Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
NIS America
Developer
Nippon Ichi
Genre
Strategy RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, Sexual Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Excellent style and 2D graphics
• Deep gameplay
• Tons of customization

The Bad

• Textures for random areas feel disjointed
• Gridless system leads to piling up

 
Grade
A-

In the span of a few years, Nippon Ichi has pushed themselves to the forefront of the niche gaming market on the PS2. Because of void of strategy RPGs on the PS2 in North America before the release of Disgaea, Nippon Ichi managed to take an opportunity to make a name for themselves - one that is sure to carry over to the next generation. With Makai Kingdom, all of their efforts from the past few titles have culminated into one of the most solid and complete titles to date.

The concept behind Makai Kingdom's story is that there are multiple universes, each with their own Netherworld. Ruling each Netherworld are Overlords. The story begins as the self-proclaimed "freaking badass overlord" Zetta searches for the Sacred Tome after hearing a prophecy of his undoing. It's too bad that when he destroys the book, he destroys his Netherworld, thereby bringing the prophecy to fruition. In the last moments before his own destruction, his puts his soul into the tome and must restore his Netherworld through wishes made by the other Overlords. The story proves to be a good laugh as Zetta and the other Overlords are so over-the-top that you'd have to be jaded not to get a laugh from the story sequences.

The core gameplay merges aspects of Disgaea and Phantom Brave into one game. Each side gets their own turn, where they can move their soldiers about on a gridless system, composing a series of attacks that can be unleashed in combinations or spread out in tactical strikes against your foes. At the beginning of the game, you find that you'll need to create soldiers of varying classes (including healers, fighters, wizards/witches and thieves) that must be Confined to objects you find in the new Netherworld. Since each of the objects has certain bonuses, there is strategy in which class you create for each object. Unlike Phantom Brave, though, this confinement is permanent and any character created can be Invited to battle after their creation. As you level up these classes and partake in battles, you'll unlock more classes to both confine to new objects and through reincarnation.

In your early battles, you'll likely be more concerned with the base aspects of strategy. Zetta, in book form, starts off the battle inviting up to eight soldiers onto the field. These soldiers can be equipped with weapons and items, including multiple weapons that can be swapped out midbattle for different weapon-specific attacks. The more your characters use weapons, the higher their skill becomes, which unlocks more attacks. Your team goes against a variety of enemies (and items), one of which will be noted as "Key". Taking out the Key will open up additional, previously hidden, areas in the level. Of course, if you don't want to hunt down the Key, pick up an enemy and toss them off the side of the level into the "invisible" region to unlock it (trust me - it doesn't take much effort to see where the unlockable regions are).

Each stage has a series of prizes that can be earned by the number of points earned during battle. These points can be earned by defeating enemies, destroying facilities, grabbing and holding items found on the field. The more points you earn, the better bonuses you can earn, like additional experience, money, items and weapons. Honestly, if you plan on making it far into the game, you're going to want to figure out how to best maximize your score for each stage.

Having taken a page from other strategy games, Nippon Ichi has made it possible for players to create vehicles and facilities, both of which have their own properties and uses on the field. Vehicles are powerful units that take some effort to actually get good use out of. Facilities can be used to store units to have them deployed onto the field and even have their own effects on the battlefield, like HP regeneration, defense or attack bonuses or even experience bonuses. Facilities require making a wish, which uses up a character's mana and will potentially destroy the wisher.

Along with the main story missions, each of which can be replayed for more experience, are free dungeons with enemies of a set level and even a special type of training dungeon that can be unlocked at level 100 for some real hardcore leveling.

Graphics wise, Makai Kingdom falls in line with most of Nippon Ichi's previous efforts. Cutscenes are done in 2D sprites animated over some beautifully detailed and stylish backgrounds. In fact, the backgrounds are right up there in detail with the likes of Atelier Iris and the Guilty Gear series. The character sprites and portraits shows a wonderful style and exhibits an excellent overall theme. The gameworld is composed of polygons layered with some colorful textures and populated with 2D sprites that have some good detail despite their size. The army units exhibit more of the same excellent style from the story portion. While the random aspects of the battlefields may make some levels feel disjointed and visually chaotic, the overall graphic presentation is sharp and colorful.

Audiowise, Makai Kingdom follows the standard already set by Nippon Ichi. Sound effects come from the standard catalog, but this really isn't a detriment to the game. When you drop a big attack, the effects really augment the visual display well. The soundtrack is both dark and fun, working well with the way the script and plot presents itself. The English voice acting is strong and funny. And, for purists, the Japanese voice cast is also selectable.

While I commend Nippon Ichi on taking a lot of the best elements from previous titles to make this one, there are a few things I wish would have still be resolved. Lifting and throwing items can be a confusing proposition if you aren't paying attention. You have to unequip any weapons on your character (or else they'll throw their weapon) before they can lift and throw an item. After that, you can re-equip your weapon, which leads to wonder if this is just a wasted extra step. One drawback to the gridless system is that some fights feel like you're just piling a bunch of characters in the same area (and even on top of each other), making chosing who to attack a bit more confusing than necessary. Don't be surprised if you accidentally attack the wrong person at least once.

If you enjoyed Disgaea and Phantom Brave, you will love Makai Kingdom. The game provides a lot to do and people who enjoy digging up every little thing will spend hundreds of hours just tooling around, discovering every little aspect the game has to offer. And, trust me, they will find every moment well worth it.

- - Kinderfeld

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