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Makai Kingdom
Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
As a big time fan of Nippon Ichi’s (NIS) Strategy RPG offerings, Makai Kingdom presents a conundrum. As a fan, Makai Kingdom offers the deep, time-consuming strategy gameplay NIS is known for – making it a sure fire winner. As a gamer, Makai Kingom offers the same deep, time-consuming strategy gameplay NIS is known for – making it more of the same and an experience that will prove to be over the heads of most casual gamers.

Typically, it’s the screenshots that don’t do the game justice. Makai Kingdom manages to reverse this trend and looks better in screens than it does in motion. NIS’ graphical style is present, which should please fans of past games and of anime in general. What won’t please fans is that everything is seen through a blurry, low-resolution presentation, removing some of the charm.

Thankfully, some of the charm is still around in the audio department. The ultra-squeaky, stylized voicework may not appeal to everyone, but it still works in helping to sell the game’s humor. While it’s not the well-crafted work of art presented in Disgaea, Makai Kingdom still manages to deliver an amusing, well-acted story.

Makai Kingdom could best be described as a merging of Disgaea’s setting and story combined with the play mechanics of Phantom Brave.

The entire adventure begins with the undisputed Lord of the Underworld, Zetta, receiving bad news from his oracle. Zetta’s rule is apparently coming to an end, a thought that obviously enrages the arrogant overlord. Not wanting to believe the prediction, Zetta sets out to find a tome that contains events past, present and future. After discovering that his empire really is in trouble, Zetta destroys the book; ironically destroying his empire. Using his last bit of energy, Zetta merges himself with what’s left of the tome. After negotiating with the other overlords, Zetta is “rewarded” with a world he can recreate in his own image. There are, of course, a few snags in the plan…

Battles come in two flavors – those you need to do to forward the story and ones you can take part in for added experience and money. While it’s tempting to follow the story-based battles, it’s advisable to participate in the more “generic” battles. As with other NIS games, the level cap is rather high, which means you can and will come up against enemies at very high levels often (some later generals can get into the 7000 – 9000 level range). One bonus for attaining high levels is that you can eventually complete tasks that will unlock special characters, including a few familiar faces.

Makai Kingom is one of those games that will appeal to a specific, hardcore group of gamers. As with most of NIS’ offerings, Makai Kingdom is very deep and piles on all sorts of complicated mechanics. Some are easier to manage than others, but none are so easy that the casual gamer could just pick up and play. Even fans of past NIS games will find some of the mechanics daunting, yet manageable.

Game Mechanics:
Makai Kingdom’s mechanics owe a lot to Phantom Brave. You begin the game in a barren world with only Zetta, who has been turned in a book; not the most useful thing to be when you’re looking to conquer the world – making getting an army your first priority. In order to gain your army, you must infuse objects around you with the spirits of warriors. Each spirit represents a different class (warrior, archer, mage…) and comes with its own base stats which effect how well they’ll do in battle. The objects you choose to infuse with these spirits also have stats. For example, a rock might offer a defense bonus while a tree may offer an intelligence boost. The process sounds complicated and frankly, it is unless you’ve read the instructions and know what you’re doing. Early on, the stat bonuses aren’t as noticeable, but eventually you’ll begin to see where you went wrong. Infusing a strength-boosting object with a class that has no use for strength isn’t a good idea.

As your army grows, you’ll eventually begin to build Zetta’s new world, which shows up as buildings. These include hospitals and item shops which you can use between battles to better equip your troops, produce new troops, or heal them. Once again, the whole process seems complicated and, once again, it is.

Compared to NIS’ other games, Makai Kingdom is a bit of a disappointment. The few added mechanics aren’t enough to make the game feel like a fresh enough offering; if you’ve played any of NIS’ past games, you’ve probably played Makai Kingdom. The experience is still an enjoyable one, at least for the hardcore Strategy RPG fans, but it’s becoming clear that NIS really needs to break out and try new things rather than add overly complicated mechanics to what are essentially rehashes of the same basic game.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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