Magna Carta: Tears of Blood

Put Star Ocean, Shadow Hearts, and Final Fantasy X in a bag, shake vigorously, out pops Magna Carta. Is this a bad thing? Read On-

I followed the press releases of the game for a while now. It has been billed as a “Korean” RPG. Anyone who follows the manga scene has noticed the increase in popularity of characters and stories designed and authored by Koreans. I, however, couldn’t look at a screenshot and say “Oh, yes that’s definitely Korean” I’m not sure why this was relevant, as the anime look of Magna Carta is most definitely inspired and influenced by it’s Japanese predecessors.

The first impression I had when I popped this game in the PS2 is-Incredible. The CGI intro is indeed something to behold. The music was good, however it seemed at odds with the images in the story, a little too spastic for the situation.

Hyung-Tae Kim’s character designs are quite good. One can definitely say that the women of Magna Carta could never be mistaken for men, however this unfortunately can’t be said for the protagonist, Calintz, or his trusty kid sidekick Azel, they both have a feminine look. In fact, I played the game for quite a while before I realized Azel was male. They must’ve put all of their collective testosterone design into Haren, the ripped, cut, muscle-bound man’s man of the group. Chris, who also thankfully is clearly male and of the lanky body which reminds me of Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel, however he has the requisite RPG role of the group pervert.

The voice acting, which can make or break an RPG was nailed. Calintz’s voice acting is in fact, some of the best I’ve heard. The one exception for the exception voice acting is the unfortunate Haren , who sometimes reminded me of Sean Penn’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Jeff Spiccoli. Sounds and music are all well above average as well.

A great RPG, in my opinion,hinges on storytelling, in this portion Magna Carta truly shines. Unlike many RPGs of late, Magna Carta starts the ball rolling early on, grabs your attention, and your interest from the very beginning, and doesn’t let go.

The story takes place in the world of Efferia, where the humans are at a war with a race called the Yason. The protagonist, Calintz, is the leader of a group of mercenaries called the “Tears of Blood”, which initially consists of Azel the eager to impress kid, Haren the buff and grumpy, and Eonis the chesty magic user/hippie chick. Calintz has serious baggage regarding the Yason, the reason will be apparent in the opening cut scenes, so his mission to destroy the Yason is a mission of revenge and vindication. The party soon encounters Reith, the innocent, naïve, chesty Amnesiac who is imbued with mysterious powers. (She’s a great addition to the party, however has a tendency to get kidnapped-) This leads to many questions..Who is Reith? What are her powers? Why does she have amnesia? What’s exactly happened with Calintz and the Yason? What is the Magna Carta if not an English charter?? These questions and many more are answered very capably as the story progresses.

Well, it’s very very nice to look at with great music and a top notch story, but how does it play? Well, Magna Carta is a bit of a mixed bag here. I’ve actually read other reviews which state “Magna Carta will not appeal to the Casual Gamer-” I say Hell Yes! The last thing I want is an RPG with dumbed down battle system designed to appeal to those who can’t play an RPG for 10 minutes without resorting to Action Replay. The battles aren’t random, I had the option of running through the area which will result in “being snuck up on” or I could choose to walk through the area, sword drawn, and ambush the enemies. I thought this was a very good addition to the usual “random battle/RPG scenario.” Also a plus, enemies do not respawn from map to map, and will not do so until you leave the area completely. Good for exploring/bad for level grinding-depends on how you look at it.

I can certainly appreciate what Softmax was attempting to do with Magna Carta. Design a battle system in which the player must pay attention. Each character’s attack/magic is imbued with “chi” (element) which affects and is directly affected by the field in which you fight. My favorite character to use is Calintz and if I used him too much, he would suck the wind chi right out of the area, leaving him unable to act. And if you’re in an area low in Wind chi to begin with-well let’s just say I hope you have another character prepared.

The attacks are timed in the manner of Shadow Hearts, in which button presses must be performed at the correct time for the attack/magic to be successful. This is fun at times, and at times can be a chore, as the character will not attack again until the leadership meter is filled. The Leadership meter also weighs heavily on the action. The character you select must wait until the Leadership meter fills before they can act or use an item (more is explained about keeping leadership high later).

My main gripe with the battle system is the fact that the other two party members just, well, stand there and get pounded. This confused the hell out of me at first, I thought possibly I didn’t have their commands set properly or something. Nope, your comrades in battle behave like the asylum residents in the movie Awakenings, completely lacking the will to move unless you direct them. I would have liked the opportunity to have another player control at least one other character, or be able to direct their actions, such as in Radiata Stories or Star Ocean.

To keep Leadership high, keep your mates happy by talking to them and giving gifts. You have the opportunity to talk to the team at save spots. At times, they give obvious hints for gifts, such as Azel’s not so subtle hint “I really want a gold bracelet!!”, you can also read the description of an item, such as “a fruit loved by small children” to determine who likes what. However keep in mind they are also picky, they no likey if given the same fruit/food over and over, cheapskatery is not an option! Be wary of conversations, save beforehand, because a positive answer for one character may cause a negative result for another. However this is true leadership, yes? You can’t please all the people all the time.

All of the gaming greatness I’ve described does have a rather prickly Achilles heel, which is the load times. The load times from one area on a map to another, and beginning/ending battles are rather long, in my opinion, for a game of this scope and at this level on the PS2, with only an animated graphic of feathers (I think) to watch. ZZZZzzzzz. Not game killing, just annoying. At times I found myself dreading watching the feather animation when I would rather be playing the game!

In closing, this game is definitely worth a purchase for any RPG enthusiast, kudos to the developers for introducing us to Efferia and it’s innovative battle system, interesting characters, and compelling story.