Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: June 2, 2015
ESRB: T for Teen
To see Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven exist here and now is a bit surprising. No, not exactly for its localization, but because its development should've technically grounded to a halt after former Rune Factory developer Neverland shut down. After Marvelous Entertainment absorbed much of the old studio, however, they also managed to round up something strongly resembling Neverland's former development team to eventually bring Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven to fruition.
With so much flux through the course of its development one can only pray that the final product was a success. Yet, having played Neverland's last game, the charming Rune Factory 4, I can't help but feel like Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven has fallen from grace in comparison.
It starts off from humble beginnings with the main character, named 'Luchs' by default, who runs an inn. After a crystal collecting expedition to meet ends is nearly met with his death, Luchs is luckily saved from monsters by a pink-haired swordswoman. As it would turn out, she ends up being an amnesiac with little recollection beyond her name, Charlotte, and the inclination to address Luchs as "Master." So, out of thanks, and by following his father's ambiguous advice to treat any future inn guests as "family" (which may or may not foreshadow future party members to come), Luchs decides to let Charlotte stay until she recovers her memories.
Now, let's get this out of the way first: Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is not a spiritual successor to Rune Factory by any means. With the exception of its quite negligible "farming" aspect in the form streetpass functionality, you'd be hard-pressed to find many strong similarities. Instead Lord of Magna is essentially a hybrid between turn-based strategy-RPGs with some rather light dating elements in-between. But, a casual glance at its presentation can certainly evoke the feeling of Neverland's previous works. More than anything else, Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is most certainly a cute game. From the colorful character portraits, chibi in-game models, and XSEED's signature tongue-in-cheek localization style it feels like something you should like from the offset. I wish that alone was enough reason for me to like the title, but it simply isn't.
The best way to describe Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is that it is... plodding. It doesn't pertain to just one aspect, but rather it encompasses the whole experience from the narrative, gameplay, and even general animations. Everything simply moves at a snail's pace making whatever adorable charm it has at a first glance sadly short-lived.
This issue is most noticeable through its combat system. It's novel at first, blending turn-based strategy-RPG gameplay with free grid movement, akin to something like Skulls of the Shogun or Makai Kingdom, while also having a domino-like mechanic for enemies. Yet, the initial novelty of toppling reinforcements like bowling ball pins is quickly lost due to their damage sponge leader enemies that summon them.
Battles eventually boil down to whittling down on a single target, them summoning reinforcements, and repeating the cycle ad nauseam. It is not even that the game is hard at all but it somehow finds a way to easily take a half-hour or more even if there are very few enemies. This is made even worse by the very slow, unskippable attack animations. And frankly, this saps out any fun out of the combat because there really is no real depth or variety to compensate it.
I wish I could say there is more to the storytelling and character interactions to make one able to overlook it, but that is also not the case. The main narrative meanders a lot, which does not speak well for something that is actually rather short for RPG standards, and only abruptly decides to take itself seriously after 80% or so through. The storytelling is also written in a way the expects you to have developed a relationship with the various heroines when it doesn't really flesh any of them out, considering how late some of them appear. I feel like XSEED tried to inject far more personality into the characters through their humorous writing than the template they were given to work with. Heroines have a total of four optional romantic-ish events to individualize them, and ironically, despite their lack of depth, they are very missable because the title actually limits how many you can see total in a half-hearted attempt to add replay value in other playthroughs.
Even on a technical level, Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven feels unfinished. General in-game animations are quite choppy with their transitions and there is some heavy slowdown in combat when multiple enemies are felled or spawned at once. Audio is also unimpressive with the generally mediocre dub where, despite not fully voicing the script, finds a way to make players quite weary of the phrase "Do you have the power? Are you the one?" in particular which repeats every chapter. The soundtrack does fare better but like a lot of the game it is quite forgettable.
No one part of Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven truly stands out. It feels like a mishmash of unrealized concepts, and with its troubled development it is perhaps less surprising that it seems like that. But, more disappointing than it not realizing its potential as a game, or the development team's former standards, is that it is just not very enjoyable to play. It is cute to look at, and is generally inoffensive in its mannerisms, but the title has very little else to it to justify your time.
+ Lots of personality in the localization
+ Cute overall aesthetic
- Incredibly plodding pace to both the storytelling and gameplay
- Dull, monotonous combat system with way too many damage sponge enemies
- Jerky animations and awkward visual transitions
Overall Score: 4.5 (out of 10)
Beyond its cute exterior Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven really does not offer much for those who see past its initial facade.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable 3DS code provided by the publisher.