majority of your time will be spent sitting through some rather lengthy bits of story that fill in the details as the girls start to regain their memories.
The good news is that the team at XSEED has done a great job of localizing Maiden Heaven, filling it with entertaining banter, some clever moments and even some actual voice over work peppered throughout. But even though there’s a good translation on offer, Lord of Magna suffers from some pretty serious pacing issues. It’s not uncommon to be drug from long-winded scene to long-winded scene, having loads of conversations dumped into your lap with nary a chance to actually play the game or save your progress. If you go in accepting the fact that Lord of Magna is basically a 50/50 split between visual novel and SRPG, you’ll be fine. If you aren’t prepared for that much banter, though, it can be a little frustrating watching the various scenes play out when all you want to do is fight some baddies.
Between the narrative and the combat, you’ll have some very light party maintenance at your disposal. There’s a forge for making new gear and a bath house where you can upgrade stats by taking a relaxing dip. Despite the fact that the game features one eligible bachelor and a collection of seven attractive warrior maids, Lord of Magna is blessedly light on the fan service. The bath house offers the majority of these rosy-cheeked scenes, but nothing ever strays into the territory of, say, Senran Kagura.
Outside of that, you’ll be able to purchase some handy items, apply some ability chips to your party and occasionally take the maidens on special missions that strengthen your bonds, making them more powerful in combat. You’ll frequently have to choose one maiden mission out of a collection of possibilities, which combine to give the player one of the seven possible endings. Since Lord of Magna will only take you about 20 hours to cruise through on your first run and those lengthy scenes can be skipped at any time, that means you’ve got some decent replay value up for grabs if you’re just dying to see how each of the conclusions plays out.
That brings us to the game’s actual combat, which Marvelous Inc. describes as boasting a “bowling” mechanic. That’s an apt name, as your enemies will roll backwards when struck and take out their friends in the process. Knock out 10 monsters at once and you’ll get an extra turn, meaning that careful planning and clever aiming are a big part of the whole process.
Unlike many SRPG’s, Maiden Heaven offers free-roaming battles instead of a grid system. On each player’s turn, they’ll have a circle of movement available, where they’re allowed to freely move around. Whenever you’re ready to act, simply select the attack, item, skill or guard options and let the action play out. Unfortunately, while each maiden has their own strengths, weaknesses, weapon types and attack patterns, there’s not a heck of a lot of variables at play that make one more suited to an occasion than the other. You can mostly get by simply by picking the party members you like the best and rolling with it.
Enemies are what I would call a swarm; with each unit boasting a commander and a collection of smaller minions. Minions basically bite the dust on a single hit and serve to execute that bowling feature I was just talking about. The commander’s though, are a bit stronger and can perform actions like special moves, boosts for their party or even call additional members onto the battlefield. They become your obvious targets, because taking them out quickly is the only way to keep from becoming overwhelmed.
The real strategy comes in deciding how to best handle a swarm on the given terrain, and how you want to move through a map to keep from having too many swarms on you at a given time. Environmental items like heal potions and bombs make maneuvering a bit more interesting, as you’ll want to make sure you grab the boosts and trick your enemies into standing too close to the explosives.
While the game’s pacing is questionable and can get frustrating when you, say, wanted to play for half an hour and get stuck in a chunk of story beats that take up twice that amount without a save point to be seen, you’ll spend more and more time in battle as Lord of Magna gets rolling. You’ve got an extremely plodding intro to make it through first but, once you do, the handful of systems and entertaining take on SRPG combat make for a pretty fun adventure.
This review based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Developer: Marvelous Inc.