Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome
Reviewed by Tiffany Craig
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-11-15 PS2 Nippon Ichi Software / NIS America

Just a few weeks ago I was ranting on about how the fun in gaming seems to be vanishing in favor of hyper-real and difficult scenarios. If you listen to the whispered messages of many newer titles we no longer want to be amused, we want to train for exotic professions.

Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome breaks the mold with its lighthearted suggestion that the best you can be is a man with a pumpkin for a head wielding the most awesome sword ever. The tale in which you and your weapon will participate is of an ineffectually evil Overlord Zetta who mistakenly wishes away his entire kingdom and then has to win it back with help from powerful friends. These friends aren't entirely of an altruistic persuasion. Their road of good intensions is paved with several frickin' potholes and shamelessly dripping cheesy dialog. The fun has returned.

The graphics are the continuation of the game's diverting qualities. The play in the dungeon is all done with little 2d mites with no mouths on three-dimensional maps. When something big happens that's going to make your gaming life difficult, there are some lovely anime style drawings commissioned to Japanese artists. The characters' fighting goes beyond the usual hack and slash and is rewarded with fantastically dramatic jumping, wind blowing, shooting and smashing scenes. The cut scenes consist of careful one-dimensional evil Overlords that hang in the night sky and insult each other. Expressions are limited to comic book thought bubbles and the occasional "O face" from the Overlord Hardback.

Randomly generated maps make replaying each level enjoyable. Each fight reveals the next class of character that you can add to your 8-unit party or select for reincarnation. The random dungeon design also means that if you're thrashed on one version, the next might be a little more conducive to your strategy. Planning ahead is a patent necessity in this game. You can turn your team into ultimate monster destroying machines but it's not always going to get you to the next dungeon. Many are set up so you must use certain game features that you may have ignored. For the most part, the solutions do become blaringly apparent after you've tried all the typical workarounds. There are a few static elements: the enemies will always target the weakest characters first and you can always go back to pick up stuff to sell for better weapons.

My real trouble only came with the targeting and menu systems. My carrot monster had some serious difficulty actually pinning down whom to whack. Occasionally select wouldn't actually select the character standing on top of the terrifying pink haired little girl. After 20 hours of game play, equipping him to suit his bonuses is equally difficult. The options were there and well described when his soul was bound to the anthill but I haven't seen them since. If you get stuck and really want to know what kinds of weapons a carrot needs you can always use reincarnation. It's even more useful if you didn't heed the advice at the beginning about soul binding to items for special advantages. If you, for example, put your gunner into a weed, then he is going to have the constitution of a dandelion. If you reincarnate him then you can take stats and shove them into a rock at a puny level 1 and buff him up in the previous random dungeons.

Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome is the kind of game that assimilates your time. It's a wonderful romp through enthusiastically conceived game play. The minor issues with menus and targeting can be overlooked in favor of all of the carefully conceived better elements. If you do become frustrated, then perspective returns in the form of loveable characters and laugh out loud dialog. This is an RPG with a lot of replay value that will probably keep you well occupied beyond the estimated 30 hours. Just make sure you remember to go to work.